After last week’s frenzied party at the WM Phoenix Open, the PGA Tour heads west to Tinsel Town.
We’re on to the Genesis Invitational at the famed Riviera Country Club in Pacific Palisades, California, just outside of Los Angeles.
Almost all of golf’s stars are in attendance with 19 of the top 20 in the Official World Golf Ranking. LIV player, No. 4 Cameron Smith, is the exception.
Even Tiger Woods has announced he’ll be playing in his first non-major PGA Tour event since the 2020 Zozo Championship.
The field is 131 players this week vying to make the cut of top 65 and ties.
They’ll be taking on a classic golf course that’s stood the test of time. Riviera Country Club is a 7,322-yard par-71 designed by George C. Thomas Jr. and William P. Bell in 1926.
The private club in Pacific Palisades, California, is just outside of Los Angeles. It’s a relatively narrow, tree-lined layout that emphasizes proper ball striking. That’s especially the case on approach.
Riviera’s greens are the smallest on the PGA Tour averaging 7,500 square feet.
The course is known for its relatively distinctive Kikuyu grass, a sticky surface that Aussie players, for example, are more used to. The greens are poa annua, a bumpy surface common on the West Coast swing like at Torrey Pines and Pebble Beach.
If the wind is up and conditions are dry, the green speeds can be major championship quick.
The weather forecast for the week looks like it will be dry and relatively cool with temperatures between the upper 40s and lower 60s Fahrenheit. Things could change, but wind does not expect to be a huge issue.
Whether or not there is tricky weather, it’s hard to fake it around famed Riviera Country Club. Let’s check out the 10 with the best chance to win at “Hogan’s Alley.”
Will Zalatoris was the only big name to eschew playing in last week’s WM Phoenix Open. I like rest being on his side as an advantage this week at the Genesis Invitational. One more week to give his back a break helps.
A little extra prep time for Riviera could also do him well. This is Zalatoris’ third tournament appearance.
His debut went pretty well. Zalatoris posted 69-69-75-67 to take T-15th in 2020. He made the field that year by way of winning the Collegiate Showcase at Riviera on the Monday of tournament week.
Zalatoris followed with T-26th (69-70-68-71). Seven of eight rounds at par or better isn’t too shabby.
Zalatoris got the monkey off his back last summer by winning his first PGA Tour event at the FedEx St. Jude Championship.
His injury occurred shortly thereafter, and it caused him to miss what would have been his Presidents Cup debut.
The 26-year-old Texan showed well in his first event back in January, taking T-11th at the no-cut Sentry Tournament of Champions. He’s split his next two cuts and took T-36th at The American Express.
Last season on the PGA Tour, Zalatoris was a ball-striking machine. He led in strokes gained per round in approach (1.063), and tee to green (1.77). He wasn’t bad off the tee (.602), either, finishing 11th to help him land at third in total SG (1.767).
Zalatoris has said in interviews he tends to play better at events where par is a good score. It’s why even if he played at last week’s birdie fest in the desert, I don’t know if I would’ve loved his chances.
He’s not a good enough putter to roll in tons of birdie looks, but he can hit it close enough, even on tough setups, to grind out tons of pars and outlast much of the field.
It’s why he’s played so well at majors.
The Genesis Invitational isn’t a major, obviously. It is a designated event with everyone who’s anyone teeing it up this week.
Be sure to check on Wednesday night if there is any news about his injury status, but if he’s good to go, I like Zalatoris to land in the top 10 in LA.