Golf: Woods honored as Genesis Open granted 'elevated status'

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - The Tiger Woods-hosted Genesis Open was granted "elevated status" on the PGA Tour on Wednesday, promising a bright future for the tournament to go with its rich history. The tour announced that starting next year the tournament formerly known as the Los Angeles Open will join Jack Nicklaus's Memorial tournament in Ohio and the Arnold Palmer Invitational in Florida in the special category. This means the field will be reduced from 144 to 120 players, the winner will receive a three-year exemption instead of the usual two years, and prize money will rise $1.9 million to $9.3 million. Played at Riviera Country Club, the event has been won over the years by a Who's Who of golf -- Palmer, Ben Hogan, Sam Snead, Tom Watson, Nick Faldo, Ernie Els and Phil Mickelson -- although Nicklaus and Woods are notable exceptions. Woods has played no tournament on tour more often without tasting victory. "In recognition of Tiger's place alongside Jack and Arnold as a modern-day golf icon who hosts a home-based PGA Tour tournament ... elevating the Genesis Open is an important and deserved step toward further cementing Tiger’s legacy in our sport," tour commissioner Jay Monahan said. "This announcement comes at a particularly relevant time as Tiger continues to chase history and Sam Snead’s record of 82 PGA Tour victories." Woods, 43, enters this week's event with 80 tour victories and still has plenty of time to break Snead's record. "I’m honored and grateful that the Genesis Open will receive elevated status and join Arnold's and Jack's tournaments," Woods said. "To be included with two of the greatest golfers of all-time, in my hometown and at an event that benefits my TGR Foundation is something I could never have imagined when I first visited Riviera with my Pop." Woods made his tour debut at Riviera in 1992, a skinny 16-year-old, much-hyped amateur whose reputation was already such that he attracted a large gallery. It was perhaps fitting that the teenager destined to become the most famous golfer of all time made his first appearance on tour at a course that has been home over the years to the rich and famous, with Walt Disney and Humphrey Bogart former members. Other top players welcomed the news of the tournament's elevated status. "I consider this one of our biggest events on tour," said 2017 winner Dustin Johnson. "It always has a great field on a great golf course. It should have elevated status." This year's stellar field will be challenged by a Riviera course that is lush and soft after a wet winter, and Thursday's forecast says there is a 100 percent chance of more rain. (Reporting by Andrew Both in Cary, North Carolina; Additional reporting by Rory Carroll; Editing by Toby Davis)