This week the Tour makes it way to Pacific Palisades, where the players will tee it up at the famous Riviera Country Club.
Genesis Motors took over as the title sponsor in 2017, hence the new tournament name, but over the years it has played under several names. The Los Angeles Open, Nissan Open and the Northern Trust Open the most recent and well-known.
There are several high-quality players listed on the Roll of Honour here at Riviera but one name that is absent from the winners’ list is Tiger Woods. This is the only event that Woods has played at least four times and not won, with a 2nd place finish in 1999 the closest he has come. After 2007 he decided to eradicate this event from his schedule and has not returned since. Now that the Tiger Woods Foundation is part of the organisation of this event and the charity itself benefits from it, Woods feels obliged to play.
Past Champions that will be returning this week however include; Adam Scott, Bubba Watson, Dustin Johnson and Phil Mickelson.
Mickelson has shown a resurgence in form over the last two weeks, finishing 5th in Phoenix and 2nd at Pebble Beach, two events he has won three and four times respectively. This is another event that he has won multiple times (2) and he will be keen to keep up his current run of good form, as he looks ahead to Augusta.
The two wins Mickelson has accrued here came back-to-back in 2008 and 2009, following a play-off loss to Charles Howell III in 2007. An incredible run of form at this event over that three-year span slowed down for a short period, before losing in a play-off for a second time in 2012, this time to Bill Haas.
He has not missed a cut here since 2007, he did however take a three-year hiatus from the event starting in 2014, due to it clashing with his Daughter’s school break, but after a 34th place finish on his return last year and a good run of form of late, it appears he is ready to contend this week. “Riviera is a golf course I’ve played well in this past” said Mickelson before following up with “I like it a lot. I know a lot of the nuances in it”. Mickelson continued to say all the right things ahead of this week, as the interview went on. “It’s a perfect course for those that are striking it well”. “Right now, I’m striking as well as I’ve been striking it in a long time”. A confident Mickelson is a dangerous Mickelson and the rest of the field will have to be aware of that this week.
The Course and what it will take to win
Riviera Country Club, 7,322, Par 71
It has been the popular opinion that distance is highly advantageous here, as players are going to be in the rough a fair amount this week, so having the strength to advance the ball is obviously advantageous.
When looking at a recent winners list that includes Dustin Johnson and Bubba Watson, you could make a case for that being true here, however the likes of James Hahn and John Merrick have also won in recent years ranking 50th and 20th respectively in Driving Distance the week they won. Whilst Watson ranked 1st in 2014, and Johnson the same in 2017, Watson ranked just 18th in 2016 and still won, so there is more to winning here than just overpowering the course.
The average Driving Distance ranking of the last five winners was 18th, which suggests you do need to be towards the top of the field in that respect, but again Hahn proved it isn’t always the case.
Generally speaking, the key to success here is to hit plenty of greens. The last 10 winners average a ranking of 14.3 in Greens in Regulation the week they won. Of the last ten, only three winners (Haas, Hahn and Merrick) have won at Riviera without ranking inside the top-10, with Haas significantly affecting the average, ranking 58th in 2012.
6 of the last 10 winners have also ranked inside the top-10 in Scrambling the week they won here, with all but one ranking inside the top-20 (Mickelson 29th in 2009). The average ranking was 10.6, so a top-15 ranking in Greens in Regulation and Scrambling looks to be part of the recipe this week.
Dustin Johnson (11/2)
Rory McIlroy (14/1)
Jordan Spieth (14/1)
Justin Thomas (18/1)
Phil Mickelson (28/1)
Chez Reavie 40/1 (General) 1pt e/w:
Chez Reavie finished T2 for the second week in a row last week at Pebble Beach and has finished inside the top-24 in 9 of his last 10 events (T36 finish at the CareerBuilder the anomaly).
His last missed cut came at the RBC Heritage last April, which is quite an extraordinary run from the 36-year old.
With just one PGA Tour win to his name, betting him at 40/1 in this strength of field may raise a few eyebrows, but I fully believe Reavie can get his second PGA Tour victory this week.
So far, in the 36 rounds he has played this season, Reavie ranks 5th in SG: Tee-To-Green, 8th in SG: Approach-The-Green and 5th in SG: Total. Specifically important to this week, Reavie ranks 6th in Scrambling, 22nd in Greens in Regulation and 23rd in Ball Striking (10th in Driving Accuracy).
There are six Par-4’s between 450-500 yards here at Riviera, and with Reavie averaging 290 yards off the tee this season, his approaches from 150-175 and 175-200 yards this week will be important. Reavie ranks 7th and 9th in approaches from the fairway in these two ranges respectively, further supporting his case this week.
Whilst there are obvious question marks about whether Reavie can win, especially in this company, his game is in perfect shape to play this course.
Despite the obvious positives, aside from a 7th place finish in 2016, his record here makes dismal reading. Five missed cuts and a 78th place finish in seven starts suggests this hasn’t been a happy hunting ground, but he will look to put former struggles at this course behind him, as he looks to have found a new lease of life in his career.
Given his current form and his excellent statistical profile, Reavie looks a worthy bet here this week. Until he misses a cut or puts in a poor performance, it really is hard to overlook his current run, even in such a big event.
Keegan Bradley 80/1 (Skybet 7 places 1/5, SportingBet 5 places 1/4) 1pt e/w:
Much like Reavie, Bradley is a great statistical fit for the event, what’s more, he has course form to boot.
In seven starts at Riviera, Bradley has as many top-4 finishes as he does missed cuts (2), and also has two other top-20 finishes to add to the collection.
Bradley, has failed somewhat to live up to the promise he showed in that two-win season, which saw him claim the PGA Championship in 2011, followed by an impressive debut at the 2012 Ryder Cup. Bradley did win the WGC-Bridgestone event in 2012, but despite a bunch of top-5 and top-10 finishes since, he has failed to record another PGA Tour victory.
Before that last win, he had the chance to kick off 2012 in style, but Bill Haas ruined that here, beating both Bradley and his 2012 Ryder Cup partner, Phil Mickelson. He nearly made it to another play-off in this event, this time in 2015, but fell one shot shy of Dustin Johnson, James Hahn and Paul Casey.
Despite his struggle to get over the line over the past six years, Bradley has still managed to play some great golf and his ball-striking this season is another sign of that. We have seen many players turn their careers round of late, and the way he is playing, he can be the latest to do so.
Bradley ranks 5th in Ball Striking, 9th in SG: Approach-The-Green and 16th in Greens in Regulation this season. His short game is still not in great shape, which is all that is holding him back these days and his ranking of 167th in Scrambling in particular may hurt him this week.
To counter-act his Scrambling issues, there’s a good chance he won’t have to rely on his wedge game much, as he ranks 9th in approaches from 150-175 and 23rd from 175-200, which is fantastic given how important these ranges are this week.
Scrambling aside he looks in fine shape ahead of his eight start in this event, and I am confident new father, Bradley can get his fourth PGA Tour victory and his first in almost six years.
At 80/1 I am happy to take a chance on a former top prospect, given his 2nd and 5th place finishes at the CIMB Classic and Farmers Insurance Open respectively this season.
Rafael Cabrera-Bello 90/1 (StanJames 6 places) 1pt e/w:
Rafa Cabrera-Bello has been in fine form of late, and will be making his debut in this event this week. Whilst debutants aren’t expected to win here, Bello’s Ryder Cup team-mate, Thomas Pieters finished 2nd here at the first time of asking last season.
Whilst Bello and Pieters have a different set of skills, they both play consistently at a similar level, so I see no reason why Bello cannot contend here, especially given the way he striking the ball thus far.
In four qualifying events so far this season, Bello currently ranks 5th in SG: Tee-To-Green, 8th in SG: Approach-The-Green and 10th in SG: Around-The-Green, all leading to a 5th place ranking in SG: Total.
Diving deeper into his stats, Bello currently ranks T4 in Greens in Regulation, 14th in Ball Striking and 30th in Scrambling. He does also currently rank 1st from 150-175, however that is only based on 3 attempts, so there can’t be much stock put into that.
So far on the PGA Tour this season, Bello has finished T10 at the CIMB Classic, T11 at the CJ Cup, T5 at the WGC – HSBC Champions and T26 at Pebble Beach last week. After opening 69-69 to start the week at Pebble, Bello capped of the week with rounds of 70 and 72, thus failing to make a run at anything more than a steady finish.
A steady finish though is enough to take some confidence into this week, to a course which could well suit him to the ground as he looks to capitalise on some strong form over the last few months.
Predominatly a European Tour player, it is no surprise that his three career victories on the main tours have come there, but after winning the Scottish Open last season, Bello went on to finish T4 at the Open Championship a week later, where only a second-round 73 cost him a run at the Claret Jug.
The Spaniard had top-4 finishes at both the Players Championship and the FedEx St.Jude Classic in 2017, as well as three top-5 finishes on the PGA Tour in 2016, so it is clear he can contend at this level, when his game is in good shape.
At 90/1 you are getting a very talented player who has long been looking to take his game to the next level, and this course provides him with a chance to do just that
I am going to stick to these three to begin with, although I could potentially add one or two more, come Tuesday evening.
Points Staked this week: 6
Profit/Loss for 2018: -23.4