Genesis Open Preview, Picks & Analysis
Rory McIlroy leads a star-studded field at the Genesis Invitational as the new world No 1. The Northern Irishman finds himself back at the top of the rankings despite not playing last week and replaces Brooks Koepka by the tiniest of margins as a result of a quirk in the system.
On current form it is difficult to argue that McIlroy does not deserve his place, but he would much rather have achieved it on the golf course. “I have always said that if you take care of business on the golf course then the rankings will take care of themselves,” he said.
The Genesis is an invitational tournament and is hosted by Tiger Woods, who will be making his second start of the season after showing some encouraging signs at Torrey Pines last month. He is fit, well and swinging the club beautifully. And most encouraging of all, the 15-time major champion is hitting the long and straight. And that can only be good news as he gears up for the defence of his Green Jacket in April.
Before the tournament kicks off, Woods will host the Celebrity Cup at Riviera Country Club on Monday, February 10. Taking on Team Woods will be Team Watson, captained by Bubba Watson, a three-time tournament winner at Riviera.
“I’m looking forward to kicking off an exciting week at Riviera with the Celebrity Cup,” Woods said. “It’s great to have Bubba as my opposing captain and, with CDW’s support, we’re able to provide an elevated experience to our celebrity participants.”
In its second year, the Celebrity Cup will bring together two teams comprised of six celebrities each for a team competition at Riviera. The teams will square off against each other in a four-ball net better ball matchplay event. Teams will play six holes – the 10th, and 14th through 18th – with points being awarded for each hole won and the overall match won. A total of 21 points are on the line with Team Woods needing to earn 10.5 points to retain the cup.
Woods has announced that Joseph Bramlett will be the recipient of the Charlie Sifford Memorial exemption into the Genesis Invitational field. Awarded since 2009, the exemption has represented the advancement of diversity in the game of golf.
“It’s great seeing Joseph back on Tour,” Woods said. “The determination to rebuild his swing and regain his card shows the perseverance Charlie would have admired. I look forward to seeing Joseph at Riviera this year.” Bramlett, who also received the exemption in 2011, becomes the first two-time recipient of the Sifford exemption. “Being selected to represent and promote the diversity of the game through this tournament in 2011 was an experience that I’ll never forget,” Bramlett said. “Receiving the exemption again in 2020 is a huge honor, but an even greater opportunity for me to carry on Mr. Sifford’s legacy of promoting the game of golf to minority communities across the country. I sincerely thank Tiger and TGR Foundation for this opportunity and for all the incredible work they do throughout the year.”
A rookie on the PGA Tour in 2011, Bramlett shot 75-74—149 and missed the cut in his first start at Riviera. In the following years, while competing on the Korn Ferry Tour in July 2013, Bramlett suffered a horrific back injury. Through an extensive rehabilitation period, he made three starts on the PGA Tour between July 2013 and January 2018. During that time, he re-built his swing, reducing the pressure on his back and allowing him to again compete on Tour. In 2019, Bramlett earned his PGA Tour card for the first time since 2011 by finishing in the top 25 in the Korn Ferry Tour Finals.
Since 2009, the exemption has been given to a golfer representing a minority background to play in the annual PGA TOUR event at Riviera. In 2017, the exemption was re-named to honor the memory of Charlie Sifford, the first African-American player to compete on the PGA Tour. Previous recipients include Vincent Johnson (2009), Joshua Wooding (2010), Bramlett (2011), Andy Walker (2012), Jeremiah Wooding (2013), Harold Varner III (2014), Carlos Sainz, Jr. (2015), J.J. Spaun (2016), Kevin M. Hall (2017), Cameron Champ (2018) and Tim O’Neal (2019). And, of course, Champ Spaun and Varner have gone on to achieve bigger and better things, with Champ tipped by many to make the 2020 US Ryder Cup team.
Woods, Watson and McIlroy will be joined by a host of world-class golfers, including Brooks Koepka, Jon Rahm, Justin Thomas and Dustin Johnson, And victory for either Rahm or Koepka will see them overtake McIlroy, so there is a lot to play for. It is surely only a matter of time before Rahm becomes World No1.
Woods and Watson adore Riviera.
“Riviera is special to me, I love that area, I love LA,” says three-time winner Watson.. Riviera Country Club is located right on the coastline of the entertainment capital of the world, just miles from Los Angeles. Riviera has been the host of major golf tournaments since as early as 1948, which include the U.S. Open, the PGA Championship, and now The Genesis Invitational. Originally established in 1926, Riviera is known for its historic course that many of the players enjoy.
“Riv is fun to play because it is an older style golf course. We don’t get a chance to play older venues like that. We wish we did,” said Woods.
Measuring 7,322 yards, it is a course that embraces spectators “You can hear the roars around the golf course and that is what makes it pretty fun to play,” Woods said.
Keegan Bradley is another fan. He said: “Riviera is my favoruite course. I love going there, the atmospheres incredible, and the golf course, I think, is the best in the world, so it’s fun to go there and compete, it’s a great field and there are great champions that come out of there”.
With a top-15 finish last year and a runner up finish in 2018, it’s no surprise that Tony Finau also loves the place, and he comes to event in great form, having lost to Webb Simpson in a playoff at the Phoenix Open. “They used every inch of that place as well as they could, so it is really cool to be a part of that event at Riviera, an iconic place, a lot of great champions,” said Finau.
The list of champions at Riviera is a who’s who of the golf world. It was won in 2014, 2016 and 2018 by Watson, in 2015 by James Hahn, in 2017 by Dustin Johnson and last year by JB Holmes.
Rory McIlroy. Looking to play like the world’s best
Bubba Watson. Just adores this course
Tiger Woods. Looking fit and in form
Rory Mcilroy. Big year for the Northern Irishman
Bubba Watson. Riviera is made for him
Tiger Woods. Would be a popular winner
Jon Rahm. Can top the rankings with a win
Justin Thomas. Another week, another big cheque
Dustin Johnson. Former winner, playing really well
Brooks Koepka. Still shaking off some ring rust
JB Holmes. Defending champion is in decent form
Rickie Fowler. Working on some swing changes
Tommy Fleetwood. Still looking for first PGA Tour title
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