Riviera presents own set of challenges
February 13, 2019 3:00 AM
by Bill Bowman
Sometimes looks can be deceiving. Take this week’s PGA Tour stop at the Genesis Open at Riviera Country Club for example.
On the surface, Bubba Watson is an ideal pick. Watson, who has won 12 times on the Tour in his career, has picked up three of those victories at this event over the past five seasons including last year.
Hot? Well, yes. Our pick for this week? Well, no.
You see, Watson (great odds at 20-1) has picked up those victories in even number years (2014, 2016 and 2018). This year is an odd number so we’re backing off until next year.
This week we’re getting back on the DJ bandwagon. After an opening round 66 last week at Pebble Beach, Dustin Johnson (the favorite this week at 8-1) may have hit the wall with the jet lag flying back from Saudi Arabia two weeks ago as he stumbled to a T45.
With Riviera just down the coast, any jetlag will be long gone and the 2017 Genesis champion will be looking for a bounceback week and has a solid chance to post PGA Tour win No. 20.
And then there’s Lefty. Phil Mickelson (20-1) is on a mission to prove age (he will turn 49 the on the final round of the U.S. Open in June) is indeed just a number. Winning last week at Pebble Beach certainly boosts his confidence and a T6 here last year (with rounds of 67 and 68 on the weekend) show this course fits his eye. Back-to-back wins? Certainly not out of the question.
Oh, and we haven’t forgotten about THE name in the field this week.
Tiger Woods (20-1) certainly has more than enough game to win here.
Woods – the elephant in the room…or at least the GOAT in the room – comes into the tournament after a two-week layoff. He had a strong Sunday finish at The Farmers Insurance Open (a 67) that lifted him into a T20 spot.
But here’s the problem: Riviera isn’t one of his favorite tracks. He missed the cut last year and that makes him 0-for-11 at picking up a win at Riviera. But last year’s performance was early in his comeback bid and his confidence and game are both in a much better place now.
We also have a sleeper pick who has been lurking just close enough to the winner’s circle here in the last couple of years to be dangerous – Kevin Na (80-1). But this one comes with an asterisk beside it. Na has been battling an injured hand and withdrew from Pebble Beach last week but is listed in the field this week.
Na is a tremendous value if he’s healthy enough to compete. His last two finishes here (T2 last year and T4 in 2017) prove he’s taking a liking to the layout.
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