The final leg of the West Coast Swing takes place on the PGA Tour this week when the Genesis Open is played out and while all the focus will once again be on Tiger Woods this has all the makings of a brilliant tournament on a superb golf course with a wonderful field assembled.
Dustin Johnson powered clear of the field here last year and he is back to defend his title but a seriously good cast list will attempt to dethrone him including the great Tiger Woods.
2017 – Dustin Johnson
2016 – Bubba Watson
2015 – James Hahn
2014 – Bubba Watson
2013 – John Merrick
2012 – Bill Haas
2011 – Aaron Baddeley
2010 – Steve Stricker
2009 – Phil Mickelson
2008 – Phil Mickelson
Riviera Country Club remains the venue for this tournament. Once again the course is a par 71 which measures 7,322 in yards but with the recent theme on the PGA Tour of fast and firm tracks it may well not play to its full yardage.
This is a second shot golf course but I think when you look at the recent finishes the extra length off the tee is no bad thing but the important facet is hitting greens. These greens are small and they take some finding so greens in regulation is a big thing. The greens on this course are notoriously among the most difficult to putt on all season so this will not become a putting contest so we can focus more on tee to green specialists with a bit of length.
World number one Dustin Johnson is joined by some huge names this week. Tiger Woods will get all the attention but we shouldn’t forget that Justin Thomas, Rory McIlroy and Jordan Spieth are all in the field as is last week’s runner up Phil Mickelson.
Some of the best in Europe are here for this tournament too with Paul Casey, Thomas Pieters, Alex Noren and Tommy Fleetwood all on show while Charl Schwartzel and Marc Leishman will lead the international charge. Last week’s champion Ted Potter Jr is also in the field this week.
Dustin Johnson is the favourite this week as he bids to defend the title. He is 5/1 to win the tournament and off the back of finishing second last week you would have to say that is fair enough although it should be remembered that he bombed a big lead in that tournament which might be a concern. He’s a class act suited to this course but this field is too stacked to get on at 5/1 in my eyes.
Jordan Spieth and Rory McIlroy come joint second in the betting. They are both 14/1 to win the tournament but Spieth doesn’t look anywhere near on top of his game and might give up a little too much length while McIlroy can’t seem to put it all together at the minute which puts me off him too.
Justin Thomas is the fourth favourites for the tournament and he ticks plenty of boxes with the exception of current form. His temporary partnership with Bones hasn’t really delivered the goods and it might not be the week for JT to come good again. Bones’ former boss Phil Mickelson comes next at 25/1 and if he can keep the ball in play off the tee, admittedly a big if, then he could well win this title again. It is 28/1 bar.
I was on Thomas Pieters at a massive price around here last year and he chased Johnson home and I think his European counterpart Tommy Fleetwood could be ideally suited to this track. He’ll keep it in play with some decent length off the tee and he is one of the best players into greens in the world. We’ve seen a lot recently how his putting is good anywhere. Fleetwood has already won this year when he dotted up on the final day in Abu Dhabi and I’m expecting a huge run from him here.
Daniel Berger has all the tools needed to go well around here. He has been here a couple of times now so should know how the course plays. He is long off the tee and accurate with it and has ranked third and eleventh in greens hit in two of his three tournaments this year. He was right there in Phoenix but couldn’t quite go with Chez Reavie and Gary Woodland on the final day but his tee to green game should have him right there again this week.
There is no doubt that Bubba Watson is finding his form again now that he is using a normal golf ball. Whether he is ready to win again remains to be seen but I’ve got to back him here because I would be annoyed with myself if I don’t and he does win. Watson was fourth in greens hit last week and in the top 20 in Phoenix before that so his game is coming together. We know he is a horse for a course and having won twice here this course suits him. I’ll pay to see how he goes here.
Kevin Streelman led the field in scrambling at the Pebble Beach event last week and prior to that in each of his previous four tournaments he was second in greens hit. At the CareerBuilder he led the field in fairways hit as well so his tee to green game is perfect at the minute. His putting has denied him better finishes but nobody has much of an advantage on these greens. If he can just be solid with the short stick he has a great chance of going deep here.
Sang-Moon Bae has a good record around this course which might go under the radar given that he’s had to do national service in recent times. Understandably his return to the tour has been a little on the slow side but there were signs last week at the Pebble Beach even that he is beginning to hit his stride again. His numbers there were encouraging and with a previous win in California to his name I fancy he’ll go well again here. He should out-perform his large price.
Back T.Fleetwood to win Genesis Open (e/w) for a 1/10 stake at 34.00 with Coral (1/5 1-7)
Back K.Streelman to win Genesis Open (e/w) for a 0.5/10 stake at 81.00 with Coral (1/5 1-7)
Back S-M.Bae to win Genesis Open (e/w) for a 0.5/10 stake at 126.00 with Coral (1/5 1-7)
Back D.Berger to win Genesis Open (e/w) for a 1/10 stake at 51.00 with 888sport (1/5 1-6)
WON – Back B.Watson to win Genesis Open (e/w) for a 0.5/10 stake at 67.00 with 888sport (1/5 1-6)