Genesis Open Tips & Betting Preview
Our golf expert has five picks for the event at Riviera this week.
The return to a straightforward 72 hole event steeped in history is very welcome for punters and previewers alike. The schedule is getting all too jazzy in my view, especially in Europe as they try to entice sponsorship and money to events which were on the verge of extinction. This time last week I was enthused at the thought of a weather-dominated Pebble Beach event. As soon as it kicked off I remembered my indifference to the event and reminded myself at the weekend not to get too carried away with any events like this for the rest of the season. They rarely go well from a punting perspective and despite Phil winning for the 63rd time there on Monday it still throws up odd results. I will not be previewing the event in Australia this week either and I'll be playing the lottery instead. Of course, I could form an opinion and a few sensible bets but we'd be relying on an awful lot of luck to land the money. If the World Championship Snooker reduced matches to a best of 9 we'd see a completely different set of results. Maybe we need 20 years worth of these gimmicky events in Europe to form a solid opinion that could result in profit. I remain unconvinced that playing them is the way forward though and with trying to ensure a profit on the year I like to pick and choose my battles.
Riviera is a great event to go to war with as it has been around since Moses was on the breast. In recent years it has been dominated by sluggers Johnson and Watson winning the last three renewals. Mickelson obliged a few times also as well as fellow Masters champions Adam Scott, Mike Weir, Nick Faldo, Craig Stadler and Fred Couples. Augusta runner ups Chip Beck, Len Mattiace and Ernie Els all have wins around Riviera also so Augusta form is clearly a pointer to a potential winner here. The course has taken a lot of rain recently and more is to arrive before the starting pistol on Thursday. That will play into the hands of the bigger hitters but the rough will be sure to play a bit more tangly than normal so it will be important not to stray too often around here.
I think after many years I have managed to get the measure of when to back Rory McIlroy and when to stay away. Of course, he may not always win we bet but regardless I think I make better decisions now on when to back him. He landed a punt for us to win the Arnold Palmer last year and the other two times we backed him in 2018 he hit odds on in both events before failing to get over the line. I think this week is an opportunity to get involved. Final rounds have proved his undoing down the last 18 months and it was encouraging to see a final round 69 at Torrey net him a top 5 finish. That slots neatly ahead of the top 5 he produced in Hawaii which was impressive to my eyes. The weather wasn't great for a few days and conditions weren't the easiest and he looked to have an air of calmness and patience we rarely see in the Irishman. In 2016 he was two shots back of 3rd round leader Bubba Watson before slumping to a final round 75. When I previewed last years Arnold Palmer I spoke about his learning to cope with poor second round a few years ago which everyone was talking about when he shot a great first round in the Open at Liverpool. He learned from those experiences to get over that hurdle and maybe the time is nigh to produce some final round heroics to banish the demons of the last 18 months. His putting as ever remains crucial to a win as opposed to a run of the mill effort. That remains the gamble but I believe it is time to punt.
Place terms are better than ever out there at the bookies and it's difficult not to back at least 5 golfers every week. Bubba Watson is another who must be backed with 8 places. For someone who has won here three out of the last 5 years and finished 4th last time out at Phoenix there is a big argument that he hasn't been given enough respect. If Bubba is on song here he can rip this place up and I have to give him a better chance than that of obliging. If you gave me a straight choice between him or Bryson this week I'd choose Bubba every day. There is nothing more to it but I think he should be a handful of pts shorter in the market and with the place terms available he has to be a bet.
I'm happy enough to give Adam Scott another bash this week after missing the cut last week at the Pebble circus. A missed cut at an event like that with amateurs etc never bothers me and I don't read anything into it. He finished 2nd here in 2016 and has a handful of other credible performances here. He also has the added bonus of being a Masters champion, something that can only be a positive around here. With the flag in the hole, he looked to have confidence in his putter and therein lies the key to success for Scott. If he can master that part of the game then he will challenge anyone on his day. At 38 years of age, the Aussie still has a lot of winning to do on tour and this represents one of the better opportunities for him during the season.
Louis Oosthuizen hasn't done an awful lot wrong lately and was next on my list. I'm not often one to get too put off by injuries as I think if they are healthy to tee it up then they are healthy enough to perform. But a neck injury forced him to withdraw from the Dubai Desert and maybe he is best left to another week when we get more evidence of his full health. Hasn't been out of the top 7 in his last four performances so he warrants a lot of respect but I'll pass him over in favour of a few other lively contenders. First of all Tony Finau who has still to win a quality field event on the tour but who may be most suited to the test this week. 2nd in the HSBC and Hero World Challenge shows us he may be on the verge of getting over that hurdle. I think his price is about right but nevertheless performs well on poa annua greens and finished 2nd here last year. Finished an impressive 10th at Augusta on one foot also which adds to our case here. Surely soon enough Finau seizes an opportunity to win a prestigious event like this. The course definitely sets up well for him.
Recency bias is a wonderful thing in Golf and someone who sits at a general $41 for the Masters in April goes down to post this week at a top price of $101. If Cameron Champ did not get off to a winning start this year the critics would call it a failure and clearly the bookmakers have taken it that way also. He has far from disgraced himself and a top 30 in a difficult event like Pebble with tough conditions was solid enough in my view. He is a swashbuckling golfer with his tee shots looking more like cannonballs being fired from the tee. It's not far removed from the talents of Dustin and Bubba who have won the last three titles here. He has to be a small play this week on a track that should suit given he still could be a top 5 golfer in the years to come.