Hello and welcome to my official course and tournament preview piece for the 2024 Genesis Invitational held at the world-famous Riviera Country Club. The goal each week is to provide a comprehensive and in-depth look at the specs of the golf course to help you best understand historical trends and stat profiles that have proven to be indicators of success at this tournament in the past. The golf course is the ever-changing variable week to week on the PGA Tour and it is pivotal to understand the specs in great detail while researching the tournament.
There may be only one way to top the energy and excitement on display from the Waste Management Phoenix Open and Super Bowl Sunday, and it is done by an injection of Tiger Woods. The Tournament Host for this signature event series Invitational style event is set to make his much anticipated season debut this week and all eyes in the sporting world will once again be centered on Tiger. We have another limited field and 20 million dollar purse up for grabs this week at Riveria Country Club.
We have a solid amount of data and course analytics to properly make some assessments regarding advantageous player skill sets and course setup specifics. Riviera Country Club has mainly produced winners through the years with a certain skill set that we will dive into with this article. Let’s dig into some specifics of The RIV in an attempt to isolate players best suited for success at the Genesis Invitational this coming week.
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— Tiger Woods (@TigerWoods) February 7, 2024
An Introduction to the Course
Just a few miles outside of Los Angeles, the infamous West Coast golf course aficionado found an astonishingly beautiful piece of property nestled in the Pacific Palisades where he would begin the construction of Riveria Country Club in 1927. The private club has become one of the most lucrative and sought-after memberships in the world in part due to the incredible golf course, but also for being able to rub shoulders with celebrities and Hollywood elites.
Through the years, Tom Fazio has had his hands in the property dirt for facelifts on numerous occasions but the most significant restoration work came in 1992 when Ben Crenshaw and Bill Coore worked on the property. Riviera Country Club has been the host of the Genesis Invitational, one of the premier events on the PGA Tour annually for many years and is set to host the 2026 US Women’s Open and also the 2028 Summer Olympic Games.
Even on days when the weather is perfect, Riviera offers one of the most challenging examinations of a player’s complete game. The greens typically play extremely firm and the speed of the Poa Annua greens are notorious for giving players fits. As we saw with the first couple of events this season during the California swing, the area has received an abundance of rain this year which will be something to monitor as the week moves along if the course looks like it is going to play softer than years past.
Where George Thomas excelled as a golf course designer was his bunkering. The fairway bunkers are often perfectly placed, even nearly 100 years later after the initial opening, and the greenside bunkers are steep, and many play as a legitimate hazard which has become more and more rare on the PGA Tour. The course demands precision, but also allows for players with imagination and touch around the greens to escape under pressure if played properly.
2023: Jon Rahm -17
2022: Joaquin Neimann -19
2021: Max Homa -12
2020: Adam Scott -11
2019: J.B. Holmes -14
2018: Bubba Watson -12
2017: Dustin Johnson -17
The Scorecard – Riviera Country Club
Riviera Country Club plays annually as par 71 at 7,322 yards. Both the par-3 and par-4 holes play more difficult than tour average every year, while the par-5 scoring average is 4.53, which makes them one of the easiest collections of Par 5’s that we have all year. Much of this hinges on the Par 5 first hole which is one of the easiest we see all year. At only 503 yards and straight down the hill from the elevated opening tee box, there is no doubt you are losing ground if you can’t make birdie. George Thomas loved to open things up with an easy, scorable hole.
The first hole is far from the only notable design on the course, the 200-yard par-3 sixth hole features a wildly tiered green with a bunker placed directly in the middle. The hole that always gets the most attention is the 10th hole, a true risk/reward short Par-4 that typically plays under par but may be the most challenging 285-yard hole in the world. As the years have gone on, nearly every player in the field now takes Driver and tries to land it somewhere just left of the green to take on the treacherous up and down for birdie. It’s far from easy.
Stop … Sit … Settle … No …
Golf is hard at Riviera’s 10th hole. 😒 pic.twitter.com/F4pJAr1G4c
— PGA TOUR (@PGATOUR) February 16, 2022
TPC Scottsdale Specs
- Design: 1927 George Thomas
- Par 71, 7,322 yards
- Fairways and rough: Kikuyu
- Greens: 7,500 sq ft POA Annua
- 58 bunkers
- 0 Holes with Water in play.
The biggest skill set in my opinion that is consistently rewarded at Riviera Country Club is long iron play. Even though the course total yardage does not look overly daunting for professional players, nearly 75% of all approach shots come from 150+ yards. You hit very few wedge shots around Riviera CC, and if you are hitting wedges then you were probably out of position off the tee. Players on average hit less than 50% of the narrow fairways at this event.
The Kikuyu grass in the fairways and rough is unique and often rather difficult to judge pitching and chipping. Last year Justin Ray had the stat that recent winners at the Genesis have averaged nearly twice the strokes gained around the green than the average PGA Tour event. Despite the greens being the 2nd largest on the Tour, the Greens in Regulation percentage is extremely low by Tour standards, so the ability to possess touch and imagination around the greens is key to success at Riviera.
We know that players tend to hit fairways at a rate less than 50%, so I would advise looking deeper into a player’s ability to scramble from the rough and long iron proximity to the hole from the rough. You can dig really deep into some of the analytics behind those numbers, but one of the biggest and simplest correlations can be Driving Distance. If everyone is missing the fairway, those who can hit it the furthest from the tee will be left with the shortest remaining distance from the rough on approach into the green.
The greens are large in total size but are difficult to hit, in part because of the length (often from the rough) of incoming iron shots, and also because they are quite masterfully angled by the great George Thomas. The speed and nuance of the subtle breaks on POA make these some of the most difficult to putt inside of 10 feet that we see every year consistently. I recommend considering lag putting proficiency coupled with POA specific long term putting numbers into your stat model.
Approach shot distribution from 2023 at Riviera CC via Datagolf:
Radar Plot Spider Chart at Riviera Country Club:
Players With The Best SG: Total Numbers at Riviera Since 2014:
10. Viktor Hovland
9. Tiger Woods
8. Collin Morikawa
7. Adam Scott
6. Justin Thomas
5. Rory McIlroy
4. Xander Schauffele
3. Tony Finau
2. Max Homa
1. Patrick Cantlay
*All data based on last 24 rounds strokes gained data