The Genesis Invitational: Leading contenders and angles in the last of the West Coast Swing events

There’s a strong field assembled at the Riviera Country Club in Pacific Pasilades, Los Angeles.

The Genesis Invitational has been through many titles, and quite a few host courses, in its 96 year history (a stretch that, remarkably, lost just one event to the Second World War).

The list of former winners is a who's who of the great and good of the game.

Macdonald Smith was a four-time winner in the first decade of competition and in the decades since Ben Hogan, Lloyd Mangrum, Arnold Palmer, Billy Casper, Tom Watson, Lanny Wadkins, Fred Couples, Corey Pavin, Mike Weir, Phil Mickelson, Bubba Watson and Adam Scott are among those to have joined him as multiple winners.

Sam Snead, Tommy Bolt, Charlie Sifford, Hale Irwin, Tom Kite, Craig Stadler, Nick Faldo, Ernie Els and Dustin Johnson have all lifted the trophy once.

The two names notable for their absence on the honours board? Those of the two men typically involved in the tussle to be anointed the greatest of all time: Jack Nicklaus and Tiger Woods. It's an oddity all right.

But which angles are likely to come into play this week for the leading contenders? Let's take a look at three.

Leftfield picks work here

As the astute will have picked up in the list above, no less than seven of the last 20 winners on the course have been left-handers.

Weir went back-to-back in 2003 and 2004, Mickelson repeated that trick in 2008 and 2009, then Watson triumphed in 2014, 2016 and 2018.

Mickelson very nearly added to the lefty success rate when losing play offs in 2007 and 2012.

Might it have influenced the decision of Scotland's Robert MacIntyre to make the journey this week? Well, he probably just jumped at the opportunity to peg it up at the higher level (there is no DP World Tour golf this week in any case) and also attempt to improve on a PGA record that reads 8-for-10 but with just the one top 30.

More likely to add to the lefty haul is the man already responsible for nearly half of it - Watson.

He's played Riviera 15 times and while he has missed seven weekends, on all eight other occasions he finished top 20, including that trio of wins, of course.

"I love it here," he said in 2019. "This is a cool place to be. I love the golf course and obviously winning makes you love it a lot more, but I loved it even when I was missing cuts. And I love Hollywood, I loved hanging out with some of the boys from The Big Bang Theory, then going to Warner Brothers."

After taking a break from competitive action for nearly six months the two-time Masters champion has landed two top 15 finishes this month and will be eager to add another this week at a course that clearly gets his head in a good place.

Trends

If winners at Riviera played TPC Scottsdale ahead of their win they tend to have played well tee to green.

It's also the case that winners at Riviera have often already logged a top five on the course.

Put those two together and we get a long-list of nine.

Watson is one of them and to him we can add the high calibre of Jon Rahm, Patrick Cantlay, Justin Thomas and Hideki Matsuyama, plus the defending champion Max Homa.

The three less-likely names?

Korea's Si-Woo Kim who was T26th last week when excellent with his driving. He was also T11th at both Torrey Pines and Silverado this season.

Keegan Bradley has lost a play off here and also finished fourth, but it's four years since he last finished top 10 on Poa in California.

Matt Fitzpatrick was tied sixth at Pebble Beach and T10th last week, top 20 both times for SG Tee to Green. He was fifth here in 2021 when second heading into the final round.

California dreaming

Golfers who thrive at Riviera tend to know how to play this type of golf.

Think also of Torrey Pines, Pebble Beach and even Silverado - they all have tricky Poa Annua grass on the greens, they are all traditional in design, often the greens are small or small-ish, and sea breezes can be a factor.

Back in 2020 Francesco Molinari and his family made the move from London to LA and it seems to have done wonders for his ability to play this sort of golf.

Before then he'd played 19 times in California with four top 20s (just one of them a top 10).

Since the move? Seven starts, five top 20s, four of them top 10s.

He said ahead of last year's event at his new home club (yes, he's based at Riviera!): "It's a tournament I've always loved, but unfortunately I never really played that well in the past. Now I've got to know and play the course better and better. Hopefully the rounds I've got in this winter mean that on the greens, with strategy and shot selection, I can have more success around here."

He then finished tied eighth.

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

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