By Dave Shedloski
One of the most popular venues among players on the PGA TOUR, Riviera Country Club provides the perfect curtain call for the West Coast Swing at this week’s Genesis Open.
Opened in 1927, Riviera, designed by George C. Thomas, is a pure shot-making challenge with its numerous doglegs and tilted greens. Ben Hogan won the 1948 U.S. Open and two L.A. Opens in a span of 18 months, thus it is called “Hogan’s Alley.” Today the par-71 layout measures 7,322 yards. The famed layout in Pacific Palisades, California, first hosted a tour event in 1929.
World No. 1 Jason Day is entered into the Genesis Open for the first time since 2012. The Australian and defending champion Bubba Watson lead 19 of the top 30 golfers in the Official World Golf Ranking who are entered. Other notables in the field include Dustin Johnson, Jordan Spieth, Adam Scott, Jimmy Walker and Phil Mickelson.
CBS Sports lead golf analyst Sir Nick Faldo won his final PGA TOUR title at Riviera Country Club 20 years ago this week. He breaks down the storylines and what it takes to win the Genesis Open.
You as well as anyone know what it takes to win at Riviera. Give us the combination to the safe. How do you unlock the challenge?
The secret is in the barometric pressure. It gets cold. You have to club up and hit half shots, try to keep control of the ball. The greens are like saucers, and because of that, it’s actually better not to be pin high. You get those side-hillers that are pretty scary. Best to be above or below the hole and play conservatively. Something around par every day is really quite good.
The short par-4 10th hole is always an interesting place to watch golf. What do you think of it and the strategy of trying to drive the green or lay up?
It’s quite a cool hole. I love the course overall, and this is just an interesting hole. I would say the slope in the green is way too much now; it’s too steep on the right side. The question is should you lay up to 70-80 yards, which is very tough, or just go for it and see what happens. I almost argue for the driver.
Why has Bubba Watson, a two-time winner, flourished on this golf course?
When Bubba drives it great, he obviously does very well. He’s impressive. He puts it out there 310 yards in the middle of the fairway, and he doesn’t have to worry about the cross slopes on the green with an 8- or 9-iron in his hands. Guys with mid-irons have to think about those things.
It appears Jordan Spieth is back on track after his efficient win at Pebble Beach. How does he stack up for Riviera?
He has stepped up his ball striking and has done a lot of work with his legs and hips, so he looks a lot stronger and more stable. That’s great for him as a complement to his putting. What he does is quite demoralizing for everyone else. You play as well as him, and you have to watch him keep brushing them in. It’s ridiculous.
Tiger Woods was supposed to compete this week, but on doctor’s orders he has withdrawn because of ongoing back spasms. His comeback from multiple back surgeries has hit another speed bump. What did you think of his golf before this latest setback?
His thoracic spine is too tight, and we saw that in the Bahamas, even though he seemed to play all right. He compensates like crazy, but physically you have to wonder if he can do it. As I tweeted out before, his future is his back. If he can be mobile enough, he can be productive and enjoy playing golf.
Give us a favorite and a dark horse for this week.
I think Jordan Spieth — he just resets and goes again — should be right there. I also like Justin Rose. It’s not a bomber’s course. Smart golf works just fine. Dark horse … I wouldn’t call him a dark horse per se, but Bill Haas has won there, and he’s proven he has the game.
Journalist and author David Shedloski of Columbus, Ohio, has been covering golf since 1986, first as a daily newspaper reporter and later as a freelance writer for various magazines and Internet outlets. A winner of 23 national writing awards, including 20 for golf coverage, Shedloski is currently a contributing writer for Golf World and GolfDigest.com and serves as editorial director for The Memorial, the official magazine of the Memorial Tournament in Dublin, Ohio. He is the author of three books and has contributed to three others, including the second edition of “Golf For Dummies,” with Gary McCord. He’s a fan of all Cleveland professional sports teams, the poor fellow.