Another star studded field commences play at the Genesis Open at famed Riviera Country Club in Pacific Palisades, California just outside Los Angeles tomorrow through Sunday. Bubba Watson is the defending champion and is going for his 4th Genesis Trophy in 6 years as he also won in 2014 and 2016. Tiger Woods is playing, and in 12 starts, has yet to win at Riviera, a hole in his resume. Riviera is the place Woods has the most starts without a victory. Dustin Johnson, who won in 2017, is in the field. Rory McIlroy is playing. Justin Thomas and Jordan Spieth are also playing. Phil Mickelson, fresh off a phenomenal victory last week at Pebble Beach (more on that later) is also competing. He won here back to back in 2008 and 2009. So it’s an electric lineup of players competing at this historic course.
Weather will be an issue, at least tomorrow along with some saturated grounds. They are expected to get a 1/2 inch of rain today and an inch to an inch and a half tomorrow. The rest of the weekend looks pretty good with minimal chances of rain, but Los Angeles has gotten 12 inches of rain this year already, which is a record, so the conditions could be challenging. Tomorrow is somewhat questionable for play if the forecast of 80% rain is accurate. Hopefully not. The wind will be a factor as well, gusting from 10-20 each day, so maybe not the lower scores that we’re used to. Bubba won at -16 last year, a 2 shot victory over Tony Finau and Kevin Na.
Golf Channel will televise Thursday and Friday from 1-5 PM CT and Saturday and Sunday from 12-1:45 PM CT. CBS will take over Saturday and Sunday afternoon, Saturday’s CBS broadcast will be from 2-5 PM CT, and Sunday’s is 2-5:30 PM CT.
Phil put on a clinic last weekend at Pebble Beach, particularly on Sunday and Monday shooting a 65 with 7 birdies and no bogeys. He made up a 3 shot deficit to Paul Casey on Sunday. Casey shot a 71 Sunday and Monday. Phil birdied 2, 4, 10 putting it 2 feet on his second shot on the long par 4, 13, 14, and 18. The tournament was halted Sunday due to darkness after a hail storm hit Pebble earlier in the day. They called it a day after Phil had finished up on 16. Casey was about to attempt a 3 foot par putt to remain 3 strokes back going into 17 and 18 and the PGA official asked both players what they wanted to do. Phil wanted to keep playing, but Casey, feeling that the conditions would be better Monday morning giving him an outside shot and not wanting to putt a 3 footer in the darkness with the greens in pretty rough shape, elected to wait until Monday. Both players had good reasons for their decisions, but the Tour went along with Casey as both players had to agree to keep playing. Phil made it official on Monday morning winning for the 5th time at Pebble Beach which tied him with Mark O’Meara for most ever there. It was also his 14th victory in California, tied for most ever with Tiger. And it was his 44th overall career PGA Tour victory, He’s now 9th on the all time list of career victories. Pretty sensational stuff from the 48 year old who attributes his renaissance to fitness, club head speed, he’s 13th on tour this year in clubhead speed, and better putting. His putting has been phenomenal.
So that brings up the question. Who’s going to have a better year this year, the 48 year old Phil or the 43 year old Tiger? Phil looks pretty good for the U.S. Open at Pebble in June 13-16th. June 16th, which will be Father’s Day, will be Phil’s 49th birthday, so that would be a compelling thing to see Phil competing for the only major that has eluded him on his birthday and Father’s Day with his wife Amy, and his 2 daughters and son in attendance. Tiger gets to play Pebble also where he won the 2000 U.S. Open by 15 strokes over Ernie Els and Miguel Angel Jimenez. Tiger will have Sam and Charlie there for sure if he’s right there on Sunday. So that’ll be pretty captivating stuff if Tiger and Phil can deliver at Pebble Beach in June.
The PGA Championship is at Bethpage Black (May 16th-19th) where Tiger defeated Phil in 2002 to capture the U.S. Open. Phil and Tiger have had tremendous success at Augusta National with Tiger winning 4 times there in 1997, 2001, 2002 and 2005, and Phil winning in 2004, 2006 and 2010. The Masters will be played April 11th-14th. The Open Championship will be played at Royal Portrush Golf Club in Northern Ireland. The Open has not been held there since 1951, so it’s new to all the players. That’ll be interesting. July 18th-21st.
So who would you take this season? In the last 12 months, Phil has 22 starts and Tiger has 18. Phil has made 19 cuts and Tiger has made 16. Phil has 2 victories, the 2018 WGC Mexico Championship and last week’s AT&T Pebble Beach, and Tiger won the Tour Championship last September. Phil has 5 top 5’s and Tiger has 7.
I’m going to take Philip Alfred here. I like where he’s at with his game even though both of them are pretty stout right now. Phil is just cookin at present. I like him to do a little better than Tiger. Either one might, and I emphasize might, win a major this season, but with the competition so fierce, Dustin, Brooks Koepka, Rory, JT, Spieth if he can finally get it back together, Jason Day, Bryson DeChambeau, Rickie Fowler, Bubba, Justin Rose, the list goes on and on, it’s going to be tough for both of them. They’ll both be at major courses they like so I’ll give Phil a 40% chance of winning a major and Tiger a 35% chance. Like Phil’s game a little more right now. As for the forthcoming years, Phil will be 50 next year and Tiger will still have some good years left though with his back you never know what will happen. A lot of drama for both of them too, usually. If they can eliminate drama from their games, they’ve both got a shot to both do well this season. Going with Phil to have a better year though.
Riviera Country Club is a 7,322 par 71. The 6th hole is a 199 yard par 3 with a bunker right in the middle of the green. If you land your tee shot to the right of the bunker you either have to chip over it or somehow putt around it. Pretty unique setup. The 10th is considered the best short par 4 in golf. It’s 315 yards with bunkers around the green and a decision whether to go for it or hit to the left side of the fairway and get up and down for birdie. No.17 is a 590 yard par 5, the longest hole on the course and pretty brutal with a 2 tier green sloping back to front so if a player hits it beyond the pin on the green he’ll be facing a very difficult downhill putt. No. 18 is a 475 yard par 4 and an extremely classic and difficult finishing hole. The tee shot is blind and uphill. The player needs to play to the left side of the fairway as there are trees on the right side that blocks a player’s second shot if they drive it on that side. There is rough around the left side of the green that is difficult to get up and down from if you hit it there. Some serious drama here on Sunday though it may go into Monday if tomorrow’s round is suspended till Friday.
I was leaning towards Bubba coming into today. He loves the imagination this course offers. It’s a right left, left right shaping course and that’s what gets his attention. But I’ll instead take the guy who’s first in strokes gained off the tee and strokes gained on approach shots. I like 25 year old from Louisville, KY by way of the University of Alabama to finally start putting well this week and capture the Genesis.
Stallings finished 3rd last week at Pebble shooting 66 on Sunday. He also finished tied for 4th here last year. He’s really committed himself to getting in shape and lost a lot of weight and gotten really fit. So he’s a real threat.