The PGA Tour moves from one iconic venue to another this week when the Genesis Invitational is played at the Riviera Country Club in Pacific Palisades in the western suburbs of Los Angeles, a few days after the completion of the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am.
The event, or its equivalent (the Los Angeles Open), was first played at this venue in 1929 and was played there spasmodically until 1974 when the Riviera Country Club became its permanent home.
It is interesting to note that in 1974 the prizemoney totalled $US150,000 when won by Dave Stockton who earned $30,000 for his victory. In 2021, the total purse is $9.3 million with US$1.675 million to the winner.
The golf course is one of the most popular of the traditional golf courses on the PGA Tour and typically attracts a strong field because of the course’s history and standing. In 2021 eight of the top ten in the world ranking are in the field including the leading four players, Dustin Johnson, Jon Rahm, Justin Thomas and Xander Schauffele.
Four Australians and one New Zealander are also teeing it up including the defending champion, Adam Scott, Marc Leishman, Cameron Smith, Cameron Davis, Matt Jones and New Zealander Danny Lee.
It is a venue that has been good to Australians with Scott, Aaron Baddeley and Robert Allenby having won this event and Steve Elkington winning the PGA Championship here in 1995.
Adam Scott has missed only one cut in his eleven starts since his win twelve months ago although there has been only one top ten, that coming when 10th at his last start at Torrey Pines two weeks ago. It may be, therefore, that he is timing his run well as he looks to defend his title.
Scott has also had other success in the event when winning a 36-hole version in 2005 and when runner-up in 2006 and 2016 so he clearly has a love affair with the historic layout.
“I love this place here at Riviera,” said Scott today. “Although I won the tournament before, it was in different circumstances, so to win last year with four rounds, but also an incredible field, an amazing atmosphere out here, special memory for me.
“Obviously looking back on it, it was nice to get a win in before we shut down for such a long period of time. It’s nice that we can be back. The course is fantastic, but we’re missing the crowds obviously, but I’ll still be trying hard to defend this title.
“I think my game is improving. I was right up there at Farmers, I think I was in the lead on the back nine Saturday at one point, but really struggled a little bit on Sunday, just didn’t feel great and that’s not a good course to feel like that on, it’s a very tough course.
“Hung in there for a top-10, but trying to improve all areas and this is a good time of year to get your game sorted out, lots of big stuff. Obviously this is a tournament special to me, but then as we move over to Florida and into Augusta, it’s a good time to be feeling good about the game.”
Marc Leishman has twice recorded top five finishes in the event and after a disappointing finish to 2020 has played nicely at Torrey Pines.
Cameron Smith has made a slow start to 2020 but did finish 6th here in 2018 behind Bubba Watson.
Cameron Davis just keeps getting better as his experience on the PGA Tour grows but missed the cut in his only start at Riviera two years ago and Matt Jones although playing well at present does not enjoy a good record in this event.
New Zealand’s Danny Lee has missed six of seven cuts in this event and having missed four of his last PGA Tour cuts his chances of a good week appear slim.
It is hard to go past Dustin Johnson as the logical favourite. Johnson is dominating the game at present and has an outstanding record at Rivera Country Club.
Johnson has finished inside the top ten in six of his last seven starts in this event including a victory in 2017.