Golf: Johnson looks the man to strike in California

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US TOUR specialist Louis Ross (@LouisRoss67) is back with more golf thoughts and bets in 2017. Here, he looks at the Genesis Open.

Genesis Open | 16th–19th February 2017

Just the tournament to come back to the PGA Tour. The Northern Trust Open, as it was, gave us a 25/1 winner this time last year with old favourite Bubba. Fast forward to 2017 and back to California we go for the last leg of the West Coast Swing and the renamed Genesis Open.

Golf fans and players alike love Riviera Country Club in Pacific Palisades just outside Los Angeles. A classical golf course that has proved to be one of the toughest on tour always throws up high class winners, with the odd exception and hard fought tournaments.

There will be no ‘Betting Without ….’ market this Sunday as we saw last when Jordan Spieth shot back to form with a runaway victory that had him priced at 1/12 on Saturday night.

Crucial Par 5’s

Whilst the beautiful Pebble Beach is a putters course, Riviera is so much more. There’s no doubt the power hitters will have an advantage but just getting it down there is far from all that is required. Not particularly long at 7332 yards and with no water hazards, this course still managed to play 5th toughest of 52 on tour in 2015. A lot of rain left this course playing a touch easier last time out.

Full of particularly testing par 4s, it’s not surprising to be of the opinion that the tournament will ultimately be decided on the par 5s. They are long and tough. Those who can consistently land it over 300 yards this week, with little or no bounce will have a distinct advantage.

Despite this track usually demanding driving accuracy every bit as much as distance, that was not the case in similar conditions 12 months ago. The winner ranking 17th in driving whilst hitting just 50% of fairways.

What is at a premium this week is greens in regulation and hitting the right part of the surface when you find it. Riviera’s Bentgrass/Poa Anura greens are small and difficult. Those who are striking the ball well right now will come to the fore. If you cannot control ball flight into these greens, you could be in all sorts of trouble.

The Kikuyugrass used here and at Torrey Pines is very distinctive. You can link all sorts of form between the two courses and if you’re on the hunt for big prices this week, pay attention to Australians and South Africans who love this stuff. Most European and American players do not like Kikuyu and it’s everywhere at Riviera.

Star studded field

The 2017 tournament at Riviera is possibly the biggest of the season so far. Eight of the worlds top 10 golfers make an appearance with Dustin Johnson having a chance to finally become the number one ranked player in the world.

We also have Jordan Spieth, Hideki Matsuyama and Sergio Garcia arriving here on the back of wins. Winning streaks have been a real feature of the last couple of years in big time golf. It used to be incredibly rare to see a player win back to back. It’s now commonplace.

I apologise for keeping it simple this week but on tough courses in soft conditions, I totally believe in backing class over price. It is obviously a high quality field. Jordan and Hideki in particular are in amazing form right now. Jason Day, the world number one, clearly is not. There is something not quite right with his short game at the moment.

Dangerous DJ

You will probably know by now that I am a reformed Dustin Johnson hater. I call him DJ and Deej now. We’re on good terms. After calling him all kinds of names for years, I’ve now flipped completely. DJ is unlucky to be playing in this era in some ways. Much like an Andy Murray, he would have dominated any other time. Won bags of Majors, not just the odd one and a load of near misses.

Johnson is super talented though and course, conditions and form all favour him. 2nd in both 2014 and 2015 and a 3rd back in 2010 show how much he loves Riviera. 3rd at Pebble Beach last week where he ranked 13th for greens in regulation and 11th in putting speaks volumes about his form. With a softened up course to attack, few will be able to live with him. First pick of 2017 and this is a 17/2 NAP.

Can’t ignore Bubba

Bubba Watson is not in amazing form right now but he is driving the ball better every week and I just can’t ignore a guy who’s won this twice in the last three years. What really stands out is the way Jeff ‘Bubba’ Watson won those tournaments.

In 2014 a rank of just 50th in driving distance was covered by the fact that he hit 70% of fairways. 35th then 40th after the opening two rounds, Watson came through to win on Sunday on a score of 14 under par. The 2016 renewal had Bubba 2nd after the opening 18 holes and never out of the top 3 after.

A score of 15 under got the job done after Bubba drove it an average of 295 yards over 4 days ranking 17th. He may have only hit 50% of fairways but he knew his way out of the Kikuyu. With Paddy Power paying seven places, 33/1 is a cracking value each way bet.

If this piece is to have Dustin Johnson and Bubba Watson in it after some of the incredibly unkind things I have said about them in the past then it just have to have Sergio. You may or may not still be reading? That’s right I’m tipping Sergio. No, I’ve not lost it. I have reasons.

Other picks

To be honest, I’m questioning myself at this point but no, I’m sure this makes sense. He’s another man in form. In fact he was hot in Dubai a couple of weeks ago. His -19 more than enough to take care of a high quality field at a course that should not suit.

Garcia has form at Riviera with five top six finishes and he also has a track record of keeping hot streaks going. Look back at any victory in his career and he’s generally been good for a number of weeks after.

His last PGA tournament victory last June was followed by top 5 finishes at the next two Majors. 25/1 with Paddy Power and their seven places is again a really good value bet. Like Bubba, the Spaniard is more than capable of winning this weekend.

JB Holmes is the last cab off the rank. As with most of this weeks picks, I can’t ignore a man with course form, who hits the ball miles and is playing well.

JB finished well at Pebble Beach. A ton of birdies on the weekend pulled him up into a respectable top 25 finish. His form at Riviera however is on a different level.

We are looking for course experience this week along with power and Holmes has 7th, 6th, 3rd, 12th, 8th and 11th places on his Riviera CV. There is also plenty of linkable form that has a really nice line through two time champion Watson.

Our man Holmes has a 2nd at Torrey Pines, 4th at Augusta and a win at Quail Hollow amongst many others that all line up nicely with Bubbas career. There is no reason at all that Holmes should not go really well this week and I like six places on offer from Boyles at odds of 50/1.

Best Bets

Genesis Open – Dustin Johnson to win (17/2 Betfair)

Genesis Open – Bubba Watson each way (33/1 Paddy Power)

Genesis Open – Sergio Garcia each way (25/1 Paddy Power)

Genesis Open – JB Holmes each way (50/1 Boylesports)

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I have been interested in betting since a stint managing a bookmakers 20 years ago. I now work in the travel industry but spend 90% of my day thinking (and talking)about sport. Rarely missing an Arsenal home game, I still find time for my 25 year obsession with the NFL and the Chicago Bears in particular. I'm still stuck in the 80's and can't find anything better to listen to than The Jam or The Smiths. I am a stats junkie where the NFL is concerned and there is no sport in the world where they matter more. My mission is to convert you all to a wonderful sport. Oh and win a few quid along the way.

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