Genesis Invitational: LIV Golf, Tiger Woods and favorites

Riv not LIV is the mantra this week on the Genesis Invitational.

LIV Golf is the upstart circuit led by Greg Norman and financially supported by Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund. Its first event of 2023 can be on the El Camaleón Golf Course in Mayakoba, Mexico, subsequent week and its golfers embrace final yr’s Genesis winner, Joaquin Niemann.

Riv is a well-liked diminutive for Riviera Country Club, the venerable Pacific Palisades par-71 format taking part in host to this week’s PGA Tour occasion that may embrace each golfer within the prime 25 besides Niemann and Cameron Smith, one other LIV defector.

It additionally will embrace Tiger Woods, a shock entry. Woods is a staunch PGA Tour supporter who has labored with Rory McIlroy and others for a yr to fight LIV.

“It’s been very turbulent. … It’s been difficult, there’s no lie,” Woods stated. “We never would have expected the game of golf to be in this situation, but it is, that’s the reality.

“Obviously, [LIV] is a competitive organization trying to create their best product they possibly can, and we’re trying to create the best product that we think is the future of golf, how it should be played. How do we do that? We’re still working on that.”

The menace of LIV appears to string almost each dialog. Here is a deeper dive into that battle in addition to different front-burner subjects this week at Riviera.

How does the Genesis match into PGA technique to fight LIV?

Joaquin Niemann celebrates after successful the 2022 Genesis Invitational. He is now a part of LIV Golf and received’t play on this yr’s event at Riviera Country Club.

(Gina Ferazzi / Los Angeles Times)

The new PGA Tour schedule has elevated tournaments with greater purses, creating incentive for the most effective golfers to withstand defecting to cash-flush LIV. The purse on the Genesis Invitational — one in every of 13 elevated occasions in 2023 — has elevated from $12 million to $20 million and the mixed purse for the elevated occasions is $315 million, up almost 50% from final yr’s $214.7 million.

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Some of the designated occasions may change subsequent yr. The WM Phoenix Open, RBC Heritage, Wells Fargo Championship and Travelers Championship aren’t assured to be designated in 2024, though the Genesis Invitational appears on stable footing.

LIV Golf was a sizzling subject eventually yr’s Genesis Invitational as a result of feedback Phil Mickelson made criticizing the PGA Tour and professing his devotion to the upstart group turned public. Many PGA gamers slammed Mickelson.

Scottie Scheffler, the No. 1 participant within the Official World Golf Rankings and winner of final week’s WM Phoenix Open, hopes this week’s conversations focus on Riv, not LIV.

“I felt like last year there was so much talk surrounding LIV at this event,” he stated. “This year I feel like we’re kind of more settled into the ecosystem of golf. I think our tour’s doing a good job of improving and continuing to benefit the top players and all across the board.

“Last year it was a lot of drama, it was like who’s going to go, I’m not going, now this guy’s going, and it’s like all this stuff is going on around us and was kind of hard to focus on the tournament. Now I feel like we’ve settled in a bit but it’s still weird that certain guys aren’t here.”

Riviera, the course Tiger hasn’t tamed

Tiger Woods, bundled against the chill, follows through on a tee shot

Tiger Woods watches his tee shot on the fourth gap through the Genesis Invitational pro-am Wednesday at Riviera Country Club.

(Ryan Kang / Associated Press)

Woods grew up in Cypress, roughly an hour’s drive from Riviera. His dad took him to tournaments on the course when he was a toddler. He made his PGA Tour debut as a 16-year-old beginner on the 1992 L.A. Open at Riviera and missed the reduce by six strokes.

He’s made 13 tour begins on the course since. He was runner-up in 1999, one in every of three top-10 finishes, and 22 of his 42 rounds have been underneath par. But he’s by no means received.

The final time he performed the course, he tied for 68th in 2020, ending final amongst those that made the reduce.

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Cold and windy for Southern California

Golfers and their caddies relax on a tee box

Golfers wait out a excessive wind delay through the third spherical of the Genesis Invitational on Feb. 20, 2021, at Riviera Country Club.

(Gina Ferazzi/Los Angeles Times)

Winds of about 15 mph made temperatures throughout Wednesday morning observe rounds really feel like 40 levels. Adam Scott stated circumstances “were brutal.” But it doesn’t seem {that a} repeat of the depressing third spherical on the 2021 Genesis Invitational is in retailer.

Officials have been compelled to droop play that day after marked balls rolled off many of the greens due to excessive winds that reached 35 mph.

The forecast for the following 4 days requires winds underneath 10 mph. Morning rounds will stay chilly, with temperatures within the excessive 40s and 50s.

“Conditions were pretty tough out there this morning and it looks like the weather forecast is going to improve as the week goes on,” McIlroy stated of his observe spherical. “Hopefully that’s the last of the wind that we have to deal with.”

One golfer with no complaints is Tom Kim, the 20-year-old South Korean rising star who already has two tour victories. Kim attended the Genesis Invitational in 2020 as a fan and performed Riviera for the primary time final week.

“I actually first took a look at this course last week,” Kim stated. “I came over for a trip and I played 18 holes and I played nine [Tuesday]. I think thisplace is very magical. The course is in great shape and I think it’s a very special place.”

Favorites, sleepers and native favorites

Norway's Viktor Hovland plays a shot from a bunker during the Tournament of Champions on Jan. 5 in Kapalua, Hawaii.

Norway’s Viktor Hovland performs a shot from a bunker through the Tournament of Champions on Jan. 5 in Kapalua, Hawaii.

(Matt York / Associated Press)

The sizzling fingers thus far in 2023 are current and oozing confidence, together with Scheffler, McIlroy, Jon Rahm, Justin Thomas, Jason Day, Tony Finau and Sam Burns. Adam Scott is the Genesis Invitational all-time earnings chief.

Sleepers? How about Keegan Bradley for his capacity with brief irons and enhancing placing. Or streaky Taylor Moore, who has completed within the prime 15 in his final three tournaments. Or perhaps Wyndham Clark.

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Woods — who naturally is a sentimental decide to no less than make the reduce — likes Viktor Hovland, a Norwegian who has completed tied for fourth and fifth in two begins on the American mainland.

“The sky’s the limit for Viktor, the way he drives it, he doesn’t really have any weaknesses in the game,” Woods stated. “And then his fitness, he works very hard at getting explosiveness and endurance.”

Southern California gamers and potential gallery favorites embrace Max Homa, who received the Genesis in 2021, Collin Morikawa, a superb irons participant on a course that rewards that power, and Sahith Theegala, a Pepperdine product with 4 top-10 finishes within the final yr.

Man with a motor

Scottie Scheffler pumps his fist after making par on the 16th hole of the final round at the Phoenix Open.

Scottie Scheffler pumps his fist after making par on the sixteenth gap of the ultimate spherical on the Phoenix Open on Sunday in Scottsdale, Ariz.

(Darryl Webb / Associated Press)

Less than 18 hours after Scheffler defended his Waste Management Phoenix Open championship on Sunday afternoon, he performed a morning spherical at Riviera Country Club within the Genesis Invitational Collegiate Showcase.

Scheffler, a University of Texas graduate who received the showcase in 2018, performed with Longhorn graduate pupil Brian Stark. Texas Tech senior Jack Wall defeated Alex Goff of Kentucky on the second playoff gap to earn the ultimate exemption into Thursday’s subject.

Scheffler will stroll to the primary tee Thursday because the No. 1 participant on the planet rankings. He notched 4 wins and 4 runner-up finishes in 2022, together with his first main win on the Master’s.

Winning at Riviera 5 years in the past as a university pupil is the reminiscence he’s making an attempt to conjure as he prepares for the Genesis.

“I think good golf translates well on this course,” he stated. “When you’re hitting it really well and you’re playing good golf, this is a place that you can score on. And the opposite is said, when you’re not hitting it well, this golf course will punish you. It’s one of the best tests of the year.”

In the again of his thoughts is deciding the Masters Champions Dinner menu when all Green Jacket winners convene Tuesday night time forward of the event at Augusta, Ga.

“It’s fun kind of planning it out,” Scheffler stated. “My wife, Meredith, she’s very creative. She’s been helping me kind of think my way through it because I’m not really good at that.”

Most conversations circle again to the LIV, and the prospect of the Champions Dinner together with a number of golfers who bolted for the Saudi-backed tour can’t be ignored.

“The Champions Dinner is going to be obviously something that’s talked about,” Woods stated. “Making sure that Scottie gets honored correctly but also realizing the nature of what has transpired and the people that have left, just where our situations are either legally, emotionally, there’s a lot there.”