By The Numbers: When attacking No. 10 at Riviera, statistics say 'go left, young man'

PACIFIC PALISADES, CA - FEBRUARY 19: Dustin Johnson tees off on the 10th hole as fans watch during the final round of the Genesis Open at Riviera Country Club on February 19, 2017 in Pacific Palisades, California. (Photo by Keyur Khamar/PGA TOUR) Keyur Khamar/PGA TOUR

By The Numbers: When attacking No. 10 at Riviera, statistics say 'go left, young man'

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By The Numbers: When attacking No. 10 at Riviera, statistics say 'go left, young man'

The 10th hole at Riviera Country Club, site of this week’s Genesis Open, long has been considered one of the most interesting risk/reward holes in golf. A short par-4, its scorecard yardage is listed at only 315 yards. But last year it played from as little as 291 yards when the hole was positioned on the left side of the green to 313 when it was in the back-right corner.

During the telecast, you are going to hear analysts and players talk about the challenge the hole presents and how its design makes the pros think.

Tour pros can challenge the greenside bunkers in an effort to hit the green and set up an eagle or easy birdie, but the penalty for failure is landing in one of the greenside bunkers and struggling to make par. You read that right – even the pros can struggle to get down in three shots from the wrong spot in one of the greenside bunkers.

Lay up short of the fairway bunker

The less risky play is to lay up short of the fairway bunker and hit an 80- to 100-yard wedge shot to the green. Eagles are unlikely from there, but the worst score an accomplished player should make is par.

That may be how George Thomas and Billy Bell intended the hole to play, but going inside the numbers reveals there is a best way to play the 10th, regardless of where the hole is positioned. Never lay-up, and always hit either a driver or a fairway wood at the left edge of the green.

Cameron Tringale, who led the PGA Tour last season in birdie-or-better percentage when going for a green in less than regulation (meaning with a second shot into a par 5 or trying to drive a par 4), employed that strategy in last year’s Genesis Open. He is relatively short hitter by PGA Tour standards and averaged just 280.9 yards (ranked 168th) per tee shot last season. But on the 10th at Riviera, he hit over the fairway bunker on the left each day and made three birdies and a par. Tringale played the 10th hole so well that he gained more than 1.59 shots on the average player in the field, which helped him finish in a tie for eighth.

In the diagram below, the red dots indicate the landing area for every tee shot that led to a birdie during last season’s Genesis Open.

Riviera No. 10 Birdies in 2017

Twelve of the 117 birdies made on the 10th hole last season were carded by players whose tee shot stopped short of the fairway bunker on the left, four were approximately even with the bunker and in the fairway, and Charl Schwartzel and Bryce Molder made birdies after hitting into the fairway bunker. The remaining 99 birdies were made by players who went over the fairway bunker and left themselves less than 50 yards to the hole or who went to the right side of the hole and got up and down from the rough or sand to make birdies.

Left is best on No. 10

The black dots in the following diagram represent where tee shots landed before golfers made bogey or worse last year on Riviera’s 10th hole. Some tee shots that went too far to the left resulted in bogeys, but notice that there are no black dots short and left of the green – that area is filled with red dots for birdies in the other diagram. This shows that when the pros attack the left side of the green and avoid going too far left off the tee, there is plenty of reward but little risk for the approach shot. That assumes, of course, that the pro hits a good tee shot.

No. 10 at Riviera Country Club Bogeys or Worst in 2017

There is another revealing stat that should encourage the pros to go for the green off the tee when they play the 10th hole at Riviera. Every golfer on the PGA Tour last season had a lower season-long score relative to par when he went for the green compared to his cumulative score when he laid up.

Tringale was 70 under for the season on holes on which he tried to reach drivable par 4s or tried to hit the green in two shots on par 5s, but he was just 7 under when he laid up. Jordan Spieth was -100 when he went for the green and -7 when he laid up, and Jason Day was -92 going for the green and +4 when he laid up.

If you are in the field this week at the Genesis Open, don’t over-think this. Attacking the left side of the green is the smartest play. Gwk

 

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