Riviera Country Club was a monster on Saturday in Round 3 of the Genesis Invitational, and most of the leaders of the tournament got a benign version of what it could have been. Play was suspended in the early afternoon after wind started shooting golf balls all over the greens, but even when the gales calmed and players were brought back after a four-hour delay, the field average rose to over 73.
Part of what makes Riviera such a great track is that it brings so much variance into play on every hole. Whereas normal PGA Tour courses rarely deviate from a birdie-bogey variance, double seems to be in play on most holes at Riviera (all but two holes have seen doubles so far this week).
Sam Burns has navigated that danger as well as anyone (more on that below). He was part of the contingent that failed to finish because of darkness on Saturday, but his position going into Sunday is similar to his position going into Saturday. He’s up big on the field and trying to shut down the first PGA Tour win of his career at a golf course that’s playing akin to a major championship.
We’ll take a look at his round, where he stands and who will be chasing going into Sunday.
1. Sam Burns (-10 thru 13): When the third round is wrapped early on Sunday morning at Riviera, Burns will likely have achieved something that has not happened in 50 years by leading outright after each of the first three rounds here. The bad news for him is that he has some of the best players of his (or any) generation on his heels with just over one round left in the event and he did not close out Saturday’s round very well. He was a live favorite for most of the day, according to William Hill Sportsbook, but he’s been riding a pretty hot putter. It wouldn’t be surprising to see him fade on Sunday, although it would be a hell of a place for him to get win No. 1. Also, if his short game looks like this on Sunday, that’s a wrap.
2. Matthew Fitzpatrick (-8 thru 17): The Englishman led the field in strokes gained from tee to green on Saturday, and his short game is always sublime. I always go back to his weekend at the Memorial when he shot 68 on Sunday when nobody else in the field broke 70. Remember that one if he makes a break for it in the final round.
T3. Dustin Johnson (-7 thru 13): It would be beneficial to Burns if D.J. did not play his way into the final group when everyone finishes up Round 3 early on Sunday morning. D.J. leads the field in strokes gained from tee to green, and it seems as if he’s just been meandering around the course for three days but is now in prime position to win this tournament for the second time in five years.
T3. Max Homa (-7 thru 13): He made a 3 on No. 10 on Saturday that made me laugh out loud. As meaningful as winning the Wells Fargo Championship was for him a few years ago, I cannot imagine how important it would be to him to win in L.A. The sub-story here is that Homa has quietly turned himself into a legit contender at big events nearly on an incredibly consistent basis.
6. Patrick Cantlay (-6 thru 16): It’s unsurprising that Cantlay is playing well. He’s been on a good run, has a history here and is an elite ball-striker. Only a handful of players have been better from tee to green this week, and he’s your most likely to go shoot 64 just ahead of the leaders and steal one.
T12. Jordan Spieth (-4 thru 15): Spieth faded a bit late on Saturday, and is in danger of ending his streak of 11 straight measured rounds in which he’s gained strokes on the field with his iron play. It’ll take a pretty special Sunday (especially with his putter) to chase down Burns and hold off D.J. and Cantlay, but a third consecutive top-five finish is definitely on the table.