PACIFIC PALISADES (California) – Max Homa was the hometown guy from nearby Valencia who won the Genesis Invitational in a playoff last year at Riviera Country Club. Hollywood moviemakers would have laughed at the ending, not to mention the missed 2-foot putt. The local boy doing well angle happens once in a blue moon – the last one was Long Beach’s John Merrick in 2013 – but may we be ready for another L.A. story?
Patrick Cantlay, a Long Beach native, is on a tear right now. He’s won two of his last six starts, dating back to August, and lost a playoff at the WM Phoenix Open on the third extra hole on Sunday. Cantlay isn’t too concerned about his recent near-miss.
“I try my hardest to understand and accept that seconds, thirds, and playoff defeats will happen,” he added. “At the same time, I will never be pleased with all top-10 finishes this year.” “My goal is to win tournaments, but I’ve been shut out so far this year.”
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He may be winless, but he’s playing some of his best golf of his life. Here are some more staggering figures: In his last 30 Tour rounds, Cantlay is 132 under par, with 28 of them in the 60s. He now returns home to a course that he enjoys just as much as any other.
He remarked ahead of the Genesis Invitational, “It’s a tournament I went to as a kid with my dad and grandpa and then played NCAAs here while I was in college at UCLA, my last year there.” “It’s a golf course that I consider to be one of, if not the greatest on Tour, so I’m excited to be here this week.”
He recalls standing near one of the greens as a kid – he believes it was the old 8th green – and being less than 10 paces from the hole location, with three balls stopping on a dime in front of him. He was astonished.
“Because I was thinking to myself, ‘Well, we might get struck standing here, we’re that close,’ and yet they all came in, must have been a wedge, and they all got inside 10 feet for birdie,” he explained.
He recalls how difficult it was to get out another time when it rained all day.
“Leaving the golf tournament, we sat in traffic for two, three hours,” he claimed.
There was also the occasion Justin Rose tossed him a golf glove.
He remarked, “I thought that was very nice.”
But ultimately, he adores Riviera, which is one of the nicest ballparks on the Tour.
“It protects par better than any golf course I’ve ever seen without getting fooled up.” They rarely grow rough, there’s almost no rough out there, there’s no water, and you can only truly knock it out of bounds on the 12th hole, but 13, 14, 15, 16 under wins almost every time. They could make it much more difficult if they wanted to, because the first hole is a par-5 that requires a 3-wood and a 7-iron. “I think it’s a fantastic golf test,” he remarked.
Cantlay is unconcerned about the spongy Kikuyu grass, which has been dubbed “Bermudagrass on steroids.” It makes for a wonderful fluffy fairway lie, but as rough, it can grab at the club and harm the wrist.
“The majority of people’s issues with Kikuyu are that they never play on it.” “We don’t see this grass very often in the globe; even the other L.A. courses don’t really have Kikuyu,” Cantlay added. “Anytime you have to play on a surface you’ve never played on before or have only played on a few times, it’s challenging.” I grew up in southern California, so I’m familiar with Kikuyu grass and don’t believe it’s particularly difficult.”
Cantlay is making his seventh career start this week, and he has four top-25 finishes in a row. Cantlay would become World No. 1 for the first time if he wins this week and Jon Rahm finishes worse than single fourth. There was no better place for him to do so than here.
“I think this one would be special for a number of reasons,” he remarked, “including the fact that it would be in my hometown on my favorite golf course on Tour.” “I’m hopeful that one day, here at this golf course, my day will come and I’ll be able to win.”