Arguably the two biggest names in modern golf, Rory McIlroy and Tiger Woods are both in the same field of an event for the first time since August 2015 at this week’s Genesis Open.
Woods has played just six times since then and all of his sporadic appearances have coincided with the absence of McIlroy.Embed from Getty Images
Neither of the two have won this event; that’s particularly surprising for Woods given he has played here 10 times and it was the scene of his very first PGA Tour start aged 16 in 1992.
Woods was due to end a hiatus from this event dating back to a 2006 withdrawal with flu last year, but ongoing injury troubles meant he had to withdraw again in advance. He will end that absence this week, though.
A tied 20th in 2016 is McIlroy’s only start at this event, so he will have to rely on his current form – that includes two top threes in his last three starts – rather than course form.
There are entries from three of the world’s top four in Dustin Johnson, Jordan Spieth and Justin Thomas. Johnson has garnered a fair amount of experience himself here. He was a two-time runner-up here before breaking through for a five-stroke victory last year.
That victory got Johnson to world-number-one, which he has now held for a full year. He enters here in tremendous form with a win, tied ninth and tied second in his three starts in 2018.Embed from Getty Images
Spieth has five starts here with two missed cuts, two tops 20s and one top five, whilst Thomas has never been inside the top 30 in his three starts at Riviera Country Club.
Bubba Watson (2014 & 2016) and Phil Mickelson (2008 & 2009) are both serial winners here looking for a trio of titles. Mickelson is in great form too with a tied fifth and tied second in the past two weeks; however Watson has not been inside the top 30 in six starts.
Six more past winners join Johnson, Mickelson and Watson in James Hahn (2015), John Merrick (2013), Bill Haas (2012), Aaron Baddeley (2011), Charles Howell III (2007) and Adam Scott (2005) in this week’s field.
Europe are well represented too this week with Race to Dubai winner Tommy Fleetwood travelling across the Atlantic as well as Belgian-star Thomas Pieters. This week is the last chance to break into the world’s top 50 in time to qualify for next month’s WGC-Mexico Championship, which is a big opportunity for those on the cusp with Scott, Kyle Stanley, Adam Hadwin, Cameron Smith and Peter Uihlein all entering the Genesis.
Riviera Country Club has hosted this event almost exclusively since 1973 and that does not change this year. The substantial 7322-yard par-71 is famed for its sixth and 10th holes. The sixth in renowned for its island bunker right at the heart of the green, whilst many will take on the risk-and-reward par four 10th; it is drivable but littered with dangerous traps so expect eagles and double-bogeys aplenty.Embed from Getty Images
14 of the world’s top 25 are in the field this week but, as is seemingly always the case with their presence, eyes will be continually redirected towards McIlroy and Woods playing together again.