As the West Coast swing on the PGA Tour wraps up, it’s a good time to catch up on a few loose ends.
The Genesis Invitational played at Riviera Country Club has just concluded, and some of you might be feeling a little long in the tooth when you find out that it was this same week back in 1973 that Arnold Palmer recorded his last victory 47 years ago and where Tiger Woods made his Tour debut at age 16 back in 1992.
Over the course of his career, Tiger has played in this event 14 times and has recorded 82 career victories, but has never won at Riviera, even though he grew up only 30 miles away. But Tiger is in pretty good company as Jack Nicklaus never tasted victory there either. In 1975, Nicklaus finished third at Riviera in the Glen Campbell-Los Angeles Open as it was then known. Pat Fitzsimons won that year and it was his one and only PGA Tour victory. Nicklaus always has a little chuckle when he thinks of Riviera because that is where he earned his first check. He actually still has it, a whopping $33.33.
It is still strange to me that two of the best that ever played the game have never won at Riviera, but Ben Hogan won three times, including a U.S. Open in 1948.
This past week at The Genesis Invitational, which benefited the Tiger Woods Foundation, the strongest field of the year was assembled looking to win Tiger’s event. When Genesis came on board as title sponsor and Tiger came to host, The Genesis Invitational became a quality event in the eyes of the PGA Tour. Along with The Memorial, which Nicklaus hosts, and the Bay Hill Invitational, Arnold Palmer’s event, these three premier tournaments offer a three-year exemption on Tour to the winner, which is a big deal. So, Jack, Tiger, and Arnie each have an elite tournament that directly benefit their charities.
News Flash: Tiger is still looking for his record-setting 83rd career win. The Riviera CC greens were small, rock-hard, and lightning-fast, and that made for a tough test. Tiger didn’t make it easy on himself as he somehow managed to three-putt in the third round from just three feet. Clearly, it wasn’t going to be a record-setting week for him.
From my point of view, Tiger really looked like an old 44-year-old. He looked stiff and tired, and I came away feeling strongly that Tiger’s four back operations are beginning to take their toll. That he finished dead last for the first time in his career seems to be further proof to me that we’ll never really see the old Tiger again. There might be flashes, but the record-setting Tiger? I don’t know.
Old age wasn’t a problem for the Aussie Adam Scott, who, at 39, looked great, played great, and came out on top. It seems that the Aussie contingent have kicked their games up a notch after contending at the Presidents Cup. The very next week, Adam Scott won the Australian PGA, then Cameron Smith won the Sony Open, and Marc Leishman won the Farmers Insurance Open.
Scott’s win at Riviera marked his 14th win on the PGA Tour and he firmly believes that the next five years will be his best. As the 2013 Masters champ, he holds the distinction of being the only Australian to have won the Masters.
As is normal, what’s up next for Tiger is anyone’s guess. The Honda Classic is in his backyard. Arnie’s event, which Tiger has won eight times, is after that, and then it’s time for The Players. Tiger will most likely only play one of them, and right now, my money is on the Bay Hill Invitational.