The West Coast swing draws to a close on the PGA Tour this week with arguably the best tournament in the mini-schedule when some of the best players in the world go at it in the Genesis Open ahead of the first WGC event of 2019 next week.
Bubba Watson enhanced his outstanding record in this tournament when he landed the title last year and he goes in search of a successful defence of his title for the first time in his career. A number of good players will look to dethrone him.
2018 – Bubba Watson
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
The iconic Riviera Country Club is the venue for this tournament, which makes the event what it is. It is a par 71 which stretches to 7,322 yards and with the weather that has been in the area in recent times it is likely to play to its full yardage which might suit the longer hitters over the course of the week.
If you look at the recent renewals of the event it is very much a second shot golf course, in keeping with Augusta National in that regard although unlike Augusta the greens here are small and are difficult to find. Scrambling is a big factor this week while those who hit the greens are likely to pick up an advantage on the rest of the field. Tee to green specialists with an ounce of length might be the way forward here.
A number of men jump off the list in terms of the field this week but whenever Tiger Woods tees it up there is a little something extra in the profile of the tournament. He is in action this week, as is the winner from Pebble Beach, Phil Mickelson so immediately this has a strong feel to it. Dustin Johnson is also teeing it up here.
There is a decent contingent from overseas lining up a win this week Rory McIlroy heads them but the likes of Jon Rahm, Hideki Matsuyama and Adam Scott will all fancy their chances this week. Jordan Spieth, Justin Thomas, Xander Schauffele, Bubba Watson and Bryson DeChambeau are among those from home looking to give a good account of themselves.
Dustin Johnson is a 9/1 favourite to regain the title that he won two years ago. I don’t think he is in anything like the form now that he was then despite his win in Saudi Arabia, but you can never truly rule him out of a tournament with the length that he has. That could come into play this week so it is another one of those weeks where you wouldn’t be surprised if he wins but at the same time given the company he is keeping he looks a little on the short side.
Justin Thomas is a 12/1 poke to win the tournament for the first time. I like JT and think he’ll have a good spring but whether he is ready to win now I’m not so sure. I think he could be one for next week rather than this week although he is that good he can never truly be ignored. He is another who is just a little too short for me to tuck into here I would say.
European pair Rory McIlroy and Jon Rahm tee it up as 14/1 shots to win this tournament. McIlroy is a no from me. I don’t believe this course suits him and I’ve seen little in recent times to suggest he is about to win a tournament of this kind. Rahm has shown at Augusta that he should be able to tame this beast and he’s in better form than McIlroy. He’s probably only a fair price though.
Bryson DeChambeau has been a winning machine in the last 15 months or so and he is 16/1 to pick up the victory here too. I don’t think he is as well suited to this course as some in the field but he does find a lot of greens so if he can cope with the poa annua grass on them it wouldn’t be the biggest surprise if he goes in here. I prefer overs at better value though. It is 22/1 bar.
I’ll chance three main bets this week as one of them is a touch speculative. That one is Jordan Spieth. His record at Augusta National, and indeed here to a lesser extent, dictates that he has to be backed on a course with similar characteristics to that track. Spieth is starting to show good signs again and having backed him a couple of weeks ago to no joy I’m prepared to stick with him in the belief that it is only a matter of time before his very best form comes back. He’s potentially huge at 30/1.
Adam Scott is playing some nice golf this season and his record here and at Augusta is extremely good. He won here in 2005 and has been in the top 20 repeatedly since then and he is a regular contender in the first major of the season too. Scott was second at Torrey Pines recently which shows he is hitting the ball nicely at the minute and with some good form prior to that too he could be primed for a big week here.
Louis Oosthuizen is another who has a record that stands up to scrutiny at Augusta and with his short game and iron play he should be right in the mix for long periods this week. Oosthuizen has shown good form in Europe in the last couple of months and there is no reason for him not to transform that over to America in the weeks to come. He’s a juicy enough price at 50/1 to land a bet here.
Martin Laird hasn’t had the strong West Coast swing that he would like or that he normally has so he needs a big week here as he will be under all sorts of pressure to deliver the goods should he not get one. His record here is very strong with top 11 finishes in the last three years and if he can pick up where he left off when he gets back here and shoots a decent first round it would be no surprise if he goes deep into the mix in California once again.
You shouldn’t back inexperienced players around here if you look at history but those things are always broken these days and Danny Willett could be someone who does it. He has won around Augusta and played that course well even in the middle of his slump and that makes me think he can run hot here too. He won on a second shot course in Dubai towards the end of the previous European Tour season so we know that the track should suit him. If he has his best game with him he can outrun his price.
Back J.Spieth to win Genesis Open (e/w) for a 1/10 stake at 31.00 with Betfair (1/5 1-7)
Back him here:
PLACED – Back A.Scott to win Genesis Open (e/w) for a 1/10 stake at 34.00 with Coral (1/5 1-7)
Back L.Oosthuizen to win Genesis Open (e/w) for a 1/10 stake at 51.00 with 888sport (1/5 1-6)
Back M.Laird to win Genesis Open (e/w) for a 0.5/10 stake at 126.00 with 888sport (1/5 1-6)
Back D.Willett to win Genesis Open (e/w) for a 0.5/10 stake at 161.00 with 888sport (1/5 1-6)