LOS ANGELES – As a general rule, long hitters and Riviera Country Club go together like Los Angeles and traffic jams.
Recent winners at the Genesis Open make up a who’s-who list of the game’s longest hitters, from Dustin Johnson last year to Bubba Watson in 2014 and 2016. Just don’t tell Tony Finau it’s a one-dimensional golf course.
Finau led the PGA Tour last year in driving distance and is seventh off the tee with a 301-yard average this week, but it wasn’t his prodigious tee shots that lifted him into a share of the first-round lead.
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“I’m definitely a shot-maker, very creative, very instinctive when I play and very visual. So this course allows you to do that,” said Finau, who is tied with Patrick Cantlay after an opening 66. “There’s no one way you’ve got to hit it on this golf course; you can do it a lot of different ways. I don’t think it favors a guy who hits a fade or draw. You can kind of do it all on this golf course.”
To Finau’s point, Cantlay is a middle-of-the-pack player off the tee, ranked 39th in driving distance this week, and Tom Hoge, who is tied for third a stroke back, averaged just 277 yards off the tee on Thursday (99th in the field).
Instead, it was Finau’s iron play – he’s second in greens in regulation – and putting – he converted 14 of 16 attempts from 10 feet and in – that lifted him into a share of the lead.