February 18, 2022

A major test of golf during round one at Riviera

Thursday’s first round at The Genesis Invitational produced some incredible scores, capped off by a record-tying performance.

Three-time major championship winner Jordan Spieth set the pace early in round one with birdies on his first three holes before ending his round at five under. Spieth has had a history of success at Riviera going back to his 2012 NCAA Championship victory with the University of Texas.

“I love Riviera,” Spieth said. “It’s in the conversation as the best golf course in the world. It’s more so that than anything else really, but obviously the fact that it’s an invitational and Tiger’s taken it over and all that added stuff, too.”

Matching Spieth with praise for Riviera following round was Justin Thomas, who finished tied for sixth at four under.

“This is the best golf course we play all year” Thomas said. “I think you could probably ask the majority of the TOUR and we would play here every other week if we could. It’s just the perfect example of what I say all the time, that length isn’t the answer. You’ve got zero rough out here, no hazards, no out-of-bounds and this place holds its own every single year. When it gets firm and fast, it’s difficult.”

However, even as conditions toughened in the afternoon, Joaquin Niemann closed a strong back nine to finish with a 63, tying the tournament record for lowest opening round. Niemann became the ninth player to shoot 63 to start the tournament. Of those nine players, Charlie Sifford (1969), Lanny Wadkins (1985), Phil Mickelson (2009) and J.B. Holmes (2019) went on to win the tournament.

“I think it’s got to be one of my best days on the golf course, especially in a place like this with this history.” Niemann said. “Riviera Country Club is one of my favorite golf courses and this event is my favorite during the year.”

Two of L.A.’s own are near the top of the leaderboard in Collin Morikawa and Max Homa. Morikawa, who finished at four under, relished the opportunity to play Riviera with the local crowd in his favor.

“Just having a lot of fans out there, having a lot of friends to support you,” Morikawa said. “You hear people from La Canada or L.A. just rooting me on. Anytime you’re in California you’ve got that extra touch of just energy coming out. It was obviously a pretty solid start so far.”

Defending Champion Max Homa is three off the lead at five under and was thrilled to be able to start off his championship defense with fans back at Riviera.

“That’s the coolest part,” Homa said after Thursday’s round. “Last year having nobody out here, I had a bunch of friends and family out (today), my wife, my mom, my sister, my friend Zach, Josh, Kendra, Kirk, so that’s fun. It gives me a little buzz and a boost of energy and it just added to the fun day.”