The Aon Risk Reward Challenge’s Influential West Coast Swing
Number 10 at L.A.’s Riviera Country Club is one of the most iconic risk-reward holes in all of golf. The drivable 315-yard par-4 flaunts a lightning-fast, severely sloped, narrow green flanked by steep bunkers. What could possibly go wrong during competition here? Plenty, as many PGA TOUR players experienced this past week at the Genesis Invitational. Just ask Dustin Johnson, who in Thursday’s opening round hit two of 10's traps and took three shots just to get out of the second one. That was moments after Max Homa eagled it. Anything can happen, depending on a player’s approach. In his four rounds, winner Joaquin Neimann scored birdie, bogey, eagle and par on 10.
The Challenge's holes were designed to be just that -- challenging. The season-long competition takes the best two scores on one designated hole from every participating event throughout the season. The players across the PGA TOUR and LPGA Tour who make better decisions on these pivotal holes take home the Aon Trophy and an equal $1 million prize.
Aon’s Risk Reward Challenge holes have been pivotal during the entire 2022 West Coast Swing on the PGA TOUR. At the Farmers Insurance Open in San Diego – in a playoff on the par-5 18th at Torrey Pines South Course – Luke List and Will Zalatoris both drove the same bunker. No doubt a rarity. Both were forced with the better decision to lay up. List stuck his third shot close, crafting a birdie to capture the event.
At the AT&T Pebble Beach, where a go-for-green approach typically makes or breaks a score on the picturesque 543-yard 18th, Tom Hoge instead played conservatively – parring the iconic hole both rounds he played it. The hole was statistically among the most difficult during the tournament: Shotlink data revealed that less than 25 percent of pros trying to reach the green in two actually hit it. Yet Hoge’s ability to find focus helped him gain his first PGA TOUR victory.
Then there’s the WM Phoenix Open’s short par-4 17th at TPC Scottsdale, where water left of the green is often integral to the tournament outcome. This year, rookie and co-leader Sahith Theegala teed up what appeared to be a near-perfect 3-wood in the final round, only to see the ball kick left off a mound and roll through the green into the pond. His inevitable bogey -- only three of the 14 players who landed in the drink that day mustered a par, according to Shotlink -- ousted him from the playoff that Scottie Scheffler ultimately won. “Another yard right, it's perfect,” said Theegala afterward. Lesson learned for next year.
Jim Nantz, anchor for CBS golf coverage, believes that the stretch of Aon Risk Reward Challenge holes on the West Coast Swing has "set the tone for the rest of the year. These four holes can make or break a tournament, and some already have these past few weeks. If it’s a preview of the rest of the Aon Risk Reward Challenge in 2022, I look forward to watching it unfold and on some of my favorite holes, such as the par-5 15th at The Memorial and the short par-4 15th at the Travelers Championship.”
Now the PGA TOUR starts moving into the heart of the season, while the LPGA Tour is getting underway. With so much on the line for the players, and considering how the Aon Risk Reward Challenge holes have already been crucial to List, Hoge, Scheffler and Niemann, this will surely be a riveting competition all year that you’ll want to keep a close eye on. You can learn more about the Aon Risk Reward Challenge, including key insights on upcoming holes, and get a live look at the current leaderboards on the PGA TOUR and LPGA Tour.