It was a poor week for us at Pebble Beach unfortunately with none of our team other than Jason Day really threatening at any time.
What was particularly frustrating for me was that three of our team from Pebble Beach last year, who all made the frame for us last year, Mickelson, Streelman & Gay, produced the goods again this year.
Basically If I had done a ‘copy & paste’ from last years write up I would have saved a lot of time & also won a lot of money!!
Still, that’s the way it goes sometimes and what it did remind us again is that past course form is key at Pebble Beach.
So, we move on and after four weeks on the West Coast the tour moves to Pacific Palisades, to the iconic Riviera Country Club for the final leg of the West Coast Swing.
The Genesis Open was first held in 1926.
Its previous names have included the Los Angeles Open, The Nissan Open and The Northern Trust Open before Genesis Motors took over as the title sponsor in 2017.
The tournament has been held at the Riviera Country Club in Pacific Palisades on a pretty much continuous basis since 1973.
A very strong field is on display this week and the market is headed up by defending champion Dustin Johnson, Rory McIlroy, Justin Thomas and Jon Rahm.
Riviera Country Club is seen as a classical test and features tight, tree lined fairways. Accuracy of the tee has historically been seen as key here although over recent years it has become more of a bombers paradise, particularly when the course has been wet.
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 off the tee a bogey 5 quickly comes in to play.
So let’s take a look at the last ten winners to try and find some clues…
2018 B Watson
2017 D Johnson
2016 B Watson
2015 J Hahn
2014 B Watson
2013 J Merrick
2012 B Haas
2011 A Baddeley
2010 S Stricker
2009 P Mickelson
As we can see in three of the last 5yrs the trophy has gone to Bubba, whilst in 2017 DJ was victorious. DJ was also 4th here in 2016 and 2nd here in both 2015 and 2014.
In addition Finau, Cantlay, Pieters and Kokrak have placed here over the past three years adding credence to the theory that this is becoming more of a bombers event.
Having said that we shouldn’t ignore the fact that Kevin Na [twice] Scott Brown, Wes Bryan & KJ Choi have all finished in the top 5 over the past three years, so there is still opportunity for everyone, particularly in a dryer year.
Looking at these last ten winners it would appear that Riviera Country Club is a venue where the winners pretty much all have the classic combination we are looking for every week…course form meets current form.
To explain more lets firstly look at the form of each of these last ten winners coming in to the event.
nine of these past ten winners noted above had made the cut in their previous start [Bubba missed the 3 round cut at Pebble in 2016] whilst eight of them had posted a top 14 finish in at least one of their two previous starts.
The only exceptions here were Hahn in 2015 who had finished 29th the week before at Pebble and Phil back in 2010 who was 55th at Pebble the week before.
Phil though as well as being a West Coast specialist was the defending champion that year having won in 2008.
Furthermore five of these past ten winners had posted a top 6 finish in one of their previous two starts. These were DJ, Bubba in 2014, Haas in 2013, Badds in 2011 and Stricker in 2010.
As we can see then solid form coming in is important.
With regards to previous course form again we can see looking over the past ten winners that this has given us a big clue.
Firstly obviously we have Bubba who was naturally a previous winner when he lifted the trophy on the last two occasions. In addition to this he had posted a 13th place finish here in 2012, 2yrs prior to his first win.
DJ meanwhile prior to winning in 2017 had posted three top 5 finishes in the three previous years.
Phil as already stated was the defending champion, whilst Stricker had finished 2nd the year before.
Haas had finished 12th here the year before winning and Baddeley also had a 13th place finish here to his name 4yrs prior to his victory and had also made the cut in the subsequent three years.
In fact the only two winners out of the past ten who did not have a previous top 13 finish in the event were the two with local California connections, James Hahn and John Merrick, with Hahn having a best place finish of 29th in the event the year before and Merrick never having managed better than 54th.
It is worth noting though that Merrick was making his 6th start in the event the year he won so he did at least have plenty of course experience along with local connections.
So there we have it then, it appears this is not an event for debutants and is certainly one where course and current form coming in is key.
The winning score here has varied considerably over recent years.
Last year Bubba won with a -12 total while the year before 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. In 2017 for example the conditions were wet and as a result the course lost a lot of its sting allowing bombers to come to the fore.
As has been the case with a lot of California of late the Los Angeles area has seen more than its fair share of rainfall recently.
The early part of this week sees a break in the rain however the wet conditions are set to return on Wednesday and Thursday. After this Friday, Saturday and Sunday should be dry.
Whilst it wont be as cold as at Pebble Beach last week temperatures are not forecast to climb much above the low to mid 60s all week.
Wind does not look to be much of an issue for the first three days with nothing more than 10mph in the forecast however Sunday does show the potential for 15mph gusts.
As I always say though this could all change!
I have gone with 5 players this week as follows;
SCOTT STALLINGS – 80-1 - 1pt E/W – 1/5 odds 1st 8 FINISHED MC
Having said above that past winners at Riviera are often a combination of the classic ‘course form meets current form’ it would be extremely foolish for us to ignore the fairly obvious claims of Scott Stallings this week.
33yr old Stallings could be considered somewhat of a mercurial player in that for vast swathes of time he is performing poorly and missing cuts, however when he does find a groove and his confidence gets up he can get on a real roll and string big finishes together.
If we look at Scott’s historical results we can clearly see this pattern. Last season he finished 7th at Pebble Beach and went on to finish 4th at the Genesis Open the following week.
In 2017 he finished 5th at the John Deere and 3rd at the Barbasol the week after, whilst if we go further back in to the Tennessee man’s history he posted three consecutive top 4 finishes in three weeks in 2013.
The message is simple therefore, when Scott gets hot, stick with him.
In addition to his ability to string big results together the other appeal to Scott this week is that he is undoubtedly a bit of a West Coast specialist.
This can be seen by the fact that as well his great performances at Pebble Beach both this year and last, and his high finish at Riviera last year, one of Stallings’ three PGA Tour victories came at Torrey Pines, so he is clearly hugely comfortable on the West Coast.
Those who have followed the PGA Tour for a while may be aware that a few years back Stallings was diagnosed with acute adrenal fatigue, as a result of this Scott has not only changed his diet but he has more recently committed himself to a full exercise and gym programme.
As a result the 2019 physical version of Stallings is unrecognisable from the version of previous years and there is no doubt that he is a man on a mission at the moment.
Until last week at Pebble Stallings’ performances on the course hadn’t yet reflected this new dedication however his stats for the week were hugely impressive on his way to finishing 3rd and he finished the week 1st in SGTT and 4th in SGT.
It is 5yrs since Stallings notched his 3rd PGA Tour victory at the Farmers and I believe he has a great chance of posting a long overdue fourth victory this week.
TONY FINAU – 33-1 - 1pt E/W - 1/5 odds 1st 7 FINISHED 15th
I am struggling to remember when I last backed Tony Finau and to be honest, although I will stand corrected it may well be that he didn’t make our staking plan at all last season.
I make no secret of the fact that the main reason for this is that with only one PGA Tour win to his name in Puerto Rico to date, for all his great solid play I have felt loathed to back him at the sort of prohibitive odds he has been going off at.
This week however, no doubt on the back of a couple of lower key efforts the 29yr old Utah man comes in to the week at far more attractive odds.
This factor, combined with the fact that a wet golf course could well play in to his hands as a big hitter this week, has tempted me to pull the trigger on him again.
Whilst Tony’s last two starts could possibly be seen as a cooling off I am happy to dismiss them. Firstly TPC Scottsdale, for whatever reason, is a venue he has not taken to at all as his four consecutive MC tell us, whilst Pebble Beach is an event he’s only played once and I suspect was on his schedule this year purely as a reccy for the upcoming US Open.
As it is a finish of 38th on the Monterey Peninsular was far from a disgrace and in fact is very similar to some of the efforts of recent Riviera winners at Pebble the week before.
Similarly to Pebble Beach as mentioned earlier the LA area has seen an awful lot of rain of late and whilst Monday & Tuesday offer a respite there is more in the forecast for Wednesday and Thursday.
It is almost certain therefore that the players will face a soft golf course this week and when we have seen similar condition in some of the recent years it has lead to bombers littering the leader board.
The big hitting Finau played excellently here last year to finish 2nd and in what should be perfect conditions for him this week I can see him going one better and landing his second PGA Tour title.
PATRICK CANTLAY – 30-1 - 1pt E/W – 1/5 odds 1st 8 FINISHED 15th
Another player who performed well at Riviera last year and is long overdue a second PGA Tour victory is California native Patrick Cantlay.
Cantlay was last seen missing the cut at Torrey Pines three weeks ago however again, similarly to Finau, I am not reading too much in to this rare weekend off for him as Torrey is a venue he is yet to really take to.
Instead I would prefer to focus on the fact that last year Patrick played incredibly solidly at Riviera for the first three rounds to sit one shot of Bubba’s lead before closing with a final round of 71 and a 4th place finish.
Whilst not as long as Finau of course, Cantlay is longer than average off the tee and he currently sits 5th in driving distance on this seasons stats, whilst last year he ranked 38th in this department.
Once more therefore with the focus on bigger hitters this week, this should play to the 26yr olds advantage.
The Genesis Open is a home game for Cantlay as he attended UCLA and after taking a share of the first round lead last year when asked about the benefit of the local connection he said the following;
“I think there’s something to that, something to being used to Poa annua and growing up on golf courses that are kikuyu grass because I think it might be the only one we play all year with kikuyu grass. I think it all adds up. I feel comfortable here, I like the golf course and I think that helps.”
The only small concern with Patrick this week is that he withdrew from last weeks AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am on the Wednesday eve of the event, however whilst I do not know for certain I suspect that this was nothing more than protecting his back against the cold/wet weather combined with the 5hr rounds that he would have faced in the event.
Hopefully therefore this, combined with the MC last time out, have done nothing more than help push Patrick’s price out a couple of points this week and I am keen to have him on side.
CAMERON SMITH – 40-1 - 1pt E/W - 1/5 odds 1st 8 FINISHED 49th
Having noted above that three of my team from last year’s AT&T Pebble Beach event produced the goods in this year’s event again without our money on, I am not afraid this week to include someone again I backed in this event last year!
Whilst Cameron is yet to post an individual stroke play victory on the tour [he won the 2017 Zurich pairs event alongside Jonas Blixt] he is rapidly becoming a ‘big event’ player and it is surely only a matter of time till this win comes.
As he did last year Smith has come in to 2019 on a crest of a wave having defended the Aussie PGA Title he first won a year ago and again, as he did last year, he has started the new calendar year in solid fashion.
Having finished 9th at the Farmers Cam backed this up last time out with a solid 15th place finish at the WM Phoenix Open. A finish, which actually could have been a lot higher but for a scrappy Sunday.
Whilst that was another strong week for the 25yr old it wasn’t one I had really expected too much from him in as he had previously not shown any great penchant for desert golf or the Phoenix event.
This week however is a different story as Riviera, as I noted last year, is much more suited to his strengths and of course there is the ‘Aussie connection’ to the Kikuyugrass as mentioned before.
The level of comfort for Australian golfers here is backed up by wins for Adam Scott and Aaron Baddeley over the recent years.
I noted last year leading in that Cam had played very solidly here in 2017 for a 28th place, which was a good improvement on his 63rd on course debut in 2016.
Well with another year of course experience under his belt and the 6th place finish to his name last year it is clear that Riviera is a great fit for Smith and I am confident of him making a strong run for that maiden tour title this week.
HIDEKI MATSUYAMA – 30-1 - 1pt E/W – 1/5 odds 1st 8 FINISHED 9th
I am going to finish this week another player due a return to the winners enclosure, Hideki Matsuyama.
Last time out in Phoenix on the back of his 3rd place at Torrey Pines Hideki was all the rage going in to an event he had won back to back in 2016 & 2017.
As a result a ton of Money saw the Japanese star go off at 12-1 for the week.
In the end perhaps with the high expectations he may have put on himself that week Hideki never really got in to serious contention and finished 15th.
Whilst not the win his army of followers that week would have hoped for it was still another solid performance in a very solid start to the 18/19 campaign.
Hideki’s last visit to Riviera saw him slump to a 2nd round 80 which lead to a missed cut.
It is fair to say that this performance was unexpected as Hideki had gone in to the week with three wins in his previous seven PGA Tour starts including the previous week in Scottsdale.
It should be said though that the pressure was on Hideki that week as his recent great play had given him a chance to grab the coveted world No 1 spot at Riviera with another strong week and this, combined with the strong winds and rain that his 2nd round was played in, probably lead to him unravelling.
Instead if we look back further we see that Hideki has three strong performances at Riviera including a 4th place finish, which again gives us the combination of course and current form we are looking for this week and I am happy to have him on side.
UPDATED 13th FEBRUARY
TRADER - MAX HOMA - FINISHED 37th - LOWEST PRICE TRADED 310
For this weeks trader pick I have chosen to go with California native Max Homa.
Homa as some may know resides in Valencia, California, which is basically 30 miles up the road from Pacific Palisades, home of this weeks event.
Brought up in California Max became one of the best performers in the history of the University of Cal team in his amateur days and based on his stellar amateur achievements a big future was predicted for him when he joined the pro ranks.
Unfortunately, life has actually turned out to be a struggle for the 28yr old on tour and he has bounced back and forth from the Web.com to the PGA Tour.
Max does have two Web.com wins to his name however until last weekend Max had not posted a top 10 finish on the PGA Tour since the 2015 Sony Open, so over 4yrs ago.
Last week however after a slow start Max played really solidly over the final three days to sneak in to a 10th place finish to gain him entry in to this weeks field for a home game. What's more this10th place came as a direct result of Scott Piercy three putting the 18th green from 20ft in near darkness to make bogey.
Strange things happen in golf and whilst of course a win for Homa this week would be a huge shock it may just be that this Piercy 3 putt could in years to come be viewed as a big turning point in Max's career.
Always viewed as a huge talent my hope is Homa can ride the wave from the past 2 weeks [he was 26th at Phoenix the week before] and turn in a big performance in front of a partisan home crowd.
CURRENTLY TRADING 850+