What the numbers say about playing the par-4 10th at Riviera: Go for it!

What the numbers say about playing the par-4 10th at Riviera: Go for it!
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There is little debate that the 10th hole at Riviera Country Club is one of the great short par-4s in professional golf, but what about when it comes to strategy on the hole?

Should a player be aggressive off the tee or is it better to lay up? What have the top players in recent years decided to do on this hole that measures 315 yards on the scorecard?

There now exists 20 years of data at The Genesis Invitational to answer those and other questions surrounding Riviera’s iconic hole. Deep diving into the numbers, there are plenty of insights into play at the 10th. (Editor’s note: the information provided is from the Golf Channel research department.)

First off, what strategy do players employ in tournament competition? Going back to 2003 (when measuring started on these metrics), there have been years when laying up was the preference. The low year for going for the green was ’04, when just 36% of the field went for the green off the tee.

Full-field tee times from The Genesis Invitational

But the numbers have changed drastically in recent years. Just 49.5% of players went for the green at No. 10 in the 2014 Genesis. Since then, the percentages have steadily increased – to the point where nearly everyone is playing aggressively.

Going for the green percentage on No. 10 at Genesis since 2014:

  • 2014: 49.5%
  • 2015: 60.6%
  • 2016: 76.4%
  • 2017: 79.0%
  • 2018: 85.3%
  • 2019: 89.7%
  • 2020: 91.0%
  • 2021: 96.8%
  • 2022: 97.4*%

*Single-year high (measured since 2003)

But does going for the green lead to lower scores? The data is clear: yes, it does.

Here’s a look at scoring averages for those who went for the green and those who laid up, from 2015-20 at the Genesis (2021 and ’22 were excluded because the sample size of layups is too small). As you can see, players who went for the green, on average, score a quarter-stroke lower than those who didn’t.

Year GO for green lay up difference
2015 3.99 4.24 -0.25
2016 3.86 4.02 -0.16
2017 3.81 4.09 -0.27
2018 4.03 4.19 -0.16
2019 3.75 3.96 -0.21
2020 3.86 4.09 -0.23
Total 3.88 4.13 -0.25

These numbers hit across the entire field, from the top to the bottom. And, unsurprisingly, the top players in this week’s field have employed the aggressive go-for-it strategy at No. 10.

The top four players in the Official World Golf Ranking who are competing this week have played the 10th hole a combined 76 times. None of the four has ever laid up. Never. Xander Schauffele, the fifth-highest-ranked player in this year’s field has only done it once in 20 attempts.

But there is an outlier:

  • No. 1, Scottie Scheffler: 0 out of 14 career attempts
  • No. 2, Rory McIlroy: 0 out of 22
  • No. 3, Jon Rahm: 0 out of 16
  • No. 5, Patrick Cantlay: 0 out of 24
  • No. 6, Xander Schauffele: 1 out of 20
  • No. 7, Justin Thomas: 18 out of 28

Thomas isn’t just an outlier among the top-ranked players; he actually has the lowest go-for-the-green percentage on this hole of any player who has at least 15 rounds at the Genesis since 2015 (when Thomas made his event debut).

  • Justin Thomas: 35.7%
  • Vaughn Taylor: 38.1%
  • K.J. Choi: 43.8%
  • Jim Furyk: 50%
  • Jason Kokrak: 50%
  • Alex Noren: 50%

Thomas’ approach, however, has led to an enviable 3.68 career scoring average at the 10th.

Who owns the best scoring average on this hole?

Well, if you take the last 20 years at this event, with a minimum of 15 rounds played, it’s the event host:

  • Tiger Woods: 3.32
  • Bryson DeChambeau: 3.33
  • Webb Simpson: 3.56
  • David Toms: 3.56

One of the driving factors for players choosing the aggressive model could be driving distance. In 2003, the Tour average for driving distance was 285.9 yards. Last year, it was 299.8 yards.

Everyone, it seems, it getting longer off the tee. But has everyone ever gone for the green on No. 10 in a single round? Twice, in fact.

Two other times, since 2003, all but one player went for it:

  • 2019, Round 3: 100% (76/76)
  • 2021, Round 4: 100% (67/67)
  • 2019, Round 4: 98.7% (75/76)
  • 2022, Round 3: 98.7% (74/75)

Given the players access to information, and the numbers showing how aggression pays on one of golf’s greatest holes, you might see a 2023 round added to that list this week. 

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