This whole thing is the groundhog’s fault. How many days until spring?

Bring ’em out, bring ’em out

With the schedule more crowded than ever and certain European Tour events siphoning off top-ranked players via appearance fees, the PGA Tour hasn’t managed to get all of its stars in one place so far in 2021. That ends this week. The Genesis Invitational field is loooooaaaded. Dustin Johnson, Jon Rahm, Xander Schauffele, Rory McIlroy, Justin Thomas, Bryson DeChambeau, and Patrick Cantlay are all currently taking dead aim at Riviera Country Club’s beleaguered driving-range fence. Tee Times

There are many candidates for the “real beginning” of the PGA Tour season. You have the technical beginning in the fall at the Safeway Open; the Sentry Tournament of Champions at the start of the calendar year; and the Farmers Insurance Open in late January, widely regarded as the first event with big-time vibes. For us, though, the Los Angeles Open Genesis Invitational has always had the feeling of a true kick-off for the season.

The tournament at Riviera genuinely matters, and the players know it. “I think you’ve got to identify that there’s probably 10 or 12 serious competition events during the calendar year, and then the rest is a bit of entertainment,” Adam Scott said in Hawaii early this year. Yes, every tournament on the calendar means something to someone, especially to those battling for FedEx Cup points and tour cards. But for the game’s top 20 or 30 players, the Genesis is one of those “serious competition events” that Scott referred to. It also happens to be damn good entertainment.

Short turnaround

In addition to the usual big names, a bumper crop of young talent has earned its way into the field at the Genesis Invitational. Approximately 10% of the players teeing it up this weekend also played in the 2017 U.S. Amateur at Riviera. We’ve known for a while that a youth movement has been growing on the PGA Tour, but it’s striking that one of the top events on the calendar features 12 competitors who were amateurs less than four years ago.

The full list: Collin Morikawa, Viktor Hovland, Matthew Wolff, Doc Redman, Doug Ghim, Joaquín Niemann, Scottie Scheffler, Cameron Champ, Will Zalatoris, Tyler Strafaci, Sam Burns, and Maverick McNealy.

Quick Hooks

Willie Mack III, recipient of the Charlie Sifford Memorial Exemption into this week’s Genesis Invitational, overcame significant obstacles on his road to the PGA Tour. Read about his inspiring story in Ryan Lavner’s excellent piece for Golf Channel.

The Korn Ferry Tour is back to continue its 2020-21 mega-season! Davis Riley, Taylor Pendrith, and Greyson Sigg headline the field at the LECOM Suncoast Classic in Lakewood Ranch, Florida. Tee Times

Rory McIlroy has been elected chairman of the PGA Tour’s Player Advisory Council for 2021. Given the new “strategic alliance” between the PGA Tour and the European Tour, it will be interesting to see how McIlroy, who has extensive experience on both tours, might influence the direction of pro golf over the next year.

Angus Flanagan defeated Tim Widing in a three-hole playoff to win the Collegiate Showcase and earn a spot in the Genesis Invitational. A member of the Minnesota Golden Gophers men’s golf team, Flanagan will make his second start on the PGA Tour after playing in the 3M Open last summer.

The Latest from The Fried Egg

JT and Rory vs. the USGA – Justin Thomas and Rory McIlroy both suggested, in different ways, that the USGA and R&A’s Distance Insights Project is financially irresponsible. The tax documents tell a different story, however.

Paulie’s Picks: The Genesis Invitational – If you’re in a fantasy golf league, you have a lot of options this week. Don’t get overwhelmed. Let Paulie guide you to the promised land.

The Fried Egg Podcast: John Houck – Disc Golf Architecture 

Disc golf has a lot in common with golf. It’s usually played over nine or 18 holes; there are tees and targets; there are drives, approaches, and putts; and scores are often calculated according to par. But Fried Egg listeners will be particularly interested to know that disc golf, like “ball golf,” has its own history, style, and philosophy of course design. To find out more about disc golf architecture, Garrett talks with John Houck, the leading architect in the sport. They discuss Houck’s approach to design, his thoughts on naturalness and strategy, and his hopes for the future of his craft. Listen on iTunes, Stitcher, and Spotify.

Shotgun Start: Riviera’s worst hole, golf pros named, Angus, and Web Tour returns

This Wednesday episode previews the best week of the year on the PGA Tour, the annual LA Open Genesis Invitational at Riviera. Andy quickly anoints it the event of the week, but not after a brief digression on the Spieth v. Rickie OWGR race. There’s an apology related to that OWGR movement and Brendan proposes radical changes for Rickie’s career to get him out of the doldrums. Then they get to the course and field at hand, highlighting the strengths of Riviera, how it could be better, and how you can judge its greatness by simply asking “what is its worst hole”? They discuss the depth of the field, a quirk about the winners here, and the collegiate showcase winner Angus Flanagan, which prompts Andy to look into the career of another Angus. Continuing on the schedule for the week, they hit on the 2021 debut of the Web/KFT Tour in Florida, lamenting the lack of TV coverage and a sort of brain poisoning that the Reed rules shortcomings have had on lower tour play and qualifiers. Listen on iTunes, Stitcher, and Spotify.

Pro Shop

You may not have a tee time at a top-100 club like Riviera this week, but you can have a taste of a beautiful golf course in your living room! We recently revamped the photography prints section of our pro shop to make ordering easier, and we even added a few courses to our selection. Shop metal and photo prints of places like Winged Foot, Prairie Dunes, Pine Needles, Ballyneal, and more. Get yours today!