Tuesday, 14 February 2017

Genesis Open - 2017

The PGA Tour boasts a stellar field this week as Riviera GC hosts the newly named, Genesis Open. Previously know as the Northern Trust Open and originally as The Los Angeles Open, the event was on Tiger Woods schedule until back spasms in Dubai forced his withdrawal. We will however, see 8 out of the TOP10 World Ranking players in attendance. "Hogan's Alley" as Riviera GC is affectionately known, will see Jordan Spieth, Hideki Matsuyama and Sergio Garcia tee it up coming off wins last time out. Justin Thomas arrives having won twice is his last three starts. Past performances here suggest that players need to be inform to contend this week, and those with course experience should do better than others. Bubba Watson is a two time champion here with a further 4 TOP20s to his name, so clearly he likes the course. A case be made for many of the leading players and it will be hard to see an outsider prevail here given the form of the leading players right now. But we have seen "shock" winners here of late including James Hahn in 2015 and John Merrick back in 2013. Even Aaron Baddeley in 2011 was a triple figure price.

The Course

Riviera ranks as the 5th hardest course on the PGA Tour. A lot has been made of the grass type on the fairways here - kikuyu grass which is not widely seen on the Tour and is a grass type that suits South Africans and to some extent, Australians. Sangmoon Bae who finished TOP10 in 2015 remarked that the grass was to his liking as he was used to it in Japan & Korea. Those fairways can be uneven but they are narrow on a tree-lined setup and its crucial to find the right side of them to approach the greens. Small, hard to hold greens are a feature here and are considered lightening fast. On first glance the course seems to favour the bigger hitters and on recent result it does suggest that the bombers will contend but emphasis on accurate play is key too. Those with a sound short game this week will do well. It's a course that will test every department of the game and reiterates the requirement to be coming into the week with some form of which we have plenty to consider! Hogan's Alley is a ball strikers course and if the TV companies could somehow one day get down to showing some actual golf across the course we'd be treated to an exhibition this week. The 10th Hole is a clever hole, a real risk/reward hole that most players will drive or attempt to drive it. But can they hold it or better still give themselves a chance of a second shot should they miss too far left?

Shortlist & Selections

From my Genesis Open Shortlist  posted Monday, I highlighted Dustin Johnson and Marc Leishman as possible value in the outright markets. The current US Open champion has solid course form here having finished 4-2-2 the past three years. He has a further 3 TOP10s since 2009. All that's missing is a win and his efforts last week at Pebble Beach suggest he's simmering for another win very soon. He's driving the ball better than ever at the moment and is showing a lot of patience on the course and with previous solid course experience here a positive, he is my man to beat this week. Spieth naturally is the favourite given his performance last week and he's a player that will thrive on a win and in the manner in which he went about it, but for this week I feel the scales tip towards the South Carolina man.

I tipped Aussie, Marc Leishman for this back in 2014 @ 67.00 but he finished way down the field for a T59th. He missed the cut in 2015 before finishing 5th last year. He's been in consistent form this year boasting 5/5 with 5 TOP25s of which 1 is a TOP10 (3rd at the CIMB Classic). Currently ranks 6th in scoring average, ranks 13th in GIR and ranks highly in all scrambling and proximity to the hole statistics. He's striking it well.  He's outside the OWGR 50 at present though so will be looking for some strong finishes this and next month and Riviera should be a good place to start. At 75.00 for the win he's a decent bet not to mention a back-to-lay for those who want to trade. At 3.75 for a TOP20 though looks a good bet here. JB Holmes at roughly the same TOP10/20 price may be a better pick considering both his recent form & course form. The big hitting Kentuckian has 6 TOP15s at Riviera in his last 9 visits and warmed up nicely with a T25 at Pebble Beach last week. I've opted for the Aussie though on the back of strong iron play this season.

My staking plan was going to sit with just the two selections this week but on closer look at the markets I couldn't resist an interest in former US Open Champion, Geoff Ogilvy @ 12.00 in the TOP20 market. Form has been decent of late with a TOP15 at Pebble Beach as well as T25 at The Career Builder last month and a TOP5 at The Shriners in November. With the kikuyu grass and fast greens in play it's a bit surprising that the Aussie hasn't done better here over the years with a best T14th and a couple of more TOP20s to his name. Perhaps recent form will see him perform better this year and he may have a score to settle with Jordan Spieth who took out the Australian Open last November where he led by 4 shots mid way through the final round before the Texan prevailed.

Staking Plan

2.00 pts win D. Johnson @ 10.00
0.25 pts win M. Leishman @ 75.00

2.75 pts TOP20 M. Leishman @ 3.75
1.50 pts TOP20G.Ogilvy @ 12.00

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