LA Sports 2020

Snapshots from Tiger Woods’ not-so-lovely Valentine’s Day round at the Genesis Invitational

By Nate Schwartz
Medill Reports

Early Valentine’s Day morning, at a time when many happy partners around the world were giddily preparing breakfast in bed for their loved ones, Tiger Woods was on the 10th-hole tee at the Riviera Country Club with his playing partners, Justin Thomas and Steve Stricker, gearing up for the second round of the Genesis Invitational.

The morning seemed promising for Woods when he birdied his first hole of the day, but things began to spiral when he logged a double bogey on hole 15 and then a string of bogeys to close out the round. The late-game collapse left Woods with a final score of two-over-par and dropped his place on the leaderboard from 17th to 45th. Woods, whose TGR Foundation hosted the tournament, did not equivocate as he broke down his underwhelming performance in a post-round interview. Continue reading

The Riviera’s Dangerous and Deceptive 10th Hole

By Annie Krall
Medill Reports

LOS ANGELES — Next to the infamous 10th hole tee box of the Riviera Country Club during the Genesis Invitational stands a man who is no stranger to the spot. Dana Crocker has been a marshal on this exact hole for the past eight years and has seen so much transpire on its rolling greenery he might as well be its defacto grandfather. While it may be beautiful with rose bushes and a 70-degree sun overhead making the air feel crisp and full of possibility, it is also a place of potential danger.

Crocker has seen four spectators get hit on this hole in his time as a marshal. He said the most recent bloody incident was actually captured on his smartphone. It inspired a short trip down memory lane as the first round of the 2020 tournament passed by over his left shoulder.

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The man behind the murals: Jonas Never on painting sports murals, his process, and working in public

By Gurjit Kaur
Medill Reports

LOS ANGELES — While everyone else was watching Tiger Woods play, Jonas Never spent his week at the Genesis Invitational painting the legendary golfer. Never, a prominent Los Angeles muralist, grew up imagining he’d become a baseball player or run a bar — like Sam Malone from “Cheers.” However, after he tore his rotator cuff, labrum and bicep tendon, he turned to art, realizing it was more fun than any of the other subjects he was learning in college.

Never has built a large following and has become famous for his incorporation of pop culture, celebrities and athletes in his work. Besides Woods, he has painted well-known murals of other professional athletes, including LeBron James, Ronda Rousey and Kobe Bryant. As he worked on finishing his latest piece near the 2nd hole at the Riviera Country Club, Never reflected on his unique start, his typical workday and shared which player he’d like to paint next.

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Patrick Reed’s fans say the golfer is misjudged and misrepresented

By Clara Facchetti
Medill Reports

LOS ANGELES — Calm. Human. Outspoken. Opinionated. These are some of the unfamiliar words that fans used to describe American golfer Patrick Reed at Riviera Country Club this week.

Reed was in L.A. to play in the Genesis Invitational, where he finished in 51st place at 2 over par. Plagued by college rumors that accused him of cheating in golf and stealing from teammates (which he always denied), and several career incidents, most notably a recent one involving sand tampering at the Hero World Challenge last December, Reed has had to deal with an unsavory reputation.

Yet he is not entirely disliked, as a small but nonetheless fierce fan base followed him from hole to hole at Riviera. Reed’s fans said they were drawn to many of his qualities, such as his humanity, relateability and strong mental game, as well as his performances in golf.

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PGA Tour newcomer, former Northwestern student takes on the Genesis Invitational

By Kari McMahon
Medill Reports

LOS ANGELES — Matthew Fitzpatrick, the 25-year-old first-year PGA Tour member, returned quickly to the putting green after his first round at the Genesis Invitational on Thursday to work on his technique after a difficult start to the tournament.

Fitzpatrick teed off from the 10th hole with Jhonattan Vegas and Sam Ryder. Fitzpatrick hit three bogeys in the first nine holes, finishing the round tied for 42nd place with an even par.

“This is the first time I played here so I didn’t have too many expectations. I knew that it was a difficult course,” Fitzpatrick said. “I didn’t get off to the best start. Just trying to grind and get it back. Fortunately, I did on the back nine.”

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Artists take to the streets to commemorate Kobe Bryant

By Allegra Zamore
Medill Reports

LOS ANGELES — Just hours after the tragic death of Kobe Bryant was announced, artists took to the streets of Los Angeles to commemorate the former NBA star. From Venice Beach to Studio City to Downtown L.A. murals depicting the icon and his daughter Gianna, who also died in the helicopter crash, covered the walls of buildings and the streets surrounding Staples Center.

Photo at top: Mural of Kobe Bryant and his daughter Gianna. (Allegra Zamore/MEDILL)

Lakers fans share the significance behind their Kobe attire

By Nate Schwartz
Medill Reports

On Feb. 10, 2020, two weeks after Kobe Bryant’s tragic death, hundreds of Lakers fans donned Kobe t-shirts and jerseys for the team’s final home game before the All-Star break.

Medill Reports spoke with a few of the fans and asked them to share why Kobe was so meaningful to them.

Photo at top: Four Lakers fans sporting Kobe Bryant jerseys at Staples Center on Monday night. (Nate Schwartz/MEDILL)

The future arrives for last-place L.A. Kings

By Joshua R. Skinner
Medill Reports

LOS ANGELES — The Los Angeles Kings are running out of time to make a move for a Western Conference playoff spot. But if they are going to make an unlikely run to the postseason, a 5-3 victory over the Calgary Flames on Wednesday was a good place to start.

The win — just the third for L.A. in 2020 — was spurred by backup goaltender Cal Petersen, 25, and forward Austin Wagner, 22, who the Kings hope represent their future. Continue reading

Despite hectic schedules, here’s how professional athletes score with their sweethearts on Valentine’s Day

By Michaela Schirra
Medill Reports

Valentine’s Day has a history of being complicated. Some people try too hard, while others try too little, leaving behind a mix of unrealistic expectations and disappointing memories. According to professional athletes, those complications do not dissipate with fame and money.

Despite the larger paychecks and slews of adoring fans, the holiday can still raise stressful questions such as which gift to buy or which restaurant has the best atmosphere. Athletes also have to worry about scheduling in holidays.

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Why the Genesis Open changed to an Invitational

By Leah Vann
Medill Reports

LOS ANGELES — Even a slight change in name gave the Genesis Invitational more weight on the PGA Tour this year.

The Genesis Invitational in previous years played in an Open format, fielding 144 golfers that play through a Monday qualifying round to earn a spot. The switch to the Invitational means that only 120 golfers with an exemption status can compete and that the winner will receive a three-year instead of two-year exemption on the PGA Tour. 

“I think we all looked at it as an opportunity to liken Tiger Woods and his legacy to a couple of other players like Jack Nicklaus and Arnold Palmer,” PGA Tour director of communications Amanda Herrington said. “We have three events on the PGA Tour schedule which has 49 events total. There are three events: the Genesis Invitational, Arnold Palmer Invitational presented by MasterCard in Orlando and then the Memorial Tournament presented by Nationwide and that’s Jack Nicklaus’ tournament.” 

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