Dustin Johnson, Justin Thomas The Favorites At Riviera – Detroit News Watch

By Norm Elrod

(CBS LA/CBS Local) — Paul Casey, who will play in this week’s Genesis Open, couldn’t hold on for the win at Pebble Beach. Casey entered Sunday leading playing partner, Phil Mickelson, by three strokes. But his final round, which actually wrapped up on Monday morning, left him three strokes back, in sole possession of second place. The 48-year-old Mickelson picked up his 44th career win with a blistering fourth-round 65, a mere 28 years after his first PGA Tour win. Mickelson and Casey will look to continue their momentum, as the PGA Tour moves on to better weather down the Pacific coast.

The Riviera Country Club, in Pacific Palisades, California, has hosted the Genesis Open, in its various iterations, for most of the last 45 years. What was once known as the Los Angeles Open became the Northern Trust Open and then the Nissan Open before taking on its current name a couple years ago. The PGA Tour’s best will no doubt welcome the Southern California sun after the wind and hail on Sunday at Pebble Beach.

Last weekend’s top three finishers, Mickelson, Casey and Scott Stallings, will tee it up again, along with many of the golf’s top-ranked players. The particularly strong field features six of the world’s top 10 golfers, including Dustin Johnson, Justin Thomas, Bryson DeChambeau and Jon Rahm. Johnson is coming off a poor showing last week, turning in 73s at Spyglass Hill and Pebble Beach en route to a T45 finish. Thomas finished third at the Phoenix Open two weeks ago, with Rahm coming in at T10. In his last appearance, DeChambeau managed a T6, halfway around the world at the Saudi International, eight strokes behind Johnson, who won.

Many other notable names will look to grace the leaderboard this weekend, including Tiger Woods. Rory McIlroy, Jordan Spieth and Tony Finau. Woods has never won at Riviera in 11 starts, and has traditionally not played well there; his most recent appearance last year, after an 11-year break, resulted in a MC. He will again be grouped with McIlroy and Thomas. McIlroy’s play seemed to suffer last year from the increased attention. (Thomas, who finished in the top 10, was better.) McIlroy has two top-five finishes to start 2019. Spieth, on the other hand, has not finished better than his T35 at the Farmers Insurance Open a couple weeks back. Finau’s recent performances — T38 at Pebble Beach and MC at the Phoenix Open — have been equally unimpressive.

>>MORE: Stream the Genesis Open

Dustin Johnson plays his shot from the bunker on the second hole during the second round of the Genesis Open at Riviera Country Club on February 16, 2018 in Pacific Palisades, California.

Dustin Johnson (Photo Credit: Warren Little/Getty Images)

So who out of this illustrious field should we expect to top the leaderboard come Sunday? Favorite Dustin Johnson is playing well — his Pebble Beach hiccup notwithstanding — and he won the event two years ago. Bubba Watson is the defending champion, and has won the tournament in three of the last five years. Phil Mickelson has to be considered a favorite after two strong showings to start his 2019 campaign. And we can’t leave Justin Thomas or Rory McIlroy out of the conversation, considering their showings of late.

The Riviera Country Club is among the premier venues on the PGA Tour, having most recently hosted the PGA Championship in 1995, in addition to its annual date with the Genesis Open. It also ranks among the best courses in the country, and is considered one of the most difficult on Tour.

At 7,332 yards, the Riviera plays as a par-71. Interestingly enough, the course opens with one of its easiest holes — a par-5 that maybe should be a par-4 — as players drop into the canyon. Conversely, the 10th hole, where half the field begins, is one its most difficult. A wide range of scores is possible, based on how well a player navigates the green and flanking bunkers. Overall, the Riviera plays well for ball-strikers — golfers who can put the ball where they want it to go. The course lays out right in front of a player, and it’s up to the player to make the right shots.

Who will make those shots this week at the Genesis Open?

Who wins the 2019 Genesis Open? And which long shots stun the golfing world? Visit SportsLine now to see the full 2019 Genesis Open projected leaderboard from the model that nailed the winners of four golf majors, and find out.

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