What the numbers say about playing the par-4 10th at Riviera: Go for it!
There is little debate that the 10th hole at Riviera Country Club is one of the best short par-4 holes in professional golf, but what about hole strategy?
Should the player be aggressive from the tee, or is it better not to bet? What have the best players of recent years decided to do on this 315-yard hole on the score sheet?
Now The Genesis Invitational has 20 years of data to answer these and other questions related to the legendary Riviera Hole. By diving deep into the numbers, you can understand how to play in 10th place. (Editor’s note: The information provided is provided by the Golf Channel Research Department.)
First, what strategy do players use in tournaments? Going back to 2003 (when the measurement of these indicators began), there were years when warehousing was preferred. The lowest year for green play was in 2004, when only 36% of players played the green from the tee.
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But the numbers have changed a lot in recent years. Only 49.5% of players chose green at number 10 in the 2014 Genesis. Since then, the percentages have risen steadily, to the point where almost everyone is playing aggressively.
Aiming for a green percentage in 10th place in Genesis since 2014:
- 2014: 49.5%
- 2015: 60.6%
- 2016: 76.4%
- 2017: 79.0%
- 2018: 85.3%
- 2019: 89.7%
- 2020: 91.0%
- 2021: 96.8%
- 2022: 97.4*%
* One year maximum (measured since 2003)
But does going green lead to lower scores? The data is clear: yes, it is.
Here’s a look at the average scores for those who went to the green and those who idled from 2015 to 2020 on the Genesis (2021 and 22 were excluded because the sample size of idles is too small). As you can see, players who hit the green average a quarter fewer hits than those who don’t.
These numbers hit the entire field, from top to bottom. And, unsurprisingly, the top players this week used an aggressive “go ahead” strategy as they finished in 10th place.
The top four players in the Official World Golf Rankings competing this week have played the 10th hole a total of 76 times. None of the four ever lay down. Never. Xander Schauffele, the fifth player this year, only did it once in 20 attempts.
But there is an exception:
- No. 1, Scotty Sheffler: 0 out of 14 career attempts
- No. 2, Rory McIlroy: 0 of 22
- No. 3, John Ram: 0 out of 16
- No. 5, Patrick Cantley: 0 out of 24
- No. 6, Xander Schauffele: 1 out of 20
- No. 7, Justin Thomas: 18 out of 28
Thomas is not just an exception among the best players; in fact, he has the lowest hitting percentage on that hole of any player who has had at least 15 rounds on the Genesis since 2015 (when Thomas made his tournament debut).
- Justin Thomas: 35.7%
- Won Taylor: 38.1%
- KJ Choi: 43.8%
- Jim Furyk: 50%
- Jason Cockrack: 50%
- Alex Noren: 50%
However, Thomas’ approach resulted in an enviable career average of 3.68 in 10th place.
Who has the best average on this hole?
Well, if you take the last 20 years in this tournament by playing a minimum of 15 rounds, then this is the organizer of the event:
- Tiger Woods: 3.32
- Bryson DeChambeau: 3.33
- Webb Simpson: 3.56
- David Thoms: 3.56
One of the driving factors for players opting for an aggressive model could be driving distance. In 2003, the Tour averaged 285.9 yards. Last year it was 299.8 yards.
Everything seems to be getting bigger from the tee. But has everyone ever gone to the green number 10 in the same round? Twice, in fact.
Two more times, since 2003, all the players went for it, except for one:
- 2019, 3 round: 100% (76/76)
- 2021, 4th round: 100% (67/67)
- 2019, 4th round: 98.7% (75/76)
- 2022 3rd round: 98.7% (74/75)
Given players’ access to information and the numbers showing how aggression pays off on one of golf’s biggest holes, you could see a 2023 round added to the list this week.