Quick look at The Genesis Invitational
February 12, 2020
By Cameron Morfit , PGATOUR.COM
Behold the new Genesis Invitational, which now features a smaller field (144 to 122 this year to accommodate all exemption categories) and bigger purse ($9.3 million). Oh, it also grants a three-year PGA TOUR exemption to the winner. In other words, The Genesis Invitational now makes up a full sleeve with the TOUR’s two other elevated-status events, the Memorial Tournament presented by Nationwide and the Arnold Palmer Invitational presented by Mastercard. But one fact remains: Tiger Woods, the tournament host, still hasn’t won it. He has come close: runner-up finishes in 1998, when it was at Valencia Country Club, and ’99, when it was at its regular host course, Riviera. Woods, who turned 44 recently, would seem to be playing well enough. He won the fall’s ZOZO Championship, went undefeated as a playing captain at the Presidents Cup, and notched a top-10 finish at the Farmers Insurance Open. Is this the week he passes Sam Snead with his 83rd TOUR victory? With the tournament boasting 24 of the top 30 in the FedExCup standings (and nine of the top 10 players in the world) and benefitting his TGR Foundation, you could argue Woods wins no matter what.
THREE PLAYERS TO PONDER
The slightly uphill, 475-yard 18th hole is not the hardest par 4 on the course. That would be the 479-yard 12th, which last year was the third toughest par 4 on TOUR. But Riviera’s finishing hole is no slouch, playing to a 4.224 average last season, third toughest on the course. And it gets harder with the nerves of trying to close out the tournament. Nearly four times more balls will miss in the right rough than the left, and the average distance of approach last year was just shy of 41 feet. In other words, 18 is where you take your par and run. Winner J.B. Holmes played it in 1 under last year with a birdie and three pars – better than most.
The driveable, par-4 10th hole is loaded with character, if not yardage (315 on the card). It gave up 147 birdies last year to only 33 bogeys, but there were also five double-bogeys and a dreaded other. It was the third easiest at Riviera. Going for it is the play: The field is 726 under par when going for the green off the tee since 2003, and 99 over when laying up. Three bunkers wrap around the right-rear portion of the kidney-shaped green, making a left miss preferable from the tee. J.B. Holmes went for it and missed left every time, but birdied the 10th three out of four days on the way to victory last year. More than anything, the hole is a test of one’s short-game skills; of the 343 attempts to drive the green at last year’s Genesis Invitational, only 13 balls actually found it. Hence the meager eagle total there: one.
From meteorologist Kyle Koval: “The marine layer will likely move onshore tonight and given the shallow nature of the moisture, fog will be a possibility. Any low clouds and fog should burn off between 9-11am Thursday. With weak onshore flow continuing into this weekend, it appears the marine layer will push inland Thursday and Friday night as well. Typical sea breeze wind pattern expected throughout the week with light easterly winds during the morning, becoming west or southwest during the afternoon. Speeds will generally be below 15 mph with strongest winds favoring Friday and Saturday.”
For the latest weather news from Pacific Palisades, California, check out the PGA TOUR Weather Hub.
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BY THE NUMBERS
2: Number of events Tiger Woods has played 10 or more times without winning. He’s played The Genesis Invitational 13 times, starting at age 16, and THE NORTHERN TRUST 10 times.
8: Hole at Riviera that will feature a tribute to the late L.A. Lakers star Kobe Bryant, whose nickname and number will appear on the tee sign and the yellow-and-purple flag, respectively.
92: Defending Genesis Invitational champion J.B. Holmes’ FedExCup number, although he’s trending after three top-20 finishes in his last three starts.
16: Number of cars that could be won on the par 3s. The player with the first ace each day at the par-3 14th hole will receive a GV80, the first-ever SUV from Genesis. His caddie will get a G70. Player and caddie will each receive a G70 for the first ace at the par-3 16th hole each day.
4: Number of players who could surpass FedExCup No. 1 Justin Thomas this week: Brendon Todd (266 points back), Lanto Griffin (342), Sebastián Muñoz (393) and Rory McIlroy (432).
229: Thomas’ lead in FedExCup points over No. 2 Webb Simpson, who is the only one in the FedExCup top 10 not at The Genesis Invitational. It’s the third time in the last four seasons that Thomas has led the FedExCup through week 16.
Woods and Thomas together again: Tiger Woods and FedExCup No. 1 Justin Thomas will be together again in the first two rounds at The Genesis Invitational. The third member of the group: Steve Stricker, who will make his 500th start on TOUR and is another of Woods’ besties. “To be paired up along with Stricks is pretty special,” he said. As for Thomas, the two first forged a friendship as Thomas visited Woods’ south Florida home during the latter’s convalescence from back surgery. They talked about the game, and life, and sometimes chipped in the backyard if Woods felt up to it. “He's highly motivated and extremely competitive and we compete in everything we do together,” said Woods, who went 2-0-0 with Thomas at the Presidents Cup in Melbourne in December. “That's one of the things that I loved about him when I was -- exited the game for a little bit and he was kind of coming onto the scene. He's so interested and thirsty for knowledge. We became really good friends and I got a chance to get to know him and (parents) Mike and Jenny really well. It's an amazing family. From there, our relationship has blossomed and I carried his ass in Australia. But we've had a great relationship and we're going to be extremely competitive come Thursday to Friday.”