Genesis Open Preview, Picks & Analysis
TWELVE months ago Rory McIlroy stood on the fifth tee during the final round of the Genesis Open tied for the lead. He went over the back of the green with his approach, hit a dreadful flop shot that ended up back at his feet and then three putted. At the next - a par three - he missed the green again and another shot went. He never really featured again, struggling to a 73 and a tie for fifth place. Sound familiar?
It is a measure of the standards that McIlroy sets for himself (and that we set for him) that we regard his recent form as disappointing. He finished in a tie for eighth at the US Open, was tied fifth at The Masters after a dreadful opening round of 75, tied 16th at the Farmers Insurance Open and tied 13th at the Phoenix Open. He also managed a third-place finish at the Abu Dhabi Championship. It is not a bad body of work, is it? But it is not what McIlroy had in mind.
Adam Scott was the man to benefit at Riviera in 2020 on a day when it seemed that nobody really wanted to win. The Australian survived by holing enough clutch putts - for birdie, par, even a bogey - and surprised even himself to find that his round of 70 was good enough for a two-shot victory.
It came 15 years after Scott won a playoff at Riviera that didn't count as an official win because rain shortened the tournament to 36 holes. But last year he went the distance to secure his 14th PGA Tour win. Nearly a dozen players had a chance to win. Five players had a share of the lead at some point.
Riviera was such a strong test that everyone made mistakes, including Scott. He went long off the fifth green, had a flop shot come back to his feet, putted the next up the hill and made double bogey. But he bounced back with an 18-foot birdie putt on the par-three sixth to regain a share of the lead, and he never trailed the rest of the way.
Harold Varner III, looking for his first win on American soil, was tied for the lead until he tried to hammer a three-wood on the reachable 10th hole and hit it so badly that it hardly reached the fairway, traveling just 129 yards. That led to double bogey, and he made bogey on the par-5 11th to fall out of contention. His day ended with a missed three-foot par putt that gave him a 74 to finish out of the top 10.
Tiger Woods had his problems, too, but he was never in contention. Woods played a five-hole stretch late in his round at 5 over and shot 77 to finish last among the 68 players who made the cut. It was the first time Woods has finished last alone since the Memorial in 2015.
"Good news, I hit every ball forward, not backwards, a couple sideways," Woods joked.
Matt Kuchar, who started the final round tied with Scott and McIlroy, birdied the par-five opening hole but didn't make another until the 17th when it was too late. He shot 72 and tied for second with Sung Kang (69) and Scott Brown (68).
The clincher for Scott was his 10-foot birdie putt on the par-five 17th that gave him a two-shot margin, and when he knocked in his par putt on the 18th, he stood back and thrust his right fist in the air.
Scott finished at 11-under 273. It was his first PGA Tour title since the World Golf Championship event at Doral in 2016.
"I'm stoked with this," Scott said. "It's a big step, whatever point in my career I'm at. I haven't won for three years. This feels very special."
It was his second straight victory -- he last played three days before Christmas and won the Australian PGA.
(Dustin Johnson - The Man to Beat)
The Genesis always attracts a star-studded field, and last year was no exception. Hideki Matsuyama made the cut on the number and finished three shots behind in a tie for fifth with McIlroy, Bryson DeChambeau, Max Homa and Joel Dahmen.
Homa and Dahmen were in the mix late, but Homa caught a plugged lie in the bunker on the par-3 16th and made bogey to stop his threat, and Dahmen missed the 18th green to the left and failed to save par.
Scott saved par at the 12th with a 10-foot putt. He seized control with a 12-foot birdie putt on the 13th. And when he got in big trouble with his approach into a buried lie in the sand on the 15th, he got up-and-down from the other side of the green with a five-foot putt to escape with bogey. Not bad for a man who supposedly can’t putt.
McIlroy is back again and will be hoping to finally get back on the winning trail at a course he genuinely loves. The tournament is hosted by Tiger Woods. The 15-time major champion will not be playing as he is recovering from yet another surgical procedure but no doubt his health bulletins will dominate proceedings.
England’s Matthew Fitzpatrick once again goes in search of his first PGA Tour victory and will take heart from the fact that this is a course that doesn’t really favour bombers. He is also looking to lock down his place in Padraig Harrington’s Ryder Cup team. And keep an eye on Will Zalatoris, who has enjoyed four top-10 finishes in eight starts. Having taken a week off, former champion Dustin Johnson will surely be the man to beat again. There will also be huge attention on Jordan Spieth, who has finally rediscovered the form that took him to the top of the world rankings.
The tournament was won in 2015 by James Hahn, in 2016 and 2018 by Bubba Watson, in 2017 by Dustin Johnson, in 2019 by JB Holmes and last year by Scott.
Dustin Johnson. Looks well-nigh unbeatable right now
Rory McIlroy. Ready to getting back on the winning trail
James Hahn. Past winner who has shown some decent recent form
Dustin Johnson. Sure to be there or thereabouts
Rory McIlroy. Needs to eliminate the mistakes
James Hahn. Came close in Phoenix
Justin Thomas. No weaknesses
Will Zalatoris. In a great run of form
Scottie Scheffler. The real deal
Viktor Hovland. So impressive
Bryson DeChambeau. Impossible to ignore
Matthew Fitzpatrick. Could do with proving himself in America
Jordan Spieth. Looks like he has finally rediscovered his game. Hallelujah!
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