Riviera, Tiger Woods and the intriguing clue to this year's Masters winner

Tiger dropped a subtle hint at the 2019 Genesis Invitational that a Masters Green Jacket was around the corner. But what links Riviera and Augusta National?

When Tiger Woods finished tied 15th in the 2019 Genesis Invitational at Riviera it didn't exactly register heavily.

Why would it? Woods had scored a thrilling victory in the previous season's Tour Championship so a top 15 here seemed nothing more than okay.

And yet in its own understated way, it gave us a hint that Tiger was on track to produce something big two months later at Augusta National.

And, of course, that's how it played out as Woods, after a series career-threatening injuries, showed the magic was still there by scoring a sensational win and claiming a fifth Green Jacket.

Even in his pomp, Tiger hadn't managed to win at Riviera so a tied 15th - his best result there since 2005 - meant more than on first glance. But why did it have particular meaning for The Masters?

It goes without saying that there are some obvious differences between Riviera Country Club and Augusta National.

Riviera is on the West Coast of America, has Kikuyu fairways, Poa Annua greens and is a par 71.

Augusta is in the Deep South, has Bentgrass greens and is a lengthier par 72.

But let's now start to join the dots.

Riviera Country Club

Lefties highlight intriguing link

The first clue lies in the success of left-handers. They jump into the mind easier as they're such a rare breed.

So, first up, we have Phil Mickelson. The Californian is famous for winning the Green Jacket three times but less well known is that he's a back-to-back champion at Riviera.

Next up: Bubba Watson. Yes, Mickelson's fellow southpaw also has five wins across the two courses. This time it's three victories at Riviera and two at Augusta National.

Watson won both titles in the same year (2014) once. But, here's a thing, so did another left-hander, Mike Weir! The Canadian was a surprise winner at Riviera in 2003 and then caused an even bigger upset to land The Masters two months later.

Weir doubled down and defended his Riviera crown 12 months later.

The correlations have been strengthened in further years.

Adam Scott, the 2013 Masters champion, won at Riviera for the second time in 2020. And 2017 Riviera winner Dustin Johnson captured the Green Jacket in late 2020.

Dustin Johnson gets the Green Jacket from Tiger Woods 2020

Scroll back further and there are more. Ever wonder where three-time Masters winner Nick Faldo scored his final PGA Tour victory? That would be at Riviera in 1997, less than a year after he'd produced his stunning Masters win over Greg Norman.

Talking of 1996, that was the year 1982 Masters champ Craig Stadler rolled back the years to win at Riviera.

Fred Couples is quite a pivotal figure in the Riviera-Augusta link. He was another to win both events in the same season in 1992.

As Freddie headed into his 40s and 50s there were still two places where he would pop up on the leaderboard. I'm sure you can probably guess.

Couples once said of Riviera: "It's a shotmaker's course. I feel like I'm a very good iron player. It's a second-shot course." Those words apply equally to Augusta National and a look at the stats hammers home the point.

When Bubba won both events in 2014, he finished sixth for greens in regulation at Augusta and third in that same category at Riviera.

It's been a trend and it told the story perfectly in 2020. Scott finished 1st in greens in regulation when winning at Riviera. Masters hero Johnson finished top of the GIR rankings when hoisting the silverware at Augusta.

What of last year's Masters champion, Hideki Matsuyama? Yep, he's got strong Riviera form too with a fourth on his second appearance in 2015 and finishes of fifth in 2019, ninth in 2019 and 11th in 2015.

A final, compelling, stat on the two courses: seven of the last 10 Masters winners who stopped off at Riviera that same season had placed in the top 15 at the Genesis.

And that brings us back to Woods and his tied 15th in 2019.

Tiger finished 4th for greens in regulation that week and it really was a clue.

Quite simply, anyone finishing in the top 15 at Riviera this week due to strong GIR numbers should definitely go into the notebook as a likely winner of the 2022 Masters.

READ MORE: Five of the best multiple winners of the Genesis Invitational at Riviera Country Club

Latest news