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Riviera has become something of a haven for the PGA Tour and the best golfers in the world, so perhaps it was apt that so many took the opportunity this week to rule themselves out of joining the rumoured Saudi breakaway league that has been threatening to disrupt the peace.
But among all that, there was a tournament to be played. The Genesis Invitational always boasts a stellar field, with the world’s top 10 all committing this year’s edition to their schedules. And by and large, they didn’t disappoint. Joaquin Niemann completed a mightily impressive wire-to-wire victory, but there were plenty of other stories that perhaps flew under the radar.
So, in case you missed them, here we recap five talking points from the Genesis Invitational…
Lanny’s Riviera record survives
Against the odds, the longest-standing tournament scoring record on the PGA Tour survived at Riviera. Lanny Wadkins won the Genesis Invitational back in 1985, posting a winning total of 20-under 264. Fred Couples, who got within two of Wadkins in 1990, had come closest ahead of this year’s edition, but it looked certain eventual winner Joaquin Niemann would set a new benchmark.
Back-to-back 63s had the Chilean 16-under through two rounds and, after making eagle on the 10th on Saturday, had already breached the magic mark. But despite going on to win, Niemann played his final 26 holes in two over to ensure this record lives on. It will, of course, eventually be broken, but better chances to do it will be few and far between.
Incidentally, nobody had ever broken 130 through two rounds at Riviera until this year where both Niemann (126) and Cameron Young (128) achieved the feat.
34 and done: Rahm's under-par streak is over
He is human! A 73 on Friday for Jon Rahm brought his remarkable run of under-par scores to an end. It had been 34 rounds and 218 days since the World No.1 last failed to beat the card on the PGA Tour, but that has now been reset. In the last 40 seasons, only three players have bettered Rahm’s effort: Tiger Woods (52), Fred Funk (38) and David Ogrin (35). At 27 years old, we’re sure he won't be losing any sleep over it, and you’d be brave to bet against him eclipsing his new personal best before long.
One thing he might harbour some concern about though, is his lead at the top of the world rankings. He remains in pole position for now but Collin Morikawa made some inroads into his advantage with a tied-second finish. Watch this space!
Patrick's PXG problems
Signing to put some new equipment in the bag is supposed to bring about an upturn in form, akin to a football team hiring a new manager. Often, such a move is accompanied by a little bit of a honeymoon period. In contrast, Patrick Reed’s switch into a PXG driver has so far failed to ignite.
Reed missed the level-par cut at Riviera by six shots, which can largely be explained by looking at his off-the-tee stats in round one. The American ranked dead last, losing 2.98 shots in this category against the field average. And that’s a trend that’s been ongoing this season. He’s never been an overly prolific driver of the ball but so far in 2022, he sits 209th on the PGA Tour out of 216. The 2018 Masters champion will be hoping this relationship is a slow burner.
Of course, a poor workman blames his tools, and it might be the case that he's simply playing badly…
Admirable consistency or a lack of killer instinct?
To find a time when Justin Thomas finished outside the top 25 on the PGA Tour, you have to go back to August of last year. The World No. 7 has become a beacon of consistency, but could it be argued he should be converting more of these chances? Yes, it’s becoming increasingly difficult to win and he did capture the Players Championship less than a year ago, so it’s not like he’s on a notable barren run. However, with so many close calls, it’s something to perhaps keep an eye on.
He sits seventh in Strokes Gained: Total on the PGA Tour this season and fourth in Strokes Gained: Tee to Green, so it may only be a matter of time, but he is languishing down in 129th on the greens, which is something he’ll need to improve if he is to add to his tally of 14 titles.
Straight out of Saudi
We can't not mention the Saudi golf league drama. In the build-up, players like Rahm, Thomas, Morikawa, McIlroy and Woods all reaffirmed their commitment to the PGA Tour, leaving the hopes of the potential breakaway league really hinging on a trio of Americans: Phil Mickelson, Dustin Johnson and Bryson DeChambeau.
Whether Mickelson will be able to play on any tour after his recent remarks remains to be seen, but, bizarrely, both Johnson and DeChambeau tentatively ruled themselves out of joining the Greg Norman-led Super Golf League during the final round at Riviera. The PGA Tour released a statement on behalf of Johnson, while DeChambeau's own declaration hours later was half-hearted to say the very least.
"I want to make it clear that as long as the best players in the world are playing the PGA Tour, so will I." Way to nail your colours to the mast, Bryson...
For now, anyway, the idea does appear to be "dead in the water" as McIlroy fittingly declared.
OK we're stepping away from the PGA Tour here, but for good reason. Over to the Champions Tour and Bernhard Langer continues to defy the odds and his age to lift title after title. The German was already the oldest winner on the over-50s circuit, so has raised his own bar with a wire-to-wire triumph at the Chubb Classic. Amazingly, it was his fourth win at this event and 43rd in total on the tour.
The next thing on his radar will be Hale Irwin’s Champions Tour record of 45 wins, and it is undoubtedly now a case of when, not if for the ageless 64-year-old.
A lifelong golf fan, Andy graduated in 2019 with a degree in Sports Journalism and got his first role in the industry as the Instruction Editor for National Club Golfer. From there, he went on to enjoy a spell freelancing for Stats Perform producing football reports, and then for RacingNews365 covering Formula 1. However, he couldn't turn down the opportunity to get back into the sport he grew up watching and playing and now covers a mixture of equipment, instruction and news for Golf Monthly's website and print title.
Andy took up the game at the age of seven and even harboured ambitions of a career in the professional ranks for a spell. That didn’t pan out, but he still enjoys his weekend golf at Royal Troon and holds a scratch handicap. As a side note, he's made five holes-in-one and could quite possibly be Retief Goosen’s biggest fan.
As well as the above, some of Andy's work has featured on websites such as goal.com, dailyrecord.co.uk, and theopen.com.
What's in Andy's bag?
Driver: Callaway Mavrik Sub-Zero (9°)
3-wood: TaylorMade M1 (15°)
Driving iron: Titleist U500 (17°)
Irons: Callaway Apex Pro '19 (4-PW)
Wedges: Titleist Vokey SM9 (50°, 54° and 58°)
Putter: Titleist Scotty Cameron Newport 2.5
Ball: Titleist Pro V1
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