Jordan Spieth played 12 holes on Thursday, then six more on Friday morning. Despite the staggered schedule, it was a productive two days at Riviera, as he carded a bogey-free 7-under 64 to walk off the course with the lead midway through the first round of the Genesis Open.
The rest of his Friday? Some light work, then a much-needed nap. He won’t start his second round until Saturday morning, which means he’ll need to cram 54 holes into the weekend. Time to conserve his energy for a long two days.
“Be prepared for 27 to 30 holes tomorrow and potentially another 27ish on Sunday,” Spieth said. “I think less is more at this point. Try and get some really good, solid, quick work in and then lay around all day.”
After storms dumped more than two inches of rain on the course and forced a seven-hour delay to the start of Thursday’s first round, players on both sides of the draw now face an arduous schedule in hopes of completing the tournament Sunday afternoon.
For players in the early/late wave, such as Spieth and Tony Finau (tied for second in the clubhouse at 5 under with Patrick Rodgers and Kramer Hickok), it meant two early wake-up calls and now a challenging long weekend.
Like Spieth, Finau walked off the course Friday morning with one objective: rest.
“I think we deserve some chill time after a couple 4 a.m. wake‑up calls,” said Finau, adding that “emotionally we were kind of prepared for it. I saw the weather forecast for the week and knew it could be something similar to the AT&T last week at Pebble Beach, so mentally and emotionally you've got to prepare.”
The final round of Sunday’s AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am was delayed one hour by rain, then nearly 2-1/2 additional hours after a hailstorm hit the area. The final group of Phil Mickelson and Paul Casey had to play two holes on Monday morning, with Mickelson winning by three shots.
Mickelson and Casey are both in the field this week and completed their first rounds Friday morning. Mickelson, a two-time Genesis Open champ, shot a 1-over 72 in which he failed to post a single birdie-or-better. Casey opened with a 70.
For players in the late/early wave, who were unable to tee off Thursday, the prospects of a long Friday loom. Their wave teed off before 8 a.m., and after completing their first round, they will immediately start their second round in hopes of getting in 36 holes (or as many as possible) before darkness stops play.
It's tough, it's spongy ground, it will wear on you a bit if you're not careful. So it's all about trying to save as much energy as possible more than anything else.
Those players include the threesome of Tiger Woods, Rory McIlroy and Justin Thomas. Woods, who has never won the Genesis Open in 12 career starts, suffered two bogeys in his first seven holes.
Although Riviera hasn’t always been kind to Tiger, it should be fairly welcoming to the field.
“This afternoon wave's getting a soft golf course with the tees up and some pretty benign conditions,” Spieth said, “so even if you're pushing to the lead of the morning wave, it's likely that somebody's going to shoot 7, 8, 9 under even though it's Riviera. It's as gettable as it can possibly be right now.”
Perhaps that will make up for the 36-hole day that the afternoon wave faces Friday.
“The way I look at it is -- it’s going to be one very long round,” said Jon Rahm, who started his first round Friday morning in a group that includes Bryson DeChambeau and Matt Kuchar.
“If you get hot, you don’t have to wait a whole day [to play again]. You can just keep going. And if you start off on the wrong foot, maybe a couple over through nine or something, you can think, ‘I’ve got 27 holes to make that up.’ Either way, you’ve got a lot of time to make it up or a lot of time to make birdies.”
Harris English took time out from his practice session Thursday to watch how players were attacking the 10th hole, especially with the pin position on the right side. He’s not worried about playing 36 holes; he’s had to do it during U.S. Open qualifying.
“It’s more of a mental test than a physical test,” said English. “It’s staying focused. Obviously, your body is going to be tired and you’re going to make some tired swings but you’ve got to keep your head in it as much as possible and try to not make any dumb mental mistakes. That can happen – especially on a tough course like this.”
Just how tough Riviera actually is remains to be seen. And just which side of the draw has the advantage also remains in doubt.
The one thing that’s assured is the at least one marathon session awaits each player.
“I've had to play 30 holes, 36 holes in a day a couple years ago and it can be very taxing here,” Spieth said. “It's tough, it's spongy ground, it will wear on you a bit if you're not careful. So it's all about trying to save as much energy as possible more than anything else.”