The tour heads down the California coast for the final stop of the West Coast Swing, the newly named Genesis Open at storied Riviera Country Club. Dubbed Hogan’s Alley, Riviera has served as the annual host of the tournament since 1973. Because Riviera is arguably the best course on Tour year in and year out, it brings out the first true A-List field of the season, and this year is no different with 15 of the top 22 players in the world in attendance.
This year’s crop of competitors is headlined by last week’s winner, Jordan Spieth, who will be looking to avenge his missed cut in 2016 at Riviera. Along with Spieth, the field includes world number 1 Jason Day, simmering Hideki Matsuyama, defending and two-time champion Bubba Watson, already two-time winner Justin Thomas, Aussie Adam Scott, world number 3 and 2015 runner-up Dustin Johnson, and a host of other big names. Check out the full field here.
Gerry notches another
Last year, everyone’s favorite golfer, Gerry “Bubba” Watson, snagged his second career victory at Riviera. Watson was on point all week and held on to his 54-hole lead on Sunday despite a charge from Aussie Adam Scott (who went on to win the next two weeks). Riviera is one of the 4 courses where Bubba plays well year in and year out, so despite his recent form, never count Gerry out… even if he is using a pink ball.
The best of the best
This week’s main attraction is the course, designed by the great George Thomas in 1927. A fixture among the greatest courses in the United States, it draws an elite field to take on the track that has stood the test of time. Riviera demands precise shot-making and strategy from tee to green in order to score.
Considering Riviera’s setting, a relatively flat canyon, it’s remarkable that it has become one of the world’s finest courses and should be a testament to Thomas’ skill as an architect. The course possesses some of the Tour’s best holes and usually leads to thrilling Sunday finishes. Some holes to keep an eye on are the great Redan par-3 4th, the spectacular short par-4 10th, the beastly par-4 15th and the dramatic finishing par-4 18th. For a full tour, check out my detailed review of Riviera here.
For even more on Riv, PGA Tour player and architecture nut Zac Blair wrote a fantastic deep dive for PGATour.com on the great short par-4 10th at Riviera, a vexing design that regularly throws the world’s best into conundrums despite being a mere 315 yards.
Monday Qualifying with a twist
Every year, the Genesis Open hosts a unique Monday qualifier for some of the nation’s best collegiate players called the Collegiate Showcase. This year, Pepperdine sophomore Sahith Theegala triumphed by one shot over the small but elite field to earn a spot in this week’s event. Theegala will be making his first PGA Tour start. He made a quarterfinal run in last year’s U.S. Amateur and is currently ranked 150th in the WAGR.
Also playing for a spot in the field, a good chunk of PGA Tour pros teed it up at Industry Hills Golf Club with 4 spots on the line. In the end, Kevin Tway (son of Bob), former UCLA star Jonathan Garrick, JT Poston and Kevin Dougherty earned their place in the field.
3 storylines to watch
World number 3 and reigning U.S. Open Champion Dustin Johnson heads to Riviera following a solo 3rd place finish at last week’s AT&T. Johnson’s last three starts at Riviera saw the bomber finish 2nd in ‘14, fall in a playoff in ‘15, and finish 4th last year in ‘16. Could this be the year where Johnson grabs his first win?
Contrast in style
The start of 2017 has been dominated by the 20-somethings. So far in 2017, the age of the winner in each PGA Tour tournament has been: 23, 23, 29, 22, 24 and 23.
Meanwhile, Riviera’s setup favors strategy and wise decision-making, producing veteran winners for the last decade. Here are the past 7 winners and their ages at the time: Bubba (37), James Hahn (33), Bubba (35), John Merrick (30), Bill Haas (29), Aaron Baddeley (29) and Steve Stricker (42).
#1 on the line
With the top 6 in the world rankings closer than ever before in recent memory, this week could signal the end of Jason Day’s 47-week run atop the rankings. Facing several potential scenarios, a high finish from either world number 3 Dustin Johnson or number 5 Hideki Matsuyama versus a poor one from Day could vault either Johnson or Matsuyama to number 1.
The Riviera field is stacked and full of great options for Draftkings and one-and-done leagues. Paulie is here to help navigate the multitude of options! Check out who Paulie likes as well as his dark horse who might be worth putting a little dough on.
The European Tour heads to Lake Karrinyup CC in Perth, Australia for the first playing of the new World Super 6 format, and cheers to them for bringing some innovation and excitement to the game. The traditional 72-hole stroke play format is being ditched for 54 holes of stroke play followed by a cut to the top 24 for the final round of action. The top 24 players will be seeded based on scoring and play 6-hole elimination matches until a champion is crowned! More on the Super 6.
The Web.com Tour moves from Bogotá to Panama for this week’s Panama Claro Championships. So far, the story of the season has been Andrew Landry, who made a name for himself at last year’s U.S. Open after being in contention until Sunday’s final round. After the U.S. Open, Landry struggled and only had conditional status on the Web.com Tour to start the season. Then, Landry won the second event of the season in Grand Exuma and found himself with a share of the 54-hole lead before fading on Sunday. Landry has all but locked up his PGA Tour card for 2018 and now looks to earn a battlefield exemption by way of 3 wins on tour. More on what to watch for in Panama.
Worth your time
I know this newsletter is jammed, but game has to recognize game, and there were a couple fantastic articles put out there this week.
Up first, PGATour.com writer Sean Martin takes us way back (25 years) and recounts Tiger’s first-ever PGA Tour start as a skinny 16-year-old amateur at the 1992 Nissan Open.
Meanwhile, the Player’s Tribune and Billy Hurley III produced a tear-jerking article about Hurley’s upbringing with his father, what he meant to him and his golf game, and how he as moved past him taking his own life.
The TV Schedule
Thursday - Friday
PGA Tour Live Featured Pairings: 9:30am - 3pm EST
Golf Channel: 2pm - 6pm EST
Saturday & Sunday
Golf Channel: 1pm - 2:30pm EST
CBS: 3pm - 6pm EST
European Tour ISPS Super 6
Thursday - Sunday
Golf Channel: 6am - 10am EST
Golf Channel: 10pm - 1:30 am EST
Champions Tour Chubb Classic
Golf Channel: 11:30am - 1:30 pm EST
Saturday & Sunday
Golf Channel: 3pm - 5:30 pm EST
LPGA-Women's Australian Open
Wednesday - Sunday
Golf Channel: 9pm - 2 am EST
The LPGA kicks off 2017 with the Women’s Australian Open.
New season, new Wie? Dumps ugly putting method for the less ugly claw.
What Soly is watching this week
Bubba Watson returns to the site of his last win. He followed that win with a solo 2nd at Doral but has failed to record a single top 10 in a full field PGA TOUR event since then. The OWGR sure are friendly to the guys at the top as he's only dropped from 4th to 13th in that same time period.
Adam Sarson from The Score stops by to debrief Spieth’s win at Pebble, Hideki’s triumph in the desert, CBS, the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am, Sergio, and of course the Ryder Cup. Most importantly, the story behind the most famous Sergio GIF on the internet. Listen on the NLU website or iTunes.