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Read The Line

Mon Day Green 🤑

Published 2 months ago • 7 min read

The Book of Genesis

PACIFIC PALISADES, CA

The start of the 2024 PGA TOUR season feels delayed. Our first true "signature" event at Pebble Beach was marred by weather and reduced to 54-holes. Then it was a week in Arizona where the high temperature never crossed 60 degrees. The rain followed us to Scottsdale as well and challenged tournament officials in every round. Thankfully, the wet weather should not plague us again in Los Angeles for The Genesis Invitational. Tough to buy a break out here on the road. Yes, for the third week in a row, I will be covering the TOUR from the venue.

The tension out here is palpable. It's easy to observe the players are distracted by all of the turmoil on TOUR. From weather delays to incessant inquiries about the future of the schedule and who will play where, I think everyone is ready for Tiger. The TOUR's number one distraction should bring some focus to everyone involved in Los Angeles. Host and participant, Tiger Woods in attendance is great for golf and so is an iconic venue like Riviera Country Club.

The Genesis starts in...

Count down to 2024-02-15T15:00:00.000Z

Tiger's presence brings out the best. Twenty-two of the top 24 players in the OWGR and 41 of the top 50 are in the field of 71 players. The top 50 and ties will make the weekend and anyone within 10 shots of the lead. Everyone is playing for $20 million dollars. Four million dollars goes out for first along with those increasingly valuable 700 FedEx Cup points. Having gone to a signature event followed by a full field tournament, the atmosphere is anxious at both. Players are pressing to play well. The "new tier" is growing ever impatient, and the stars see it. There's more work being put in on the days leading up to each event.

Walking the course, it is easy to feel we are dealing with soft conditions again. The rain from Pebble Beach ran down the coast and saturated southern California all last week. More wet weather is a possibility for late Sunday, so let’s hope we finally get lucky. Maybe we shouldn't schedule California in February! How about Hawaii in late January and then straight to Florida! Riviera CC has received over eight inches of rain since February started approximately 10 days ago. Riviera can play long, and these soft conditions will definitely favor the longer hitters.

  • Riviera Country Club, designed in 1927 by George Thomas and Jay Bell.
  • Par 71, 7,322 yards
  • Scorecard: three par 5s (average 559 yards), four par 3s (average 198 yards), 11 par 4s (average 441 yards)
  • Fifty-eight bunkers (32 greenside)
  • 7,500 sq/ft average green size, Poa annua grass and Kikuyu fairways and rough

Riviera CC is one of the toughest tests on TOUR, but with softer conditions these guys should be able to take dead aim. The average winning score over the past decade is 14 under par and the cutline over the past 15 years is two over par. We have an elite field, and in these scoring conditions should be full steam ahead. Looking back over that same decade, the average winner's pre-tournament odds are +6300.

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Course conditions

Riviera Country Club

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Pacific Palisades, CA

The fourth largest green surfaces on TOUR aren't as easy to hit as they seem. Players secure an average of 58% of their GIRs which is well under the PGA TOUR average (66%). This place is tough and goes back to the genius of Thomas's design features. The fairways really move here. Twelve of the 14 tee shots bend off the tee and that Kikuyu rough is very penal. Let it grow from the rain, and success rates for building birdie chances will drop. Similar to GIRs, players find well under the TOUR average of fairways hit. Riviera is a predictive place much like I referenced last week at TPC Scottsdale.

Another aspect of Thomas's genius is seen in the routing. Riviera CC sits on a layout that mainly moves the players either southwest (8-holes) or northeast (6 holes). In the morning when the tide is going out, the predominate wind blows toward the water and the southwest holes play downwind. Later in the day when the tide returns, the wind will shift back in the opposite direction and allow for the finishing holes on both nines to play downwind. That's an important feature for the players because the final few holes of both nines are quite difficult.

Read The Line recap 🗞️

Jon Rahm edged Max Homa last year with exceptional approach play. The splendid Spaniard gained over 11 shots on the field with his iron game. His largest gains attacking the greens happened on approach shots over 200 yards. If you are looking for a player to separate himself, make sure he can lock in from long-range attacking these green complexes.

Keep it out of the Kikuyu

Just put it in the fairway. Players will not be able to contend without length and accuracy off the tee. The last ten winners of the Genesis have gained three strokes from the tee box. Scoring is quite difficult at Riviera CC. Twelve holes have a bogey rate over 15% where only eight have a birdie rate over that same value. Look at the list of recent winners for confirmation, Dustin Johnson, Bubba Watson, Jon Rahm, and Adam Scott. These men are all-time elite drivers of the golf ball. Plenty of other players who are high on the career strokes gained list possess serious ball speed as well.

Just as Jon Rahm showed us a year ago, approach play is where you can really separate. He was second in the field hitting 71% of his GIRs. Putting less pressure on your short game is a successful strategy. The Kikuyu rough wraps around these green surfaces and it can play very difficult wet or dry. Gaining that edge in BoB% versus bogey avoidance also exemplifies our past winners. Over the last five years, players have made an average of 22 birdies, and only averaged 15 under par as the winning score. Bogeys are going to happen at Riviera and bouncing back is a key feature of our contenders.

The final four par 4s average 475 yards in length. Winding through the valley, they require accuracy off the tee and on approach. Past winners’ ability to score on the 4s has dramatically improved their standing on the leaderboard. Your last 10 winners have gained over eight shots on the field playing the par 4s. Their biggest gains came on the 450-500 range as six of the 11 fall in that range and all but one of the 4s on the back nine. A big part of cashing in on the par 4s comes from being able to convert birdie chances on these Poa annua greens.

We're back to the bumpy surfaces and with super soft conditions, the greens will only frustrate players even more. Our card will have players who have confidence making putts inside 10'. Gone is the smooth velvet in Scottsdale. Guys will miss from short range at Riviera and at a place where there are so many demands on your ball striking the importance of a solid stroke gets magnified. Winners over the past 10 years are gaining four strokes on the field with the flatstick.

This is a tight field, and the odds board reflects that. It's interesting that the best players don't have a great winning record at Riviera. Tiger has played here since he was a sophomore in high school and never won. Jack Nicklaus never captured a Hollywood title either. Most of our winners fall in that +3000-+6000 range. Elite players looking to take that next step as Max Homa did in 2021. Those winners needed great driving to successfully create scoring chances. They converted plenty of birdie putts on the Poa and hit greens from long range.

Riviera Country Club is a major championship venue. It requires a well-rounded week to even get close. Follow these four and watch as they compete, contend, and one ultimately captures the title come Sunday.

Outright winners - Genesis Invitational

Few in the field have been playing better than Ludvig Åberg has over the past 10 months.

  • Åberg is first in BoB% and fourth in SG:T2G in this field.
  • Ninth place at the Farmers and runner-up at the weather shortened AT&T.
  • Sixth in the field SG:OTT and tenth in approach the ball striking is fantastic.
  • With a great Poa putter and short game, he's gaining over six strokes on the field in his last 10 starts.

Sam Burns has three straight top 10 finishes in the last four weeks on TOUR.

  • Burns is number one in the field for bogey avoidance.
  • Sam's driver in Scottsdale was superb. When he drives it well, he contends and wins.
  • Burns has five starts here with a top 3 finish in 2021.
  • I'm tired of taking great ball strikers who cannot putt. Burns can fill the cup and will on these Poa greens just like he did at Pebble Beach a couple weeks ago.

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