TIGER TIME: The Goat Is BACK As The PGA Tour Hits Riviera For The Genesis Invitational

Chris Trotman. Getty Images.

WOO BABY it's good to be back. 

And boy do we have a treat on our hands this week. After another awesome tournament down in Scottsdale, the stars are out in droves for the Genesis Invitational. It's one of the Tour's 8 "Signature Events" this year, meaning anyone who's anyone on Tour is here and $20 Million is up for grabs.

This is the 97th edition of this tournament, making it one of the longest running on the PGA Tour. Originally (and most traditionally) known as the Los Angeles Open, this tournament has gone through numerous name iterations. It's gone from a variety of names from the LA Open to the Nissan Open to the Northern Trust Open to the Genesis Open to finally starting in 2020… its current name as the Genesis Invitational. 

Now what does "invitational" mean and how is it different than other tournaments? Glad you asked. Means a smaller field (even smaller at 70 this week) with more stringent predetermined qualifications and a bigger chunk of change and FedEx Cup points up for the grabs. Most tournaments on Tour have around an $9 Million purse and 500 FedEx cup points. This bad boy has been upped from $9.3M last year to $12M a couple years ago to the $20 MILLION this year that I mentioned before. Plus 700 FEC points to boot. Invitational status also means sponsor exemptions from the tournament host, who just so happened to give one to himself. Big Dick Cheney energy there, but definitely warranted. 

What a fucking treat. This tournament holds significance for Tiger as it's where he took his first shots on Tour as an amateur over 30 years ago.

Tiger also displayed unreal drip here as an amateur in '93. 

Last year's edition was won by the big dog Jon Rahm, who obviously won't be joining us this year. That actually goes for the 2022 champ Joaquin Niemann as well, who is also on the LIV side of the fence. Rahm had a pretty good stranglehold on the tournament with a 3-stroke lead after a 3rd round 65, and it was up to Max Homa to go chase him down. Max couldn't quite get it going, yet almost forced a playoff by nearly jarring a pitch off the 18th green for birdie.

Devastating for the local kid.

Last year's leaderboard and recent winners.

2023 Leaderboard

Recent Winners

The Course

Riviera CC is a par 71 playing at just over 7,300 yards. That may not sound like a terribly long course for a par 71 relative to some other tracks on Tour, but that number is shortened considerably by the 1st and 10th holes. The 1st hole is the easiest par 5 on the entire Tour every single year. There's really no reason at this point for it not to be a par 4 with the way these guys hit it off the tee. The ravine that cuts off the fairway at about 320 yards keeps players from getting everything they can off the tee, but that hasn't stopped them from birdieing it more than half the time.

The rest of the course is challenging. You've got 6 par 4's in the 450-500 range that will bring the mid to long approaches into play, including the difficult iconic 18th hole with the blind tee shot up the hill. Miss left and you've got a nasty sidehill lie in the rough to contend with. Miss right and you've got tree limbs to contend with hanging over the right side of the fairway. With that said, overall length off the tee holds a bit more weight here than accuracy. The fairways are pretty narrow but the rough isn't all that punishing, so you can take your chances with a guy who gets it out there. 2019 Champion JB Holmes (who has fallen off the MAP btw) is a great example of that. Like Torrey Pines and Pebble the past few weeks, Riviera has poa annua greens, which are notorious for getting bumpier as the day goes on. 3-footers on Sunday can get real testy in a hurry on poa annua. Just ask Max Homa after he lipped out that putt on the 72nd hole three years ago to land himself in a playoff.

This course is notorious for having a ton of leaderboard overlap with some place called Augusta National. Adam Scott's win in 2020 is a prime example of that. Riviera and Augusta both favor guys who can work the ball right to left, which is why drawers of the golf ball like Scott and lefties who cut it play well there. In fact, there are 3 lefties who have ever won The Masters - Mike Weir, Phil Mickelson, and Bubba Watson. All 3 of those guys have won MULTIPLE TIMES at this tournament. Pretty tough to ignore that type of pattern.

Best Hole - 10th Hole, Par 4 315 yards 

Stan Badz. Getty Images.

Ooooooweeeeeeee this is one of my favorite holes on Tour. It's one of the great risk-reward holes in all of golf and a source of great debate every year at this tournament. So much so that my associates Riggs and another coworker at the time had a back and forth on Barstool SPORTS dot com about it a few years ago. The evidence appears pretty damning that the decision for these Pros to go for the green off the tee is the right one to the tune of 3/10 of a shot. But by no means does going for it and missing narrowly take a big number out of play. This green is so preposterously tight (especially back right) and slopes towards the bunkers both front and back of this green. If you blast your tee shot and find yourself on the downslope at the back of one of these bunkers, there's no virtually no shot of you keeping it on the green. Poor Scott Piercy will be our volunteer for the class. 

Missing long and left can also set up a bad angle where your margin of error on a flop shot is razor thin too. You're going to see a lot of guys try to fade 3 woods and long irons to the front left edge depending on where the pin is. The further back right that pin is, the more cautious they'll be. Regardless, it's going to be a lot of fun for all of us to watch. 

The Weather

Could be a bit chilly out there in the morning, and a little wet over the weekend. Good news is with a smaller field they can more easily manage tee times and fit in all the golf without any marathon days. That way we don't end up with a cranky Zach Johnson (not in this field) whining about fans and playing 54 holes in two days.

TV Coverage

Let's Talk About Tiger 

As this tournament has evolved over the years, it has become an early year rite of passage for Tiger Woods latest comeback attempt. We see him trod around before the holidays at cushy events like the Hero World Challenge and the hit and giggle with Charlie at the PNC… but this one is the real deal. It's real tournament golf played on a big boy course with serious terrain changes, gnarly rough, and a deeper field. It's the first real step towards Augusta National, where we pray and hope he'll show up and give us one more run at glory every year.

Yes, the swing looks as good as ever. That video above is proof positive of that. Yet we all know it's not so much about the swing these days, but rather how his body can hold up to walking 2 or (hopefully) 4 days of tournament golf and still perform at a high level. That much is always the question. 

With that said, this tournament has rarely treated him kindly in his career. It's one of the very few regular stops on Tour that he has played numerous times in his career where he has never been the guy holding the trophy at the end. Ironic given that he now gives that trophy away.

Point is, I think it's important to keep expectations in check and just enjoy the fact that he's out there. That 130/1 ticket may look tantalizing, but it's a throwaway. Top 10 +900 is maybe a bit more on the nose, and even then I would recommend staying away. If you're looking to get a piece of the action and a good sweat on Friday, roll with him to make the cut at -110 and just enjoy the ride. The cut is Top 50 and ties (plus anyone within 10 strokes of the lead) with a field of only 70 this week. 

The Trophy 

Sean M. Haffey. Getty Images.

This is a little too modern for my taste. It's got that College Football Playoff meets F1 racing trophy vibe. I suppose that's the idea given that the tournament is sponsored by a foreign luxury car brand, but I like my trophies to look a lot less corporate. It's sleek, it's got shine, but it also looks like you could be eating two scoops of Rocky Road out of it. It's the epitome of a 4/10, but gets a bonus point because you get it from the GOAT. 5/10.

Give me the 2005 edition of the trophy instead, compliments of a young Adam Scott.

Scott Halleran. Getty Images.

The Board (as of Wednesday at 6 AM ET) #DKPartner #DKPartner #DKPartner #DKPartner #DKPartner

Scottie Scheffler is the clear cut favorite here, like he will be in any PGA Tour event he plays in for the foreseeable future. He's +650 to win at Draftkings, with Rory back at +1000. Scottie continues to stripe the everliving hell out of the ball, and the putter is actually starting to show a little more life his past couple of tournaments with him narrowly gaining strokes on the field putting in T-3 and T-6 finishes at Scottsdale and Pebble. He hasn't really contended at this tournament, but I will concede that his Top 10 line at -140 is tantalizing. I know some of this golf is in the distant past, but he's Top 10'd in 13 of his last 16 tournaments, and most of those tournaments also included another machine named Jon Rahm who was sure to take one of those top 10 seats. I'm in on Scottie Top 10 -140.

As for my official pick… I can't fathom not taking Max Homa at +2000. He won here in 2021 and nearly won last year. He's said time and time again that this tournament means the world to him. He's been a little loose off the tee recently but this is a course that clearly fits his eye and requires a delicate short game. That's Max's music. If he hadn't missed the cut last week, he'd probably be closer to 15/1. I'm on Max.

Other Plays

Ludvig Aberg To Win +2000/Top Euro +450 - He might already be a top 5 player on Tour, so there's a little bit of value here. There's 8 euros in this field and half of them are total nonfactors (the others are Rory, Viktor, Fleetwood, and Fitzy)

Aberg over Adam Scott Tournament Matchup (-110) - Scott may be a two-time winner here but he doesn't have the gas these days to be a tossup against this young stud.

Tony Finau To Win +3500/Top 10 +280 - Lost in a playoff in 2021 to Max and also finished runner up back in 2018. 

Wyndham Clark To Win +3500 - One of those values that is a little hard to fathom given he won just 3 weeks ago.

Will Zalatoris To Win +5500/Top 5 +1000 - Will is going to turn it on here at some point before Augusta, so get the value where it's there.

Sungjae Im Top Asian +400 - Tom Kim is +330 and Si Woo is +350 here. This course is too long for Tom and doesn't fit Si Woo so much either. There's value here because Sungjae hasn't done much here either, but banking on him breaking thru here.

Tiger Woods To Make the Cut -110 - Enjoy.

Cameron Young To Win +3500 (and Top 10 +300) - He's contended here before and is my honorary Tony Finau "bet him until he wins" FOMO pick.

That's what I got. Enjoy Tiger's tournament. #DKPartner