Quick look at the Genesis Open
The Overview PACIFIC PALISADES, Calif. – Geoff Ogilvy, who knows a thing or two about golf course architecture, calls the 10th hole at Riviera “genius.” Here’s why: “There’s compelling reasons to go for it,” he explained, “and there’s compelling reasons to lay up.” At 315 yards and with a wide fairway, the strategy on paper would seem simple for most players at this week’s Genesis Open – go for the green and take your chances. But it’s not that cut-and-dried at a hole generally regarded as the best short par 4 in golf. Bunkers guard a shallow sloping green, so there’s little landing area if you try to rip a driver through the bunkers. Meanwhile, cross bunkers force lay-ups to the left. And as Ogilvy points out, “If you miss anywhere to the right, it’s over.” Over the years, players have been divided on strategy. Of the last 6,379 tee shots on the 10th hole since 2003, 3,452 have gone for the green, while 2,927 are lay-ups. That’s a ratio of 54 percent to 46 percent. Tiger Woods, making his 11th start at Riviera but his first in 12 years, has used both approaches. “I’ve gone for it and laid up – and I’ve been very unsuccessful both ways,” he said. “I believe the percentage is right around 51, 52 percent who go for it make birdie. It’s a tossup, it really is.” Actually, Woods has been pretty successful at the 10th hole. In his 12 rounds at Riviera since 2003, he is 9 under. Going for the green has been most productive – he’s 8 under when he goes for it, 1 under when he lays up. During a practice round on Tuesday, Woods used 3-wood and saw his tee shot land on the green and bounce over. Justin Thomas told Woods that he usually lays up except when the pin is in the front. Defending champion Dustin Johnson said Wednesday that he simply wants to make sure he stays on the left side, no matter if it’s short or long. The numbers since 2003 vary widely through the years. In 2004, 139 tee shots went for the green; in 2008, that increased to 314. But in 2010, it was back down to 153 tee shots, and in 2012, back up to 306. In 2014, 183 tee shots went for it -- and now the number has steadily risen to 299 last year. Based on analytics, players are better off going for it. Since 2003, those who have gone for the green are a combined 606-under par compared to 57-over par for those laying up. As Billy Horschel said: “The easiest way to make a 4 is to hit driver.” (Horschel, by the way, thinks the green “over the years has sunk. Do I know that for a fact? No. It just has a lot of slope on the back end. If it hasn’t (sunk), then the green was designed to be played at a 7 [on the stimpmeter], not a 12 that we’re playing there now.”) And yet, the internal debates remain. World No. 13 Tommy Fleetwood, making his Genesis Open debut this week, admitted he’s “still figuring that one out. … I think apart from sort of that front left, I don’t know how you get on the green from anywhere else. It’s definitely the toughest-looking drivable par 4 I think I’ve ever seen.” As more players have attempted to drive the green, the 10th hole has played much easier in recent years – it was the easiest par 4 on the course last season and among the 200 easiest of all 900 holes played on TOUR. And yet since 2003, the 10th has been the most difficult of any par 4 under 350 yards on TOUR. Which goes back to Ogilvy’s point – it’s a brilliant hole that challenges a player’s mind more than his athletic ability. “The length you hit it is irrelevant,” he said. “It’s where you hit it and how you hit, and not just the distance. … It gives you room to hang yourself.” He then added: “Everybody will tell you they think they know what they’re going to do right now. But they’ll get there on Thursday and then make their decision. That’s why it’s a good hole.” Players to watch Tiger Woods Making the cut at a course he’s never won on would be a step forward after making the cut at Torrey Pines, where he’s won eight times. Dustin Johnson The defending champ will try to bounce back after being outdueled by Ted Potter Jr. in the final round last week at Pebble Beach. Justin Thomas Still looking for his first top 10 of 2018. On the flip side, eight of his last nine rounds have been 68 or better. The Flyover The aforementioned 10th, with a scoring average of 3.873, not only was the easiest par 4 on the course last year, but it ranked among the 60th easiest par 4s on the PGA TOUR last season (among the 538 par-4 holes). The Landing Zone The lengthening of the par-4 12th over the years has forced Tiger Woods to throw away his yardage book on this hole. Now at 479 yards, the 12th is the most difficult hole on the course, playing to a stroke average of 4.252. That also ranked it as the 48th most difficult hole on the entire TOUR last season. A long iron into a narrow green, guarded by a deep bunker on the right side and Humphrey Bogart’s tree on the left, is the biggest challenge. Here’s a look at where all drives landed last year. Weather check From PGA TOUR meteorologist Stewart Williams: “Off-shore Santa Ana winds will increase Thursday and Friday, providing warmer temperatures into the upper 60s to low 70s each day. On-shore flow returns Saturday afternoon and especially on Sunday as a trough approaches the West Coast. This will provide cooler temperatures in the 60s and possibly some marine layer low clouds by Sunday evening.” For the latest weather news from Pacific Palisades, California, check out PGATOUR.COM’s Weather Hub. Sound Check I wouldn’t have minded a nice quiet couple of days … but no, it’s totally fine. Like anytime you have a chance to play in a group like that, you sort of relish it and embrace it. I’m obviously looking forward to the next couple of days. By the numbers 300.6 – Average driving distance (all drives) last year for Dustin Johnson en route to victory. He was the only player to eclipse a 300-yard average. Adam Scott was second at 292.4. 462 – Numbers of putts inside 3 feet missed by the field at Riviera since 2011. In five of those seven years, Riviera has ranked as the toughest course on TOUR for putts inside 3 feet. 10 – Number of times Tiger Woods has played Riviera during his PGA TOUR victory. It’s his most of any course on TOUR without a victory. 4.271 – Stroke average last season on the par-5 first hole, making it the third easiest hole on the PGA TOUR last season. 384 – Number of eagles made on the par-5 first hole since 2004, the most of any hole on TOUR during that span Scattershots With the NBA All-Star Game in town, Dustin Johnson said he turned down an invite to participate in this week’s celebrity contest. But Johnson, who played basketball in his younger days, thinks he would’ve done OK. “I beat (retired NBAer) Shane Battier in a three-point contest. That’s my claim to fame in basketball.” He said it was during an exhibition in Miami. “Granted, it was blowing about 30 (mph) and it was outside, but I still won,” he added. … Tommy Fleetwood is beginning a stretch of PGA TOUR starts that includes the two upcoming World Golf Championships events, as well as the Arnold Palmer Invitational presented by MasterCard as well as the Masters in April. “I might stick another one in as we go along,” said Fleetwood, who has taken up TOUR membership this season. “That’s kind of a base of a plan, but they’re all such great tournaments that you want to play in. If I feel like things are going well or maybe they’re not going so well and I need to play, I’ll keep going.” … Haotong Li, one of three players in the field this week from China, is still getting used to travel in America. “The most difficult part is America bread,” he said. “It’s really tough for me because I eat rice and noodles, so it’s very tough. You can’t even imagine.” Li outdueled Rory McIlroy earlier this year to win a European Tour event in Dubai and is currently ranked 33rd in the world. He’s a former player of the year in PGA TOUR Series-China. … Cameron Champ is in the field as this year’s recipient of the Charlie Sifford Memorial Exemption. “I'm just extremely blessed to have the honor to play in his name this week,” said Champ, the former Texas A&M star who turned pro last fall. “I'm just really looking forward to it.” The exemption is named to honor the memory of Charlie Sifford, the first African-American player to compete on the PGA TOUR.
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