It was another disappointing Sunday for us as we headed in to round four with three of our team, Piercy, Baddeley and Wilkinson all with place chances only for us to come away with nothing after they were all blown away in high winds, which picked up on the back nine.
Congratulations though to Nick Taylor who added a second PGA Tour title to his resume some six years after his first.
It would be fair to say that the Canadian wasn’t on our shortlist coming in to the week however with the usual degree in hindsight he fitted the profile of previous winners here perfectly that I had noted in last weeks preview in that he had finished tenth here three years ago and was making his sixth start in the event.
Once again then the mantra for Pebble Beach is that past course form and experience is key there.
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.
2020 sees a change as with effect from this year the event has been changed to hold Invitational status. As a result of this we will see a slightly reduced field of 120 tee it up compared to other PGA Tour events. In addition the winner here will receive a three year tour exemption compared to the usual two.
Outside of Major Championships and WGC’s we have as strong a field as you are ever likely to see teeing it up week in week out as nine of the top ten in the official world golf rankings are teeing it up, with the odd one out being Webb Simpson.
The market is headed up by newly crowned world number one Rory McIlroy, followed by Justin Thomas and Jon Rahm. This trio are then followed by Dustin Johnson and Tiger Woods.
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…
2019 JB Holmes
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
As we can see in addition to JB Holmes coming out on top last year in three of the previous 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.
Add in the fact that Finau, Cantlay, Pieters and Kokrak have placed here over the past three years and it becomes clear that Riviera has turned in to something of a ‘bombers paradise’ over recent years.
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.
Eight of these past ten winners noted above had made the cut in their previous start with the two exceptions being JB Holmes and Bubba in 2016 who had both missed the 54 hole cut at Pebble, whilst seven of them had posted a top 14 finish in at least one of their two previous starts.
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.
Last years winner JB Holmes had made his previous five cuts here including finish fifth in 2016.
Then 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.
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, while finally Stricker had finished second the year before.
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 JB won with a total of -14 while the year before Bubba triumphed with a -12 total. In 2017 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 even more.
Over the four tournament days the weather looks set to be reasonably kind with only a 30% chance of some showers on Friday and Saturday. The Sunday and Monday leading in to the week though saw the potential for some heavier rainfall so despite the main part of the week looking to be dry the course may still hold some moisture come Thursday.
Temperatures look set to sit in the mid to high 60s all week.
Wind does not look to be much of an issue for the first two days days with nothing more than 10mph in the forecast however Saturday and Sunday do show the potential for gusts in excess of 20mph so it definitely could become an issue over the weekend.
As I always say though this could all change!
I have gone with 4 players this week as follows;
PATRICK CANTLAY – 20-1 - 2pts E/W – 1/5 odds 1st 8 - FINISHED 17th
As noted earlier outside of major championships we have as strong a field as I can remember teeing it up this week and in all honesty the top three in the market McIlroy, Thomas and Rahm have obvious chances and are almost impossible to separate.
From that point of view I think if we are backing anyone at two figure odds this week we need to be looking at someone who is capable of winning in this company and who also has a bit of e/w juice in their price. On this basis I have chosen to take two from near the front of the market the first of, which is Patrick Cantlay.
My logic for siding with Cantlay this week isn’t so much that his form or indeed his course form sticks out any greater than say Schauffele or Finau who are available at similar/slightly bigger odds but more a case that my hunch is that of these players I believe that Patrick has the greatest scope of upside this season and, as I would be very surprised if he doesn’t have a multiple win season, I am keen to have him onside early.
The Californian has had a fairly low key start to 2020 having only teed it up three times and only once in the past three weeks however with two top 11 finishes in his two starts on US soil he is clearly in decent nick.
The latest effort of 11th place came at Pebble Beach last weekend and my thought is that the Californian will come on hugely for this outing having been rested up for the previous couple of weeks.
One other positive pointer for Cantlay this week is that the Genesis Invitational is a home game for him as he attended UCLA and after taking a share of the first round lead in 2018 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.”
Finally while Sunday was a tough day in the wind on the links at Pebble Beach for all the players, with the wind forecast to pick up again this week it probably wont have done Patrick any harm to have 18 holes in gusting conditions last Sunday. I also like the fact that Cantlay undoubtedly has the sort of major championship, grinding mentality that could well be called for this weekend.
Most recently a winner on tour at the Memorial it will be in Patrick’s mind that he already has one of the big ‘invitational’ events in his trophy cabinet and that he knows how to get the job done and I am happy to have the 27yr old on side this week to take another step forward in what I expect to be a huge 2020 for him.
BUBBA WATSON – 22-1 - 2pts E/W - 1/5 odds 1st 8 - FINISHED MC
If we’re looking for someone who has some each way appeal, course form, current form and we know can win in this kind of company then Bubba Watson is a must, all be it obvious, back this week.
The case for Bubba is that straightforward that really there is absolutely no need for me to make it but I shall briefly do so anyway.
A three time winner at Riviera [in for what it’s worth each of the last three playing’s of this in even numbered years!] Bubba has proven over and over through the years that he relishes returning to events and courses that fit his eye and that he has had past success on, with Augusta and TPC River Highlands being two other obvious examples.
The latter half of 2019 was hugely disappointing for the two time Masters champion however he has started of 2020 in fine style posting a third place finish in Phoenix a couple of weeks ago to follow up a sixth place showing at Torrey Pines, with all parts of his game in decent working order.
Now 41yrs old Bubba knows that his opportunities to play in the Ryder Cup might be starting to run out as the ever increasing breed of ‘new kids on the block’ come out on tour and with the solid start he has made to this year he will be desperate to get a win under his belt to get himself right in to the qualification conversation and I am happy to have him onside in the anticipation of a big week.
PATRICK RODGERS – 175-1 - 1pt E/W – 1/5 odds 1st 8 - FINISHED 30th
Having played two from the top end of the market I am keen to now side with two players at three figure odds who certainly have the potential to gate crash the party and land a juicy e/w return if not even something bigger.
The first of these is a player we had on side last week and who disappointed us hugely, but I am happy to chance again, Patrick Rodgers.
Rodgers made last weeks line up based on some strong form in his previous two starts and four made cuts on the bounce and a previous top ten at Pebble Beach, however his old nemesis, inconsistency, struck again as he started poorly at Spyglass on Thursday and never recovered after that.
Roll on seven days and the former standout amateur tees it up in another event in California that he has produced some solid form in over the recent years and if we look past last weeks effort there is a lot to like about his credentials.
Longer than average off the tee Patrick has the length, which appears to be an advantage here and he has posted finishes of 15 26 22 at Riviera over the past three years.
Last year on his way to that 15th place Rodgers sat in the top five of the leaderboard at the halfway stage having carded a four under round of 67 on Friday morning in cold conditions, posting six birdies and an eagle to offset four bogeys.
Unfortunately though over the over the weekend he fell backwards with rounds of 73 and 72, however what this does tell us when factored in with his previous two efforts is that he has clearly got to grips with the track.
Rodgers won 11 college tournaments in three years at Stanford in California tying Tiger Woods’ school record and he has posted a top ten finish on tour on the West Coast for the past four years including his ninth at Torrey Pines this year, which shows how comfortable he is playing golf in this area.
The 27yr old has undoubtedly got the ability to win in this company and it cant be long now before that week comes when he puts everything together to show his talent.
As noted earlier this event is predominantly the domain of the big names, however the two shocks we have seen over recent years saw wins for players with close California ties in the shape of Hahn and Merrick and with Patrick’s odds having drifted out considerably from last week due to a combination of the missed cut and of course stronger field I am happy to roll the dice and chance that he can be a major factor here this week.
LUKE LIST – 250-1 - 1pt E/W - 1/5 odds 1st 8 - FINISHED 30th
As noted earlier this event has become a haven for the big hitters over recent years and to finish our team of players who all fit that profile I am going to take my chances with one of the biggest hitters out there Luke List.
35yr old List has started his sixth full season on the PGA Tour sluggishly with nothing better than a 13th place finish at the Shriners to his name in eleven starts.
However on the back of a solid 35th place showing at Torrey Pines Luke caught the eye last time out with a 25th place in Phoenix, which included a third round of 64.
Looking at List’s numbers in Phoenix every part of his game appeared to be in working order on different days across the week, however as is often the case it was only really on Saturday he put it all together, even so though and despite negative numbers on Sunday he finished the week ranked 18th for SGTTG.
As already pointed out past course form and experience certainly appears to be of importance at Riviera and List has now posted three strong finishes in four visits here showing that the course suits his game.
Last year Luke arrived here on the back of two missed cuts and a 40th place finish in his first three outings of 2019 and after putting a new driver in the bag for the week he went on to post his best showing here of 15th place and interestingly he finished the week ranked second in SGOTT.
This time around based on his solid performances in his last two starts Luke should arrive here in a more confident frame of mind, which based on last years showing surely bodes well.
List has been something of the eternal bridesmaid on tour over the recent years and yet to post a maiden tour win, a victory here would obviously be a huge shock.
It should be noted though that the Seattle native has made the frame ten times over the past three seasons including at the PGA Championship last year when he finished sixth and memorably at the Honda Classic, where he did absolutely nothing wrong and would have gone home with the trophy, but for the heroics of Justin Thomas whom he eventually lost out to in a play-off.
In essence List has now served his apprenticeship and has proven he has what it takes to mix it in the big time and while of course we would happily take a place finish for him at the odds on offer something better cannot be completely ruled out.
UPDATED 11th FEBRUARY
FANTASY DRAFT KINGS PICKS
PICK 1 - CARLOS ORTIZ - DK VALUE - $6800 - FINISHED 26th - DK POINTS TOTAL 61.5
After a two year absence from the tour 28yr old Ortiz had a solid 18/19 season on his return posting three top ten finishes on his way to finishing 113th in the Fedex Cup standings.
The Mexican's 19/20 campaign has began in even stronger fashion with three top five finishes last fall.
2020 has got off to a slighty sluggish start for Carlos however last time out he posted a strong 25th place finish in Phoenix and as one of his three top tens in 18/19 came at this weeks venue he should be looking forward to a return to Riviera.
As well as finishing ninth here last year Ortiz has finished inside the top 30 on his two previous vists here and I would expect another solid week from him this time around.
PICK 2 - DYLAN FRITTELLI - DK VALUE - $6700 - FINISHED MC - DK POINTS TOTAL 22
South Africam Frittelli has fond memories of Riviera as he holed the winning putt here at the 2012 NCAA's when representing the University of Texas.
This time last year Frittelli posted a solid 28th place finish on his first return here as a full PGA Tour member and this was particularly eye catching as it came on the back of two missed cuts on his previous two starts.
It is also worth noting that Dylan has finished seventh and 25th at Silverado the home of the Safeway, which correlates well to this venue.
It is well documented that South African's [and Australian's] have a level of comfortability at Riviera due to the course containing Kikuyu rough, something which is pretty unique to US courses but common in South Africa [and Australia] and now returning here as a PGA Tour winner I would expect another solid showing from Frittelli this week.