It was a good week for us in Pebble Beach with Phil and Streelman in particular playing very nicely, unfortunately though Ted Potter Jnr just played too well and all credit too him. Still we made a good e/w profit on the week and our Trader Jaeger played well also so I’m not complaining.
Ted Potter Jnr is certainly a player to keep an eye on when in contention as he is one of those players who has a winners instinct when in the mix. He was a prolific winner back in the day on the mini tours, then stepped up to the Web.com [or Nationwide Tour as it was back then] and won twice, and he has now won twice on the PGA Tour on basically the only occasions when he’s had a chance!
Moving on after four weeks on the West Coast the tour moves to Pacific Palisades, Los Angeles to the iconic Riviera Country Club for the final leg of the West Coast Swing.
Another strong field is headed up by defending champion Dustin Johnson, Jordan Spieth, Rory McIlroy, Justin Thomas and Phil Mickelson.
In addition a certain Mr Woods makes his second start of the 2018 calendar year.
Riviera Country Club is historically one of Tiger’s least favourite hunting grounds on the PGA Tour with no wins here to his name in 11 starts. One thing is for sure if Tiger is to fare even half decently this week he will need to find a lot more fairways than he did at Torrey Pines.
Riviera Country Club has hosted the Genesis Open since 1973. The course is seen as a classical test and features tight, tree lined fairways. Accuracy of the tee is key here.
Riviera is a par 71 playing to just over 7300 yards.
The greens are Poa Annua.
One of the key features of the course is the Kikuyugrass rough which is very rare for a US course. It is however found on South African and Australian courses and therefore both South African and Australian players do have a good record here.
For those looking to trade in running the par 5 1st hole is basically the easiest hole on the course and is a ‘must birdie’ hole. If you make Par you are certainly dropping a shot to the field.
The driveable par 4 10th to me is one of the best holes played on tour all year. At 315yds an eagle 2 is in theory achievable but if you fail to hit the right spot of the tee a bogey 5 quickly comes in to play.
The winning score here has varied considerably over the last 5yrs.
Last year DJ won with a score of -17, however in 2015 James Hahn won with a score of -6.
The weather as always goes a long way to dictating this. Last year for example conditions were wet and as a result the course lost a lot of it’s sting and became a bit of a bombers paradise.
The roll of honour has been a bit of a mixed bag over the recent years. As you’d expect for a marquee event like this it has mostly been dominated by big names. Bubba and Phil have 2 wins a piece over the past 10 yrs and of course DJ won last year. Bill Haas and Steve Stricker are also on the recent roll of honour.
However there have also been wins for Aaron Baddeley as well as maiden PGA tour wins for Californian natives/residents, James Hahn and John Merrick over recent years.
The forecast for the four tournament days is good as I write with the possibility of showers only showing up on Thursday. The forecast for earlier in the week though looks a bit unpredictable with the possibility of some rain on Monday and Tuesday and a thunderstorm on Wednesday.
If this does materialise the course may well be ‘getable’ on Thursday and Friday before firming up more over the weekend.
The wind is predicted at 10-15 MPH for the first 3 days, whilst Sunday shows 20 MPH+ gusts in the forecast.
I have gone with 5 players this week as follows;
PHIL MICKELSON – 28-1 - 1pts E/W - 1/5 odds 1st 6 FINISHED T6th
I make no apologies for starting off this week as I did last week, with Phil Mickelson.
I said last week that if another win was coming for Lefty then surely it would come on his favoured West Coast swing on a course he loves.
Well, although that failed to materialize last week Phil hardly let us down with another really good performance to finish second bringing us a nice e/w return. Indeed without the slow start on his first 9 on Thursday he may well have got the W.
On to this week and over the years Riviera Country Club has been another of Phil’s stock hunting grounds with back to back wins coming in 08 & 09 and a second place finish in 2012.
For whatever reasons Phil hasn’t been a frequent visitor to Riviera over the recent years [probably due to managing his schedule and not wanting to over play] but he was 34th last year when in nothing like the form he is now so there is no reason to think he can’t perform on the course any more.
I really do think Phil is on a mission at the moment and I can see him finally getting that next win this week.
BRANDEN GRACE – 50-1 - 1pt E/W – 1/5 odds 1st 6 FINISHED 37th
I’m a huge fan of Grace’s and believe that within the next couple of years he will get that first major championship under his belt.
With that in mind I was curious as to how he would play on his debut at Pebble Beach last week as I feel Pebble in 2019 at the US Open is an ideal opportunity for him, if he has not delivered one before then.
As an aside to this weeks action it was therefore very interesting to note that Branden’s -8 total for the Pebble Beach Pro-Am was basically made up of two -4 rounds at Pebble. Definitely one for the notebook for next year!
Back to the more pertinent matter of Riviera and my other reason for keeping a close eye on Branden last week was that I had him in mind for this. I was therefore happy to see that all components of his game seemed in reasonably good order with his GIR stats at Pebble being particularly good.
Branden made his debut at Riviera last year and finished an eye catching 22nd.
This year he has the added benefit of having played the week before in California and therefore has had a week tuning up on the Poa Annua greens.
As noted above due to the kikuyugrass being comparable to that found on South African Courses this is a venue that South African’s have performed well on in the past with Charl Schwartzel being the obvious example over the recent years.
I am therefore more than happy to have this proven serial winner onside this week at a what I consider a more than fare 50-1
THOMAS PIETERS – 50-1 - 1pt E/W – 1/5 odds 1st 7 FINISHED 68th
Thomas Pieters clearly loves Riviera Country Club and if there was ever a ‘horses for courses’ pick this is it.
In 2012 Pieters when a student at Illinois won the NCAA Championship at Riviera by 3 shots. In the process he beat Justin Thomas by 5 and Jordan Spieth by 13.
On his first return to Riviera since in 2017 Pieters came second to Dustin Johnson closing with a 63.
Pieters’ start to 2018 on the European Tour has been pretty solid with a 5th place finish in Abu Dhabi to his name, so he arrives in Los Angeles in pretty good shape. Indeed this is certainly a better start to the year than last year when he arrived in LA on the back of a MC and a 23rd place finish.
There is absolutely no doubting the prodigious talent that Pieters has and whilst you are always taking a bit of a chance with him that he will be in the right ‘headspace’ on the given week I am happy to take the chance that the return to Riviera once again inspires him.
CAMERON SMITH – 100-1 - 1pts E/W - 1/5 odds 1st 6 FINISHED T6th
Next up for me this week is a player I highlighted in my ‘6 to follow in 2018’ blog and who I have already been on this year in the form of Cam Smith.
Regular readers of my material will know that I hold Smith in high regard and expect him to get his first individual stroke play win on the PGA tour this year.
Since his heroics in the Australian PGA Tour season over the winter [or indeed summer in Australia!] Cam has been in very solid form to start 2018, with his only relatively disappointing finish being 48th last time out in Phoenix.
However Riviera is much more suited to his strengths than desert golf and of course there is the ‘Aussie connection’ to the Kikuyugrass as noted before.
The level of comfort for Australian golfers here is backed up by wins for Adam Scott and Aaron Baddeley over the recent years.
Cam played very solidly here last year for a 28th place, which was a good improvement on his 63rd on course debut the previous year.
With another year of course experience under his belt and his whole game having moved on to another level I can see a big week for Cam ahead.
SANG MOON BAE – 125-1 - 1pts E/W - 1/5 odds 1st 7 FINISHED 75th
For my final pick this week I am going to roll the dice and take a chance that last weeks 15th place from Sang Moon Bae at Pebble Beach signals that he is beginning to find his feet again on the PGA Tour after his well documented 2yr absence to carry out his South Korean Military Service.
By all accounts Bae Sang Moon did not play much golf in his time away from the tour and it has certainly shown in his string of missed cuts since his return.
At Pebble Beach however it would appear things may have turned a corner and if this is the case there is no better place for him to continue the momentum.
In three starts at Riviera CC SMB has finished 8th, 12th & 8th and on one of these occasions he held the lead at halfway.
Clearly therefore this is a course that he likes.
Bae has been granted a full exemption through the 2017-18 season on a newly designed Military Exemption category so he is not under any immediate pressure for results, however he will off course be keen to get back to his previous levels sooner rather than later.
Those levels had culminated in a ‘career year’ on the PGA Tour for 2015-16, which included a win at Silverado, a Californian course which has drawn comparisons to Riviera.
It would be a big ask for Bae to step right back in to contention and win the first time he did so but stranger things have happened, and at 125-1 he is off course a very juicy price to make the frame, hence I am happy to take my chances.
UPDATED 13th Feb
TRADER - AARON BADDELEY FINISHED 14th - TRADED AT 18
So, a bit of an unsual situation this week. I was all set to go with Tyrone Van Aswegen as my trader pick & I must confess I got a few quid on at the 600 price he was initially trading at yesterday evening.
As you know by now I'm sure I tend to put up my 'weekly 'trader' selection on Tuesday evening or Wednesday morning once the exchange markets have fully formed.and In my own niaive world i was assuming I would be the only person from a tipping point of view who would latch on to TVA's credentials this week, however of course this wasn't the case. After all we all look at the same info!
In the end TVA was mentioned by another well respected tipster yesterday evening which immediately saw his price drop to around the 400 mark and having now been put up by the same tipster his price has off course crashed.
As a result TVA is now trading on the exchanges at around 300 and as he is still available to back with the bookies at 250s i can't really put him up as a 'value trader'. What I would say though is keep an eye on his price and if he does drift to around 400+ then i would suggest he's worth getting on.
In the meantime the player I do see as offering some value as this weeks trader is Aaron Baddeley.
Badds' career as I'm sure we all know has not gone quite as was touted for him in his early years and you could probably argue that he's never quite been the same player since he was unable to convert a third round lead in the US Open several years back.
However on his day he is still capable of producing the goods and winning and Riviera is a course he has done so on before.
This seaon has started of fairly poorly for the Aussie however he has played reasonably solidly for the last two weeks and hopefully he can build on that on one of his favourite tracks.
Currently trading at 530+