The First Look: Genesis Open
February 08, 2019
By Jeff Shain, PGATOUR.COM
- February 08, 2019
- Bubba Watson seeks his fourth victory in a six-year span at the Genesis Open. (Warren Little/Getty Images)
Tiger Woods tees it up in just his second start of 2019, once again seeking a breakthrough on the hometown venue that has left him empty-handed more than any other on the PGA TOUR. Bubba Watson serves as the man to beat, though, defending a third title in his past five visits to famed Riviera Country Club.
Dustin Johnson, the 2017 winner at Riviera, and FedExCup points leader Xander Schauffele also enter with momentum from recent victories. The event also marks the first U.S. start of the year for Sergio Garcia.
FIELD NOTES: Francesco Molinari, the Open Championship titleholder, also heads an infusion of overseas pros readying for a stretch that includes THE PLAYERS Championship and two World Golf Championship stops. … Rory McIlroy makes his third start at Riviera, where he has tied for 20th in each of his previous two visits. … All told, the Genesis lineup is projected to feature 20 of the FedExCup’s top 30. … Fred Couples, 58, a two-time winner and perennial Riviera favorite, returns on a sponsor exemption after a two-year hiatus. It will be his 35th appearance, five more than anyone else in tournament annals. … Tim O’Neal, three times a winner on PGA TOUR Latinoamérica, tees up on the tournament’s Charlie Sifford Exemption to promote diversity. O’Neal was the 2018 Player of the Year on the APGA circuit formed to develop minority golfers.
FEDEXCUP: Winner receives 500 points.
STORYLINES: Woods takes his 10th crack at mastering Riviera, the only PGA TOUR venue he’s played more than four times professionally without ever tasting victory. He missed the cut last year, when he ended an 11-year absence to return as tournament host. He’s twice been runner-up in the event. … Watson seeks a fourth victory in a six-year span, though he’d need to break a pattern of winning in even-numbered years. … Johnson continues his busy schedule, still with no break since flying back from victory at the Saudi International. Last year’s share of 16th broke a run of four visits with no finish lower than fourth. … Late berths into next week’s WGC-Mexico Championship are available for anyone who moves into the FedExCup’s top 10.
COURSE: Riviera Country Club, 7,322 yards, par 71. A timeless classic since its 1927 premiere, Riviera has lured a Hollywood who’s who ranging from Douglas Fairbanks and Charlie Chaplin to Humphrey Bogart to Dean Martin to Jack Nicholson to Mark Wahlberg. Designer George Thomas mulled 15 possible layouts before deciding on one known for some of the TOUR’s most memorable holes. The par-3 sixth is famed for its bunker in the center of the green, and No.10 remains perhaps the best drivable par-4 in golf. Ben Hogan’s three wins in an 18-month span – two L.A. Opens and the 1948 U.S. Open – earned Riviera the nickname “Hogan’s Alley.” Riviera also has staged two PGA Championships, a U.S. Amateur and a U.S. Senior Open, and will be the site of the 2028 Olympic events.
For those visiting the area, must-play courses include Trump National GC (Rancho Palos Verdes, Calif.), The Links at Terranea (Rancho Palos Verdes, Calif.) and Tustin Ranch GC (Tustin, Calif.). Book your reservations via TeeOff.com.
72-HOLE RECORD: 264, Lanny Wadkins (1985).
18-HOLE RECORD: 61, George Archer (3rd round, 1983 at Rancho Park GC), Ted Tryba (3rd round, 1999 at Riviera CC).
LAST YEAR: Watson became just the third man to win three times at Riviera, shrugging off a dubious basketball cameo to do what he does best on weekends. Watson closed with rounds of 65-69, following an NBA Celebrity All-Star appearance best known for getting his shot viciously swatted by Tracy McGrady. Laughs gave way to tears by Sunday, as Watson overtook Patrick Cantlay with a bogey-free back nine for his 10th career PGA TOUR victory. It also ended a two-year drought in which the two-time Masters champion endured health issues that prompted rapid weight loss and thoughts of retirement. Watson also won in 2014 and ’16, joining Hogan and Lloyd Mangrum as the only men to win three times at Riviera.
HOW TO FOLLOW
TELEVISION: Thursday-Friday, 2-6 p.m. ET (Golf Channel). Saturday, 1-2:45 p.m. (GC), 3-6 p.m. (CBS). Sunday, 1-2:45 p.m. (GC), 3-6:30 p.m. (CBS).
PGA TOUR LIVE: Thursday-Friday, 9:30 a.m.-6 p.m. (featured groups). Saturday-Sunday, 11:30 a.m.-3 p.m. (featured groups), 3-6 p.m. (featured holes).