The Genesis Open preview with Skeeter McGillicuddy
The last leg of the mini West Coast swing is completed this week at Riviera CC or Hogan’s Alley – another legendary venue on the PGA Tour and an old style one to boot. Slammin Sammy, Byron and the original Bryson, Ben Hogan, and Arnie, all won this which tells you just how old this event is, but also how prestigious. Not long at just over 7300, tight, tree lined and shaped this course requires shot making. So it’s no surprise to see that perhaps the craziest shot maker of the modern era, Bubba, has won three times around here in the last five years. Throw in a WD and a 14th and Bubba looks about as much as a course specialist as is possible.
Players at the top of the market tend to be both in form and have good course form (an amazing revelation for sure). Dustbin (9/1) is another like Bubba (22/1) who fits the bill with a win, two seconds and a fourth in his last five starts. These two alone seem to own the place and they both have good recent form elsewhere.
Now consider the rest. Thomas has one top ten in four attempts, is in good form elsewhere, has some awesome ball striking stats, and teed of with Rickie in the final group on Sunday at Phoenix but is hardly a price (12/1). Rory (14/1) has two twentieth placed finishes in 2016 and last year and is in excellent form. Bryson’s form around here is middling but even since last year he’s come on leaps and bounds (16/1). Milky (33/1) was awesome last week, has won here twice and posted a sixth last year but he’s too short for me to back up. Tiger (25/1) has never won here and I’m totally unconvinced about anyway. Jordan (30/1) has gone beyond what I’ve long since advocated was a backable price but he totally lost his long game last week and that will do for me here. Rahm (16/1) makes his debut and may well win here but I’d rather death ride him at the price.
Rivera requires time to master based on past results. Bubba has won three times in five years but his breakthrough win came at his eighth attempt. Most winners emerge after at least five runs so debutants would appear to be up against it.
The type of player we need is a ball striker, in form, hitting fairways and greens. Last year the field averaged only 9.6 greens per round making it the hardest tee to green course all year.
So if we are to back anyone we need an in form ball striker – or they need to be a price to compensate.
Rory McIlroy 1pt win at 17 BF
Sung-Jae Im 1pt win at 190 BF
Keegan Bradley 1pt win at 130 BF
Tyrrell Hatton 1pt win at 100 BF
Cameron Champ 1pt win at 100 BF
Rory McIlroy has never won for us I’m told. We don’t give up that easy. With his newfound PGA Tour centric approach Rory has peeled off a 4th and 5th on courses he’d never seen. Three weeks off and totally focused on his schedule that is based on the first three majors his game looks in ominous shape. Two starts here have produced two 20ths but even here his form is progressive. Just 1 shot off the lead last year he posted his worst round on Sunday. At a venue that suits his game the expected soft conditions play even more to his strength.
Sung-Jae Im is well entrenched in the stable and runs for us again. Maybe he didn’t like the cold at Pebble last week or the cheesy format – I suggested it might be a risk. So we will forgive him that and focus on his excellent form at Phoenix finishing 7th with all four rounds in the 60’s He has to buck the novice trend but at the price we will take that chance. Seems destined to win on Tour it’s just a case of when.
Keegan Bradley has the distinction of winning for us at a nice price and while he’s gone off the boil a bit he comes here with conditions to suit. Soft, just like it was in the playoffs at the BMW when he beat Rose and at the Canadian Open when he finished 4th. 22nd in stokes gained approaching the tee and 33rd in the tee to green category his long game is solid. Yes he can lose it – who doesn’t? A one shot 4th in 2015 and solid previous efforts pre putting ban, including a 2nd in 2012 illustrate he can play this venue.
Tyrrell Hatton is another stable star who we’ll pin our hopes on despite making his debut here. The 30th best player on the planet goes off a big price given his ability to score. Yes he’s crackers but who cares? Hatton’s stats are almost as bonkers as he is. 9th in strokes gained off the tee he then plummets to 209th for strokes gained approaching the green. It looks to me as if he comes up and out of it but whatever it is it will be a temporary affliction or else he won’t be ranked 30th for long.Then we get to his 1st place in the stokes gained around the green, 6th strokes gained tee to green and 8th strokes gained total. His form reads: MC, 38th and 15th – looks good to me. If anyone can buck the novice trend it’s Hatton.
Cameron Champ keeps teeing off at ever-bigger prices so we will keep jumping on. He has played here once – a missed cut last year. He has somewhat come on from that though and while he’s failed to set our world on fire his 28th at Pebble after a poor start represented a good effort and a glimpse of some really solid form. Given how far he hits it his 57% of fairways seems pretty good to me and he ranks 4th in strokes gained off the tee and 38th in stokes gained total. Throw in 27th strokes gained putting and the overall package is impressive. At three figures he has to run for us.