The Genesis Invitational may not be the start of the golfing season but there is a feeling that things are about to get really serious this week. All of a sudden the shortened major period is on the horizon as are the Olympic Games and the Ryder Cup. Many of the protagonists for those huge tournaments are gathering at the world famous Riviera Country Club to create the strongest field of the season so far.
One of the main draws of the Genesis Invitational is the fact that it is hosted by Tiger Woods for the benefit of his charitable foundation. Woods will take a huge gallery with him this week. Playing in front of Tiger’s fans is a challenge for some but it’s one that Justin Thomas loves rising to. Thomas, who missed out on this event in agonising fashion last year, is playing with Woods on the first two days and can use that as a springboard for a successful tilt at the Genesis Invitational.
After Pebble Beach Golf Links the PGA Tour heads to another iconic course this week. Riviera Country Club first hosted this event back in 1929 when it was known as the Los Angeles Open. It shared hosting duties over the years and decades that followed before taking over as the sole host in 1999.
Riviera is something of a rarity on the PGA Tour as almost every player would be satisfied to shoot level par when they peg up their ball on the first tee. The par 71 layout plays to a maximum yardage of 7,322 which isn’t overly punishing but there is so much more than distance to concern the incredibly high calibre field competing this week.
This is a classic test of golf with narrow sight lines off the tee and incredibly well guarded greens. Nobody will play a full round this week without finding one of the run off areas or bunkers which patrol the greens, ready to capture any shot that strays off line. The challenge persists on the greens where the mixture of Poa Annua/Bentgrass surfaces make it difficult to putt even from short distances.
|Riviera Country Club||Los Angeles, California||7,322 Yards||$9,300,000|
The Genesis Invitational is a new name for this tournament. The fact that the PGA Tour have bestowed invitational status alongside events such as the Arnold Palmer Invitational and the Memorial Tournament shows just how highly regarded the event is.
The new format, three-year PGA Tour exemption and huge first prize of $1,674,000 have all helped to attract an even stronger field than usual to Riviera. The list of recent winners have all had to get past some very big names and it is no surprise to see major champions like Bubba Watson and Dustin Johnson on it. J. B. Holmes and James Hahn (who went off at odds of 150/1 and 200/1 respectively) show that less heralded players can succeed though if they bring their best game and hang tough when the big names chase them down on Sunday.
|Year||Winner||To Par||Winning Margin|
|2019||J. B. Holmes||-14||1 Stroke|
|2018||Bubba Watson||-12||2 Strokes|
|2017||Dustin Johnson||-17||5 Strokes|
|2016||Bubba Watson||-15||1 Stroke|
Analysis: Power the Main Attribute Again
Riviera has undergone many changes over the years to ensure that it remains a challenge for the modern golfer. There are many elements of the course which stop it from simply being overpowered but there is no doubt that the bigger hitters have a real advantage here. Hitting it in the rough isn’t too much of a concern as long as players don’t find their route to the green blocked out by a tree so the further a player can advance their ball down the hole, the better.
Being great off the tee is bordering on a prerequisite but big hitters will find their challenge falls flat if they cannot marry their power up with accurate approach shots, a reliable short game and the confidence required to putt well on Riviera’s testing greens.
Thomas to Bounce Back From Last Year
Newly installed world number one, Rory McIlroy, tops the betting for the Genesis Invitational. He is closely followed by Ryder Cup teammate, Jon Rahm, but it’s a player those two will face on the opposite team at Whistling Straits in September, Justin Thomas, who is the man to beat.
All but one of the winners of the Genesis Invitational since 2007 were American. Thomas found Riviera tough on his first few starts in Los Angeles but he’s not the only one. This is a very challenging course which demands a certain amount of previous experience. Once he’d learnt how and where to attack, his play picked up. He followed a first top 10 finish in 2018 with a great chance to win in 2019.
Thomas was in the final group last year but a poor run of holes in the middle of his back nine left him with too much to do to catch J. B. Holmes. Thomas is just as gritty as he is technical and he’ll be longing to right the wrong of last year, something he is more than capable of doing at 10/1 with Coral.
Koepka Too Big to Ignore
Brooks Koepka is making only his second start in the Genesis Invitational. The four-time major champion missed the cut on his only start in 2017 but is a better, more experienced and well-rounded golfer these days.
Koepka’s lack of form in general and also at Riviera means he is a little cool in the betting but that surely provides great opportunity, with 888Sport going 25/1 about his chances. He has all the power, the ball striking class and the putting ability to put together a real challenge. Koepka is also mentally as strong as any of his competition. He’s brushed off a lack of form since returning from injury and this week can do what he loves doing best – proving the doubters wrong.
Final Verdict: Justin Thomas to Win
Every player in the field this week has their own reasons for wanting to win the Genesis Invitational. After last year’s disappointment, you’ll get no prizes for guessing why Justin Thomas is so keen to get his hands on the trophy. Thomas is a major champion and former FedEx Cup winner so has the right combination of game and bottle to get over the line at 10/1 with Coral.
About the Genesis Invitational
The history of the PGA Tour is full of events which started off as local golf tournaments and grew to become major, internationally renowned events. The Genesis Invitational is one such tournament with a history that begins in 1926 when it was called the Los Angeles Open.
The tournament has gone by many different names since that inaugural event. Currently, it is sponsored by Genesis Motors who provide a lot of money for what is one of the richest events on the PGA Tour. As of 2020, it is also one of the few tournaments given invitational status.
Nissan and Northern Trust are the two companies to have sponsored the Los Angeles Open before Genesis took over in 2017. The event has also been held at a large number of local courses but is best known for its long association with Riviera Country Club.
As you might expect from a top class golf course in Los Angeles, Riviera is incredibly exclusive with a membership drawn up from the great and the good of LA. It’s also a very challenging test of golf which has been able to keep pace with modern golfers despite it being a classical layout.
A Special Event for Tiger
It’s always special for a golfer to return to the site of a former triumph. That’s particularly true of the Genesis Invitational which has produced a number of multiple champions (as outlined in the table below).
This is also a very special event for Tiger Woods despite the fact that two runners-up finishes in 1998 (at Valencia Country Club) and 1999 is the closest he’s come to lifting the trophy. That’s because Riviera was the site of Woods’ first ever appearance on the PGA Tour back in 1992.
It was obvious even at that incredibly early stage that Woods was something special – the PGA Tour does not regularly hand out places in the field to 16 year olds – but nobody could have imagined that Woods would go on to change the face of the sport in the way he has.
Woods has earned an eye-watering amount of money since that debut but he has equally raised a huge amount for charity through his Tiger Woods Foundation. He hosts the Genesis Invitational through his foundation and is still very keen to add the tournament to his long, long list of wins.
Multiple Genesis Winners
|Golfer||Number of Wins||Years|
|Macdonald Smith||4||1928, 1929, 1932, 1934|
|Lloyd Mangrum||4||1949, 1951, 1953, 1956|
|Ben Hogan||3||1942, 1947, 1948|
|Arnold Palmer||3||1963, 1966, 1967|
|Bubba Watson||3||2014, 2016, 2018|
|Harry Cooper||2||1926, 1937|
|Sam Snead||2||1945, 1950|
|Paul Harney||2||1964, 1965|
|Billy Casper||2||1968, 1970|
|Tom Watson||2||1980, 1982|
|Gil Morgan||2||1978, 1983|
|Lanny Wadkins||2||1979, 1985|
|Fred Couples||2||1990, 1992|
|Corey Pavin||2||1995, 1995|
|Mike Weir||2||2003, 2004|
|Adam Scott||2||2005, 2020|
|Phil Mikelson||2||2008, 2009|
2007 – Beem’s Commercial
Anybody who has watched much golf on Sky Sports will know that Rich Beem is something of a character. ‘Beemer’ as he is affectionately called, is best known for holding off the challenge of Tiger Woods to win the 2002 PGA Championship but British golf fans have got to know him for his relaxed, humorous approach to the sport.
That humour was on full display in the 2007 Nissan Open. Beem was in the shakeup at the top of the leaderboard on Saturday thanks to a very good round of golf which turned into a great one on the 14th tee. Beem required a mid-iron club to reach the pin on the par three which can stretch to almost 200 yards, but he was obviously feeling confident as he took dead aim at the flag and was rewarded with a hole in one.
Quick as a flash, Beem raised his arms in celebration, threw his club into the air and climbed onto the roof of the brand new Nissan Altima – the prize for a hole in one – which sat behind the tee. His reaction of pure joy was replayed around the world and eventually was turned into a television commercial by Nissan who ran with the strapline, “nothing compares to owning a Nissan.”