Championship Play-Off Final: Michael Owen’s View
A world class field head to Los Angeles for the Genesis Open with Tiger Woods making his second start of the season. Dustin Johnson heads the betting again, although the favourite disappointed last week at Pebble Beach.
Riviera Country Club is a shotmaker’s course with the 7,322-yard par 71 testing all facets of the players’ game this week. Bubba Watson won the tournament last season and there is a definite link between success at Riviera and Augusta National which hosts the Masters. Phil Mickelson, Monday’s winner at Pebble Beach successfully tipped in our preview, bids for back-to-back victories this weekend.
Xander Schauffele has surged into the top ten of the world rankings after a brilliant run of victories since the end of last year. The American showed immense bottle to win the WGC HSBC Champions in China in October. Schauffele backed this up on his next PGA Tour start with a stunning final round of 62 to win the Tournament of Champions in Hawaii.
The 25-year-old has already won four times and shown an ability to perform on the big stage with three top-six finishes in just seven major appearances. Schauffele’s confidence has never been higher after his blistering start to this season and he impressed when ninth at Riviera on his debut 12 months ago. He looks generously priced at 22/1 and is fancied to contend for another victory this weekend.
Bubba Watson has won no fewer than three times at Riviera and the left-hander could continue his love affair with the course again this week. His first victory came in 2014 and he has since won two more times including last year. The quirky track fits his eye and with three titles in the last five years he has to be in the staking plan.
It is not just his form at the tournament which makes him an appealing bet though. Watson caught the eye on his last start at the Phoenix Open finishing in a tie for fourth. The 40-year-old was back to his best last year with three victories and the mercurial talent will be motivated to add more titles this year. Riviera is an obvious chance and it would be no surprise if Watson threatens a fourth tournament victory at 20/1 each way.
Patrick Cantlay should be relishing his return to LA after playing so well at the tournament 12 months ago. The Californian contended throughout the week and only a disappointing final round saw him slip down to fourth place. Cantlay also finished fourth here in 2012 at the NCAA Championship so he is very familiar with the layout and is extremely comfortable playing at the course.
It is something of a surprise Cantlay has not added to his maiden PGA Tour title, won in Las Vegas at the start of last season, but he has been threatening another victory. He finished in the top ten seven times last season and has already managed three during the current campaign. A missed cut at Torrey Pines can be easily ignored and he should be well rested to challenge again this week at 28/1.
Adam Scott has an impressive track record and the Australian is worth backing to challenge for a second victory at Hogan’s Alley. He won the tournament back in 2005 and produced a stout title defence, finishing runner-up, the following year. Scott also finished second here in 2016 so his course credentials stand out.
Scott has gone three years since his last victory but there have been signs over the last six months of a return to the form he showed as one of the best players in the world. Third place at last year’s PGA Championship was a huge confidence booster and second at the Farmers Insurance Open, a couple of weeks ago, was another massive step forward. Adam is dedicated to returning to the winner’s circle and this looks a big opportunity for him at 33/1.
Scott Stallings may not be the most consistent player but the three-time PGA Tour champion could upset the odds this week in LA. He warmed up for this event with an excellent performance at Pebble Beach as a closing round of 66 saw him take third place.
Stallings is extremely comfortable competing on the West Coast as his success at Torrey Pines, which includes victory in 2014, underlines. The 33-year-old’s best result last season came at Riviera when he finished in a tie for fourth. A motivated Stallings, who has transformed his physique with intensive work in the gym over the last year, can take his momentum from Pebble Beach into this week and merits support at 80/1 each way.
Xander Schauffele 22/1 each way
Bubba Watson 20/1 each way
Patrick Cantlay 28/1 each way
Adam Scott 33/1 each way
Scott Stallings 80/1 each way