The Starter - The Genesis Invitational

Feb 14th 2023

Nick DeMott

Updated throughout each tournament week, 'The Starter' will provide key news, notes, and other nuggets prior to the first tee time on Thursday morning. Think of it as an all-in-one resource to help guide you in the days leading up to the start of the tournament, as you prepare your fantasy golf lineups and entries. As soon as we receive valuable news updates on things such as tee times, featured groups, withdrawals and other course reports we’ll be sure to post them all here.

Brief Recap of the WM Phoenix Open

  • Scottie Scheffler successfully defended his title and reclaimed the World No. 1 ranking.

    • Three golfers have now successfully defended on the PGA Tour this season: Scheffler, Max Homa (Fortinet), and Rory McIlroy (CJ Cup).

  • Scheffler led the WMPO field in SG: T2G (+13.74), SG: APP (+9.49), and Scrambling (87.5%).

  • A surprising contender at the WM Phoenix Open on Sunday, 2x PGA Tour winner Nick Taylor finished runner-up.

    • Taylor entered the week ranked 223rd in the world and moved up to 73rd with this result.

  • Jordan Spieth (T6) produced his first top-10 finish since The Open Championship last July.

    • Spieth now has 80 career top-10s across 242 PGA Tour starts.

  • Justin Thomas (solo-4th) produced his third top-5 finish at the WM Phoenix Open in the last five years.

  • Jason Day (solo-5th) notched his best finish of the season. He's made the cut in 7-of-9 starts on the PGA Tour this season.

    • T21 or better in all seven of those made cuts.

  • Rickie Fowler (T10) made a hole-in-one at the 216-yard par-3 7th in the final round.

    • Fowler is gaining 1.49 strokes per round on approach over his last two starts.

  • Jon Rahm (solo-3rd) in five PGA Tour starts this season:

    • 2 wins (Tied-1st)

    • 5 Top-10s (1st)

    • 67.30 scoring avg. (1st)

    • +2.65 strokes gained avg. (1st)

    • +1.95 SG: T2G (4th)

    • +0.94 SG: OTT (2nd)

  • Rory McIlroy moved back to World No. 2 spot after finishing T32.

  • Rookie of the Year candidate Taylor Montgomery missed his first cut in 11 starts this season.

The Genesis Invitational (February 16th-19th, 2023)

  • The Riviera Country Club - Pacific Palisades, California

  • Event #16 of the 2022-23 FedExCup Regular Season

  • Designated (Elevated) Event #3

  • Invitational Field with a Cut


Designated event season continues as the PGA Tour heads to a popular spot in Riviera Country Club. Hosted by Tiger Woods, players tend to speak highly of Riv and this event, so it's no surprise to see this tournament get that elevated status.

The event started all the way back in the 1920s and for many decades was known as the Los Angeles Open. Genesis is a recent title sponsor of the event, going back to 2017.

Riviera has consistently hosted this tournament since 1973, with gap years in '83 and '98 because the course was hosting the PGA Championship and U.S. Senior Open in those years respectively.

In 2028, Riviera will play host to the Summer Olympics.

Given the history and architectural prestige of Riviera, it's no surprise that the world's best golfers were already very excited to show up here before it became elevated this year. Will Zalatoris returns after deciding not to play in Phoenix, which makes for 9 of the top 10 ranked players in the world teeing it up this week.

The overall vibe of L.A. will differ from Phoenix, but the clash of elite golfers is something to look forward to once again.

Additionally, Tiger Woods decided at the end of last week that he would not only host the event but also play in it. This will be Tiger's first start in a non-major event since the 2020 ZOZO Championship.

The Course

Riviera CC tends to play firm and fast. With challenging doglegs, tight fairways, tricky Kikuyu rough and Poa greens, the course really tests all parts of these golfers' games.

The fairways at Riviera are very tough to hit. In 2022, the fairways were hit 49.2 % of the time which was 16.8% below the PGA Tour average. At the same time, the penalty for missing the fairways is not significant–Riviera actually ranked 38th (out of 38) last season in missed fairway penalty.

The greens are also quite difficult to hit, ranking top 5 in terms of lowest Greens-in-Regulation percentage in each of the past three seasons. In 2022, 62.2% of greens were hit which was 6% below the PGA Tour average. This, of course, makes around-the-green play and being able to get up-and-down to save par important.

Once on the greens at Riviera, golfers tend to struggle with putts inside 5 feet, and between 5 and 15 feet, more than they do at most other PGA Tour venues.

Golfers need to take advantage of the three par-5s at Riviera. Particularly the par-5 1st hole, which feels like one that players almost need to at least make birdie on, otherwise they're losing ground to the field.

The length on many of the par-3s and par-4s at Riviera presents a challenge to players. At the same time, the par-4 10th at Riviera proves that shorter holes can be equally as tricky to navigate here.

Altogether, golfers whose games are well-rounded tend to find success around Riviera CC.

Course Snapshot

  • Yards: 7,322 (Par 71)

  • Fairway: Kikuyu

  • Rough: Kikuyu

  • Greens: Poa annua

  • Avg. fairway width: 27 yards

  • Avg. green size: 7,500 sq. ft.

  • Sand Bunkers: 58

  • Water Hazards: 0

Course Scoring Stats

In 2022, Riviera ranked as the 15th most difficult course on the PGA Tour (out of 38) in terms of scoring average. Riv has played more difficult in the past–6th most difficult out of 29 courses during the 2020 season and 5th most difficult out of 37 courses during the 2018 season.

Winning Scores last seven years:

  • 2022: Joaquin Niemann -19

  • 2021: Max Homa -12

  • 2020: Adam Scott -11

  • 2019: J.B. Holmes -14

  • 2018: Bubba Watson -12

  • 2017: Dustin Johnson -17

  • 2016: Bubba Watson -15

Additional scoring stats last three years:

  • 2022 Scoring Average: 70.46 (-0.54)

    • Birdie-or-Better: 20.66%

    • Bogey-or-Worse: 17.17%

  • 2021 Scoring Average: 71.27 (+0.27)

    • Birdie-or-Better: 18.81%

    • Bogey-or-Worse: 19.32%

  • 2020 Scoring Average: 71.26 (+0.26)

    • Birdie-or-Better: 18.84%

    • Bogey-or-Worse: 19.19%

Winner's Profile - How Joaquin Niemann gained strokes on the field in 2022:

  • SG Total: +16.56

  • SG T2G: +14.12 (1st)

  • SG OTT: +1.96 (17th)

  • SG APP: +7.08 (1st)

  • SG ARG: +5.04 (2nd)

  • SG PUTT: +2.44 (26th)

The Field

  • Field Changes (-): Maverick McNealy, Webb Simpson, Chris Kirk, and Davis Riley all pulled out of the original field list.

  • Field Changes (-): Brendan Steele withdrew on Tuesday (2/15).

  • Field Changes (+): None.

  • Monday Qualifiers: None.

  • Sponsor Exemptions (+): Keita Nakajima, Adrian Meronk, Davis Thompson, Ben Taylor, Justin Suh, Luke Donald, Thomas Detry, Cameron Champ, Yeongsu Kim, S.H. Kim

  • Charlie Sifford Memorial Exemption (+): Marcus Byrd

  • Collegiate Showcase Winner (+): Jack Wall

  • 9 of the OWGR Top-10

  • 23 of the OWGR Top-25

  • Event host Tiger Woods will play in his first non-major PGA Tour event since 2020.

INJURY REPORT (as of 12PM ET, 2/15)


Tiger Woods (foot) - OWGR inconclusive

Tiger withdrew from the Hero World Challenge back in December due to plantar fasciitis. At this point in Tiger's career, injury concerns will always need to be monitored any time he decides to play.

We should at least get some clarity on the plantar fasciitis when Tiger talks to the media on Tuesday.

Update (2/15): Tiger said his plantar fasciitis still exists but has been improving over the last two months and is "not as much" of an issue. He said that he has not walked 72 holes over 4 days yet. It appears that the main injury concern is his ankle, rather than his "leg" that he had surgically repaired. Tiger said "it's gotten so much better the last couple of months" and also added that "I would not put myself out here if I wasn't ready to win."

Lanto Griffin (back) - OWGR 190th

Griffin withdrew from the WM Phoenix Open a few days prior to the start of the event.

The 34-year-old returned to the PGA Tour recently after being out for over six months following back surgery. Griffin showed positive results in his first two starts back, finishing T37 at the Farmers Insurance Open and T58 at Pebble Beach. At this moment, an exact reason has not been provided for Griffin's decision to WD from Phoenix, but it's possible that he wanted to give his back a rest after playing multiple weeks in a row.

Justin Suh (shoulder) - OWGR 121st

Suh withdrew during the first round of the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am two weeks ago, citing a shoulder injury. He was an alternate to get into last week’s WM Phoenix Open but never got into the field. The status of his injury is currently unclear, but it's one to monitor this week.

Scott Piercy - OWGR 254th

Piercy withdrew during the WM Phoenix Open on Saturday, before play resumed for the second round. He was on track to miss the cut, so it's unclear if his WD was actually injury related or not.


Daniel Berger - OWGR 68th

Berger posted on his personal Instagram account last Tuesday that he'll "be back real soon." The four-time PGA Tour winner–and former Ryder Cup team member–has not played since the 2022 U.S. Open last June, presumably due to a back injury that caused him to withdraw from events earlier that year. While there have been virtually no updates on when Berger might return to the PGA Tour, this social media post is at least a somewhat encouraging sign that he could be making a start sooner rather than later. The post includes a photo of Berger at the 2022 Ryder Cup with him adding: "reminiscing on some good vibes!"

Maverick McNealy (left shoulder) - OWGR 66th

McNealy withdrew during the second round of the WM Phoenix Open on Friday due to a left shoulder injury. This was the second week in a row that McNealy was forced to WD from an event because of this injury. McNealy attempted to play through this issue at TPC Scottsdale, but shot 76 (+5) in the opening round and then continued to struggle at the start of the second on Friday.

McNealy pulled out of the Genesis Invitational field shortly after it was announced.

Chris Kirk - OWGR 48th

Kirk decided not to play The Genesis Invitational after he was in the announced field. It’s currently unclear whether this is injury related or not, but we will continue to monitor his status.

Davis Riley - OWGR 74th

Riley withdrew from The Genesis Invitational on Monday. It's currently unclear why Riley decided to WD, though he has not been playing his best golf so far in 2023 with three consecutive missed cuts. 

Brendan Steele - OWGR 122nd

Steele withdrew from The Genesis Invitational on Tuesday. While it's currently unclear exactly why he decided to WD, it's worth mentioning that Steele dealt with a lower back issue last Fall that caused him to withdraw from the Houston Open during the event. The same issue popped up prior to the Sony Open in January, but Steele was able to play through it then. Steele noted that he sometimes gets lower back pain after long flights. Again, Steele's decision to pull out of Genesis may not be injury related whatsoever, but his health status is worth keeping an eye on moving forward.

Webb Simpson - OWGR 157th

Simpson withdrew from The Genesis Invitational field shortly after the field was announced. He was still playing in the WM Phoenix Open when he decided not to play Genesis, finishing T57 at TPC Scottsdale. He dealt with some neck issues last season, so Simpson's status will be worth monitoring going forward.

John Huh (elbow) - OWGR 179th

Huh withdrew from the WM Phoenix Open a few days prior to the event. He’s yet to make a start in 2023 due to elbow tendonitis.

Andrew Landry (right shoulder) - OWGR 584th

Landry withdrew during the second round of the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am two weeks, citing a right shoulder injury. He was able to play in the WM Phoenix Open last week but missed the cut at +9.

Tee Times & Groupings for Rounds 1-2

Horses for Courses

The Genesis Invitational golfers with the highest “True Strokes Gained” (avg. adjusted strokes gained) at Riviera Country Club (min. two starts):

  • Viktor Hovland +2.96 (8 rounds)

  • Adam Scott +2.14 (52)

  • Jon Rahm +2.07 (16)

  • Collin Morikawa +2.03 (12)

  • Xander Schauffele +2.00 (20)

  • Matt Fitzpatrick +1.82 (8)

  • Max Homa +1.79 (20)

  • Rory McIlroy +1.79 (22)

Notables playing Riviera for the first time this week:

  • Taylor Montgomery

  • Adam Svensson

  • Lucas Herbert

  • Kurt Kitayama

  • Tom Kim

  • Thomas Detry

  • Hayden Buckley

Anti-Course Horses

The Genesis Invitational golfers with the LOWEST “True Strokes Gained” (avg. adjusted strokes gained) at Riviera Country Club (min. Two starts):

  • J.J. Spaun -2.53 (12 rounds)

  • Chesson Hadley -1.99 (6)

  • Stephan Jaeger -1.66 (6)

  • Doug Ghim -1.51 (4)

  • Tyler Duncan -1.35 (12)

  • Cameron Champ -1.18 (10)

  • Adam Long -1.14 (10)

Weather Report (as of 10AM ET, 2/14)