PGA golfers reflect on, show appreciation for Riviera Country Club

Max Homa tees off on the 17th hole at Riviera Country Club. (Jack Murray/MEDILL)

By Jack Murray
Medill Reports

LOS ANGELES — In the PGA, the nicest courses in the country are used for competitions, but still, the golfers on the tour have their favorites. One of these favorites is the Riviera Country Club, located in the Pacific Palisades neighborhood of Los Angeles. The course is home to the Genesis Invitational, which is a tournament that heavily promotes legendary golfer Tiger Woods and his foundation, the TGR Foundation. Even with Woods’ presence, the biggest star of the tournament continues to be the course itself. 

Max Homa, the 2021 champion of the Genesis Invitational, grew up in nearby Burbank and played on the course growing up. He said the straightforward nature of the course makes it a top-tier course.

“It’s amazing,” Homa said, “It’s my favorite golf course in the world, and I think a lot of people feel similarly. There are not any tricks to it, there’s no water, and there’s even very little out of bounds. It points to where you need to go, and you just have to figure out if you can be ready for that test.”

The lack of water hazards and significant out of bounds would realistically lead to lower scores, but with a projected cut line of even in the 2022 tournament, the course is fairly standard in difficulty when compared with other tournaments like the Waste Management Phoenix Open, which had a cut line of -3. Homa said the key to success on the course is playing it with a neutral approach.

“I don’t think that you have to be long to be good here,” Homa said. “I don’t think you need to be anything in particular here. I think you can just go out and win.”

Adam Scott, the 2020 winner of the tournament, said this victory and the tournament’s association with Woods provided one of his best memories as a professional golfer.

“I have good memories of the course,” Scott said. “Tiger presenting me with the trophy is something special for my career, and his involvement in this tournament has taken it to another level. It means a lot to me to win here because it’s my favorite course on tour.”

Woods, who is still recovering from his 2021 car crash, is not participating in the tournament but is still involved with the planning and is promoting his foundation. Ahead of the tournament, he said he was impressed with how the course looked. 

“The golf course is in perfect shape,” Woods said. “We are set to have unbelievable weather. The fairways are going to be giving, so expect guys who are getting the ball on the fairway to have a tremendous advantage.”

Woods said he expected the participants to use high-degree irons to take advantage of the conditions of the course.

“Look for the guys that are crowding the top of the board.” Woods said at a pre-tournament news conference. “They’ll have a lot shorter irons in the higher degree. The greens are firm right now, and the plan is for them to get a little firmer and faster as we progress through the weekend.”

Keegan Bradley, a 14-year veteran of the tour, spent a lot of time during Wednesday’s pro-am tournament testing the greens and trying to recognize breaks. He said this was all in his attempt to familiarize himself with the speed of the green.

“The greens are quick,” Bradley said. “You have to be careful with how hard you hit them. But the greens are perfect. The course is perfect, and it is going to be a great week.”

Bradley, who hails from New England, said the grass at Riviera is Bermuda grass, which is different from where he grew up playing the game, where the typical grass used is either Kentucky bluegrass or perennial ryegrass. Bradley said the legendary flair of the course helps make it one of his favorites to play on.

“It’s different grass from what we grew up on,” Bradley said. “When you get to play at Riviera and places like this, it’s really special. It’s a course that you remember watching as a kid.”

Jack Murray is a sports media graduate student at Medill. You can follow him on Twitter at @Murray_Jack_.