Rip driver and go for the green? Fly the cross-bunkers that split the fairway and squeeze a 3-wood towards the front-left edge of the putting surface? Or lay right back with a mid-iron and trust your wedge game to make birdie?
That’s the conundrum facing Adam Scott as he attempts to defend his Genesis Invitational title at one of American golf’s most revered par 4s, the 288-metre 10th at Riviera Country Club.
Once described by fellow PGA Tour player and course architecture buff Zac Blair as a “diabolical drive-and-pitch hole”, the George Thomas classic plays from an elevated tee and turns right towards a green that could double as a snooker table both in size and elevation.
Although it plays in the opposite direction and downhill as opposed to up, Riviera’s 10th shares some design principles with the 10th hole of Royal Melbourne’s famed West Course, it too considered one of the world’s great short par 4s for its examination of intestinal fortitude.
Rewards are tantalisingly within reach; a bitten hand a terrifying possibility.
— PGA TOUR (@PGATOUR) February 17, 2021
A two-time winner at Riviera with runner-up finishes in 2006 and 2016, Scott is chasing consecutive titles alongside world No.1 Dustin Johnson and three-time Riviera champion Bubba Watson starting with a decision that every player must face.
“Generally, the strategy there now is to move it down as far as you can to the front left of the green,” Scott said of his methodology.
“Obviously hitting a 3-wood or driver, it’s hard to control exactly where it’s going to finish but I think that’s generally the best play.
“The green is so narrow and this week it’s so firm, I certainly don’t want to leave myself a 90-yard pitch.
“There’s probably very little chance of hitting the green actually, so then you get into that bunker situation.
“You’ve just got to get it down there, roll the dice a little bit. If you hit a hell of a shot and it ends up on the green, then that’s great. Otherwise, just start working at scrambling from around the green. Sometimes you have to chip it to 30 feet, that’s the best you can do.
“It could only be conditions or wind or something that would change that strategy for me.”
Scott’s win 12 months ago was his first start of the year and immediately raised the prospect of contending for a second Masters crown at Augusta National in April.
The COVID-19 pandemic stripped Scott of that momentum but he believes that playing well at Riviera this week can set him up once again to add to his tally of 14 PGA Tour victories.
“One thing with this golf course here is I feel like I’m playing at home,” Scott explained.
“I didn’t grow up necessarily on poa (greens) but just being out there, the landscape, everything, it feels very much… even the smells feel like I’m playing as a kid back at home.
“I feel like if you’ve had a good week here, it’s a good measure certainly generally of where your game is at.
“There would be an exception if you didn’t hit it well around here and you had a good week, but it can happen.
“It’s such a demanding course into the greens here that if you played well here, you’re pretty much ready for any event.
“To win on quality golf courses is just a little something extra and I consider Memorial or Muirfield Village and here to do that.
“It was very satisfying for me to win here.”
A week after countryman Jason Day signalled his intention to play until his 50th birthday, Scott outlined some of his own career goals now that he sits on the other side of 40.
Swinging it as sweetly as ever and with a body devoid of many of the ailments that can affect golfers in their later years, Scott’s quest to reach 20 PGA Tour wins and equal Greg Norman remains very much attainable.
“I think over the next five years I can win another 10 plus tournaments as long as I’m still physically in good shape,” said Scott, who has finished inside the top-20 in nine of 12 appearances at Riviera.
“I’d like to push on hard and I’d really like to see myself get on a bit of a roll at some point in the next couple years and rack up some wins.
“I’ve watched a lot of guys do it over the past or five or six years, like Brooks (Koepka) or Dustin (Johnson), who consistently wins, but thinking back to Jason Day, he won nine times in 18 months maybe.
“I’m looking to try to work my game into that kind of form.
“I see all the areas at times good enough, I just have to put it all together.”