Our golf scribe previews this week's PGA Tour event, the Genisis Open, which gets underway this Thursday.
The Los Angeles Open brings to an end the California stint of the PGA Tour, and this year’s tournament sees a change in sponsorship and a jazzy new name: the Genesis Open. Formerly the Northern Trust Open and Nissan Open, this prestigious event perennially attracts the world’s best golfers. Eight of the top ten golfers in the world will be in attendance this week, which should make for potentially heart-stopping action, despite the absence of a certain back-spasm afflicted Tiger. Riviera, which has almost exclusively played host to the event since 1973, will provide a suitably epic backdrop to events this week.
Riviera is a monster of a par 71, measuring at 7.322 yards. It regularly ranks as one of the toughest courses on tour, and it features some of the most iconic holes in golf. The par 3 sixth has a devilishly placed bunker sitting in the middle of the green, lending itself to early round theatrics. The drivable par 4 tenth is considered one of the great short par 4’s in golf, liberally dispensing eagle opportunities and fateful double bogeys in equal measure. The Kikuyu grass that lines the fairways adds to the unique characteristic of the course.
Jordan Spieth will be looking to make it back-to-back victories following a resounding success at Pebble Beach. Dustin Johnson and Jason Day lingered dangerously in that tournament, while Hideki Matsuyama is probably the hottest golfer in the world at present. Adam Scott gets his season underway while Bubba Watson is aiming to defend his title and win for a third time overall. The sheer number of fascinating sub-plots and permutations seem to indicate that this fine game of golf may indeed survive if Tiger’s back never recovers.
The Genesis Open | Thursday 16 February - Sunday 19 February | Riviera Country Club
2016: Bubba Watson (-16) | 2015: James Hahn (-6)*playoff | 2014: Bubba Watson (-15) | 2013: John Merrick (-11)*playoff | 2012: Bill Haas (-7)*playoff
To Win Outright
Jordan Spieth 8/1 | Dustin Johnson 9/1 | Hideki Matsuyama 10/1 | Jason Day 14/1 | Justin Thomas 22/1
Brandt Snedeker - To Win 30/1 & To Place 13/2
This one is based on electrifying current form. Snedeker has only finished outside the top 15 once in his last six starts; cut at the Sony Open. Last weekend’s 4th placed finish at Pebble Beach was his best finish in that stretch, indicating that his form is trending in the right way. And at 30/1, I would say that this is one of the best opportunities I have seen in a while, even in the unpredictable world of golf.
Paul Casey - To Win 50/1 & To Place 11/1
Paul Casey has not enjoyed the type of explosive start to the season that saw him rocket to number 12 in the world in the midst of last season’s Fed Ex Cup successes. This has only made that 50/1 even more enticing. He is generally considered one of the best ball strikers on tour, and he has picked up a top 3 and top 10 already this season. The link between Riviera and River Highlands - where the Travelers Championship is played - must also be taken into consideration. Players such as Bubba Watson, Kj Choi and Patrick Rodgers boast excellent record at both course, while Casey has lost in playoffs at both courses.
Charl Schwartzel - To Win 66/1 & To Place 14.52/1
The Kikuyu grass, originally imported from Africa, may also hold a degree of consideration. Ernie Els and Rory Sabbatini have won here before, leading me to believe that it offers the wellspring of South African golfing talent a sniff. Schwartzel is also a former Master Champion, and stats indicate that 11 Masters Champions have won this event a staggering 19 times between them. Schwartzel also finished 5th here in 2014, and that coupled with his soaring push into the season-ending Tour Championship last season makes me think that 66/1 looks a very good price for the elegant iron player.
The Man to Beat
Dustin Johnson - To Win 9/1 & To Place 1.98/1
Some may look at Matsuyama and figure he’s the hottest player on tour. Some may point towards Spieth’s excellent ball-string last week and say the young Texan is the man to beat. I’m opting for the mega-hitting Texan this week. He has runner-up finishes in 2014 and 2015 here, and is clearly a fan of the course. His 3rd placed finish at the AT&T last week also exemplified that he is close to winning, with a brilliant weekend consisting of scores of 66 and 68. His size off the tee should give him the edge this week and I expect the U.S Open champion to flourish.