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Dustin leads the Riviera glamour parade


Los Angeles' famed Riviera Country Club is located in the glamour capital of the USA and the field that will be fighting it out to win the Genesis Open there this week can only enhance this perception.

It is packed with glamour - golfing glamour that is - starting with World No 1 Dustin Johnson, this week's defending champion who will be there with his booming drive and good looks. 

Also, there will the World Nos 2 and 3 Jordan Spieth and Justin Thomas, highly personable American young guns, both possessing great skill and temperament.

Northern Ireland celebrity Rory McIlroy is currently the World No 10 after a rocky 2017, but he has been a World No 1 and could well be one again - if he can find his A game of old, notably with his flat stick 

In the meantime, regardless of where he stands on the World ranking list, McIlroy too brings golfing glamour to the stage - as does Tiger Woods who will be teeing off in only his second PGA Tour event in more than a year after sitting out the 2017 season recovering from two surgeries for a back injury.

And if we are mentioning Tiger who right now is pretty much of a rather large question mark, we have also to bring into the picture his life-long rival and a big fan favourite Phil Mickelson, who, right now is playing some of the best golf of his star-studded career

The ageless 47-year-old southern Californian knows the course well, having won this event twice (in 2008 and 2009) and having come close to capturing two more PGA Tour titles heading to Riviera, he must clearly be hoping this week's stab at the title will be a case of third time lucky in both instances.

The haunt of old-time Hollywood stars like Bing Crosby, Riviera is a venerable par-71 course playing 7,322 yards on narrow tree-lined fairways where long straight drives are a major asset and fine control with your approach shots onto small and undulating greens is key.

In a recent comment, Adam Scott summed up the course well when he said: "It really requires good shots into the greens. These older golf courses generally have more severe green complexes and having that control into the green is very important. Therefore, hitting the fairway becomes very important too and you're working back like that. I like that. The bunker complexes are very nice here. They're not dissimilar to what we see down in Melbourne in Australia in some ways in shape and look. There are gum trees on the course and that makes me feel like home."

This is not good news for Tiger, who unlike his record at other California Course like Torry Pines where he has won eight times, he has never won at Riviera and unless he has sorted out the problems he had with his driver at Torrey Pines a few weeks back, a maiden Riviera title in the final event on this year's California swing looks out of the question.

On the other hand it is good news for Johnson, who hits the ball long and straight, isn't too troubled by Californian greens and who'll probably be teeing off on Thursday with a burning desire to shrug away the frustration of having to concede victory last week to the little known Ted Potter Jnr who had spent two of the last three years sidelined with a serious ankle injury and the  other more recent one playing lower league golf.

The bookies certainly see Johnson as the man most likely to win here. He tops their list of favourites with odds of 5-1 followed at a distance by Spieth and Rory McIlroy at 12/1, Thomas at 18/1, Mickelson and the always up there but never quite at the top Paul Casey at 22/1 and Fleetwood at 28/1.

Chez Reavie, the hot but luckless 36-year-old American who lost a playoff at the Phoenix Open two weeks ago and tied for a second place with Johnson, Jason Day and Mickelson at Pebble Beach last week, comes next at 35/1 but perhaps could have been a little higher on the list.

The weather? We are going to have four-star stuff on all four days, our boffins tell us.  It's going to be sunny and mild with no rain on all four days and with light breezes that should never get up above 15km/h.

A final thought. When Johnson, the 2016 US Open champion won it last year, it hoisted the 6ft 4in 33-year old over the heads of the then World No 1 Jason Day and No 2 Rory McIlroy and into the top spot on the World Ranking list for the first time in his career.

He is still there today - this time needing to hold off the likes of Day, McIlroy and Spieth who are all champing at the bit to regain a world crown they all have been juggling with over the past year. And all this should make for a very interesting week. 

(Tuesday a.m. Feb 13, 2018)

Dustin Johnson 5/1
Rory McIlroy 12/1
Jordan Spieth 12/1
Justin Thomas 18/1
Phil Mickelson 22/1
Paul Casey 22/1
Tommy Fleetwood 28/1
Chez Reavie 35/1
Marc Leishman 35/1
Thomas Pieters 45/1
Daniel Berger 40/1
Alex Noren  45/1
Bubba Watson 45/1
Ollie Schniederjans 45/1
Patrick Cantlay 50/1
Branden Grace 45/1
Tiger Woods 35/1
Kevin Chappell 45/1
Pat Perez 55/1
Brendan Steele 45/1
Matt Kuchar 45/1. 

And for more betting options check out BetWay

Neville Leck

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