World number one Dustin Johnson heads to Pacific Pallisades this week to defend the Genesis Open title that he won by five strokes last year. Riviera is perfectly suited to Johnson’s game, thanks to his phenomenal power off the tee, and he has achieved T4 finishes in each of the last four years. Recent winners include Bubba Watson (twice) and James Hahn, both hit ferocious distances, so it is a course geared up for bombers. But the field is strong and deep, the presence of Jordan Spieth, Justin Thomas and Rory McIlroy means four of the world’s top eight will be in the mix.
Watson, meanwhile, will be hoping for a strong comeback after having the worst year of his career in 2017. He missed the cut in three of the four majors and has not won a tournament since 2016, sending him plummeting down to 117 in the world rankings. Riviera is the perfect setting to launch his return to greatness as the two-time Masters winner claimed victory here in 2014 and again in 2016, when he was ranked second in the world. If he can rediscover his magic touch around the greens he will be a force to be reckoned with, but that is a big if.
Another man hoping for a return to glory is crowd favorite Phil Mickelson, who is now 47 years old and has not won since 2013. He has come mighty close on several occasions, and remains a magnificently talented player, but if he is to force his way into Ryder Cup contention he needs to secure a victory somewhere along the line. He won here in 2008 and 2009 and finished runner-up in 2012, so it is as good a place as any to return to the summit once again.
And then there is Mickelson’s old nemesis Tiger Woods, who will dominate headlines in the build-up to the tournament. He finished T23 on his return to action in the Farmers Insurance Open last month, and said he is looking forward to hosting and playing at the Genesis Open this week. After a long injury layoff, fans will be eager to see if he can recapture the sort of form that led him to eclipse Mickelson and hold down number one spot in the world rankings for many years.
But right now, it is the elite men that head the betting, and deservedly so. Make sure to look at Betonline for odds on the event, and you will see that Johnson is the clear favorite heading into the tournament. His record at Riviera is amazing: he won last year, finished runner-up in 2014 and lost a playoff in 2015. Last year, his five-stroke win catapulted him to the top of the world rankings and he consolidated his place by winning his next two tournaments, the WGC Mexico Championship and the WGC Dell Technologies Matchplay. He was the clear favorite heading into the Masters, only to fall down the stairs and find himself ruled out due to injury. But he has maintained his number one ranking, despite the ascent of Justin Thomas and Jon Rahm and the return to greatness of Jordan Spieth.
Riviera is a second shot test, where precision on approach is paramount to success. Spieth will be a danger here as he is turning a corner on greens and has three T25 finishes in five appearances at Riviera. He needs a win ahead of The Masters and will be going all out for victory. Thomas never knows when he is beaten, while McIlroy can win anywhere and has made a strong start to 2018, but right now Johnson is the man to beat.