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Thursday, February 14, 2019

Tiger Gives It Another Shot

I suppose you all heard the announcement that in 2020 the Genesis Open will become the Genesis Invitational, and will basically become Tiger's tournament the same way the Memorial is Jack's tournament and the API is Arnie's tournament. Complete with all the perks, of course.

Phil Mickelson and Tiger Woods

But that's next year. This year it's business as usual. The event is played at Riviera Country Club, aka Hogan's Alley, and the defending champion is three-time winner Bubba Watson.

Of course the biggest story -- and the biggest mystery -- is that Tiger has played Riviera a dozen times without a single win, a fact that defies logic. It will be interesting to see how Tiger's revamped swing will fare here. (Last season he was still testing his back, his swing and his equipment at this event.)

It will also be interesting to see how Phil fares after his Monday victory at Pebble Beach. Both he and Tiger have talked this week about how they push each other, and Phil does have back-to-back victories here... although that's a decade past. With both men in the field -- as well as the young fellas who must be starting to wonder if they really want to see another Tiger/Phil era after all (the old boys do have three wins in the last twelve months) -- this could be yet another week of big stories to follow.

Which brings me to my weekly picks. For those of you who have somehow missed it, starting in January I began picking a winner and a Top10 finisher for each week's event, then upgrading my score the following week in the Limerick Summary post. So far I've picked two winners out of six (which would be three of six had I simply followed my gut with Rickie at Phoenix). This is an outrageously good record for me, so I'm excited to see if I can keep it up.

Last week I lamented not going with my gut and picking Rickie, so I did take the "gut pick" with Phil and got my second winner of 2019. The logical thing to do this week is follow the same plan, which would give me Justin Thomas to win and Tiger to Top10. (I really don't think Tiger will hit his stride until he gets to the Florida Swing.)

But I won't. Unlike TPC Scottsdale and the Pebble Beach courses, where upset winners happen quite frequently, Riviera truly is a track that seems to favor certain players. And the rain will only make this course harder for a random player to win. So here are my picks.
  • For my Top10, I'm taking Justin Thomas. That may seem to contradict what I just said, but hear me out. Previous to last year, JT's best finish was something like T39 and that was in 2017 when he began to post multiple wins. Last year he finished T9 -- clearly something changed there -- and in his first three events this season he's posted 3, T16 and 3. I think JT is trending, both in his game and at this course, and with his long high ball flight I think he can capitalize on the wet conditions.
  • And as my winner, I'm going chalk. It's time for Bubba Watson to become one of Riviera's back-to-back winners. He won in 2014, 2016 and 2018, and he finished T4 at Phoenix this year, another course where he feels very comfortable. The only real question is whether his putter shows up, and that's always the question with Bubba. I think Riviera has a better than average chance of seeing that putter get hot.
PGA TOUR LIVE will start streaming the event at 9:30am ET today, but GC's coverage begins today at 2pm ET. I look for something special to happen this week, although I don't know what. But there's a buzz in the air...

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