The 2020 Genesis Invitational has been as terrific as it we thought it would be so far through 36 holes of play at Riviera Country Club. The No. 1 player in the world is contending, Tiger Woods is playing the weekend and a suddenly-polarizing figure still holds the top spot. Let’s take a look at what happened in Round 2 as well as what we can look forward to this weekend.
First place — Matt Kuchar (-9): Kuchar backed up his 64 on Thursday with a nearly-as-impressive 69 on Friday. With big dogs breathing down his neck, Kuchar went out and promptly bogeyed the par-5 first hole. Not the end of the world under normal circumstances, but the first at Riviera is the easiest hole on the course and a bogey there amounts to losing strokes to the field. Still, he leads by two after 36. He’ll have to hold off Rory McIlroy for 36, which I’m not sure is a task he’s up to — especially going wire to wire — but the drama of him trying to do so should be worth the price of admission on Saturday.
Other contenders of note — Rory McIlroy (-7), Adam Scott (-6), Jon Rahm (-4), Dustin Johnson (-4), Justin Rose (-4): Scott was great, and we’ll talk about him below. D.J. made two eagles (on No. 1 and No. 17) to get in the mix. Rose was 40-1 (!) to start the week. But the real story here is McIlroy.
It looks effortless. It looks simple. The mistakes do not look like problems. The eagles do not look like aberrations. Very simply, he looks like the best player in the world (which he is). McIlroy, who hasn’t driven it like his normal self yet this week, has been rolling it so well on the greens. Four of his six birdies on Friday were from 6 feet or longer, and he gained strokes on the greens on both sides of the course.
He’s making his money where he makes it, too. He’s played six par 5s so far this week, and he’s played them in 7 under. His score, coincidentally after 36 holes, is 7 under. The tee-to-green stuff will need a little improvement over the weekend as he looks to surge ahead and stay there, but through two rounds, this has all the makings of another Rory rout in a career quite full of them to this point.
What did Tiger Woods do? Big Cat did not play great., even though he drove it quite well. He said in his post-round interview what was clear in watching him play: that you can’t miss four greens from 150 yards or in when you’re sitting in the middle of the fairway. After promising starts on both Day 1 and Day 2, Tiger will need a miracle finish this weekend to be in contention.
Who had a great day? Adam Scott’s 64 was the round of the day and tied Kuchar for round of the week. He was my one-and-done pick this week, so I was thrilled after his 1-over 72 on Thursday. This course was made for him, too. It’s a ball-striking paradise, and Scott struck the hell out of it in Round 2. Fourth on approach shots, first from tee to green and no bogeys. A perfect day from maybe golf’s most perfect swing.
Who had a lousy day? It was a tough one for Phil Mickelson. After his 1-over 72 on Thursday, he shot a 3-over 74 on Friday. Lefty finished — are you ready for this? — 116th out of 120 golfers in the field from tee to green. There’s just no rhyme or reason to where the ball is going. Maybe that’s always been somewhat true, but the broader manifestation of that statistical reality over the last few years has been tough to stomach.
Stat of the day: This one from Rick Gehman was my favorite. Two IIIs!
One thing I loved: Rory’s “where’s Waldo” look today delivered us this line from Nick Faldo: “I need to get one of those shirts and do ‘Where’s Faldo.'” I am not ashamed to admit it made me laugh.
One thing I didn’t love: Brooks Koepka three-putting the last hole from 4 feet to go from -2 and “kinda, sorta in it” to even par and “way, way out of it.”
What to watch on Day 3: The in-game odds at the time he finished tell me everything I need to know. It’s Rory McIlroy’s tournament to lose, and everybody knows it. He’s a +200 favorite to close out his second win of the season, and only Matt Kuchar stands between that and Adam Scott at 10-1.
Rory’s starts (both in the tournament and in individual rounds) often tell a story of how things are going to go, and he’ll have an early chance on Saturday to make a statement. He’s played the first hole in 3 under so far this week, and with no other real heavyweights in the final few groups, we could have ourselves a runaway at Riviera Country Club by Saturday night.