This Week on the PGA Tour: Riviera Country Club

Adam Davis/Icon Sportswire

The PGA Tour makes its annual Tinseltown stop with the Genesis Open at the famed Riviera Country Club.

The star-studded field features 8 of the top 10 players in the world and is missing two MAJOR names that had committed to play in No. 2 Rory McIlroy and 14-time major champion Tiger Woods.

The fact that this event features the best field to date in the 2016-17 PGA Tour wraparound season is a testament to the grand venue that is the ideal setting for an event that is overflowing with dramatic storylines including the very real possibility that two golfers could overtake Jason Day for the No. 1 ranking and all three are in the field.

Riviera Country Club opened in 1926 in Pacific Palisades, just south of Sunset Boulevard.

The course was designed by renowned golf architect George Thomas with the help of William Bell. The same duo was behind two of Los Angeles’ other best known golf courses and most exclusive clubs, Bel-Air Country Club and Los Angeles Country Club. They were aided in the design of Riviera by Alister MacKenzie, the legendary architect whose portfolio includes Cypress Point Club and Augusta National Golf Club.

The tournament now known as the Genesis Open was first contested at Riviera in 1929 and 1930 and moved around to other Los Angeles area courses including Hillcrest Country Club, Wilshire Country Club and Los Angeles Country Club. It permanently moved to Riviera beginning in 1973 with the only exceptions being Rancho Park Golf Course in 1983 (when Riviera hosted the PGA Championship) and Valencia Country Club in 1998 (when Riviera hosted the U.S. Senior Open).

Riviera is one of two PGA Tour courses known as “Hogan’s Alley (the other being Colonial Country Club in Fort Worth, home of the Dean and DeLuca Invitational) due to its association with Ben Hogan. Hogan won the Los Angeles Open in 1942 and then in 1947-48 he won the Los Angeles Open twice and the U.S. Open, all at Riviera.

“Some of my most pleasant memories and thoughts are of this wonderful club and magnificent golf course,” Hogan said.

There have been many parallels drawn between Riviera and Augusta National, home of The Masters Tournament. Since 1975, there have been several high profile golfers who have won at both venues including Fred Couples, Phil Mickelson, Bubba Watson, Mike Weir, Craig Stadler, Nick Faldo and Tom Watson. 2013 Masters champion also won the rain-shortened 2005 Genesis Open that is not in the books as an official PGA Tour event after the tournament was reduced to two rounds due to torrential rain all four days of the event.

Of note, Tiger Woods and Jack Nicklaus both have multiple green jackets but have never won at Riviera.

“The greens at Augusta are bigger than these (Riviera) square footage-wise, but they play very small at Augusta,” Tripp Isenhour said on Golf Channel. “Riviera’s greens are quite small and you have to be in the right areas of the fairways to attack both green complexes. Jordan Spieth talked about it earlier and said ‘it looks like yo can go at it, but if you do, you pay the price’ and that happens at both of those golf courses.”

While Hogan has been synonymous with Riviera throughout its illustrious history, this generation of golf fans will always have a distinct correlation with Fred Couples and his love for the course. Couples is a two-time champion, winning in 1990 and again in 1992 in a playoff over Davis Love III and he was in contention on numerous occasions that included 14 top-10 finishes.

“I liked it from the get-go back in 1981,” Couples said of Riviera to Golf Channel. “It’s just a peaceful spot. I used to live at another house close to here, and moved away, and came back. There are great courses that people like, and there are some they don’t. I don’t know why anyone would not like this course. It’s just the perfect layout … It’s my favorite course.”

Couples played in every Genesis Open from 1982 through 2016, missing only the 2007 tournament due to injury. He missed the but in 2016’s event and is not in the Genesis Open field this week as he will be playing the PGA Tour Champions Chubb Classic in Naples, FL.

Signature holes: No. 6, 199 yard par-3 with the famous bunker in the center of the green.

No. 18, 475 yard par-4 that is one of the most well-known finishing holes in golf due to its green that is encompassed by a natural ampitheater with the classic clubhouse in the background.

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