Genesis Open: Lefty looks right for Riviera

Phil Mickelson looks ready to win again
Phil Mickelson looks ready to win again
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After adding to his soaring P/L with 200/1 each-way tip Scott Stallings last week, Dave Tindall picks out three bets for the PGA Tour's Genesis Open in California...

"A T5 in the Waste Management Phoenix Open followed by T2 at Pebble Beach represent his first back-to-back top fives on the PGA Tour since 2013."

Main Bet: Back Phil Mickelson e.w. @ 25/1

Each-way terms: 1/5 odds, 7 places

Main Bet: Back Phil Mickelson EW @ 25/1

Despite so many new young stars making the headlines, it seems like we've gone back in time on the PGA Tour in recent weeks with Phil Mickelson showing up big in the early-season events.

The left-hander has banked 19 of his 42 career titles on the West Coast and back in the part of the United States where he grew up (California) and went to college (Arizona), Mickelson is thriving again.

A T5 in the Waste Management Phoenix Open followed by T2 at Pebble Beach represent his first back-to-back top fives on the PGA Tour since 2013.

That was the year he captured the Open Championship and it's a well-known stat now that the four-time major champion hasn't won anywhere since.

It's an amazingly long time for someone of such talent and this week's Genesis Open at Riviera must give him a great chance of ending the drought.

As with TPC Scottsdale (three wins) and Pebble Beach (four wins), this is a trophy on which Mickelson's name appears more than once. His victories came in consecutive years (2008-2009) while he's also a two-time runner-up (2007 and 2012).

If all that seems a while ago, part of the reason why he hasn't added to his legacy at Riviera is that he's played this event just once in the last four years (T34 in 2017) due to it clashing with family commitments.

Those lack of recent visits and his hot current play suggest Mickelson will be chomping at the bit to get started there again.

Why the return to such impressive form? The stats show that he's finished second and first in Scrambling for the last two weeks. He's also putting well (3rd SG Putting Phoenix, 19th SGP Pebble) although Mickelson being Mickelson he still can't hide his obsession with driving distance.

"I've really had to increase speed to hang with a lot of the younger guys," he said at Pebble. "And fortunately I've been able to increase my club head speed about four miles an hour. So although I'm not going to be with the longest guys out here, I'm in the top third again and I feel like I can compete from there.

He also acknowledged last week that Riviera is "a perfect course" for those that are striking it well. "And right now I'm hitting it as well as I have in a long time," said the 47-year-old.

"I don't think it's going to take much different (to win again) than the way I played the last couple of weeks and Riviera is a golf course that I played very well in the past, I like a lot, I know a lot of the nuances in it.

"If you drive it well there, the second shot is where Riviera thrives and challenges you. If I continue to strike it the way I have, it's going to be another good week. And I can't wait to get started."

While he's on this roll, Lefty is a legitimate bet at 25/1.


Next Best: Back Paul Casey EW @ 28/1

I'll also go the front six of the betting for my next pick.

I've been happy to trawl out the stat about Paul Casey not winning on the PGA Tour since 2009 and hence representing lack of value but, blimey, does he give each-way punters a run for their money every single week!

It's been happening for an awful long time and starting with his top 10 at Pebble Beach last week and reading backwards the Englishman's results read: 8-8-11-19-7-5-33-4-5-13-5-11-5. And it's easy to go on.

Last 50 starts? Casey has made the top 10 in 40% of them. Filter it down to top sevens (the number of payout places on offer) and it's 26%.

Now we get the chance to back Casey at a Riviera course where he lost in a play-off against James Hahn and Dustin Johnson in 2015. That's one of four second places in the last three seasons so he's close.

"I love this golf course. I've always played well around here," said Casey after his near-miss. "The crowds are great, and it's just nice to get an opportunity to win this, and maybe one day I can get my name in the clubhouse.

"This place, I love it to death. This is just a golf course that you get excited to go and play."

Casey, who hasn't finished worse than T39 in his last five starts in this event, was fourth for Greens In Regulation at Pebble Beach last week and is 1st in Strokes Gained: Tee-To-Green this season so has the perfect stats to shine again at Riviera.

If the putter can get a little hotter, he has the chance to turn one of the numerous near-misses into a win. If not the jackpot, we can still get a healthy each-way return from a punt at 28s.

As for the four players above Mickelson and Casey in the betting, Dustin Johnson is the deserved favourite at 5/1.

DJ boasts sensational course form of 1-4-2-2 and he has two other top fives at Riviera but he's idled when hitting the front at two of his last four events (Pebble last week and the WGC-HSBC) and has paid the price. It's nit-picking a little and you could argue 5/1 is a bet to nothing.

Jordan Spieth claims he sorted his putting out at Pebble when T20 but with just one top 10 in five starts in this event I'm happy to leave him and let the American continue his build towards The Masters.

Rory McIlroy was a poor pick on my behalf last week as Pebble is a very difficult event if you're new to it. However, he played this event two years ago and opened 67-69-67 before slumping to a closing 70 to finish T20.

He likes the course and it suits but can he jump from MC to winner in the space of a week?

Justin Thomas hasn't produced his best stuff consistently this season despite flashes of brilliance and course form of 39-54-41 suggests there will be better opportunities down the line to play him.


Main Bet: Back Martin Laird EW @ 100/1

After landing a big-each way return with 200/1 Scott Stallings last week, I did think about leaving some chips on the table and backing him again here at 100s.

It's another California event with Poa Annua greens but course form of MC-66-45 isn't too sharp.

So, instead, I'll take the same price on a player who does love this layout and has the results to back it up - Martin Laird.

The Scot is teeing it up at Riviera for the ninth year running and his performances are getting better and better.

He struggled at first despite dropping a hint with T25 in 2011 but in the last two years he's broken par in all eight rounds, finishing T11 in 2016 and T8 last year when dropping out of the payout places with a bogey at 18 although he still signed for an excellent 66 on Sunday.

Laird twice eagled the easy par-5 opener that week and says of Riviera: "I just love this golf course." Hence it's one of the first tournaments pencilled in on his schedule.

With five top 11 finishes in his last 10 tournaments in California, he thrives in the Golden State and, after a couple of missed cuts to start 2018, he found a groove again to shoot 68-67-68-68 and take T9 at the Waste Management Phoenix Open on his last start.

Laird was second for Driving Accuracy at TPC Scottsdale and when you add that to his power off the tee, it's a great combination if he can repeat it at Riviera.

The other element he brings to the table is a fine record on Poa Annua. Future of Fantasy's table of putting performances on such surfaces since 2013/14 shows Laird in 17th place while he's eighth on the Specialists list which compares displays on Poa v other grasses.

Last year Laird was ninth for Putting Average at Riviera and fourth for Driving Accuracy so his game is a strong fit when everything is working and that was the case (fifth on the All-Around stats) for his top 10 in Phoenix two weeks ago.

Of the other big prices, Sang-Moon Bae loves it here (8-12-8 on his only three starts from 2013-2015) and, after the inevitable struggles following his two-year absence for National Service in South Korea, he found form again last week with a T15 at Pebble Beach.

He could be interesting at 125s.

Shock Pebble Beach star Ted Potter Jr (125s) could ride the wave while Koreans KJ Choi (T26 at Pebble and brilliant record here including T5 in 2016) and Players Championship winner Si Woo Kim (68 in R2 last year despite MC) could also feature.

Back up the price grid and Brendan Steele at 50s is a decent price in his home State and on greens he grew up on and I really like Alex Noren on this course which is perfect for his left-to-right ball flight but we've really ducked him at 35s.

Dave's 2017/18 PGA Tour P/L (based on £5 ew per selection outrights, £10 win top 5s/10s)

Staked: £400
Returned: £1030
P/L: +£630

(After Pebble Beach)

2016/2017:
P/L: +£1179.89

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