Top-Ranked Rahm Takes Riviera
Locals Homa and Cantlay - Place and Show
February 16, 2023
The Genesis Invitational, The Riviera Country Club and Pacific Palisades' perfect weather delivered once again for the PGA Tour. Spaniard Jon Rahm battled to win for the third time in his last five attempts to punctuate the 2023 West Coast Swing and retake the top of the OWGR standings. The magnitude of the win wasn't lost on Rahm, increasing his No. 1 world ranking to 44 total weeks and tied for 11th on the all-time list.
"That putt on 14 was huge. A great par putt on 15 and that shot on 16 obviously," said Rahm. "I could pick either one of those moments, but if I had to choose one, it would be the 6-iron I hit from the left side on 13. Putting the ball on the green was important and two putting that as well."
Local favorite and 2021 Genesis Invitational champion Max Homa, the pride of Valencia, had a one-stroke lead with six holes to play. A bogey on thirteen started his fall to second place, two strokes behind Rahm, who birdied the final two par-3's down the stretch.
"I wanted to push him. He is a spectacular golfer. I would say other than Tiger and I don't even know, he's the most consistent player I've seen," said Homa about Rahm. "I wanted to make him beat me and I think I did that. I let him off the hook on 13. But man, it was cool to see myself push him and not feel like I had 100 percent of my game. I played great everywhere but off the tee on that back nine."
The golf course was in prime condition which added to tournament host Tiger Woods' successful weekend on the course and off. Playing in his first PGA Tour or Major event since last July's 'The Open Championship' where he missed the cut, Woods tied for 45th with an encouraging 1-under 283 after having survived right on the cutline after Friday's discouraging day with the putter.
"I felt like the first couple days I left certainly a lot of shots out there with some putts, especially Friday when I was blocking everything," said Woods. "Yesterday was better. Still wish I could have gotten within a touch of the leaders, but today they're running away with it. Even with a good round yesterday I wouldn't have been in touch today.
But overall, it's a huge success for our foundation and for everyone here involved. The amount of people that came out and supported this event was off the charts. I think it's a good win all around."
Woods overall game was in early decent form given his layoff and physical back condition but his putting uncharacteristically let him down. Woods constantly outdrove his group off the tee but he easily threw away four or more makeable putts each round. He has yet to win at Riviera but cleaned up on Hole #1 with one eagle and two birdies. Tiger is currently ranked No. 985 but dwarfs the Tour's field on the all-time list with 683 weeks at Number One.
There have been 25 players who have held the top position in the World Rankings, starting with Berhard Langer of Germany, who held the first title on April, 6, 1986. A testament to the tournament's increased stature and importance for the PGA Tour, 10 players (40%) on the list played in this year's Genesis Invitational: Woods (683 weeks), Rory McIlroy (122), Luke Donald (56), Jason Day (51), Rahm (44), Scottie Scheffler (31), Jordan Spieth (26), Justin Rose (13), Adam Scott (11), and Justin Thomas (5). Only Rose and Spieth missed the cut, each by one stoke at +2, 144.
Woods' personal interest was the TGR Foundation, which hosted over 1000 students during Saturday's round, including a large group of TGR Learning Lab students taking part in the tournament's Tee Off For Youth experience. Included was a golf exhibition on Riviera's driving range featuring 2023 Charlie Sifford Memorial Exemption recipient Marcus Byrd, who signed autographs at the conclusion of his presentation.
The total purse for this year's Genesis was $20-million for the 68 Tour players that made the cut. Rahm received $3.6-million and 550 FedEx points for winning his first Genesis Invitational tournament. Homa received $2.18-million (315 FedEx points) for second and former UCLA star currently World's No. 4 Patrick Cantlay rallied with a 4-under 67 on Sunday to finish third, good for $1.38-million and 200 FedEx points.
Cantlay credited his recent equipment change: "I just switched pretty much all the equipment in my bag. All the shafts a little stiffer, and so this was the first week I really got it dialed in. I've been experimenting a little bit this West Coast Swing. So, just a little more time with this setup in my bag and should be good to go."
Homa, moving up four spots to No. 8 in the World rankings, described Riviera's technical challenges: "The course is hard. I hit a beautiful shot on 16 and it's like a yard and a half too far right, and Jon hit a better one and his goes close and I'm fighting to make par." Rahm added: "It's the same intensity. It's just a really freaking difficult golf course out there. That's what makes it even more intense."
Further adding to the historic week at Riviera, Rahm earned his 10th Tour win, which passes his idol Seve Ballesteros (61 weeks as World's No. 1). He is also No. 1 in this season's FedExCup standings: "To reach that milestone of double-digit wins is pretty incredible. To do it at a golf course with this legacy, this history, and hosted by the man himself Tiger Woods is a true honor."
I'm aware of the magnitude of this moment and this golf course," stated Rahm. "I've never had three PGA Tour wins in a season and to do it this early on is incredible. And to do it at this golf course. Talk about the history of Riviera as a golf course, the history of Tiger Woods as a player, those two combined in this tournament, it's a pretty big deal. As a historian of the game, to be able to win a tournament hosted by Tiger and the one hosted by Jack as well, it's pretty incredible."
Woods addressed the PGA Tour's accelerated evolving schedule and events with a focus on corporate partnerships: "This is a big year for us, big year for the Tour and the commitment of the players to stay unified... we're all working to make this Tour and our product the best we possibly can. To have all the top players come and play these elevated events or designated events is very important for our commissioner and for our Tour to be able to sell to all the sponsors going forward."
The PGA Tour turns to the East Coast Swing with The Honda Classic at PGA National in Naples, Florida this week. Sepp Straka returns looking to become the first repeat winner at The Honda Classic since Jack Nicklaus turned the trick in 1977-1978. Pierceson Coody, last year's PGA Tour University top player, will make his first professional Tour start.