West Coast Swing wraps up at Riviera with The Genesis Invitational
When it comes to the West Coast Swing, the PGA Tour always saves the best for last. While that’s not a knock on the events in La Quinta, La Jolla, Scottsdale and Pebble Beach – which are each terrific events in their own right – the level of excitement gets ratcheted up a notch for The Genesis Invitational.
Scheduled for February 18-21 at The Riviera Country Club in Pacific Palisades, the Genesis features the largest purse of the year so far at $9.3 million and always draws a major championship-caliber field.
In addition to defending champion Adam Scott, all three major winners from 2020 have committed (PGA Championship winner Collin Morikawa, U.S. Open winner Bryson DeChambeau and Masters winner Dustin Johnson, currently the No. 1 player in the Official World Golf Ranking), and 26 of the top 50-ranked players are in the field, including each of the top five.
Last year was the event’s first with invitational status, which limits the field to 120 players, adds significantly to the purse (a $2 million increase) and gives winners of The Genesis Invitational a two-year exemption on Tour, rather than one. Hosted by Tiger Woods and his TGR Foundation since 2017, the event is one of three on Tour with invitational status, the others include the names of Jack Nicklaus and the late Arnold Palmer.
“In recognition of Tiger’s place alongside Jack and Arnold as a modern-day golf icon who hosts a home-based PGA Tour tournament, plus the common thread of doing exceptional philanthropic work through his TGR Foundation, elevating the Genesis Open is an important and deserved step toward further cementing Tiger’s legacy in our sport,” Tour commissioner Jay Monahan said when the change was announced in 2019.
Riviera, which plays to a par 71 at 7,322 yards for the Genesis, has been the tournament’s home for the better part of the last 50 years, although it was originally known as the Los Angeles Open and has been played at 10 other venues throughout L.A. The George C. Thomas and William P. Bell design is arguably the most classic and iconic track played on tour, and has produced winners such as San Snead, Ben Hogan, Tom Watson, Fred Couples, Tom Kite, Ernie Els, Phil Mickelson, Bubba Watson and Dustin Johnson.
Notably missing from that list of winners are Nicklaus, Palmer (who won the L.A. Open three times at other venues) and Woods. The 15-time major championship winner owns 82 career tour victories, but has been shut out at Riviera in 14 starts there. In 1992, a 16-year-old Woods made his professional debut at Riviera on a sponsor’s exemption, to much fanfare.
The tournament’s invitational status means there is no open qualifier to get into the field, but since 2009 the tournament has offered the Charlie Sifford Memorial Exemption, representing the advancement of diversity in the game of golf. Players such as Harold Varner III, J.J. Spaun and Cameron Champ have used the exemption as a springboard to successful tour careers, and this year’s recipient, Willie Mack III, hopes to do the same.
“My dream since I first picked up a club has been to play on the PGA Tour,” Mack said. “It’s really special that I will play in my first PGA Tour event because of an exemption named after Charlie Sifford, a person I’ve long admired, and in a tournament hosted by Tiger Woods, who is the reason I got into golf.”
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