The PGA Tour roster prepare for the biggest event of the season to date as player’s head to Los Angeles for the lucrative Genesis Invitational.
After an exhilarating week in the Arizona desert – where Scottie Scheffler picked up his maiden PGA Tour title after defeating Patrick Cantlay in a playoff – all members of the world’s top 10 will be teeing it up in California.
The Genesis Invitational is an invitational tournament and only one of five events that hold such status (Memorial Tournament, RBC Heritage, Arnold Palmer Invitational and Charles Schwab Challenge).
As a consequence of this, only 120 players will feature at Riviera Country Club but 550 FedEx Cup points will be awarded to the winner of this competition for the first time this season.
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Max Homa secured his second PGA Tour title at last year’s event, beating Tony Finau in a playoff despite missing a three-foot birdie putt on the 72nd hole.
Homa defeated Finau on the second playoff hole after the latter failed to get up-and-down from the sand and carded a subsequent bogey on the par-3 14th.
Sam Burns had previously carved a healthy lead at the cut-line, although he was unable to support his early endeavors.
He tied the 36-hole record and headed into the halfway point with a five-stroke lead before a poor third and uninspiring fourth round.
The playoff loss marked the tenth time that Finau had finished runner-up since his maiden PGA Tour title at the 2016 Puerto Rico Open.
For Homa, this victory was extra special as he is a Californian who first attended this event as a 2-year-old.
Riviera Country Club has a par of 71 and measures 7,322 yards, by no means the longest golf course that the professionals will be playing this season.
Despite this, it’s interesting to know that three of the five golfers who ranked within the top 5 for driving distance here last season also finished in the top 8 for the tournament.
The Genesis Invitational – and alternate sponsor titles – has been held at an array of clubs, although Riviera Country Club has hosted the most and this year will mark the 59th time.
It has also operated as a major championship venue, having hosted the U.S. Open (1948) and the PGA Championship on two separate occasions (1983, 1985).
Furthermore, Riviera has been announced as the 2026 U.S. Women’s Open location and it will also be utilized in the 2028 Olympics.
The course features Kikuyu grass, which is also deployed across the state at Torrey Pines and performs drastically different to bentgrass, for example.
Kikuyu grass has the ability of stopping balls dead in their tracks, meaning low-riding woods that would typically release onto the front edge will be uncommon throughout the week.
Moreover, bump and runs will not be the preferred chipping method, as the Kikuyu grass can manipulate the bounce and speed – expect to see lots of chips landing on the greens before releasing to the holes.
For this reason, players who like to pick the ball – as opposed to come into it steeply – may have a slight advantage, as limited turf interaction can decrease the unpredictable nature of Kikuyu grass.
The strength of this year’s field must not be underestimated, as it has a field rating of 696 – beating the 2020 Masters that produced 690 for the week in November.
Dustin Johnson must be targeting the Genesis Invitational to help play himself back into form, considering he has not finished within the top 10 since the Tour Championship in September.
That’s unlike the two-time major champion and although length isn’t everything around Riviera, his driving prowess should create a slight advantage.
It’s easy to look at Collin Morikawa and instantly think victory but be wary of him this week as he has previously performed relatively averagely at Riviera, by his standards of course.
Yes, he’s coming into this event with a T7 finish or better from his last three outings, but he does struggle around here, best demonstrated by his inability to penetrate the top 25 from his last two visits.
Furthermore, Morikawa has failed to tighten his short game, ranking 173rd for SG: around-the-green and 157th in SG: Putting.
Viktor Hovland should rightfully attract a lot of interest this week, after several splendid performances over the last few months.
The Norwegian finished T5 here last season, so he definitely has the game for the course. His clutch finish at the Dubai Desert Classic should instill further confidence into his sanguine character.
The two outright favourites for this tournament will come as little surprise, as both Patrick Cantlay and Jon Rahm continue to separate themselves from the rest.
Since the turn of the year, no-one who has played in ten or more rounds has produced better SG: per round numbers than the pair of them (2.81 for Cantlay and 2.79 for Rahm).
Cantlay heads into the event as a slight favourite over his Spanish counterpart and he’s always a solid pick, recording seven successive top 11 finishes and four consecutive top 20s around Riviera.
Another golfer who’s coming off a good week is Xander Schauffele, who narrowly missed out on including himself in last week’s playoff.
Of all the golfers who have played 10 or more rounds at Riviera, Schauffele ranks fifth in SG but we must remember that over the last three weeks, the American has played in Saudi Arabia, Phoenix and now Los Angeles, which will be a stern test of his fatigue.
The four golfers who have performed better around here are John Rahm, Adam Scott, Dustin Johnson and Talor Gooch.
Gooch is undoubtedly an outsider but he has had a solid start to the season as he has recorded four top 30s with the only blemish missing the cut at the American Express.
Max Homa will be looking to become the first man to defend the Genesis Open title after Phil Mickelson in 2008-09.
The average SG: Tee-to-Green for the previous five winners has been 9.3002, which dramatically highlights that every aspect of your game needs to be in order if you wish to conquer in the City of Angels.
Hideki Matsuyama, Viktor Hovland, Rory McIlroy
Max Homa, Dustin Johnson, Adam Scott
Patrick Cantlay, Brooks Koepka, Patrick Reed
Keegan Bradley, Alex Noren, Matt Fitzpatrick
Talor Gooch, Erik van Rooyen, Chez Reavie
Cameron Champ, Collin Morikawa, Xander Schauffele
Tom Hoge, Corey Conners, Matt Kuchar