- Ryan Asselta gives his picks and plays for this week's Genesis Open at Riviera.
This week the PGA Tour heads to the iconic Riviera Country Club for the Genesis Open, in what should be another star-studded affair in Pacific Palisades, Calif. Quite simply, the field is loaded: six of the top 10 and 14 of the top 20 players in the world are competing.
Among the big names teeing it up this week will be Tiger Woods, who makes his second start of 2019 at the event that benefits his foundation. Tiger knows Riviera very well, having made his PGA Tour debut at his hometown club at the age of 16 back in 1992. Despite his familiarity, Tiger has never won at Riviera, and his best finish was a runner up back in 1999. He missed the cut last year.
In 2018, Bubba Watson wrapped up a strong performance with a final-round 69 to edge Kevin Na and Tony Finau by two shots, marking his third win at Riviera and 10th victory of his career.
The historic layout at Riviera is considered a favorite of many tour pros and features one of the best holes on tour, the driveable par-4 10th.. The event typically favors longer hitters over the years—four of the last five Gensis Opens have been won by either Watson or Dustin Johnson.
Nuts and bolts
Course: The Riviera Country Club (7,322 yards, par 71)
Defending champ: Bubba Watson (272, -12)
Weather forecast: Temperatures in the high 50’s with chance of rain Thursday-Friday.
Dustin Johnson (9/1, $12,000)
It’s simple. Horse…For…Course. To say DJ enjoys playing at Riviera would be golf’s understatement of the decade. He has six top-five finishes, four of which have come in the last five years, including a win in 2017. He comes into the week following a disappointing T-45 at the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am, but he’s also just two weeks removed from at win in Saudi Arabia. An opening round 74 led to a T-16 a year ago, his worst finish since a MC back in 2013.
Xander Schauffele (24/1, $11,200)
The time for underappreciating and undervaluing Schauffele has come and gone. Lucky for golf fans, Las Vegas hasn’t realized it yet. At 24/1, Xander is an uber-value play this week at the Genesis, where he finished ninth in his Riviera debut a year ago.
Schauffele has been a beast since late October with four top 10’s, including two wins (WGC-HSBC Champions, Sentry TOC), and he’s coming off a T10 at the Waste Management. Statistically he checks all of the boxes: second in strokes gained overall, fifth in strokes gained putting and 20th in strokes gained tee to green. He’s not a bomber, per se, but he’ll have no problem getting around Riviera
Tony Finau (31/1, $10,600)
Bombers love Riviera, so it should come as no surprise that Finau trends well this week. Second in driving distance and 15th in strokes gained off the tee, Finau continues to use his Ping G410 driver (and Gumby-like frame) as a weapon. After struggling early in his career at the Genesis, Finau broke through in 2018 with a T2 finish, which included three sub 70 rounds , highlighted by an opening round 66. A week off after a MC at the Waste Management will likely have done him some good.
Scott Stallings (90/1, $9,000)
This year has begun eerily similar to 2018 for Stallings, who after a few MC’s has found his groove on the west coast. Last year it was a seventh-place finish at Pebble parlayed with a T-4 at the Genesis. This year, Stallings heads to Riviera fresh off a solo third at Pebble, capped off by a final-round 66.
Tiger Woods (19/1, $11,400)
It’s tough to ever bet against the GOAT, but when it comes to Riviera, the golf course is just not a good match for this version of Tiger. His MC in 2018 was more an indicator of his fit for the course than the state of his game. Tiger was playing solid golf at the time. The Genesis was just prior to good showings at the Honda, Bay Hill and Valspar. As much as Riviera holds a place in his heart, there’s a reason he’s played the event just once since 2006. If the Genesis didn’t benefit his foundation, my guess is, he would not choose to play this event.