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The Genesis Invitational, held at the iconic Riviera Country Club, concluded Sunday with Hideki Matsuyama emerging victorious in a thrilling display of skill and precision. The historic course, renowned for its challenging layout, demanded accuracy and ball-striking expertise from all, setting the stage for an exciting tournament.

Course Overview:

Riviera Country Club, nestled in the scenic Pacific Palisades, is a classic George C. Thomas design known for its tree-lined fairways, strategic bunkering, and undulating greens. Playing at just over 7,322 yards, the par-71 layout poses a stern test to golfers, requiring a strategic blend of power and finesse. Accuracy off the tee and precise ball striking are crucial elements for success on this demanding course. Luckily for the players, the weekend weather wasn’t an issue, which allowed players to play creatively through this challenging layout. 

Sunday Morning Situation: Starting off Sunday Patrick Cantaly was leading, sitting at (-14). Xander Schauffele and Will Zalatoris tied in second with (-12). Hideki was starting his Sunday tied for 7th at (-8). Most of the buzz that morning was surrounding Cantaly finishing strong or if we were going to see a resurgence from Zalatoris. Matsuyama would have to have a pretty fantastic round to try and make it to the top. 

Hideki Matsuyama’s Triumph:

Hideki Matsuyama’s victory at the Genesis Invitational was a masterclass in precision and composure. The Japanese golfer showcased his exceptional ball-striking ability, navigating the challenging Riviera layout with poise during a sensational Sunday performance, finishing with a 62(-9) on the day. 

Winning Shots on Sunday:

With 72 holes of golf to be played it can be difficult to put your finger on the critical moments that lead to a victory. Luckily with Strokes Gained we can pin point some specific moments that help lead Hideki to a comeback victory on Sunday. Strokes gained compares each shot against how a pro would do on average. Taking into consideration distance, lie type, and shot type, we can determine whether a shot was better or worse than average and by how much. If you do better than average, you gain strokes against the field, if you do worse, you lose strokes. The following are 3 of the key shots Hideki made on Sunday to get him to the top. 

46-Foot Putt on the 12th Hole:

Matsuyama’s began his final winning push with a huge putt on the 12th hole. After his approach shot from 179 yards, Hideki was left facing a 46-foot putt for birdie. His approach shot accuracy was on average for this distance. This putt however, was not. PGA pros from 46 feet on the green average 2.11 strokes. Hideki was able to do it in one. This putt gained him +1.11 strokes bringing him to (-6) par. While earning a stroke here might be obvious, this putt paired with a few other crucial moments helped lead Matsuyama to victory.

Strokes Gained: Putting (12th Hole): +1.11

Approach Shot on the 15th Hole:

The 15th hole, a par 4 featuring a narrow fairway and well-protected green, demanded precision on approach. After a 310 yard drive, Matsuyama was left with 187 yards to the pin. Hideki hit a pinpoint 6 iron that nearly wrapped into the hole for eagle, leaving him a tap in birdie. Tour scoring average from this distance on approach is 3.12 strokes. This shot was monumental. By Hideki leaving himself a tap in par a few inches from the hole, this approach shot gained him another +1.12 strokes. Heading towards the finishing holes, this brought him into a first place tie with Will Zalatoris. 

Strokes Gained: Approach (15th Hole): +1.12

Approach Shot on the 16th Hole:

The 16th hole, a 166 yard par-3 was the shortest hole on the course. Surrounded on all sides by deep bunkers, this was no place to make a mistake.  Matsuyama’s approach on this hole was nothing short of perfection, nearly recreating his last shot on 15. Tour average from this distance is 3.0008 strokes. Yet again, by leaving himself a tap in birdie he was able to steal another +1.01 strokes. This crucial shot further solidified his claim to the Genesis Invitational title. 

Strokes Gained: Approach (16th Hole): +1.01

Conclusion:

Hideki Matsuyama’s triumph at the Genesis Invitational was a testament to his exceptional accuracy and ball-striking skills. These 3 moments in his (-9) performance on Sunday were where he gained the most strokes against the field. When people talk about Riviera, ball striking is a typical topic of conversation. It is insightful to breakdown Strokes Gained data and see just how important ball striking and accuracy really was for the winner this week. After a fight with back injuries since his last wins in 2021 (Masters) and 2022 (ZOZO Championship) it was great to see Hideki come back out on top with a big win at the Genesis Invitational. 

This article was written using Golfshot’s Strokes Gained Benchmark DataFor Tour Pros