RIVIERA PREVIEW: LIGHTS, CAMERA, ACTION
by Colin Brennan, Top Market Sports
The Tour travels to Los Angeles this week for the Genesis Open. Formerly the Northern Trust Open, this is one of the staples on the PGA Tour schedule each year. The famed Riviera Country Club plays host to one of the better non-major fields of the year. The course is 7300 yards, a “classic” layout, and puts a premium on ball striking. The Kikuyu grass rough presents a unique challenge, as the players only see this type of grass once per year. The past champion is Dustin Johnson, who ran away and won by 5 at 17 shots under par last year. He’s obviously in good form to defend, coming off a T2 at Pebble last week. The weather calls for sun, warm temps, and low winds. That combination should yield some low scores for the top players in the world this week.
While DJ is never a bad pick when he’s playing this well, let’s take a look at some long shots for the weekend:
Paul Casey (+2200) - Casey has four starts this season, three of which have been T11 or better. While the jury is still out on his ability to close, he’s due for a win if he keeps getting himself in the mix on the weekend. A strange Sunday round at Pebble lead to a T-8 finish. He’s 8th on the PGA Tour in Shots Gained off the tee. On a course that demands players to drive the ball well, Casey seems to be a good fit.
Tommy Fleetwood (+2800) - For those that follow the European Tour closely, Fleetwood has been fairly dominant. This will be his season debut in the United States, and he comes to LA in good form having just won in Abu Dhabi while holding off Rory McIlroy in the process. He won the European Tour Order of Merit last season, and continues to skyrocket up the world rankings. He’s long, accurate, rolls it well, and seems to be getting quite comfortable in the winners circle.
Alexander Noren (+4500) - These odds for Noren are surprising to say the least. His last two times out, he’s lost in a playoff to Jason Day and finished T21 in Phoenix. In an effort to play a full schedule on the PGA Tour for the first time, Noren seems poised for a big year. Like Fleetwood, his name is well known on the European Tour. Riviera seems to be a good fit for his game, as he drives it long and straight and hits a lot of greens. They say this place is a ball striker's paradise and his putting stats are sneaky good so far this year as well.
Keegan Bradley (+6600) - While it may be under the radar, Keegan has a 5th at Torrey Pines and a 2nd at the CIMB Classic already this season. He obviously enjoys Riviera, finishing T4 in 2015 and losing in a playoff in 2012. Although his short game is still a question mark after the long-putter ban, Keegan is 9th in Strokes Gained approach to the green and 13th in proximity to the hole. If he keeps piling up greens in regulation and his putter gets just a little hot, he may have a really good chance this weekend.
Jamie Lovemark (+15000) - Here’s a total long shot. Lovemark played his college golf at USC right down the road. He’s played Riviera a bunch, and will obviously be comfortable in this area. While he’s not in great form, he finally broke his missed cut streak in Phoenix two weeks ago. Hopefully he can build on that and make some noise this weekend at a place he's familiar with. Sometimes a little home cooking can go a long way.