The final leg of the PGA Tour’s West Coast Swing is this week's Genesis Open, formerly known as the Los Angeles Open.
Unlike the title, what has rarely changed (in fact just once since 1984) is the venue: the Riviera Country Club in Pacific Pallisades, a suitably glitzy part of the city and a club which boasts many film and television stars among its membership.
In field news, Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy do play, but Francesco Molinari, the 2018 Open Champion, will not - his return to action delayed by a bout of the flu. Therefore, alas, Frankie won’t be going to Hollywood.
A par-71 at 7,349-yards, Riviera Country Club in Pacific Pallisades has poa annua greens whose capricious nature, particularly in late afternoon, suits some players and drives others up the (bunker) wall.
The course is most famous for the short par-4 10th hole, which can be comfortably driven from the tee, but that is not always the smartest play, depending on the pin. One other aspect stands out: the layout has always been deemed to favour players who fade the ball (or draw it if they are left-handers).
You could argue, give that he has won here three times in the last five years, that just two words sum up the Genesis Open: Bubba and Watson.
He is, of course, a left-hander and they have certainly thrived here, with both Mike Weir and Phil Mickelson completing back-to-back victories in the 21st century. That said, left-handers are thin on the ground.
Dustin Johnson’s difficulties last week were not entirely unpredictable. The hangover post-victory in Saudi Arabia (real or metaphorical) was less of a concern than the jet-lag associated with flying halfway round the world. After a 66 to open he limped home with rounds of 73-73-71 at Pebble Beach, but his ball-striking did improve on Sunday.
He’s a solid favourite and with good reason because in 11 visits to Riviera he has six top four finishes including one win. In eight of his starts he was top five at the end of at least round one, and last year (the only time he made the cut and failed to feature in the top five at some point) he opened with a 74 to lie T105th before rounds of 69-64 dragged him to T8th with 18 holes to play.
Victory in the 2013 US Masters had many predicting a multiple major count for Adam Scott and yet it has never quite happened. A few weeks ago he revealed a quiet confidence that things are about to change.
One aspect of this is a more settled sleep pattern as his children grow older, but he is also adjusting his focus.
“I feel like I’m in a really good place to to take on this year,” he said ahead of his first start of the year. “I really want to get back to winning.”
A couple of weeks later he was second in the Farmers Insurance Open at Torrey Pines and said: “Everything was in pretty good shape this week, I’ve got a lot to build on. Putting was not the problem (in the recent past), it was my driving.
"It makes the game pretty hard for you when your strength isn’t happening. It was better this week and 28 putts for four days is probably the best I’ve done.”
Xander Schauffele continues to remain an attractive price as he builds a fine portfolio of results. Indeed, in his last 50 starts worldwide he has four victories plus another six top five finishes and what impresses is how often he thrives in high calibre company.
For example he has wins in the Tour Championship, the WGC HSBC Champions and the Tournament of Champions, plus places in the US Open, the Players Championship, the Open and the BMW Championship. This week’s field is also top drawer, but this is a golfer who appears to have no fear of such opposition.
He made a very solid course debut 12 months ago, carding a pair of 68s on the weekend, ranking 14th for Greens in Regulation, 11th for Putting Average and ending the week tied ninth. He’s 25/1 with Ladbrokes (five places).
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