Genesis Invitational notebook dump! 8 things I saw, heard and learned at Riviera Country Club
PACIFIC PALISADES, Calif. — The 96th iteration of the Genesis Invitational is officially in the books, and what a week it was! Joaquin Niemann lit Riviera on fire, takes on the Saudi league were flying, and Tiger made his first public appearance of 2022. But you already knew all that. Below, however, are a few things you (probably) didn’t know.
Here are eight things I saw, heard and learned at the Genesis Invitational.
A funny first-tee interaction
Fresh off his rowdy Sunday at the WM Phoenix Open, Harry Higgs was the most popular man at Riv on Tuesday. Countless players, caddies and support staff sought him out to give praise for his 16th-hole antics at TPC Scottsdale, but the best interaction of all didn’t involve any spoken words.
As my colleague Dylan Dethier and I were standing near the first tee box that afternoon watching Max Homa tee off, Higgs sauntered over to watch his buddy begin his round. Everyone hit, and Higgs hollered at Homa to explain a hilarious interaction he’d just had on the range.
“You know it’s bad when Hideki [Matsuyama] comes up to you on the range and lifts his shirt,” Higgs laughed. “No words were spoken, but we both knew what he was saying.”
“Look,” Homa said. “Nudity is a universal language.”
I see Nelly Korda quite frequently when I’m out on the LPGA beat, but this week I bumped into her on the range at Riv. No, she wasn’t a last-minute add to the field, but she was checking out some of the PGA Tour pros as they prepped for the week.
Korda has recently begun working with GOLF Top 100 Teacher Jaimie Mulligan, who had several players in this week’s field, so she tagged along early in the week as he dialed in a few of his guys.
The best Nelly interaction came when she was wandering past Harry Higgs as he completed his Tuesday range sesh. When Higgs realized who she was, he stopped what he was doing and asked her to sign a ball for him.
“I’m a big fan,” he told me. “She’s the best at what she does and I’d like to be the best at what I do. Never a bad thing to acknowledge someone who’s great at what they do.”
I’ve always admired Justin Thomas’ swing. He’s not a huge dude, but he can absolutely mash the golf ball. And he does it with extremely high hands at the top of his swing.
I also play with extremely high hands at the top, but I always struggle to shallow the club from that position. So, I sought out JT for his advice on shallowing the club from that position. But his answer wasn’t quite as technical as I’d hoped.
“I just do it,” he told me. “It’s just what I’ve always done. I don’t really think about it too much. It just kind of happens.”
My swing will remain steep for another week.
Riv has hosted many high-profile tournaments, and one of them was the 2012 NCAA National Championship. Coincidentally, the team title that year went to my alma mater, the University of Texas. Even better? They have a display in the clubhouse honoring that national title team. When I saw it, I beamed with pride.
It’s more impressive in person
The 10th hole at Riv is iconic. It’s a drivable par-4 that can yield anything from eagles to Xs. Get out of position and things get tricky in a hurry.
How did George Thomas make such a short hole so formidable? With a narrow green and deep greenside bunkers. The hole always features prominently in the broadcast each year, but I was still taken aback when I walked up to the green for the first time. The putting surface looks about as wide as a suburban sidewalk, and the bunkers are so deep you can hardly see the green when you’re down in them.
Some things can’t be done proper justice on TV, and Riv’s 10th green is one of them.
“What do you mean ‘small frame?'”
Joaquin Niemann is not a big guy. He’s listed at 6-foot and 150 pounds, but he looks a bit smaller in person. That doesn’t stop him from absolutely mashing the golf ball, though. Despite his smaller physique, he averages nearly 310 yards per drive.
Curious as to how he’s able to generate power from a small frame, I asked him about it in the flash interview area. As soon as the question came out of my mouth, his face had a puzzled look.
“What do you mean the [sic] smaller frame?”
Embarrassment washed over me, so naturally, I slipped in a little self-deprecating humor.
“Like, you now, me and you — we’re tiny guys. So what’s the secret to hitting it far?”
Everyone laughed. I turned beet red. Joaquin had no idea what I was talking about.
“I just got good genes from my dad and mom.”
That didn’t go as planned.
(For the record, I am 6 foot 2 inches tall and weight 160 pounds. Also for the record, I do not average 310 yards per drive.)
Still the needle
Tiger Woods was on site for the weekend at Riv, and though he wasn’t playing golf, he was still the No. 1 attraction. After he entered the CBS booth for a lengthy chat with Jim Nantz and Nick Faldo, fans eagerly waited for him to reemerge from the tall, black structure.
When he finally did come out, the crowd surrounding the practice putting green lost their minds. He damn near got a “Tiger roar” just for walking from the booth into the clubhouse. Forever and always, Tiger is the needle.
An adventurous Sunday
Sunday at Riv wasn’t my finest hour. Just as I was preparing to go out and follow the final group in the morning, I accidentally bumped my coffee over and spilled it all over my laptop keyboard. It’s tough to do your job as a writer without a laptop, so I ran to my car and sped over to the nearest Apple Store to see if we could salvage the damage.
Lucky for me, the damage was minor and I escaped the episode relatively unscathed (shoutout to my Apple Genius Sarah). Unfortunately, by the time I made it back to the course, most of the action was already done. I posted up next to the 18th green, watched Joaco put the finishing touches on his big dub, and got to typing on my resurrected laptop.
All things considered, things ended pretty decently. But it certainly wasn’t how I’d hoped to spend my Sunday.
My biggest takeaway? Always buy Apple Care.