RBC Heritage

Harbour Town Golf Links

Genesis Invitational

Jason Day was a Riviera hater, but a new attitude has produced stellar results

February 15, 2024

Jason Day tees off the fourth hole during the first round of the Genesis Invitational.

Harry How

LOS ANGELES — Time and again, players stream through interviews at Riviera Country Club and heap praise on the 1926 George C. Thomas layout. Tiger Woods, Adam Scott, Patrick Cantlay, Max Homa … they all speak in wonderous tones of how such an old, shorter track can still test the best players in the world.

It's a big fan club. For the longest time, Jason Day didn’t want the secret clubhouse password.

Many of the Aussies love Riviera and its tournament, the Genesis Invitational, because the Kikuyu grass and eucalyptus—“gum trees” Down Under—remind them of home. Scott said this week that even the smells bring back fond memories. To which Day quipped on Thursday, “Well, it doesn't smell like Bermuda and sand greens where I grew up.”

Early in his career, Day hardly felt welcomed at Riviera. He played three straight times starting in 2010, missed two cuts and tied for 62nd. Five years later, he was back, only to get a T-64. He took another break, and three years later came another missed cut.

It wasn’t until last year’s Genesis, with Day having returned to full health and taking a new attitude, that he thrived. He shot 67 in the second round and charged with a 65 on the final day to finish T-9 at nine under.

After another six-under-par 65 in this year’s opening round of the $20 million Genesis on Thursday put him into a three-way tie for second, Day might have fully turned the corner on his Riv-attitude.

“In my early days, I disliked this golf course,” Day admitted. “Like, it's very easy to dislike it if you kind of get out of position, and you can't run something up to the green because it just kind of sticks at the front [in the Kikuyu]. If you're coming out of the rough and it lands on the green, it goes over the back. And if you don't [play well], you get frustrated and you're like, I don't like this golf course.

“One of two things had to change,” Day explained. “I either wouldn't play here, or you just have to change your attitude a little bit. … I think changing that mindset and that attitude, saying that this is one of my favorite stops of the year, because it is a tremendous golf course. Rich history from like some of the greats that have played the tour have played here and won here.

“… For me to try and change that mindset, that attitude was huge. Obviously, I've found some success, which is good.”

This would count as success: On Thursday, Day made six birdies against no bogeys and tied for second in the field with 13 greens in regulation.

“A lot of good, quality shots into the greens,” surmised Day, who has climbed back to 19th in the world following his 13th career PGA Tour win at last May’s Byron Nelson. He already has two top-10 finishes this season.

Day was asked if he thought his back-to-back 65s at Riviera prove that he’s cracked some kind of code.

“I didn't even know I did that,” he said. “I've got the worst memory in the world, though."