PGA TOUR LIVE:How an epic 30 minutes (and a little chaos) decided the Genesis Invitational

Hideki Matsuyama used an epic 30-minute stretch on Riviera’s back nine to cement his Genesis Invitational victory.

 

PACIFIC PALISADES, Calif. — Augusta National is known for its roars, but it’s not the only golf course where cheers reverberate across the grounds. Sunday at Riviera Country Club is a perfect example.

 

For much of the weekend, it didn’t seem like that would be the case. The first 27 holes post cut at the Genesis Invitational were uncharacteristically quiet. After a chaotic Friday that saw host Tiger Woods withdraw and Jordan Spieth disqualified, Round 3 was relatively sleepy.

 

Patrick Cantlay fired a one-under 70 on Saturday, good enough for a two-stroke lead heading into the final round. His best buddy, Xander Schauffele, posted a 65 to play his way into the final pairing. Names like Zalatoris, Day, English and List remained within striking distance, but with Cantlay holding the lead after each of the first three rounds, there was little reason to think he wouldn’t go wire-to-wire.

 

The clubby Los Angeles crowd responded in turn. With Tiger gone from the tourney, and many of the other big names out of contention, the gallery noise seldom rose above polite applause. If last week’s Phoenix Open was a kegger, the Genesis was a tea party.

 

But, as so often is the case at Riv, Sunday delivered plenty to invigorate the crowds.

 

For the first nine holes of Sunday’s final stanza, Luke List and Will Zalatoris made their presence known. Playing in the penultimate pairing, the duo of flushers put on a ball-striking exhibition, combining for five birdies and an eagle. Heading to the back nine, List held the solo lead, while Zalatoris lagged two behind. In the final pairing — playing at a glacial pace nearly a hole and a half behind — Cantlay and Schauffele struggled, failing to card a single birdie over the first nine holes.

 

Then, in an epic, chaotic 30-minute stretch, the roars were everywhere.

 

Schauffele shook his birdie-free stretch by holing a 12-footer at the 10th, and then followed up with a hole-out from the bunker at the next for eagle. When the ball dropped into the cup, the cheers could be heard from the clubhouse on the opposite side of the Santa Monica Canyon. After a round and a half of pent-up energy, the fans finally had something to cheer about.

 

 

After Cantlay dropped in a birdie of his own, there were five golfers tied for the lead at 14 under. At 1:42 p.m. local time, the quartet from the final two pairings saw their names atop the leaderboard. A few holes ahead, though, it was Hideki Matsuyama who separated from the pack.

 

The 2021 Masters champ got off to a hot start to the day, birdieing the first three holes, and he began the back nine in the same fashion with three straight circles. But his most impressive feat of the day was his final act.

 

As those in the final group jockeyed for position, Matsuyama turned on the afterburners. At the par-4 15th, the second-hardest hole on the week, he cozied his Srixon within 8 inches of the cup from 190 yards out. On the following hole, he replicated the feat (complete with a club drop and look of disgust), hitting his tee shot from 160 yards to 6 inches.

 

“I hit it maybe like five yards to the right of my target,” Matsuyama said. “But it became a good shot. All is good.”

 

Things were about go get even better.

 

As Matsuyama played the 17th, Zalatoris, his nearest competitor, made a crucial mistake. Playing the same par-4 Matsuyama had just birdied, Zalatoris hit his tee shot into the steep bunker on the right side of the fairway. He had no choice but to pitch his second shot back into the short grass. After he failed to get up-and-down, Matsuyama’s lead swelled to two.

 

The reachable par-5 17th provided the final stage for Matsuyama’s brilliance. With two solid shots, he powered his ball over the back of the green. A deft chip from behind the putting surface left him just 3 feet for his ninth birdie of the day.

 

“I chipped and putted pretty well today, so that’s something that gives me a good momentum,” he said. “So I think that really helped today.”

 

Only 30 minutes had elapsed since there were five names atop the leaderboard. Now, there was just one. And with a three-stroke cushion heading to the final hole, only one formality remained — the roar from the masses seated on the amphitheater surrounding the green.

A fitting show of appreciation for their newest champion.

 

 

Gideon Canice

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