Los Angeles awaits Rory McIlroy after two week break

Northern Irishman still hunting first win of the season after going close in Middle East

Rory McIlroy has had two weeks away from competition, time to do his box jumps in the gym and to adjust whatever needed tweaking with his 3-wood, the club that proved most troublesome in his efforts to make for a winning start to his season in the Middle East.

After a 12th placed finish in Abu Dhabi and a third in the Dubai Desert Classic, the Northern Irishman – who has moved up one place to fifth in the official world rankings whilst staying at home – resumes tournament play at this week's Genesis Invitational at Riviera Country Club in Los Angeles.

The tournament, hosted by Tiger Woods, has attracted the world's top-10 players – with both Collin Morikawa and Patrick Cantlay potentially overtaking Jon Rahm at the head of the rankings – and, with a limited field of 120 players, it finishes the West Coast Swing on the PGA Tour with next week's Honda Classic starting a run of four events on the Florida Swing that also takes in next month's The Players.

Séamus Power and Graeme McDowell both missed the cut last week in Phoenix and will be aiming to bounce back in the Genesis which has a purse of €10.6 million ($12m) and a winner's prize of €1.9m ($2.16m).


Supreme Scheffler

For Scottie Scheffler, who beat Patrick Cantlay in a playoff for the WM Phoenix Open and to claim his breakthrough PGA Tour win, it will be a case of maintaining the momentum.

The American birdied four of the final six holes for a 67 to match Cantlay at 16-under-par 268, before then securing a birdie at the third hole of sudden death to claim his first title on tour in what was his 71st start on the PGA Tour.

“It’s definitely nice to get my first win under the belt. I think the first one is probably always the hardest and I made it pretty difficult on myself, going into the playoff and having to beat a player like Patrick is tough,” said Scheffler.

Of having so many near misses in the past and finally getting over the line, Scheffler added: “I (didn’t) really think about it too often. For me, I just like trying to improve. I like trying to get better. I like playing golf (on tour). It’s fun for me. I feel like it’s where I’m meant to be.”

Scheffler also took time to acknowledge the great play of Sahith Theegala who, playing on a sponsor’s invitation, suffered a cruel bounce of the ball on the 17th hole in missing out on the playoff by one shot. Theegala has also received an invite to the Genesis.

“I think he’s got tons of potential. He’s obviously really talented, hits a lot of different golf shots . . . . it’s tough getting started out here. It’s tough playing with leads. It’s tough playing in this environment and he handled himself great, just didn’t execute it towards the end, got a really bad break on 17 to have that ball go in the water. So, the sky’s the limit for him and I’m excited to see where his career is going to go,” said Scheffler of Theegala.

Pádraig Harrington is also resuming tournament play after taking a one week break following on from his DP World Tour seasonal start in the UAE. The Dubliner is juggling a number of tour commitments and this week makes his first start of the year on the Champions Tour competing in the Chubb Classic at Tiburon Golf Club in Naples, Florida, where Darren Clarke is also in the 80-man field.

With no tournament on the DP World Tour (the next event is the Kenya Open in March), the Challenge Tour’s latest stop in South Africa at least provides some competitive options and a quartet of Irish players - Niall Kearney, Paul Dunne, Gavin Moynihan and John Murphy - are playing in the Cape Town Open at Royal Cape Golf Club.

Philip Reid

Philip Reid

Philip Reid is Golf Correspondent of The Irish Times