There are very few tournaments in the PGA Tour calendar that have a rich pedigree of history and pull to attract current stars. The Genesis Open or the Los Angeles Open is definitely one of those. First played in 1926, the tournament went through a myriad of names. It was formerly called the Northern Trust Open, Nissan Open and the Los Angeles Open but from this year it will be the Genesis Open.
The change of name is owing to the sponsorship of the Hyundai Motor Group through its Genesis Motors subsidiary. The tournament had a nomadic existence prior to the World War II which kept moving across courses. In 1973, the tournament moved to the Riviera Country Club and settled there. After that, except for two occasions, the tournament was always played on this course.
Woods – the host
The Tiger Woods Foundation becomes the primary beneficiary of the tournament this year. Woods was pencilled for a start although he withdrew due to injury concerns limiting him to host duties this week.
The Riviera course is a well-known name of its own and measures at 7, 322 yards playing to a par-score of 71. Inaugurated in 1927, the course owes its design to noted designer George Thomas. The famed architect was rumoured to have gone through more than 15 layouts before settling on the current design.
Some of the holes on the course feature in the most iconic holes of the Tour. One such that comes to mind instantly is the par-3 hole on sixth. This one is famous for its bunker in the middle of the green making it very challenging for the players. The hole on tenth is regarded as the best drivable par-4 on the Tour – another iconic event from the course.
This year’s tournament comes with a total prize money of US $ 7 million with the winner taking home 500 FedEx Cup points too.
The past and the present
The rich history of the tournament is complemented by the array of stars who have won the title. Harry Cooper (United States) was the first winner of this tournament in 1926 while the defending champion from 2016 is Bubba Watson (United States). The title has been on the most number of times by Macdonald Smith (Scotland) and Lloyd Mangrum (United States) who captured the title four times each.
Watson is in a select group of players who won it twice and will be looking to move into the next level of winners. As is often seen in this part of the world, this tournament has seen a dominance of United States winners. Since 2007, there was only one non-American winner – in 2011, when the title was won by Aaron Baddeley of Australia.
This year’s field will be led by the world number one Jason Day who returns to Riviera for the first time since 2012. He will have a tough task holding off the competition from FedEx Cup points leader Hideki Matsuyama and Watson. All in all, the lineup features eight of the top-10 and 16 of the top-25 in the world rankings.
A precursor to the WGC-Mexico Championship
Interestingly, the tournament works as the pre-cursor to the WGC-Mexico Championship where the top 50 will be playing. Thomas Pieters is on the edge currently ranked number 50 and will be eager to move up at Riviera. Fred Couples, who has made 34 starts in a span of 36-years, will be missing from action.
Players to watch
Day will like to make his start count, although Watson would like to make it his third victory in four years at the Riviera. Pieters could be the dark horse considering the pressure he is under to stay in the top-50. Matsuyama will also be one to watch.