The Genesis Open on the PGA Tour is the current name for one of the oldest professional tournaments in the United States. The event started its life as the Los Angeles Open in 1926 and has been played at Riviera Country Club since 1973 except for two years in which it was hosting major championships, the latest the 1998 US Seniors Open. It’s a traditional tournament played on an old style course and in contrast to this week’s event on the European Tour.
The ISPS Handa World Super 6 Perth combines strokeplay and matchplay in a unique format but in both events the best player prevails. Strokes will reduce the field from 156 to 24 players over the first three days. Matches will be played over six holes on Sunday with the top eight players getting a bye into the second round. If matches are tied after six holes sudden death will determine which player progresses to the next round. The defending champion is Kiradech Aphibarnrat and Bret Rumford won the first staging of the event in 2017 but neither former winners are playing this week.
Bubba Watson is the defending champion and three times winner of the Genesis Open so has a game suited to the host course. Riviera is looked upon as one of America’s great traditional courses and a classic of course design. It was nicknamed Hogan’s Alley after Ben Hogan won three times there is 17 months in the late 1940’s. It could also be called Tiger’s torment because Woods has not won on the course despite a number of visits and he plays again this week. Phil Mickelson won the Pebble Beach Pro-Am for the fifth time on Sunday but the track does not play to his strengths.
Riviera has been lengthened in an effort to recreate the original feel of the layout. It’s a course that requires players to think their way around, shaping tee shots and avoiding the sand traps. That profile does not fit the perception of how Watson and the 2017 winner, Dustin Johnson, play golf but both have more than one dimension to their game. The greens at Riviera are below average in size and similar to those at Pebble Beach last week. Driving accuracy is more important than driving distance and hitting the greens in the correct number of shots is key to good scoring.
The par of the course is 71 and at 7,322 yards in length it’s about average for this par. The average winning score over the last 10 years is 13 under and in all but one year the winning margin has been two strokes or less and that includes three playoffs. Since 2008 there has only been one overseas winner so this is a tournament dominated by players from the United States. Jordan Spieth has a decent profile for the host course so could get his career back on track with a 12th PGA Tour win. Rory McIlroy has entered the event but his skills are not the best fit for the course.
The innovative tournament on the European Tour is being played at Lake Karrinyup Country Club in Perth and this is another course that puts a premium on accuracy over distance. Last year’s leader after the 54 holes of stroke play was first for driving accuracy and greens in regulation but also second for GIR putting. Aphibarnrat was sixth for driving accuracy but also fourth for driving distance so a player clearly must drive the ball well to contend. Putting in any matchplay format is also important so a good all-round game is required. Thomas Pieters ticks many of the boxes and the former Ryder Cup player matches the requirements of both formats so is the tip.