Rory McIlroy featured in Genesis Invitational

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This week’s PGA Tour stop, the Genesis Invitational, will feature an intriguing matchup. It will be Tiger Woods, the player vs. Tiger Woods, the tournament host.

Both have a lot to showcase. But, which one will prevail?

As a player, he’d love to spend all of his free time fine-tuning a game that is in the neighborhood of where he’d like it to be. But as the host of the tournament, being played at Riviera Country Club in Los Angeles, he will be pulled in a great number of directions as his off-course duties will be plentiful.

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This year’s tournament will feature all of the top-five players in the world rankings, including Rory McIlroy, who moved back into the No. 1 spot on Monday for the first time since 2015, Brooks Koepka, Jon Rahm, Justin Thomas and Dustin Johnson.

But it’s Woods who will be at the center of attention, as usual. After all, everyone wants a piece of Tiger Woods. And if anyone thinks Woods won’t be involved in a majority of the decision-making of most of the tournament’s elements from start to finish, think again.

On the course, Woods is coming off a T-15 in last year’s event with a third-round 65 being his highlight. His other three rounds, 70, 71 and a closing 72 were certainly nothing to write home about.

This year it’s likely to be more of the same even though he’s shown signs of brilliance. His most recent outing, the Farmers Insurance Open, saw him with a T-9 finish. But again, he had just enough errant shots — along with a tournament-killing four-putt from gimme range — to question if he’s ready to challenge for four rounds.

He’s also likely to be spending some time with Jim Nantz and Nick Faldo in the broadcast booth over the weekend. He’ll talk about the event and the charities and his game. What he won’t be doing is working out any problems he may be encountering on the course.

But, this is Tiger Woods we’re talking about. We’d love to put his name in the mix, at 20-1 odds, for win No. 83 and watch as he passes Sam Snead for the all-time record. We just can’t do it. Too many little hiccups at inopportune times have sabotaged his play in his last two outings — the Hero World Challenge (another event he hosts) and the Farmers Insurance Open — for us to have full confidence in his chances this week.

Both events saw a couple of loose swings or bad putts lead to crooked numbers that had him drop down the leaderboard.

Then we looked at the second most obvious choice to win this week: J.B. Holmes. He’s the defending champion and his play in early 2020 has been solid enough that he could contend again. And at 60-1, the payday would be impressive.

But, and here’s the problem, he’s stumbled down the stretch over his last few events when he was in the hunt. For his battle with mediocre play we’re going to take him out of the mix.

So if it’s not the tournament host or the defending champion, who stands out as the player to step into the spotlight?

That would be Bubba Watson at 20-1. And the reasoning is simple math: Watson won this event in 2014, then came back to win two years later in 2016. To finish off the math reasoning, Watson also won again two years later in 2018. Well, it’s now another two years later so we’re thinking he will add another victory to his total.

Watson’s free-wheeling (and free-swinging) approach certainly fit nicely on a course where players will be forced to work the ball left-to-right as well as right-to-left. If you’ve watched Watson hit any golf shots, there’s no one on the PGA Tour who can put as much sidespin on the ball as he does.

Granted, that’s not always a good thing. There are certainly times he’s struggled to keep the ball on the course he’s playing let alone on the fairway he’s trying to hit. But if he starts off quick and gets the confidence going, he will have the crowd oohing and aahing at his shot-making prowess. 

About the Author

Bill Bowman

Bill Bowman is a Las Vegas-based writer who has more than 40 years in the sports-writing business. He's spent the past 18-plus years covering the golf scene in Vegas including 10 years as a writer/editor with VegasGolfer Magazine. He also contributes to the GolfNow Network of websites and Las Vegas Golf Insider.

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