I'm giving myself credit for a half-win last week at the Genesis Open at historic Riviera outside Los Angeles. When I wrote that preview last Tuesday here at Doc's , there hadn't yet been a Bovada prop posted that paired both Adam Scott and Dustin Johnson against the field. I said I thought one of the two would win, but that I'd go with Scott at that point simply because he was better value at a longer price. That said, Bovada did post one of those props by Wednesday.
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Thus I'm taking some credit for Johnson's dominant victory, which also pushed him to No. 1 in the world for the first time in his career. Johnson shot 66-66-64 the first three rounds and cruised on Sunday to a 71 to finish at 17-under 267 and win by five over Thomas Pieters and Scott Brown. Lanny Wadkins' 20-under 264 total to win the 1985 Genesis Open is the longest held 72-hole scoring record among current events and Johnson was at 20 under with 12 holes to play before taking his foot off the gas.
Johnson led the field in driving distance for the week, percentage of 300-plus drives and strokes gained off the tee. His 300.6 average driving distance was 22 yards longer than the field average and 8 yards longer than the second-longest player in the field (Scott at 292.4 yards).
DJ leapfrogged both Rory McIlroy and Jason Day with his victory in reaching the top spot in the Official World Golf Ranking. Day had held the top spot for 47 weeks. Johnson became the 20th different player to hold the No. 1 ranking since the OWGR was created in 1986 and the sixth American (Spieth, Woods, Duval, Lehman, Couples). It was Johnson's 13th career PGA Tour win and he extended his streak of seasons with a victory to 10 in a row. Only two players won at least one event for 10-plus seasons immediately after turning pro since 1960 - Tiger Woods and Jack Nicklaus. Johnson has four wins in his last 14 starts since the U.S. Open last year. Pretty memorable weekend overall as his mega-hot wife Paulina Gretzky also let the world know the couple is expecting a second child.
Why was I so high on Johnson last week? In his 10 trips to the Genesis Open, Johnson now has a win, plus two seconds, a third, two fourths and a T10. I also hit on Johnson for a Top 10 and head-to-head over Jordan Spieth. I liked Scott for a Top 10 too, but he missed that by a shot. He did pay out for me at +188 as top Aussie.
Sadly, we got more bad Tiger news last week. It was known he wasn't going to play the Genesis Open, but the guy's back is apparently such a mess still that he couldn't even do a press conference or be at the trophy ceremony even though the tournament is run by his foundation. No way he's playing before the Masters if even then. Sad.
Tiger originally had planned to play this week's first stop on the Florida Swing, the Honda Classic at PGA National in Palm Beach, which is basically Tiger's backyard. Obviously he's not in the field, and Rory McIlroy also remains sidelined due to injury, although it's looking good for him next week at the WGC-Mexico Championship. Because of the cross-country travel and that big event upcoming, it's not quite as good a field this week as usual. Three of the world's Top 10 are playing. Johnson, Day and Spieth also aren't.
PGA National is a par 70 best down for the treacherous three-hole stretch of Nos. 15-17 known as "the Bear Trap" after course designer Jack Nicklaus. It's one of the toughest three-hole stretches on Tour and hardest courses overall. Averaging 1.768 strokes over par last year, the Champion Course was the hardest par 70 of all non-majors for the second straight season.
Golf Odds: Honda Classic Favorites
Scott and Garcia were tied entering last year's final round, and Scott won it by a shot over Sergio with a 70 on Sunday. Scott finished at 9-under 271. The Aussie is your +1100 Bovada favorite to repeat. Only Nicklaus has repeated here and that was way back in 1977-78. He is one of four players to win the tournament twice overall. Scott has shot par or better in his past eight rounds in this tournament.
Garcia, Rickie Fowler and Justin Thomas are all +1600. I projected Sergio for a Top 10 last week, but he was 49th off a victory in Dubai a couple of weeks prior. He has made six straight cuts at the Honda Classic with three Top 15s led by last year's runner-up.
Fowler didn't play last week off his fourth at the Waste Management Open. He was sixth here last year. Thomas has three wins already this season but hasn't played well in two events since his Hawaii sweep. He was third here last year.
There's a large drop-off from those four to the rest of the field. One interesting number is two-time champion Padraig Harrington at +10000.
Golf Odds: Honda Classic Picks
For a Top 10, I'll go Scott (even), Fowler (+150) and Russell Knox (+275). I like Paul Casey (+250) as top Englishman, Branden Grace (+165) as top South African and Knox (+800) as top European.
Head-to-head, go Pieters (-125) over reigning Masters champion Danny Willett (-105), Grace (-115) over Zach Johnson (-115), Daniel Berger (-140) over Brooks Koepka (+110), Knox (-115) over Louis Oosthuizen (-115), Casey (-120) over Gary Woodland (-110), Fowler (-110) over Thomas (-120), and Scott (-130) over Garcia (even).
Non-Americans have won this event nine of the past 12 years, so my pick is Knox at +3000. The Scotsman has two career PGA Tour wins, both last year, and is a Horse for the Course at PGA National with a third in 2015 and second the year prior. He also will be fresh after taking last week off and has been playing well this season other than a missed cut in Scottsdale.
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