Genesis Open: Hadwin looks ripe for Riviera
The PGA Tour stays in California this week and Dave Tindall has three each-way picks for the Genesis Open at Riviera...
"His All-Around ranking has improved each year - 38-11-9-5 - since that 2015 debut at Riviera so he's really starting to solve this tough puzzle."
Main Bet: Back Adam Hadwin each-way @ 50/1
Adam Hadwin has played some good golf on the West Coast Swing this year, making all four cuts, shooting eight rounds of 67 or better and having a great chance to win the Desert Classic before finishing runner-up to out-of-the-blue winner Adam Long.
The latest example was a tied 18th at Pebble Beach last week where he carded a 65 at Monterey Peninsula to sit 14th with 18 to play before settling for a 72 at Pebble Beach.
Riviera is just a solid test of golf although a couple of stats stand out. Four of the last five winners ranked in the top seven for Greens in Regulation while Scrambling is an important asset too given how these small putting surfaces are hard to it.
The last nine Riviera winners ranked in the top 20 for Scrambling, two of those taking top spot for the week.
Hadwin ranked 11th on the All-Around at Pebble, 13th for GIR and 24th for Scrambling. When runner-up in the Desert Classic he was first for the All-Around, sixth for GIR and ninth for Scrambling so definitely has some strong numbers for the test ahead.
In theory he looks a good fit for the course and the reality confirms it.
This is Hadwin's fifth crack at Riviera and it started with tied 22nd on debut before a closing 66 took him to tied 16th in 2016. He had to settle for T34 in 2017 but last year he really hit his straps on the weekend, firing a pair of 66s to take tied sixth.
Delving into the stats, he ranked first for Scrambling in 2017, fifth for GIR last year and was in the top six for Putting Average in both 2016 and 2018.
His All-Around ranking has improved each year - 38-11-9-5 - since that 2015 debut at Riviera so he's really starting to solve this tough puzzle.
It's common for winners at the California track to need a few goes to appreciate all the nuances so this could be the year.
Fellow Canadian Mike Weir won this event back-to-back in the previous decade so I'll take Hadwin to follow suit at 50/1.
Next Best: Back Cameron Smith each-way @ 35/1
In terms of a course that looks right up his street, we're definitely in Cameron Smith territory this week.
Let's hear why in his own words by pulling together some comments from the Aussie in various press conferences at Riviera:
"I mean, I think I can just rely on my short game around here. My short game's been really good, putting really good inside 10 feet. Just the ability to get it up and down around here I think has really helped me.
"Love the golf course. Typically really haven't played that well
around here, but love the layout, really suits my eye. A few Aussies have done well here.
"I think it's very similar to the courses down in Melbourne. The bunkering and just the general style and mix of holes. And then the grass, like I've grown up on kikuyu so very familiar with the grass, that's nice."
The kikuyu grass is certainly highly unusual for a PGA Tour course and something we associate more with South Africa and Australia. It therefore makes sense when rewinding through the list of past winners to find Ernie Els, Rory Sabbatini, Adam Scott and Aaron Baddeley.
Dealing with some of Smith's observations, he certainly did rely on his short game last year, finishing first for Scrambling when taking tied sixth.
Although he didn't immediately hit the ground running at Riviera, ending T63 on debut, it's been a fairly sharp upward curve with T28 in 2017 followed by last year's top six.
He'll return this year playing the most consistent golf of his career.
Since a pair of top threes in the first two FedEx Cup play-off events, the Aussie has been outside the top 22 just twice in his last 10 starts.
That run includes a win in the Aussie PGA, T22 at the Sony Open, T9 in the Farmers Insurance (closing 65) and T15 in Phoenix last time.
Smith is definitely short-list material this week and I'll take him at 35/1.
Final Bet: Back Sung-Hoon Kang each-way @ 100/1
A quick jump to the front of the betting before I discuss my final pick.
Dustin Johnson (9/1 favourite) was down the field at Pebble after jetting back from his victory at the Saudi International but deserves huge respect here having posted a win, two seconds, a third and two fourths in the last nine years.
Bubba Watson (20/1) is a three-time winner which shows his comfort levels here although, as at Augusta, his record drops off when defending so, given that he won last year....
Rory McIlroy (12/1) has finished T20 in both starts at Riviera (2016 and 2018) and loves a tree-lined track. He's made the top five in both 2019 starts so I'd expect him to contend.
There's some great crossover between Masters form and Riviera form and Bubba, Weir and Phil Mickelson have seven wins between them here. All, of course, are lefties.
If looking at an Augusta specialist, Jordan Spieth could be an interesting runner at 25s. T4 here in 2015, T9 last year and T12 in 2014, he has some decent Riviera form under his belt and looks as if he's starting to piece his game back together.
However, let's get to the final pick, 100/1 shot Sung-Hoon Kang.
There's no rocket science beyond the fact that he has course and current form and is probably being underrated due to being a 31-year-old from South Korea rather than a 25-year-old rising star from the United States.
So far in 2019, Kang has finished T10 in the Sony Open, T20 in the Farmers Insurance, MC in Phoenix and T14 at Pebble.
I'm looking for strong GIR and Scrambling figures this week and this is where Kang excelled at Pebble, ranking 1st and 3rd respectively in those two categories.
As for his course form, Kang has made all four cuts at Riviera.
He took T8 in 2016, T22 in 2017 and T16 last year while he shot in the 60s in all six weekend rounds during those three events.
The only sight fear I have is that, if in contention, journos will drag up the controversial incident at last year's Quicken Loans when he was accused of cheating by Joel Dahmen.
Still, on this season's evidence, he appears to have shaken it off and, given his usual good play on the weekend here, maybe he'll be five back after 54 holes (and not interviewed) before storming through on the final day.
Dave's 2018/19 PGA Tour P/L (based on £5 ew per selection outrights, £10 win top 5s/10s)
Back Adam Hadwin each-way @ 50/1
Back Cameron Smith each-way @ 35/1
Back Sung-Hoon Kang each-way @ 100/1
*Each-way terms, 1/5 odds 7 places