Tournament: Genesis Invitational, February 13-16, 2020
Course: Riviera Country Club, 7,322 yards, par 71 (Los Angeles, technically Pacific Palisades)
Purse: $9,300,000 total, $1,674,000 winner
Defending Champion: J.B. Holmes. The Kentuckian persevered on a tough final day where many players had to finish their 3rd round and then play the final 18. Gusty winds make this tight course very tricky, and Holmes started out nice and held on while most fell away. There was some controversy, as Holmes was obviously playing very slow and caught a lot of flak for it, even from the TV announcing crew. The guy had brain surgery a few years back... I was willing to cut him some slack, though it did make the watching painful at times.
Fun Fact: Tiger Woods is playing this week. And this course, Riviera, is the only course that Tiger has played more than four times and not won. That’s right... every tournament since he turned pro in 1996 and has played the course at least four times, he’s won. Some (Firestone, Torrey Pines, Bay Hill) he’s won 8 times. It is truly remarkable.
Television: Thursday-Friday, 2 p.m.-6 p.m. ET (Golf Channel). Saturday-Sunday, 1 p.m.-2:45 p.m. (Golf Channel). Saturday, 3 p.m.-6 p.m. (CBS). Sunday, 3 p.m.-6:30 p.m. (CBS).
Dawgs in the Field: (5). Brian Harman, Russell Henley, Sepp Straka, Brendon Todd, and Bubba Watson.
Golf is really starting to ramp up, and the schedule is jam-packed with big tournaments. This happens to be one of them. But the reasons for it are interesting.
First there’s the course. It’s of medium length, but it’s been around and has been a home of Hollywood stars. It’s also proven to hold up in the test of time, having been gradually lengthened and tweaked, but still being a great test against today’s power game. The short par 4 10th might be one of the best designed holes in golf. If you want more of my course analysis, you can check out last year’s article.
Then there’s the field. With the present wrap-around Tour schedule, some top pros aren’t playing many US tourneys during the early months. Cooler weather here, big appearance fees in Asia and the Middle East, weird pro-am formats... all these don’t give today’s multi-millionaires many reasons to stick stateside. This week, however, features the top 5 players in the world (McIlroy, Koepka, Rahm, Thomas, Johnson) and over 20 of the top 30 players. Why is this the best field of the young 2020 Tour year?
Because of the host. Eldrick. Big Cat. El Tigre. Tiger Woods is not only a betting favorite in the field to win, he’s now the tournament host, joining an elite few that can dictate terms to the Tour (Nicklaus, Palmer are the others). The tournament proceeds are largely directed to the Tiger Woods Foundation. The tournament is now an Invitational - meaning to play by invitation only which cut the field from the typical 156 players based on Tour status to 120 that Tiger (or his hand-picked committee) invited. The purse is up about $2 million, and the announced pairings have Paw Prints all over them. The people want to appease Tiger, and they have come in droves.
So you’ve got an historic course that can still eat your lunch, the best field in golf in almost 6 months, and biggest needle-mover as a host. It all adds up to an exciting time, and one that will get plenty of eyeballs (as far as golf goes).
In terms of Bulldogs, it’s kinda all about Bubba. Because it’s an even-numbered year. See, Bubba Watson seems to revel here. But not all the time. In true mercurial Bubba fashion, he’s won the tournament in 2014, 2016, and in 2018. The other years? Missed cuts and 4th page of the leaderboard finishes. Yet it’s 2020, and a lot of folks like Bubba’s chances, especially considering he’s placed top 10 his last two tournaments.
Still somewhat newly-wed Russell Henley could use a good finish (nothing higher than 66th so far). Tour rookie Sepp Straka has two top 5 finishes, yet has missed the cut 9 of 12 times. Brian Harman has been a top 25 machine and very consistent. Then Brendon Todd, pretty much a lock for the PGA Tour Comeback Player of the Year, has two wins and is 3rd in FedEx Cup points.
UGA happens to be the 2nd most represented program in this tournament, Arizona State has 6 program alums entered. So it’s good to have so much Red and Black in LA. If you don’t want to watch Georgia blow a double-digit lead in basketball, and if Aaron Murray has a repeat XFL performance, you might best be served by flipping it on over to golf and watching ‘Dawgs chasing little white balls. And as always...