Tournament: Genesis Open, February 14-17, 2019
Course: Riviera Country Club, 7,322 yards, par 71 (Los Angeles)
Defending Champion: Gerry Lester Watson, Jr. You might know him by his nickname. Bubba was hanging around for the first couple of days, then hit the nearby Staples Center where he played in the NBA Celebrity All-Star basketball game (not great), then promptly posted scores of 65-69 on the weekend to come from behind and capture his 3rd victory in this tournament on this course.
Fun Fact: This is the only tournament that Tiger Woods has failed to win having played at least 4 times. He has two runner-up finishes, and this was the site of his first competition against PGA Tour pros (I’m old enough to have seen it when it happened). Plus, he grew up less than an hour away. The only way to explain this anomaly is that he has just had incredible success everywhere else.
How to Watch: 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).
Dawgs in the Field: 2. Bubba Watson, Harris English. My normally reliable source isn’t updated at the moment, so I was scouring the interwebs thinking “Only 2 Bulldogs? We’ve had 6-10 Bulldogs entered in every tourney the last month - this can’t be right!” But looking back at last year’s post of this tournament, sure enough, only Bubba and Harris seem to like LA.
Edit: Turns out my doubts were well-placed. 6 Bulldogs are entered. In addition to English and Watson, Keith Mitchell, Brian Harman, Russell Henley, and Hudson Swafford are also putting peg to ground today.
So now you know Bubba Watson, PGA Tour pro and Georgia Bulldog, won this tournament last year. After having won it in 2014 and 2016. Here’s how I called it just prior to the final round last year:
I like his chances Sunday, but his recent history doesn’t support this.
Shows what I know. But my, what a difference a year makes.
This time last year, Bubba was coming off a bad 2017 campaign (by his standards). His world golf ranking had fallen to #117, having been as high as #2 in 2014. Thanks to this win, and a couple of others last year (and over $5.7 million in earnings), Bubba is now #16 in the world.
This time last year, Tiger Woods was in the 800’s in world golf rankings. He only won a single tournament last season (Tour Championship), but did make 16 of 18 cuts, cashed over $5.4 million himself, and is now #13 in the world.
This time last year, Harris English was #223 in the world. The year before that he was #86. He’s now #336. Get it together,
The field will include 20 of the top 30 in the world, with most of the big names playing. Names like Rory McIlroy, Dustin Johnson, and even Fred Couples - making his 35th appearance.
The course is an old-school classic. The rough is usually very thick and very penal. It is not heavily wooded (except along the property borders on a few holes), but the tree placement is perfectly vindictive. It isn’t particularly long, but it has enough length, plus rough, plus trees, plus poa annua greens which can be bumpy this time of year. So it will show it’s teeth to plenty of the world’s best.
The 10th hole happens to be one of my favorites in golf. It is a short par 4, driveable when you consider the distance of 315 yards. But the green is diabolically skinny, and bunkering on 3 sides protects it well. It usually plays on average over par.
Likewise #6 is a 200 yard par 3 with a big green, but the green also has a sand trap in the middle of it. So if your tee shot is on the correct side, par is not a problem. If you have a trap between your ball and the cup, well, you might get your thinking cap on.
And #18 might be my favorite finishing hole on the PGA Tour. 475 yards, all uphill, dogleg left to right, with a huge slope on the left (where your ball can hang up in the rough, forcing an awkward stance and almost guaranteeing not hitting the green), sloping away on the right (trees certainly blocking your approach shot), and a green sitting up on high, just below the magnificent clubhouse.
Georgia baseball gets underway, there should still be some energy in the fanbase in basketball thanks to recent events, the Gym Dogs continue to show out every week, and I’m sure there are other things to occupy your free time. But if you like golf, this is a tournament you have to add to your rotation. Enjoy, and as always...