Final act set for Hollywood finish at Riviera
February 15, 2020
By Ben Everill, PGATOUR.COM
Rory McIlroy's Round 3 highlights from Genesis
PACIFIC PALISAIDES, Calif. – Blockbuster venue. Blockbuster host. Time for a blockbuster finish.
The Genesis Invitational looks set for a Hollywood worthy conclusion at Riviera Country Club after three former PLAYERS champions jostled their way into a tie for the lead with 18 holes to play.
Reigning FedExCup champion and PGA TOUR Player of the Year Rory McIlroy (3-under 68) was joined by former event champion Adam Scott (67) and first and second round leader Matt Kuchar (70) at 10 under to set up an enticing final three-ball on Sunday.
Combined, the trio have 40 PGA TOUR wins and 161 top-5s. In Los Angeles, the stars always come out.
Riviera was once the playground of Ben Hogan who dominated for a period by winning this event in 1947 and 1948, while also claiming the 1948 U.S. Open at the venue. Sam Snead, Byron Nelson, Phil Mickelson and Tom Watson are just some of the plethora of stars on the former Riviera winners list.
It has long been a coveted place to win. Just ask tournament host Tiger Woods who fell out of contention with a 5-over 76 on Saturday. No other course has repelled Woods like the one where he made his PGA TOUR debut as a 16-year-old. Yet he continues to press to fill the “gap” in his resume. Strangely enough, Jack Nicklaus never won here either… but almost everyone else of note has.
“There's not a PGA TOUR event you wouldn't want to win, but there are a handful that are extra special, have a great list of past champions, have a great golf course. This one's one of those,” Kuchar says. “You chalk it up as one of those sort of extra special TOUR events that you really hope to put your name as a past champion.”
Kuchar is chasing TOUR win no. 10, hoping to become just the 116th player in history to hit double digit wins, joining both Scott and McIlroy. The American typically has not fared well at Riviera having never finished inside the top 5 in 12 previous appearances.
Scott has fared well at Riviera before. In 2005, he won the tournament, yet it does not count as one of his 13 official wins. Back then, torrential rain hit the course and it was shortened to 36 holes – although Scott had to win in a playoff.
He seeks to join Bruce Crampton with the third most wins by an Australian on the PGA TOUR behind Greg Norman (20) and Jim Ferrier (18)… even if he feels he already has.
“That is just a bit of motivation for me to win tomorrow here and have an official victory at Riviera and the Genesis Invitational… that would be extremely satisfying for me,” he said.
The 39-year-old is in his first TOUR start since early November although he did play in the Presidents Cup in December and won the Australian PGA Championship the week after being part of the loss to the U.S. at Royal Melbourne. That was his first win of any kind since going back-to-back at The Honda Classic and the World Golf Championships – Mexico Championship in consecutive weeks in early 2016.
Scott spoke earlier in the week of purposely starving himself of competition until he had the urge to come back, making sure he is always competitively sharp. He has two runner up finishes to go with the win at Riviera and was in the final group a year ago.
“I almost feel like I know what I'm doing after 20 years of having a season and having a break and coming back out. I know what this course kind of demands of you,” Scott said. “If I can replicate today for 18 holes tomorrow, I'll be very pleased no matter what happens, but I'll definitely be giving myself a chance at it.”
And then there is McIlroy. Recently reinstated as world No. 1, the two-time FedExCup champion is looking for a 19th TOUR win, which would also likely move him to the top of the season long standings. He has been inside the top 20 in his previous three trips to Riviera, including a T4 finish a year ago.
The Northern Irishman is wary of his Sunday playing partners, but also knows this is far from a race in three. Just a shot behind the lead trio sits Russell Henley and Harold Varner III, while Dustin Johnson and Joel Dahmen are two back. Nine others, including Jon Rahm, Bryson DeChambeau and Hideki Matsuyama are within four of the lead.
“You just have to worry about yourself, concentrate on what you're doing, do it well, set yourself a target, don't think about anyone else and if that's good enough at the end of the day, then great,” McIlroy says. “If not, then someone just played better than you and hats off to them.”