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BlogGenesis Open Preview and Picks

Northern Trust Open

February 16th – 19th, 2017

Riviera C.C.

Pacific Palisades, CA

Par: 71 / Yardage: 7,322

Purse: $7 million

with $1,224,000 to the winner

Defending Champion:
Bubba Watson

by Sal Johnson

Founder, Chief Data Officer, GOLFstats

E-mail me at:
sal@golfstats.com

This week’s field includes:

The field includes 51 of the top 100 and 26 of the top 50 in the latest Official World Rankings, with eight players #1 Jason Day, #3 Dustin Johnson, #5 Hideki Matsuyama, #6 Jordan Spieth, #7 Adam Scott, #8 Justin Thomas, #9 Sergio Garcia and #10 Patrick Reed from the top-ten. The other top 50 players are #12 Justin Rose, #16 Paul Casey, #17 Branden Grace, #20 Brooks Koepka, #21 Matt Kuchar, #22 Phil Mickelson, #23 Jimmy Walker, #24 Brandt Snedeker, #27 Charl Schwartzel, #30 Ryan Moore, #31 Francesco Molinari, #32 J.B. Holmes, #36 Kevin Chappell, #38 Scott Piercy, #42 Byeong Hun An, #43 Bill Haas, #46 Jim Furyk and #47 Thomas Pieters.

Last year there were 24 top-50 players in the field.

The field includes 18 of the top 25 on the FedEx point standings for 2017.  Those players are #1 Hideki Matsuyama, #2 Justin Thomas, #3 Jordan Spieth #4 Pat Perez, #5 Brendan Steele, #7 Mackenzie Hughes, #8 Hudson Swafford, #9 Charles Howell III, #12 Adam Hadwin, #13 Cody Gribble, #15 Webb Simpson, #17 Justin Rose, #18 Keegan Bradley, #19 Luke List, #20 Kelly Kraft, #21 Scott Piercy, #22 Brian Harman and #25 Chez Reavie.

The field includes 20 players in the top 25 on this year’s PGA Tour money list.  Those players are #1 Hideki Matsuyama, #2 Justin Thomas, #3 Jordan Spieth #4 Pat Perez, #6 Brendan Steele, #7 Mackenzie Hughes, #9 Charles Howell III, #11 Hudson Swafford, #13 Cody Gribble, #14 Adam Hadwin, #16 Webb Simpson, #17 Justin Rose, #18 Kelly Kraft, #19 Keegan Bradley, #20 Scott Piercy, #21 Luke List and #24 Brooks Koepka.

The field includes nine past champions: Bubba Watson (2016 &’14), James Hahn (2015), John Merrick (2013), Bill Haas (2012), Aaron Baddeley (2011), Phil Mickelson (2009 & ’08), Charles Howell III (2007), Adam Scott (2005) and Ernie Els (1999).

A perfect way for fantasy golfers to check on the past performance of all the players in the Genesis Open field is our performance chart listed by average finish.  Another way to check who is the best is through a special formula worked out in Golfstats that gives us the best average performances at the Genesis Open in the last five years or check out our sortable 8-year glance at the Genesis Open.

A good cheat sheet is this list of odds from the top bookmakers in England.

Another cheat sheet is this list of odds from the top bookmaker in Las Vegas.

Time to look at our who’s hot and who isn’t:

Who’s Hot in the field for the Genesis Open

Player AT&T Pebble Beach W.M. Phoenix Open Dubai Desert Classic Farmers Insurance Qatar Masters CareerBuilder Challenge Abu Dhabi Sony Open South African Open SBS Tournament of Champions
Jordan Spieth
(297 pts)
Win
(132)
T9
(45)
DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP 3
(60)
DNP T3
(60)
Hideki Matsuyama
(231 pts)
DNP Win
(132)
DNP T33
(17)
DNP DNP DNP T27
(15.33)
DNP 2
(66.67)
Dustin Johnson
(186.67 pts)
3
(90)
DNP DNP CUT
(-10)
DNP DNP T2
(66.67)
DNP DNP T6
(40)
Pat Perez
(171 pts)
T14
(36)
WD
(-5)
DNP T4
(80)
DNP DNP DNP T69
(0)
DNP T3
(60)
Justin Thomas
(166 pts)
DNP CUT
(-10)
DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP Win
(88)
DNP Win
(88)
Charles Howell III
(158.67 pts)
DNP DNP DNP T2
(100)
DNP T12
(25.33)
DNP T8
(33.33)
DNP DNP
Justin Rose
(157.67 pts)
T39
(11)
DNP DNP T4
(80)
DNP DNP DNP 2
(66.67)
DNP DNP
Brian Harman
(151 pts)
DNP T24
(26)
DNP T9
(45)
DNP T3
(60)
DNP T20
(20)
DNP DNP
Tony Finau
(147 pts)
T23
(27)
CUT
(-10)
DNP T4
(80)
DNP DNP DNP T20
(20)
DNP T9
(30)
Brendan Steele
(144 pts)
DNP T16
(34)
DNP T20
(30)
DNP T6
(40)
DNP DNP DNP T6
(40)
Brandt Snedeker
(142.33 pts)
4
(80)
DNP DNP T9
(45)
DNP DNP DNP CUT
(-6.67)
DNP T14
(24)
Sergio Garcia
(132 pts)
DNP DNP Win
(132)
DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP
Kelly Kraft
(130.67 pts)
2
(100)
DNP DNP T28
(22)
DNP CUT
(-6.67)
DNP T27
(15.33)
DNP DNP
Adam Hadwin
(116.67 pts)
T39
(11)
T12
(38)
DNP T49
(1)
DNP 2
(66.67)
DNP DNP DNP DNP
Webb Simpson
(114.67 pts)
CUT
(-10)
2
(100)
DNP DNP DNP T66
(0)
DNP T13
(24.67)
DNP DNP
Hudson Swafford
(102.67 pts)
DNP DNP DNP CUT
(-10)
DNP Win
(88)
DNP T13
(24.67)
DNP DNP
Patrick Reed
(92.33 pts)
T23
(27)
T68
(0)
DNP DNP DNP T12
(25.33)
DNP DNP DNP T6
(40)
Phil Mickelson
(89.33 pts)
65
(0)
T16
(34)
DNP T14
(36)
DNP T21
(19.33)
DNP DNP DNP DNP
Shane Lowry
(87 pts)
T14
(36)
T16
(34)
DNP T33
(17)
DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP
Ollie Schniederjans
(86.33 pts)
DNP T24
(26)
DNP T9
(45)
DNP T58
(0)
DNP T27
(15.33)
DNP DNP
Byeong Hun An
(85.67 pts)
DNP 6
(60)
DNP T49
(1)
DNP DNP T13
(24.67)
DNP DNP DNP
Jason Day
(85.33 pts)
T5
(70)
DNP DNP CUT
(-10)
DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP T12
(25.33)
Martin Laird
(85 pts)
T66
(0)
T7
(55)
DNP T74
(0)
DNP T9
(30)
DNP DNP DNP DNP
Keegan Bradley
(80 pts)
DNP CUT
(-10)
DNP T4
(80)
DNP T25
(16.67)
DNP CUT
(-6.67)
DNP DNP
Marc Leishman
(76 pts)
DNP T24
(26)
DNP T20
(30)
DNP DNP DNP T20
(20)
DNP DNP
J.B. Holmes
(70 pts)
T23
(27)
T24
(26)
DNP T33
(17)
DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP
Michael Kim
(65.33 pts)
DNP T24
(26)
DNP T54
(0)
DNP T21
(19.33)
DNP T20
(20)
DNP DNP
Patrick Rodgers
(63.33 pts)
DNP CUT
(-10)
DNP T4
(80)
DNP DNP DNP CUT
(-6.67)
DNP DNP
Mackenzie Hughes
(62 pts)
T10
(40)
CUT
(-10)
DNP T54
(0)
DNP DNP DNP T27
(15.33)
DNP T25
(16.67)
Branden Grace
(61.33 pts)
DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP T13
(24.67)
T13
(24.67)
DNP 32
(12)
Francesco Molinari
(61.33 pts)
DNP DNP DNP T14
(36)
DNP T12
(25.33)
DNP DNP DNP DNP
Ryan Moore
(60 pts)
DNP T61
(0)
DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP T3
(60)
Kyle Stanley
(59.33 pts)
DNP T36
(14)
DNP T14
(36)
DNP DNP DNP T36
(9.33)
DNP DNP
Graeme McDowell
(59 pts)
DNP DNP T13
(37)
DNP T28
(22)
DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP
Rob Oppenheim
(50 pts)
T8
(50)
DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP

How Player Rankings are Computed

Who’s Not Hot in the field for the Genesis Open

Player AT&T Pebble Beach W.M. Phoenix Open Dubai Desert Classic Farmers Insurance Qatar Masters CareerBuilder Challenge Abu Dhabi Sony Open South African Open SBS Tournament of Champions
Spencer Levin
(-43.33 pts)
CUT
(-10)
CUT
(-10)
DNP CUT
(-10)
DNP CUT
(-6.67)
DNP CUT
(-6.67)
DNP DNP
Andrew Loupe
(-36.67 pts)
CUT
(-10)
CUT
(-10)
DNP CUT
(-10)
DNP CUT
(-6.67)
DNP DNP DNP DNP
K.J. Choi
(-36.67 pts)
CUT
(-10)
CUT
(-10)
DNP CUT
(-10)
DNP DNP DNP CUT
(-6.67)
DNP DNP
Brett Stegmaier
(-36.67 pts)
CUT
(-10)
CUT
(-10)
DNP CUT
(-10)
DNP CUT
(-6.67)
DNP DNP DNP DNP
Steve Marino
(-33.33 pts)
T66
(0)
CUT
(-10)
DNP CUT
(-10)
DNP CUT
(-6.67)
DNP CUT
(-6.67)
DNP DNP
Ryan Palmer
(-33.33 pts)
CUT
(-10)
CUT
(-10)
DNP DNP DNP CUT
(-6.67)
DNP CUT
(-6.67)
DNP DNP
Chad Collins
(-33.33 pts)
CUT
(-10)
T63
(0)
DNP CUT
(-10)
DNP CUT
(-6.67)
DNP CUT
(-6.67)
DNP DNP
Matt Every
(-33.33 pts)
CUT
(-10)
CUT
(-10)
DNP DNP DNP CUT
(-6.67)
DNP CUT
(-6.67)
DNP DNP
Steven Bowditch
(-30 pts)
CUT
(-10)
CUT
(-10)
DNP CUT
(-10)
DNP T58
(0)
DNP T51
(0)
DNP DNP
Padraig Harrington
(-30 pts)
CUT
(-10)
CUT
(-10)
DNP CUT
(-10)
DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP

How Player Rankings are Computed

The Buzz:

New Sponsorship

One of the iconic events on the PGA Tour at one of the great old clubs, unfortunately the field isn’t what it use to be when the Match Play followed it.  Now Europeans are waiting for the Florida swing and not playing here.  Still players are flocking to this event because Riviera is a great course and they all love to play it.

After enjoying a eight year relationship with Northern Trust, the decided to shift their sponsorship to the FedEx Cup playoff opener played in the New York/New Jersey area.  At the same time Hyundai Motor America, who was the title sponsor of the Tournament of Champions in Maui, decided to take over the sponsorship of one of the oldest events on the PGA Tour which has been around since 1926.  The tournament is being named after the Genesis, a luxury sedan offering from Hyundai.  Along with Hyundai, the Tiger Woods foundation became the host organization for the event.  So that is the good news, the bad we don’t know how long the sponsorship is for.  Since it was never announced, the odds on it being longer than two years is slim and none so it will have to wait and be seen if this is a good long term deal for this iconic event.

Tiger

Now with Tiger’s foundation along, the thought was that Tiger would play.  Frankly in my mind the Tiger Woods situation has become a joke.  Not for the fact of Tiger’s injuries as we just don’t really know the truth behind Tiger Woods anymore.  I guess we are starting to realize how really vulnerable Tiger really is.  I have always tried to keep things fact base on Tiger ever since he hit the fire hydrant that November morning in 2009.  While many have gone off rumors, I have tried to get Tiger’s point of view and word.  This in a way is a mistake because unless Tiger is benefiting from it through some sponsorship or deal, the media is probably the last to find out anything.  As for all his problems, both psychologically from his personal problems to the status of his back and parts of his body, again we really don’t know much.  Last year at this time I was told that Tiger could not get out of bed, he was so laid up from the surgeries that some thought he’d have a tough time just walking over playing professional golf.  But Tiger’s camp said this wasn’t true and Tiger was doing find. Now in his interview with Peter Dawson, which is nothing but a way for Tiger to promote Dubai (they had to get their million dollars worth), he stated some of the facts that his camp said wasn’t happening.  Sorry to say that Tiger fibs a bit but it’s more than just fibbing, it’s a bunch of lies.  The one thing that I took from this ten minute interview is that even Tiger admits to his back will never be 100% and that he will always have problems.  You see this and  we can see that Tiger may never win again, geez he may never be able to contend, the back is too far gone.

In this go around which started at the Hero Challenge in December, Tiger told us all that he was healthy and ready to play competitive golf again.  Just the fact that he played what looked like 72 “pain-free” holes in Bahamas got us thinking that maybe this would be the comeback we have been waiting years for.  Even after missing the cut in San Diego, we weren’t worried because Tiger again looked painfree.  But for anyone that watch Tiger play in Dubai, it was very obvious that Tiger wasn’t walking or doing anything normally.  He didn’t look like he was in pain, but looked very uncomfortable.  After the round the media asked Tiger if something was wrong and he said nothing was wrong.  The next day his manager told the media that Tiger had back spams and was going to withdraw as a pre-caution which brings us to this week.  As part of Tiger’s roll-out, he was to play five events, the Hero, the Farmers, Dubai, Genesis Open and the Honda next week.  But on Friday Tiger announced that he was pulling out of the Genesis and Honda due to back spams so what is the truth?

Frankly it’s time to just give up on Tiger, until he rejoins and is able to play regularly without pain, we can’t really bother to speculate on him.  Time is going by fast for Tiger and the longer away from the game, the harder it will be for him to gain any momentum on him being good again and possibly contenting and who knows maybe winning again.  The big question that this leaves us is with the thought that if Tiger will never able to play golf at the level we are use to.  It will be interesting to see what happens to him historically,  off of his record right now is he the best or does that honor stay in Jack Nicklaus’ corner.  The Golden Bear was pretty much pain free his whole career and still has achieved things that Tiger still hasn’t reached, so it’s sad but looking more and more like Tiger may never be able to win again.  Just wish Tiger would be a bit more truthful on this, instead of telling us in a “paid” interview for the sponsor.

Rory McIlroy

The thought was that McIlroy would be able to put his stress fracture behind him and play in the Genesis Open.  Even though he feels he is close, McIlroy decided not to play this week and probably won’t play next week at the Honda Open, looking to come back in the WGC-Mexico Championship.  What Rory didn’t want to do at this point of time is play back to back weeks and since Mexico is a four round, no cut event he feels it’s best to get ready for the Masters this way.

Jordan Spieth

Great win for him at Pebble, the only problem is that everyone wants to compare him to Tiger.  Sorry, Jordan great but not like Tiger.  One of the stats out of Pebble was that Jordan is just a month older than Tiger when Woods won his ninth PGA Tour title, the 1999 Memorial.  But here is a stat that will tell you that Jordan isn’t even close to Tiger’s clip.  If you remember your history, Tiger only won one title in 1998 while he changed his swing.  In 1999 Tiger won eight times and then nine in 2000.  It took Jordan 100 professional starts getting to nine wins, on Tiger’s 100th start at the 2001 Memorial, he also won that title but it was his 28th win.  So Jordan’s 9% win ratio is really good, but doesn’t compare to Tiger’s 28% win ratio.  So even if Jordan was to run the tables and win every event he played in this year, he would still be short of Tiger’s mark because after 120 professional starts Woods had won 32 times.

Things you need to know about Riviera and the Genesis Open

  • Riviera C.C. has held a U.S. Open, two PGA Championships and a Senior Open.  No other stop on the PGA Tour can claim the distinction of holding those three majors. Of the 53 courses that will hold a PGA Tour event this year, Riviera, Pebble Beach, Congressional, Baltusrol and Oakmont are the only ones that have hosted both the U.S. Open and the PGA Championship.
  • In the history of this tournament, 48 of the 89 winners have also won a major championship.  Going a step further, 32 of the 53 winners at Riviera have also won a major championship  Of those 32, 20 have also won the Masters so there is a link between winners at both Augusta National and Riviera.
  • Taking a step further, more Hall of Fame members have won at the Genesis Open than any other tournament since 1925.  The Genesis Open has been won 39 times by 25 different hall of fame members, the closet to it is the BMW Open which has been won 37 times by 22 different hall of fame winners.  So you can see this event has a great track record for producing first class champions.
  • One last thing to look for is the close finish.  There have been 19 playoffs at the tournament, with eight coming since 1998, including wins by Billy Mayfair (1998), Robert Allenby (2001), Mike Weir (2003), Adam Scott (2005) and Charles Howell III (2007), Bill Haas (2012), John Merrick (2013) and James Hahn (2015). Dating back to 1989, the tournament has ended either in a playoff (9 times) or with a one-stroke win (9 times).  So out of 28 times – 18 have been won by playoff or a shot.

Course information:

  • Riviera Country Club
  • Pacific Palisades, Calif.
  • 7,322 yards     Par 35-36–71
  • Course has a 74.3 rating and slope rating of 139 fron the championship tees. Riviera is a private club.
  • In 2016 Riviera was the 21st hardest course on the PGA Tour. In 2015 Riviera was the 5th hardest course on the PGA Tour playing to a 72.59 average while in 2014 Riviera was the 24th hardest course on the PGA Tour playing to a 71.209 average while in 2013 Riviera was the 13th hardest course on the PGA Tour playing to a 71.850 average.
  • Riviera was designed by George Thomas, with some help from William Bell, and was opened in 1927.  In 2001, Riviera brought in architect Tom Fazio with the goal of improving the course for a bid to host the 2008 U.S. Open, which ended up going to Torrey Pines.  What Fazio did was lengthen several holes, enlarge some of the greens and restore five of the holes to their original design before a flood forced them to be changed.  Riviera also saw a major renovation in 1993 when Ben Crenshaw and Bill Coore renovated all of the greens. Three years ago the course had all of its bunkers renovated.
  • In the summer of 2009, Riviera Country Club completed phase II of the restoration of hole #8 directed by Fazio Golf Course Designers. The intent of the modifications was to restore the 1926 original design intent of George Thomas’ “Double Fairway built around a dry wash”. In 1939, the original design intent was lost to a strong flood which scoured the “dry wash” along with the right fairway. Phase I of the restoration, in 2000, involved restoring the right fairway. Phase II involved restoring the dry wash barranca, thus cutting the fairway into two parts.
  • The average green size at the Riviera is 5,000 square feet, which is a little under the average on the PGA Tour.  Course has 57 bunkers and no water hazards, but there is a dry barranca that comes in play for the pros on six holes.

Let’s take a look at key stats that are important for those playing on the Riviera course:

This is based on the most important stats for Riviera, based on data from last years Genesis Open, and using data from all the players in the field with stats from 2017.
The scoring average of the field at Riviera in 2016 was 71.03, so with par being 71 that means the average score was just about par, making Riviera the 20th hardest course to score on in 2016. Last year the weather was perfect for scoring, while in 2015 the course played much harder and had an average of 72.59 (which ranked 5th). So it’s important to see how the weather does plays a factor, in 2015 it played tough with dry, fast course conditions with wind. Last year the course was very soft due to rain and with no wind the course was very easy.

In looking at the stats for Riviera last year Greens hit, driving accuracy and putting are striking. The course ranked 17th in greens hit, even though it ranked 1st in 2015. In driving accuracy the course was the 9th hardest last year on tour and 6th hardest in 2015. One thing that is important for Riviera is getting the ball close from the fairway, Riviera was 5th last year and in 2015 in Proximity to the hole

Putting also showed that you have to putt well, last year it ranked 2nd in putting from 4 to 8 feet and 1st from inside 10 feet. Lot’s of reasons for the greens being so hard, mostly because Poa Annua are much tougher to putt than any other greens (very bumpy). So it makes sense that putting is probably the most important stat for the players.

So how did the winner Bubba Watson do last year? He was a shot better than Adam Scott and Jason Kokrak. So how did Watson win, he ranked T-50th in fairways hit, T-7th in greens hit and T-5th in putts under ten feet. Watson was 11th in strokes gained putting for the week, one of the keys to the week is not having a three putt.

A couple of other things to look for he was 6th in proximity to the hole and T-4th in making birdies. On par 5s he played the three in 9 under, one back of the best for the week.

With that it gives us lot’s of choice for picking our four catagories.

*Strokes Gained Tee-to-Green: A way to gauge how players save shots from tee to green. Important because Riviera is a “shot-makers” course and those that are good from tee to green tend to do well at Riviera. Now the rough isn’t tough at Riviera, but hitting the 5,000 square foot greens is tough.

*Proximity to hole: Important to see who gets the ball closer from off the fairway. In a way this is even more important than greens hit, because the greens at Riviera are big enough that hitting them don’t make as much sense as getting the ball close.

*Putting inside 10 feet: In 2016 Riviera was the hardest greens to putt. Players are sometimes puzzled by the greens which in the afternoon get bumpy and very hard to read. So making those putts are very important in winning.

*Par 5 scoring average: Two of Riviera’s three par 5s are easy to get home in two and score well on. The longest of them is 17th and most of the time is played down wind, thus making that hole a birdie hole. The winner will do good on the par 5s.

Below is the average of positions on stats from 2017 PGA Tour statistics:

Click any column title in the table header to sort columns.

Here is the link to all of the stats for all players in the field this week:

 

History of Riviera:

Riviera Country Club is one of golf’s most intriguing clubs.

In 1922, Frank Garbutt, who was the vice president of the downtown Los Angeles Athletic Club, was looking for a golf course site for the club. He found a piece of property in the Santa Monica Canyon,  about two miles from the Pacific Ocean.  As he stood on an 80-foot bluff overlooking the canyon, where  Riviera’s clubhouse stands  today,  he knew  he had found the perfect site.

Garbutt hired George Thomas to design the course, but when the noted architect made his first site inspection he didn’t share Garbutt’s opinion.  Thomas wasn’t impressed with the property and he told Garbutt that any course built on the site would cost the club a bundle. Garbutt told Thomas to build the best course in the world, at any cost.

Thomas brought in 200 men to clear the canyon. He installed a state-of-the-art irrigation system and hauled 19,000 pounds of grass seed and topsoil from the San Fernando Valley.  When the course was finished in 1927, it had cost $675,000 , giving it the distinction of being the most expensive course ever built.  That didn’t include the architect’s fee, because Thomas, a wealthy man who dabbled in course architecture, never charged a dime for his work.

Bottom line, Thomas built what many considered the best course in the West.  In 1939, when the National Golf Foundation named the 10 best courses in America, Riviera placed third behind Pine Valley and Pinehurst No. 2.  Seventy years later, it still ranks among the best in various course ratings and opinion polls.

Riviera gained fame as the club of choice for movie stars.  Among them were Douglas Fairbanks (who put up $1,000 of the $10,000 prize fund for the first Los Angeles Open), W.C. Fields, Basil Rathbone, Dean  Martin, Burt Lancaster and Sammy Davis Jr.  More recently the membership has included Glen Campbell, Peter Falk, James Garner and Robert Wagner.  Scenes from several movies were shot at Riviera, including “Pat and Mike”, “The Caddy”, and “Follow the Sun.”

Today, those familiar with Riviera as a PGA Tour stop also recognize it as the course with the Kikuyu grass and a bunker in the middle of a green.

Kikuyu is a strong, tough strain of grass that was imported from Africa more than70 years ago for use on polo grounds.  When Riviera opened, polo was popular in L.A. and there were several polo grounds in the neighborhood.  Their are many stories about how Kikuyu appeared at Riviera, but the tale most often told is that one night after a local polo field was seeded, a windstorm carried the Kikuyu seed onto Riviera.  Since Kikuyu grass is essentially a weed, it grew quickly. The course superintendent ignored its encroachment, and before he knew it Riviera had been taken over by Kikuyu.

Instead of resisting its growth, Riviera learned how to perfect Kikuyu. Today it blankets the course, making pitch and run shots nearly impossible because the thick grass grabs the club head.  Many believe Kikuyu is the finest form of grass to play off fairways because  the ball sits up, regardless of the lie.

Riviera’s other unique feature is the sixth hole, a 170-yard par 3 that features a bunker in the middle of the green, making the putting surface into a doughnut shape. If a player’s tee shot lands on the wrong side of the bunker, he must chip over the sand or take several putts around it. For the average player, option No. 1 means taking a divot out of the green.

Riviera has held several major championships.  The 1948 U.S. Open was the first and won by Ben Hogan, who shot 8-under-par  276, an Open scoring record that stood until Jack Nicklaus posted a 5-under-par 275 in 1967 at Baltusrol.

In 1983, the PGA Championship was held at Riviera and won by Hal Sutton. The PGA returned in 1995, with Steve Elkington beating Colin Montgomerie in a playoff. Both shot 267, which remains the record for any major championship.

Riviera hosted a Senior Tour major in 1998 when Hale Irwin rebounded from a first-round 77 and claimed the title.

Unfortunately, the odds on Riviera holding another major are slim, even though it will hold the U.S. Amateur championship in 2017. The course is regarded as one of the gems on the PGA Tour, but traffic is a mess and the congested neighborhood offers limited options for parking, hospitality and merchandise tents.  Still for the pros it’s a special treat for most of them once a year.

Major Championships held at Riviera:

  • 1948 U.S. Open won by Ben Hogan
  • 1983 PGA Championship won by Hal Sutton
  • 1995 PGA Championship won by Steve Elkington
  • 1998 U.S. Senior Open won by Hale Irwin

Here are some of the secrets of what it takes to play well at the Genesis Open:

Key stat for the winner:

What I find very interesting is that of all the courses on the PGA Tour year in and year out, Riviera has been in the top ten every year since they have kept track in 2003 of making the least amount of putts from 10 feet and in.  The reason for that, the poa annua greens are very tricky to putt and late in the afternoon get bumpy which creates ever more challenges.  So look for a player that has lot’s of patient with the putter and is able to overcome these challenges.

So the stat shows that you have to make those pesky putts if you want to win, look at how it’s been done since 2003.

  • In 2016 players made 84.69%, which ranked 1st on tour.  Winner Bubba Watson made 91.67% ranking T-5th.
  • In 2015 players made 85.15%, which ranked 1st on tour.  Winner James Hahn made 82.05% ranking 65th.
  • In 2014 players made 84.87%, which ranked 2nd on tour.  Winner Bubba Watson made 88.57% ranking 18th
  • In 2013 players made 83.37%, which ranked 2nd on tour.  Winner John Merrick made 85.53% ranking T33rd
  • In 2012 players made 84.39%, which ranked 1st on tour.  Winner Bill Haas made 87.14% ranking 22nd
  • In 2011 players made 84.84%, which ranked 1st on tour.  Winner Aaron Baddeley made 91.18% ranking 6th
  • In 2010 players made 86.48%, which ranked 8th on tour.  Winner Steve Stricker made 84.51% ranking 61st
  • In 2009 players made 85.67%, which ranked 7th on tour.  Winner Phil Mickelson made 87.84% ranking T29th
  • In 2008 players made 85.08%, which ranked 5th on tour.  Winner Phil Mickelson made 91.55% ranking 4th
  • In 2007 players made 85.35%, which ranked 6th on tour.  Winner Charles Howell made 91.78% ranking 2nd
  • In 2006 players made 85.30%, which ranked 3rd on tour.  Winner Rory Sabbatini made 82.89% ranking T63rd
  • In 2005 players made 86.53%, which ranked 8th on tour.  Winner Adam Scott made 85.71% ranking T57th
  • In 2004 players made 85.04%, which ranked 4th on tour.  Winner Mike Weir made 93.75% ranking 4th
  • In 2003 players made 84.90%, which ranked 1st on tour.  Winner Mike Weir made 85.71% ranking T38th

So all of the players that have played at Riviera since 2003 make 85.03% of the putts from ten feet in while the last 12 winners average making 87.12% of their putts from ten feet in.

Here are some more key stats to look to for this week:

Unbelievable and really weird stat:

Riviera is a classic layout and a different breed than most courses on the PGA Tour. So you would think placing drives in the right spot is important.  Consider some of the champions over the last 23 years:  Bill Haas, Steve Stricker, Charles Howell III, Rory Sabbatini, Mike Weir, Len Mattiace, Nick Faldo, Kirk Triplett, Craig Stadler, Corey Pavin, Tom Kite and Ted Schultz have the reputation of being the best in placing drives in the right spot.  So that means only one thing, driving is very important at Riviera?  Sorry but that isn’t the case.  The last winner to finish in the top-ten in driving stats was 2014 winner Bubba Watson who was T8th but before that it was Nick Faldo in 1997.  Of the 20 since 1997, only six have finished in the top-25 so that means that 12 of them were out of the top-25, amazing.  Last year Bubba was T-50th in driving accuracy. So being a straight driver is not an advantage at Riviera.

Experience is key. The list of champions in the last 23 years includes Bubba Watson, Phil Mickelson Fred Couples, Tom Kite, Corey Pavin, Craig Stadler, Nick Faldo, Ernie Els and Mike Weir, all major championship winners.  There have been 25 different hall of fame members that have won 39 championships so the cream seems to always come to the top.

Not many shotmaking courses left on the PGA Tour.  Outside of Riviera can only name about a half dozen, from Pebble to PGA National to Hilton Head to Colonial.  So for most of the pros, hitting lot’s of greens and shaping the ball into the proper position is important. So it only makes sense that players who hit lots of greens always do well at Riviera, right?  Not really, in the last 20 years, only five winners have been in the top-five for the week in greens hit while eight have been out of the top-ten.  Bill Haas was the worst in 2012, he was ranked T58th hitting only 36 of 72 greens, in 2011 Aaron Baddeley was 3rd while in 2010 Steve Stricker was T10th while in 2009 Phil Mickelson was T9th in greens hit at Riviera.  In 2013 John Merrick ranked T23rd hitting 46 of 72 greens while in 2014 Bubba Watson ranked T3rd hitting 51 of 72 greens and last year James Hahn hit 40 of 72 which ranked T-28th in 2015 while Bubba hit 51 of 72 greens which ranked T-7th.

Putting has become more important the last couple of years.  You have to make a lot of putts, especially in the under ten feet range to do well.  In 2012 Bill Haas had the least amount of putts with 103, while in 2010 Steve Stricker had the least amount of putts with just 104.  In 2014 Bubba Watson ranked T15th taking just 108 putts while James Hahn took 107 putts and ranked T-10th in 2015.  Last year Bubba Watson took 113 putts which ranked T-25th.

Players who are good scramblers do well at Riviera, especially those who can play the delicate shots around the green from the Kikuyu grass.  In 2011 Aaron Baddeley led the scrambling stat for the week getting it up and down 18 of 20 times.

So how has the past winners done scrambling in their winning year?  Of the 15 winners since 2002, eight of them have been in the top-10.

  • In 2016 Bubba Watson was 4th getting it up and down 16 of 21 tries (76.19%)
  • in 2015 James Hahn was 13th getting it up and down 22 out of 32 tries (68.75%).
  • In 2014 Bubba Watson was T16th getting it up and down 15 out of 21 tries (71.43%).
  • In 2013 John Merrick was 19th getting it up and down 17 out of 26 tries (65.38%).
  • In 2012 Bill Haas was 7th getting it up and down 26 out of 36 tries (72.22%).
  • In 2011 Aaron Baddeley was 1st getting it up and down 18 out of 20 tries (90.00%).
  • In 2010 Steve Stricker was T8th getting it up and down 19 out of 24 tries (79.17%).
  • In 2009 Phil Mickelson was T29th getting it up and down 14 out of 21 tries (66.67%).
  • In 2008 Phil Mickelson was 4th getting it up and down 20 out of 26 tries (76.92%).
  • In 2007 Charles Howell III was T6th getting it up and down 16 out of 21 tries (76.19%).
  • In 2006 Rory Sabbatini was T62nd getting it up and down 14 out of 24 tries (58.33%).
  • In 2005 Adam Scott was T14th getting it up and down 8 out of 10 tries (80.00%).
  • In 2004 Mike Weir was T7th getting it up and down 20 out of 26 tries (76.92%).
  • In 2003 Mike Weir was 6th getting it up and down 19 out of 26 tries.
  • In 2002 Len Mattiace was T11th getting it up and down 22 out of 28 tries (78.57%).
  • In 2001 Robert Allenby was 69th getting it up and down 11 out of 20 tries (55.00%).
  • In 2000 Kirk Triplett was 71st (dead last) getting it up and down 5 out of 14 tries (38.46%).

Last but not least, the weather has been dreadful for the PGA Tour the last couple of weeks as they dodged heavy rains in the CareerBuilders and last week was terrible on Thursday and Friday at Pebble.  Unfortunately in the last west coast stop the tour will need to dodge more crummy weather.  Thursday should be OK, but a storm comes in that night and suppose to be 100% chance of rain on Friday, with 70% on Saturday.  Sunday it’s suppose to clear up and be mostly sunny.  So again this adds up to those that play in rainy conditions doing the best.

 

Who to watch for at the Genesis Open

Best Bets:

Jordan Spieth

2017 ’16 ’15 ’14 ’13 ’12 ’11 ’10 ’09 ’08 ’07 ’06 ’05
CUT T4 T12 CUT

This is an easy choice, he is on a roll and we know he will contend on Sunday, just don’t know how it will shape up.

Hideki Matsuyama

2017 ’16 ’15 ’14 ’13 ’12 ’11 ’10 ’09 ’08 ’07 ’06 ’05
T11 T4 T23

Can’t forget about Matsuyama, who has played as well as Spieth and has a very good record at Riviera, only being over par twice in 12 rounds at the Genesis Open.

Sergio Garcia

2017 ’16 ’15 ’14 ’13 ’12 ’11 ’10 ’09 ’08 ’07 ’06 ’05
CUT T4 T13 T4 T46 6

Can’t forget about him, he has played well in the past at Riviera and I see him in contention again this week.

Best of the rest:

Dustin Johnson

2017 ’16 ’15 ’14 ’13 ’12 ’11 ’10 ’09 ’08 ’07 ’06 ’05
4 T2 2 CUT T4 CUT T3 T10 T59

Hard to pass on his record at Riviera with six top-tens in nine starts. Of anyone in the field he has played the best the last three starts as he is 32 under in 12 rounds, nine of those rounds in the 60s with a 4th, T-2nd, 2nd finish.

Adam Scott

2017 ’16 ’15 ’14 ’13 ’12 ’11 ’10 ’09 ’08 ’07 ’06 ’05
T2 T10 T17 CUT T14 T69 2 Win

Has only played once in the last ten weeks, was T-9th in Singapore four weeks ago. Another player who likes and does well at Riviera, look for a good week from him.

Bill Haas

2017 ’16 ’15 ’14 ’13 ’12 ’11 ’10 ’09 ’08 ’07 ’06 ’05
CUT CUT T23 T3 Win T12 CUT CUT T36 T22 T51

Past winner, likes Riviera. Haven’t heard much from him this year but he has played pretty well and could sneak up and win this week.

Justin Rose

2017 ’16 ’15 ’14 ’13 ’12 ’11 ’10 ’09 ’08 ’07 ’06 ’05
T16 T45 T13 T9 T37 CUT T62 T39 T58

Course is one that Rose should adopt to pretty easily, played ok at Pebble last week.

Solid contenders

Jason Day

2017 ’16 ’15 ’14 ’13 ’12 ’11 ’10 ’09 ’08 ’07 ’06 ’05
T62 CUT CUT

Playing in this event for the first time in five years, you know he is fine-tuming his game and will have some great results very soon, maybe even this week.

Brooks Koepka

2017 ’16 ’15 ’14 ’13 ’12 ’11 ’10 ’09 ’08 ’07 ’06 ’05
First time playing in this event

Playing at Riviera for the first time, you know he has the game to really do well and this course should suit him.

Branden Grace

2017 ’16 ’15 ’14 ’13 ’12 ’11 ’10 ’09 ’08 ’07 ’06 ’05
First time playing in this event

Another first-timer that should have no problem adopting to Riviera.

Brandt Snedeker

2017 ’16 ’15 ’14 ’13 ’12 ’11 ’10 ’09 ’08 ’07 ’06 ’05
74 T17 CUT T20 CUT CUT

He doesn’t want to leave the west coast swing without a win, which he has done (winning that is) the last four years.

Long shots that could come through:

Shane Lowry

2017 ’16 ’15 ’14 ’13 ’12 ’11 ’10 ’09 ’08 ’07 ’06 ’05
First time playing in this event

Another first-timer to this course, he is a very good foul weather player and could content.

Marc Leishman

2017 ’16 ’15 ’14 ’13 ’12 ’11 ’10 ’09 ’08 ’07 ’06 ’05
T5 CUT T59 T61 T17 CUT T15

Good record at Riviera, he is tooting along and you never know when his top-20 finishes of late will turn into being in contention

Seung-Yul Noh

2017 ’16 ’15 ’14 ’13 ’12 ’11 ’10 ’09 ’08 ’07 ’06 ’05
T20 T22 T16

Playing well right now and has played steadily at Riviera over the years.

Just don’t like this this week:

Bubba Watson

2017 ’16 ’15 ’14 ’13 ’12 ’11 ’10 ’09 ’08 ’07 ’06 ’05
Win T14 Win CUT T13 WD CUT T17 T14 CUT

Seems to be struggling with his game right now. Many say it’s his change of golfballs, some say he is getting old while some say he just hasn’t worked as hard as he used to do.

Phil Mickelson

2017 ’16 ’15 ’14 ’13 ’12 ’11 ’10 ’09 ’08 ’07 ’06 ’05
T21 T2 T35 T45 Win Win 2

Worried that he may be tired and not having much left in the tank playing his fifth event in a row. Still he has a good record at Riviera, if you want to back him just have to worry about him shooting 44 on the back nine.

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