Golf,

From Holywood to Hollywood, Rory’s after a golfing Oscar!

The Genesis Invitational


Best bets
Adam Scott 2pts each-way @ 33/1
Rory Mcllroy 1pt each-way @ 12/1
Patrick Cantlay 1pt each-way @ 14/1
Carlos Ortiz 1pt each-way @ 66/1
Bubba Watson 0.5pt each-way @ 40/1
Martin Laird 0.5pt each-way @ 200/1

Genesis Invitational odds


We’re off to Hollywood this week and the glamour of Riviera Country Club at Pacific Palisades, just a drive and five-iron from Sunset Boulevard and the home course of Tinseltown A-listers past and present, from Charlie Chaplin to Humphrey Bogart, Dean Martin to Glen Campbell and Walt Disney to Adam Sandler.

Just 40 minutes from downtown Los Angeles, it has hosted since 1973 what started as the LA Open and is now the Genesis Invitational. It is where Colin Montgomerie went closest to winning a Major, pipped by a Steve Elkington extra-time birdie in the 1995 USPGA Championship.

Known as Hogan’s Alley because the great Ben Hogan won a US Open and back-to-back LA Opens there in the late 1940s, it is one of the few courses never to have been conquered by either Jack Nicklaus or Tiger Woods.

Woods, now the tournament host, finished last of the qualifiers last year in 68th place and is a non-runner this year as he needs another week or so to recuperate from a “minor procedure”, a fifth surgery on his ever-troublesome back just before Christmas.

He will still lend his presence to the $9.3m gala event which has attracted a tremendous field with 11 of the world’s top 15 under orders, headed by world No. 1 Dustin Johnson.

Missing are Tyrrell Hatton (5), Webb Simpson (9) and Patrick Reed (11) but Daniel Berger, who justified being tipped up here last week by eagling the final hole at Pebble Beach to land a 12-1 punt in a weaker field than this one, did enter but has withdrawn.

Berger’s victory saw him move up from 15 to 13 in the rankings while joint third Patrick Cantlay rises from 11 to 8 and joint fifth Paul Casey from 17 to 16. The Arizona-based Englishman finally takes a week off after running up an enviable 8-1-12-5 sequence in three time zones, California, Dubai, Saudi Arabia and back to California.

His absence and that of the in-form Hatton diminishes the European challenge but the cudgels are taken up by Jon Rahm and Rory McIlroy who are joined by Ryder Cup colleagues Frankie Molinari and Matt Fitzgerald in a tough battle for supremacy.

Johnson, a late withdrawal last week a little weary after a long but winning trek to Saudi, is deservedly clear favourite but he isn’t God and 11-2 in a field of this quality is giving nothing away considering his last-round putting in the Gulf was stone-cold and his three latest course visits produced finishes of only 10-9-16.

On the credit side, the Masters champion is in towering form and boasts a compelling record at Riviera, a par 71 of 7322 yards that favours power faders like him. The course will host the golf competition at the 2028 Olympics in LA.

Riviera winner in 2017 and twice runner-up, he is the man to beat but I’ll take him on with defending champion Adam Scott, who adores this layout where his long, straight driving has flourished in the past.

Twice victorious there, the first, in 2005, downgraded to ‘unofficial’ as only 36 holes (plus one in the play-off) could be completed in a week of filthy weather, the Aussie with the film-star looks is in his element at this celebrity resort and, like DJ, has also posted two runner-up finishes.

Despite a final-day double-bogey, Scotty was a two-shot winner last year when holing a clutch of key putts and looked in good fettle everywhere but on the greens when tenth on his 2021 debut at Torrey Pines where he unveiled a $790 Korean driver with a special whippy pink and black shaft that generates extra speed.

Also a top-ten performer two years ago, suspect putter Adam seems happier on the Riviera dance floors than elsewhere.

As McIlroy learned his golf at Holywood (with one L), the Harry Colt links between Belfast and Bangor, this annual trip to Hollywood (with two Ls) intrigues the former world No. 1 who shared the lead with 14 to play last year but then dropped three quick shots and the game was up.

Rory still finished fifth to add to his fourth the previous year and although his concentration this campaign can be questioned, the general level of his form is pretty decent. What’s missing, of course, is the W that keeps eluding him but don’t forget him as he is overdue and he ‘s at an each-way double-figure price.

Not everybody falls in love with this idiosyncratic layout famed for the bunker in the middle of the green on the short sixth. Players whose tee shot ends up on the wrong side of the bunker face having to play a wedge shot on the putting surface, not something they like to do.

There have been more four putts on the unique sixth than on any other on the circuit – 19 have done so since 2003 and Brit Brian Davis even suffered that embarrassment  twice in 2011.

In seven of the last 18 years the winner has been a lefty, a remarkably high percentage especially when fewer than 5% of the golfers on tour are left-handed so the claims of Bubba Watson demand serious consideration.

Bubba may not be quite the force of old but he is a triple Riviera winner (2014-16-18) and the last time we saw him he shot a last-round 65 at Scottsdale. As we have to go back to a fourth and a seventh in October to find his last top-ten form, only a small interest is advised.

Now that Brooks Koepka and Jordan Spieth have rediscovered some of the form that made them Major champions, they are not overlooked but there are no clues that Riviera is their track and for the second week running Spieth failed to convert a 54-hole lead.

He was in such a dark place with his game for the past couple of years that two top-fives in a row is cause for celebration but his climb back up the ladder is very much a work in progress. I would rather back him at Augusta in April than here.

Rahm, Justin Thomas, Bryson DeChambeau, PGA champion Morikawa, Xander Schauffele and Tony Finau are other big names and I couldn’t put you off any of them. Finau and DeChambeau have place form at Riviera but Rahm, the highest ranked of that sextet, has not looked quite right this year and needs to improve on previous visits.

This is the final leg of the West Coast Swing, so expect Cantlay to thrive on home ground. His last three starts in the Golden State saw him victorious at Sherwood, runner-up at La Quinta and third at Pebble.

He’s a classier act in California than on the road and as he is 4-15-17 for his last three Riviera visits he has to have a serious chance while at bigger prices recent winners Carlos Ortiz and expatriate Scot Martin Laird make place appeal.

Ortiz has been a model of consistency after that November breakthrough in Houston. He was fourth at Scottsdale when we last saw him and a top-ten at Riviera two years ago indicates he can handle this far-from-straightforward layout.

Have a bit on the quiet Mexican at 66-1 and on Las Vegas winner Laird at 200-1. The Glaswegian is far from reliable but ran eighth and ninth at Riviera in 2017-18.

Max Homa, fifth here last February and seventh at Pebble on Sunday wasting a dream final-round start that put him very much in contention, is another longshot who could easily outrun his odds.

Once again America provides all the Sky golf action as there’s nothing in Europe until Qatar in mid-March but if you need another tournament to bet on, Fitzdares have priced up the satellite tour’s Florida offering, the Suncoast Classic at Lakewood Ranch.

Korn Ferry tour champion Brandon Wu at 20-1 and former world No. 1 amateur Ollie Schniederjans at 30-1 could be the way to go there.

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