The stars are out in LA for a major-type pitch at Riviera

LOS ANGELES (AP) — All of the best players in the world are gathered on a course rich in heritage and esteem.

And the Masters is still seven weeks away.

The Genesis Invitational closes out the swing from the West Coast to Riviera with a field so strong it drew everyone into the top 10 of the World Rankings. It’s the first time in 15 years that a regular PGA Tour event has featured all of the world’s top 10.

It even has Tiger Woods, even though he is in Riviera as tournament host while recovering from right leg injuries from a car accident in Los Angeles nearly a year ago.

“It’s kind of become a can’t-miss event on the PGA Tour,” said Rory McIlroy, who checks in at No. 5. “All of the top 10 are here this week, and I think that in says a lot about what all of us think about this event. This is one you don’t want to miss.

The Riviera has never looked better, thanks to a recent drought in California and a heat wave over Super Bowl weekend. The greens are already firm and fast, and they have enough subtlety to make them challenging even in wet weather.

McIlroy makes his United States debut after playing twice on the European tour through the United Arab Emirates.

With so many top players on the pitch, Collin Morikawa at No. 2 and Patrick Cantlay at No. 3 have a mathematical chance of replacing Jon Rahm at the top of the world rankings.

That’s almost enough to distract from the endless rumblings of a Saudi-funded “Super Golf League” that has yet to announce a player signing. Most of the attention is on Phil Mickelson and Bryson DeChambeau, neither of whom are at Riviera.

“Not so Super League” is what McIlroy called it, suggesting it would be more like a pre-Champions Tour than a top players league.

Among those who have said they are not interested are McIlroy and Rahm, Justin Thomas and Jordan Spieth, Brooks Koepka and most recently Morikawa.

Rahm said nearly two years ago that he was opposed to the idea, and he took the time on Wednesday to say again that any legacy he leaves in golf will come through the PGA Tour and that the money is not his only motivation.

“They throw numbers at you and it’s supposed to impress people,” Rahm said.

The most relevant figures in Riviera come from the world ranking. A lot of that has to do with Riviera and a tournament with Woods as host that’s called “high status.” The prize money is $12 million, the same purse the PGA Championship offered last year.

Cantlay, who lost in the playoffs to Scottie Scheffler last week at the Phoenix Open, has driven to Riviera from his Long Beach home since he was a kid.

He had said two weeks ago that Pebble Beach or Cypress Point would be the courses he would love to play with friends. For golf tournaments, he felt that Riviera was the best in the country.

“I think he defends par with no mistakes better than any golf course I’ve been to,” Cantlay said. “They rarely push any rough. There’s hardly any rough there, there’s no water, you can only really hit it out of bounds on the 12th hole. And yet, 13, 14, 15, 16 under wins pretty much every time.

And it is with a par 5 opening hole that Cantlay can achieve with a 3 wood and a 7 iron.

Max Homa won last year in the playoffs after finishing at 12 under par.

“I think it’s an incredible test of golf,” Cantlay said.

Of course, having all the top 10 players does not guarantee that any of them will be there at the end. The standings were solid in Phoenix, with five players from the world’s top 10 finishing in the top 10 at TPC Scottsdale.

Scheffler (now No. 9) was at No. 15 when he won at Phoenix. He was the highest-ranked player to win on the PGA Tour since McIlroy (No. 14) in Las Vegas in the CJ Cup. Two players outside the world top 100 won the six tournaments at the start of the year.

It’s not the first time Morikawa has had a shot at No. shots in the final round.

He hasn’t seriously competed in three events this year – two in the Middle East – although part of that has been a long rest in the offseason after overcoming coronavirus. But he spent time with the hometown coach last week in Los Angeles and likes the direction his game is taking.

“So the confidence is back, happy to be back in LA and I’m just excited to see everyone and ready to play some great golf,” he said.

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