Riviera chance for McIlroy

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After the delicacies of Pebble Beach and the Monterrey Peninsula last week, the PGA Tour now swings forward to the Genesis Open at Riviera Country Club in California.

If Pebble at times demanded finesse, then Riviera has identified itself as more of a brawn course.

Bubba Watson (twice) and world number one Dustin Johnson (last year) are among the recent winners, whilst the likes of Adam Scott, Paul Casey, Thomas Pieters and Jason Kokrak have all found length off the tee an ally in contending in this tournament.

This golf course plays to that strength by virtue of that fact that the rough is anything but penal, so having a blast with the big stick won’t tend to result in self-destruction if errant. Of course, that isn’t to say the less powerful in the field should stay at home!

DJ is the favourite to defend his title at 17/4 and that is understandable given how he began last week at the AT&T Pro-Am. Johnson was sat on a healthy lead by Saturday and was odds-on to win.

Things just did not getting going on Sunday but, if he has shown us anything in recent times, then it is surely to trust that he won’t stay in neutral for long.

At almost three times the price of 11/1 however, this could be the week Rory McIlroy registers his much sought after pre-Augusta ‘W’ on his 2018 record.

McIlroy has a stated intention of wanting a victory on the board before The Masters and the way he began on the European Tour’s Desert Swing strongly suggested he’d achieve that. He finished tied-third and second in Abu Dhabi and Dubai respectively, totalling 40-under par for his eight rounds.

He must be forgiven a no-show at Pebble last week but this track is much more suited to McIlroy’s game. In his debut at Riviera in 2016 he went into the final round tied-fifth and two shots off the lead before fading on Sunday.

Paired with Justin Thomas and Tiger Woods for rounds one and two, that is exactly the sort of high-profile environment that should see the four-time Major champ thriving and he’s expected to be in the hunt come Sunday.

Phil Mickelson at 22/1 is another player that comes here in decent form. ‘Lefty’ always promises to be suited by a course where big, sometimes wild, driving can work. The veteran hit a lot of fairways last week and his iron play was right out of the top drawer.

In fact, had he not started so poorly (+2 early in his first round), Mickelson could have asked a massive question of Ted Potter Jnr on Sunday at Pebble Beach. He hasn’t won since his Open Championship at Muirfield in 2013, but his form suggests there is another one brewing.

For one against the head, it might be worth an each-way play on KJ Choi at 150/1.

He hasn’t missed an appearance at Riviera in 17 years and hasn’t missed a cut in that run. He can lay claim to nine top-25 finishes and, now aged 47, seems to reserve his best for this track, with a tied-fifth in 2016 and the tied-17th last year his best efforts on the PGA Tour in the last two years.

His scoring average at Riviera is sub-70 across his career and he could figure on the leaderboard at a massive price.

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