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Matsuyama's Sunday surge secures Genesis Invitational Title | The Sunday Swing

Matsuyama's Sunday surge secures Genesis Invitational Title | The Sunday Swing

Matsuyama's Sunday surge secures Genesis Invitational Title | The Sunday Swing

February 19, 2024

The Sunday Swing 
February 18th, 2024 

Welcome back to another edition of the Sunday Swing presented by 2nd Swing Golf. This week featured one of the best tournaments of the year on the PGA Tour, the Genesis Invitational from famed Riviera Country Club.

Genesis Invitational - Tournament History 

Dating back all the way to the mid 1920’s when the tournament was first hosted at The Los Angeles Country Club in 1926. It was then played at various courses in the Los Angeles area until finding its permanent home at Riviera Country Club in 1973. In 1992, Tiger Woods made his first ever start on the PGA Tour at the age of just 16 years old. Tiger would go on to make the cut and finish in a tie for 34th place, foreshadowing a career of greatness ahead. In 1969, Charlie Sifford who was the first African American Tour member won the LA Open. Since then, Sifford has been inducted into the world golf Hall of Fame (2004), and since 2009, one member of a minority background (who otherwise is not eligible to compete) receives the Charlie Sifford Memorial exemption into the Genesis Invitational. The first player to earn the exemption was Vincent Johnson and most recently this year was Chase Johnson. 

Riviera Country Club was established in 1926 and was designed by George C. Thomas Jr. and William P. Bell. A par 71, the course measures 7,322 yards in tournament play and is home to fast Poa annua greens, tricky kikuyu rough, and deep sandy bunkers. The 10th hole is arguably the most difficult driveable par-4 that the players face throughout the season. An elevated small and narrow green sits protected by bunkers short and long. Any player who misses the green short and right on their tee shot will then miss the green in regulation over 85% of the time. Precision proves to always be the biggest key, and players must show accuracy off the tee if they want to have a chance at attacking the course which is also home to many very long and difficult par-4’s. Although home to many great champions, the most recent five players to conquer Riviera Country Club are as follows:

2024 - Hideki Matsuyama (-17)
2023 - Jon Rahm (-17)
2022 - Joaquin Niemann (-19)
2021 - Max Homa (-12)
2020 - Adam Scott (-11) 

The Big Swing

This week the Big Swing goes to Hideki Matsuyama. The 31-year-old from Japan has gone over 730 days since his last victory, largely due to back issues that have prevented him from playing freely. The past two seasons have been filled with WD’s and mixed results when he has been able to play a full 4-rounds. This week he said he played pain-free for the first time since 2022, and it showed. While in the end he did claim the title, the path there was what made the win all the more impressive, and a testament to his good health. 

The story of the week for the first couple of days was the local kid, Patrick Cantlay. He started the week looking nearly unbeatable, shooting rounds of 64 and 65 to jump out to a five-shot lead after 36-holes. Shockingly, Cantlay’s record with a 36-hole lead in his career was 0-5 up to this point, so he was hoping to break that streak with a win. 

Other stories from the first two days included tournament host Tiger Woods, who made his 2024 debut on the PGA Tour. Another chapter in Tiger’s story of comebacks had to be put on hold early on Friday when Woods was forced to withdraw due to illness. It was later reported that Tiger had influenza, and he expressed his disappointment and thanks to the staff and fans for their support at Riviera, a place near and dear to him for good reason. 

The other was Jordan Spieth, who was playing some really good golf and was within striking distance heading into the weekend. Unfortunately for Spieth, a miscommunication in the scorers tent led to him signing an incorrect scorecard which resulted in his disqualification – ending his tournament after 36-holes. 

Another player in the middle of a comeback is Will Zalatoris. He missed the large majority of the 2023 season after undergoing a serious back surgery. The three-time major runner-up has showed signs of his previous form of late, and started out nice this week with rounds of 66 and 70 to put himself into contention. 

On Saturday, Cantlay hoped to extend his five-shot lead, but would have to fend off chasers like Xander Schauffele, Zalatoris, Jason Day, and Harris English. Unfortunately for Cantlay, it wasn’t the smooth sailing he had been used to from the first 36 holes. Cantlay carded an even par 35 on the front nine, and was on his way to a pretty good back until he dropped a shot at the par-5 17th. In the end he would card just one-under 70, and saw his five-shot advantage shrink to just two. Zalatoris and Schauffele had each fired rounds of 65 and had grabbed a share of second place heading into the final round. 

On Sunday, the final group featured Cantlay and Schauffele who are both from the area and are known to be good friends. The pair has competed together in Ryder Cups, Presidents Cups, and has also teamed up for a win at the Zurich Classic when it was a team event on Tour. However, the comfortable pairing failed to gather any momentum early in the round with neither of them making a birdie on the front nine. 

Meanwhile, the chase was on and Luke List, who trailed by three entering Sunday, was one of the players making a big move. List made eagle at the par-5 first, and followed it up with birdies at Nos. 3, 5, and 7 to card an opening nine of 30. Cantlay had watched his lead dissolve in a short period of time and found himself trailing List by a couple as he made the turn. 

Another man who was on the move was Matsuyama, who trailed by six at the start of the final round, but after birdies at the first three holes, he quickly found himself in serious contention. Making the turn in 3-under, Matsuyama rattled off three more birdies to start the back nine at Nos. 10, 11, and 12, highlighted by a long 46-foot putt at the 12th. He would make pars at 13 and 14, stuffing his iron shot at the difficult 14th to 8 inches from 190 yards to move to 7-under on the day. On the par-3 16th, Matsuyama hit almost an exact replica of his shot at 15, nearly making a hole-in-one and leaving it just six inches from the hole to card another birdie. 

At this point, the final group of Schauffele and Cantlay had faded even further into the crowd, and List had made bogeys on 10, 12, and 15 to give Matsuyama a comfortable lead. After a perfect drive at the par-5 17th, Matsuyama launched a fairway wood just over the back of the green from 274 yards. He was able to pitch his third within a few feet and cash the birdie - his third streak of three consecutive birdies on the day. After making par on the 18th, Hideki came up one short of the course record 61, but logged the best round of the week at 62. 

The only player that seemed to have a chance at this point was Zalatoris. Perhaps the rust got to him late in the round, but after a bogey on 15, Will fell to three behind and needed a miracle finish to catch Matsuyama and force a playoff. With pars on his final three holes, Zalatoris carded a three-under 69 and would come up three short in a tie for second with List. Rounding out the top 5 was Adam Hadwin, Cantlay, and Schauffele all in a tie for fourth. 

The win for Matsuyama caps one of the best single-round performances ever at Riviera. He began the day as an afterthought and wound up winning by a comfortable three-shot margin. For the round, Matsuyama was first in strokes gained: around the green, second in strokes gained: approach, and sixth in strokes gained: putting on Sunday. Playing any round bogey free at Riviera is remarkable, but being able to pair that with nine birdies is truly remarkable. It’s Matsuyama’s ninth PGA Tour victory, and his first since the Sony Open in January of 2022. 

Winner’s Bag - Hideki Matsuyama 

Srixon staffer Hideki Matsuyama picked up his 9th Tour Title on Sunday and his first in over two years. On Sunday it was elite iron play and putting that carried him to a historic final round comeback. Hideki’s bag features mostly Cleveland/Srixon products with a couple unique exceptions. At the top of the bag, Hideki plays the Srixon ZX5 MK2 LS driver at 9.5 degrees. His fairway woods include the all new Taylormade Qi10 3-wood (15 degrees), and the Cobra King RadSpeed Tour 5-wood (19 degrees). One of the few players to still do it, Hideki plays a full set of blades in the Srixon Z-Forged (4-PW). Matsuyma games a trio of Cleveland RTX 4 wedges which are now a couple of generations old (52, 56, and 60 degrees). On the greens, Hideki rolls his signature Scotty Cameron Prototype, one of the few players to stick with the same putter throughout the years.