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Friday, February 22, 2019

Tiger Woods joins Jack Nicklaus, Arnold Palmer with Genesis status upgrade

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PACIFIC PALISADES, Calif. — Jay Monahan ended Wednesday’s announcement of “invitational” status for the Genesis Open by challenging the audience.

“I would invite you to find any other athlete on this planet that has done more for young people than Tiger Woods.”

With that statement and a new distinction for the LA stop, the PGA Tour had bequeathed a new status on the Genesis Open. A smaller field, bigger purse and the involvement of Tiger Woods in perpetuity elevates an event that already consistently draws the best field in the West Coast Swing. 

“I think most importantly it’s going to give us a week and an opportunity every single year to reflect upon this man’s staggering accomplishments on the golf course and his staggering philanthropic contributions, something that we’re excited to tell the world for a long time to come.”

The tour’s two other “invitational” events are Jack Nicklaus’ Memorial Tournament and the Arnold Palmer Invitational. Woods joins select company that Monahan is now essentially reserved for those who win 60 or more events and give back to the sport.

“If there comes a day where someone else wins 60 events, I guess that’s a conversation we’ll have,” Monahan said when asked about possible future invitationals. “But sitting at 80, two away from 82, he’s in a pretty remarkable position.

The Los Angeles stop becoming synonymous with Woods made for a natural fit given his 1992 debut here as a 16-year-old and the ensuing creation of his foundation in Anaheim. 

“To do it here where I grew up and to do it here where my entire career got started, I couldn’t ask for more of a symbiotic outcome,” Woods said before a full house of media and Genesis executives who are in year-three of a 10-year commitment.

Besides permanently marrying Woods with his hometown event and solidifying special status as one of only three events to enjoy perks befitting a “King,” top players will also benefit. World ranking points will improve with a stronger field, the purse jumps to $9.3 million next year and the winner receives a three-year exemption. The field drops from 144 to 120 players. Weekday rounds at Riviera have struggled to finish due to slow the huge field size and slower play.

Yet to be determined will be the tournament’s name. By eliminating 24 spots, the democratic nature of the Los Angeles stop ends a run as the longest continuously operated “open” in golf. The tournament’s 4-spot Monday and local PGA sectional qualifying are not expected to continue.  

“This is a great and positive move forward for the event,” said Monahan. “With fewer players playing here, it becomes all the more desirable and harder to get into. I think that adds to everything that our host brings to the event, everything that Genesis brings to the event. This event has always been in a special place in our schedule and I just think we’ve just taken a really positive step forward.”