Horses for Courses: 2020 Genesis Invitational

Big bucks, big field and a proper test of golf.

Outstanding.

It’s year 94 for the TOUR in Los Angeles and 44 of the last 46 stops have featured historic Riviera Country Club in Pacific Palisades. The routing of George Thomas/William Bell has stood the test of time as Riviera is the fourth-longest running event (non-major division) on TOUR.

This old-school track (par 71, 7,322 yards) requires an examination of all 14 clubs and has plenty of beef as six par-4 holes play 458 or better. Greens are not easy to hit in regulation and putting on Poa annua is always an adventure, especially around the hole and especially late in the afternoon.

Closing out the annual West Coast Swing, The Genesis Invitational is now a field of 120 with a new massive prize purse ($9.3 million; $1.674 winner) and a three-year exemption for the winner, joining the Arnold Palmer Invitational presented by Mastercard and the Memorial Tournament presented by Nationwide in the elevated-status category.

RECENT WINNERS

2019: J.B. Holmes (-14, 268)

Trailing by four after 54, Holmes played in the final group with Justin Thomas and beat him by five shots to claim his first win at Riviera and fifth TOUR win overall. … Opened with 63, and led by one over Jordan Spieth. … None of the last seven winners have been under 30. … First champion outside of the top five (T11) in Strokes Gained: Tee-to-Green in five years. … Fifth-consecutive winner to rank in the top 10 of Par-4 scoring. … First player in five years to lead the field in Strokes Gained: Putting and only second in the top 10.

Notables in the field this week: Thomas (2nd) co-led with Adam Scott (T7) after 36 holes. … Si Woo Kim (3rd) played the weekend 68-66 but his current form is dire. … Marc Leishman (T4) and Charles Howell III (6th) were the only players to post all four rounds in the 60s. … Rory McIlroy matched Holmes’ 63 in Round 2 and eventually shared fourth. … Jon Rahm (T9) was the only debutant in the top 20. … Tiger Woods (T15) has never won this event from 13 starts.

2018: Bubba Watson (-12, 272)

Third time in five events Watson has won. … Joins Mickelson and Weir as lefthanders in the winner’s circle here and Augusta. …. Posted 65 in Round 3 to take the lead. … Led by one after 54 and closed with 69 to win by one. … Only three players double digits under-par. … Top 21 in all major statistical categories besides driving accuracy (T27). … Similar to Holmes, Watson arrived in ice-cold form but was comfortable upon arrival!

Notables in the field this week: Patrick Cantlay led after 18, co-led after 36 and played in the final group before cashing T4. … Tony Finau (T2) and Kevin Na (T2) were the only other players double-digits under par one shot out of a playoff. … Cameron Smith (T6) was the only player to have multiple bogey-free rounds (2). … Xander Schauffele (T9) was the only first-timer in the top 15.

2017: Dustin Johnson (-17, 267)

Posted 17-under to lead by five after 54 holes. … Missed Lanny Wadkins’ tournament record of 20-under as he closed with 71 (E) to win by five. … Mauled the field as he led in driving distance, GIR, Strokes-Gained: Off-the-Tee and Par-4 scoring. … Comprehensive performance included third in Strokes-Gained: Putting and T5 Scrambling.

Notables in the field this week: Scott Brown shared second with debutant Thomas Pieters (not entered), who closed with 63. … Charley Hoffman, Kevin Na and Justin Rose tied for fourth. … Almost three inches of rain fell Friday to Saturday morning so hardly firm and fast. … J.T. Poston T17 on his debut. … Last time course ranked outside the top 10 in most difficult.

Key stat leaders

Top golfers in each statistic on the 2018-19 PGA TOUR are listed only if they are scheduled to compete this week.

 * –  previous top 10 finish here since 2015

Par-4 Scoring

1  Brooks Koepka

2  *Rory McIlroy

3  *Justin Thomas

5  *Jon Rahm

6  *Patrick Cantlay

7  *Charles Howell III

7  Scott Piercy

7  Joaquin Niemann

11 Patrick Reed

12 *Cameron Tringale (T8, 2017)

14 Nate Lashley

14 Abraham Ancer

16 *Chez Reavie (7th, 2016)

16 *Xander Schauffele

18 Nick Taylor

19 Sam Ryder

21 Sungjae Im

23 *Matt Kuchar (T8, 2016)

23 Ryan Palmer

23 Vaughn Taylor (T9, 2019)

Strokes Gained: Tee-to-Green

1  *Rory McIlroy

2  *Justin Thomas

3  *Hideki Matsuyama

4  *Adam Scott

5  *Patrick Cantlay

6  *Paul Casey (P2, 2015)

8  *Dustin Johnson

9  Corey Conners

10 *Jon Rahm

11 *Xander Schauffele

12 Brooks Koepka

14 *Jason Kokrak (T2, 2016)

15 Emiliano Grillo

18 Matthew Fitzpatrick

21 *Tony Finau

23 Joaquin Niemann

24 *Sergio Garcia

Bogey Avoidance

1  *Rory McIlroy

3  *Patrick Cantlay

4  *Charles Howell III

6  *Matt Kuchar

7  Scott Piercy

8  Jim Furyk

10 *Vaughn Taylor

11 Brooks Koepka

12 *Xander Schauffele

13 Matt Jones

14 *Hideki Matsuyama

16 *Justin Thomas

17 Bud Cauley

19 Denny McCarthy

20 *Cameron Tringale

21 *Paul Casey

22 Rory Sabbatini (2006 champion)

22 Aaron Baddeley (2011 champion)

24 *Jon Rahm

25 Patrick Reed

Horses

Bubba Watson: Three wins in the last six.

Dustin Johnson: 10 paydays from 12 starts include eight top-10s, including five of the last six years.

Phil Mickelson: Back-to-back champ in 2008-09 and has cashed 10 straight.

Adam Scott: T17 or better in six of last seven, including T11 in three of the last four; UNOFFICIAL winner here in 2005 (event shortened to 36 holes; weather).

Figuring it Out

Justin Thomas: Should have won last year and T9 in ’18. … 20-under in the last two years includes a 75.

Rory McIlroy: 69.33 average in three visits.

Patrick Cantlay: T15 and T4 since his return in 2018.

Xander Schauffele: T9 and T15 in his first two visits suggest his game is more than complete.

Hideki Matsuyama: All four paydays from five starts are T23 or better and three are T11 or better including T9 last year.

Regulars

J.B. Holmes: Missed once in 13 tries; cashed in six straight.

Kevin Na: SoCal native T33-T2-T4 in the last three years.

Ryan Moore: Cashed in seven of his last nine with nothing worse than T27.

Justin Rose: First visit since T4 in 2017; cashed 10 of 11 with just four in the top 25.

Charles Howell III: 18 starts have resulted in 14 paychecks including the last five years. 2007 champ.

Questions? mikeglasscott@gmail.com or @MikeGlasscott on social.

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