It just means more. The slogan recently adopted by the SEC is also how we should actually view PGA Tour wins at Riviera Country Club. I’ve been yelling about this for years, but in the “rings only” culture of sports today, everything outside of the four major championships in golf has become so minimized, so belittled that it often leaves you wondering whether the top players in the sport should even compete in the other events at all (this is basically Brooks Koepka’s entire ethos).
The problem is that great tournaments are only as great as the players that show up and the courses they’re on. If only five players showed up for this year’s U.S. Open at some random TPC course, it’s not still great because it’s the U.S. Open. That’s not how it works. The U.S. Open is great because everybody shows up for the U.S. Open on a classic venue.
Which leads us to the Genesis Invitational at Riviera this week, where nine of the top 10 players in the world duked it out for the top prize (so far) of 2020 at one of the great courses in the country. Adam Scott — the new No. 7 golfer in the world — ended up on top of the heap for the 14th win of his career.
“It’s incredibly satisfying to win a tournament of this stature on a golf course of this stature,” said Scott.
Wait, pause right there. Yes, this is the point!
This event was a monster, a beast. And yet when we talk about it, we count Scott’s win the same as, say, Adam Long winning the American Express in La Quinta a year ago against a field with two or three guys in the top 40 in the world. That win probably meant more to Long than this one does to Scott, but nowhere on this planet or any other are the two equivalent.
“It was a wonderful week, it was incredibly enjoyable just being here with the weather like this, the course in perfect condition and a great field,” continued Scott. “Even better to come out on top and kind of have your game really tested today. It was not easy and that was most enjoyable to kind of see that my game is holding up to that.”
We need some sort of in-between measuring stick. A nod to the fact that you didn’t win a major championship, but you didn’t win the John Deere Classic, either.
I don’t know how you would do this, but it can be done because it’s happened with the majors. When we look at Scott’s career and see the event’s he’s collected — Players Championship, Masters, Tour Championship, Barclays — and the courses he’s bagged — TPC Sawgrass, Augusta National, Riviera, Colonial Country Club — those 14 wins start to feel like a much bigger number.
“[The Genesis] is now an invitational, star field, and it’s a big deal and it truly feels like a big deal,” said Scott.
We give extra weight to the Masters, U.S. Open, Open Championship and PGA Championship because they’re the four most important. Why don’t we give weight to the Genesis Invitational, the Memorial Tournament and The Players Championship because they’re the three next-most important? This is what the WGC events tried to do, I suppose, but they have not succeeded. Or maybe they have, and I’m simply ignorant of it.
Regardless, not all wins are created equal just like not all PGA Tour golfers are created equal. Riviera and the Genesis Invitational are a cut above, and they got a winner that matches that regality on Sunday in one of the best events we’ve seen in a long, long time.
Wins don’t always catch up: You know who the third-best golfer on the PGA Tour was last year? Statistically, it was Scott. Here are your top 20 golfers ranked by strokes gained and a list of how many PGA Tour events they won during the 2018-19 season.
- Rory McIlroy: 3
- Patrick Cantlay: 1
- Adam Scott: 0
- Justin Thomas: 1
- Webb Simpson: 0
- Jon Rahm: 1
- Hideki Matsuyama: 0
- Xander Schauffele: 2
- Brooks Koepka: 3
- Paul Casey: 1
- Dustin Johnson: 1
- Tommy Fleetwood: 0
- Justin Rose: 1
- Rickie Fowler: 1
- Matt Kuchar: 2
- Jason Kokrak: 0
- Sungjae Im: 0
- Bryson DeChambeau: 1
- Lucas Glover: 0
- Henrik Stenson: 0
So you could say that Scott got the least out of the best year of anyone on the PGA Tour. And it’s a bit fitting that he and Webb Simpson, who were both top five on the PGA Tour in strokes gained in 2018-19 but didn’t win, have won in two of the last three weeks.
No really, Riviera is the G.O.A.T.: In terms of non-major courses that we see professionals play. There’s nothing better. Why is this true? How can a 7,200-yard course be such a test?
Here’s one example. On the par-4 13th hole on Sunday, the pin was positioned in the back left of the green. The hole was playing 472 yards, which is long but not ludicrous. The problem is that with greens that were firmed up and baking out a little bit, you had to take a great risk to go at the back left pin because if you missed long or left, you were dead. You needed to give yourself a good angle off the tee up the right side of the fairway to hit a draw into that pin. There was no hope to land a fade in a scoring position. Notice the red dots (birdies) are all up the right side.
There was no rough off the back left of the green, but if you went long or left your ball would run for forever down a hill and leave you with a difficult bogey. Look at all those black dots (bogeys or worse) off the back and to the left.
Fortune favors the bold. Scott went at it (dangerously) and left himself with 12 feet for birdie, which he canned. This is how a course can be an amazing test even if it’s not playing 10,000 yards. Difficult pin positions on firm greens with no rough to keep your ball hung up near the flag if your lines get crossed. No. 10 at Riviera gets all the shine, but the entire thing is a work of art.