Scottie Scheffler defended his title last week at the Waste Management Phoenix Open, defeating Canadian Nick Taylor by two strokes in the PGA Tour’s first full field event of the season. With this latest victory, Scheffler has moved back into the number one spot on the official World Golf Rankings, and number five in the FedEx Cup standings.
The even bigger news is that Tiger will make his first start of the year at Riviera this week in a star-studded field—and all eyes will be glued to CBS Sports and Golf Channel this weekend to see how close he is to the Tiger of old (and if he’s ready to continue the pursuit of Jack’s major championship record).
WM Phoenix Open
Eighteen of the Top twenty players in the World Golf Rankings were in the field last week at TPC Scottsdale, and seven finished in the top 10. In addition to Scottie Scheffler jumping to #1 in the world with his win, Jon Rahm continued his dominant play in ‘22-23 with a 3rd place finish (Rahm has finished in the top 10 in all five of the events he’s played this season, including two wins).
Justin Thomas (No. 7) and Jordan Spieth (No. 16) each recorded their first top 10 of the year, and look like they are gearing up to make a challenge at Augusta (which is not too far away).
Xander Schauffele (No. 6) continued his strong play thus far in the young season with a T10 (Xander has made the cut in all 5 of the events he’s played including 3 top 10’s), and Sungjae Im (No. 18) recorded his 3rd top 10 of the season with a T6.
Rory McIlroy (No. 2) made his first PGA Tour start of the calendar year after a win at the CJ Cup back in October, finishing well back at 4 under par (T32). His win on the DP World Tour at Dubai in January gave him 2 wins in his previous 2 starts, so Rory’s head-to-head match-up with Scottie and the red-hot Jon Rahm was highly anticipated, but some loose driving and an ice-cold putter resulted in a failure to launch—perhaps Tiger’s presence this week in LA will ignite him
Jason Day (5th), Rickie Fowler (T10) and Keagan Bradley (T20) also continued their 2023 resurgence, while a bit of comic relief jumped up on Sunday when a streaker ran onto the 16th green wearing only his underwear and grabbed the flag stick before flopping into the nearby pond (and was quickly escorted away by Security).
Tiger at Riviera
Tiger’s return at Riviera this week will be his first start on the PGA Tour since The Open Championship last summer, where it was apparent that his come-back needed more time as he missed the cut. The general consensus had been that Tiger would only play the major championships this year, starting with the Masters.
The Genesis, however is Tiger’s tournament and his foundation (TGR) has been hosting the event since 2020. Riviera is also a special place for Tiger because its where he made his PGA Tour debut back in 1992 at the age of 16.
Expectations were sky high for the young phenom as an enormous gallery gathered to follow him that day at Riviera, and Tiger got a glimpse of the future when he was swarmed by media after completing a first round 72.
In his pre-tournament press conference, Tiger said he was ready to compete, and would not tee it up if he didn’t think he had a chance to win—although his record “wasn’t very good at Riviera.”
Of course, “not very good” is based on Tiger’s standard for himself. Scheduling conflicts and injury limited him to only twelve starts at Rivieras since he first came out on the Tour in 1996, and although he never notched a win, he finished among the top twenty in ten of those twelve, including four top 10’s (and twice runner-up), while missing the cut only once.
Every other player on tour would be thrilled with that kind of record at a tour event, but Tiger is in a category of his own—and the reason the world will be watching when he tees it up on Thursday.
The Genesis Invitational
The Genesis Invitational, historically known as the LA Open, has been played at iconic Riviera Country fifty-nine times since the event was first played in 1926, and forty-eight of fifty since 1973.
All of the greats in golf history have teed it up at Riviera, including Jack Nicklaus, Ben Hogan, Sam Sneed, Arnie and Byron Nelson.
For year’s Riviera was called “Hogan’s Alley” because he won there three times (’42, ’47 and ’48), and the club has been home to many of the biggest stars in Hollywood (including Humphrey Bogart, who was seen taking in the play from beneath a Sycamore on the 12th hole so often that it became known as “Bogeys Tree”).
In addition to Tiger, this year’s field includes nineteen of the top twenty players in the World, and the leaderboard will be jammed with the biggest names in golf as the tournament heads through the weekend to what will no doubt be high drama on Sunday—so make sure you tune in and get ready to hold onto your hats.
The last tournament of February is the famed Honda Classic at PGA National Resort in Palm Beach, Florida (February 23-26). This event will officially kick off the ‘Florida Swing’, where players will be competing in four events in the state of Florida. These include the Arnold Palmer Invitational (March 2-5), The Players Championship (March 9-12), and the Valspar Championship (March 16-19).