Genesis Open 2017 power rankings

Tuesday February 14th, 2017
Bubba Watson won big at Riviera in 2016. Who will replace him in the winner's circle this week at the Genesis Open?
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This story originally appeared on FanSided.

PGA Tour action moves this week from one classic golf gem to another. Next stop: Riviera Country Club and the Genesis Open.

The Pebble Beach Pro-Am is in the books, and while the views were certainly exciting, the final round action was anything but. Jordan Spieth did exactly what he needed to do to claim victory, but it didn’t make for much drama, as he led for the entirety of the day and claimed a four-stroke victory.

This week, the PGA Tour heads to Riviera Country Club for the Genesis Open. The venue will provide us with some striking vistas, but golf fans will hope to see a suspenseful tournament that can do justice to the breathtaking backdrop as well as a beautiful golf course.

Here are 10 of the best bets for success at the Genesis Open.

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1. Dustin Johnson
Four top 10s in last five starts

After taking home PGA Tour Player of the Year honors in 2016, Johnson has gotten this year off to a rather uneven start. His driving distance and general productivity off the tee haven’t been the problem — he still ranks first among his peers in those categories. Instead, his putting has been sinking this game. Johnson will enter this week with an eye towards rediscovering his groove on the greens.

Fortunately for Johnson, this week’s event has been extraordinarily kind to him in the past. Although he’s never won a tournament at Riviera, the Coastal Carolina product has solidified his status as a regular contender, posting four top five finishes in the last five years, including back-to-back runner-ups in 2014 and 2015.

While he missed the cut in his most recent start, he’s already picked up a pair of top 10 finishes in the new year, so his form is probably good enough. A return to such a hospitable host course should do wonders for his game — again, putting has been the issue, and Johnson knows these greens like the back of his hand. If he can recharge his short game, then he’ll almost certainly contend for the victory.

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2. Hideki Matsuyama
Five victories in last nine starts

Perhaps it wasn’t wise to start doubting this 24-year-old phenom from Ehime, Japan. Just when his game appeared to be fading a little, he recaptured his world-beating form, rolling into Arizona with a mission and coming out on top in a playoff at the Waste Management Phoenix Open for the second year in a row. With his confidence through the roof, Matsuyama will try to continue his winning ways this week at the Genesis Open.

Matsuyama’s win at TPC Scottsdale is only the tip of the iceberg — since last September’s Tour Championship, the young gun has played in nine official tournaments around the world and come out on top in five of them. He also boasts a strong track record at Riviera Country Club, with three top 25s in as many career appearances. It’s not often that we see trends converge this strongly — if not for Johnson’s spectacular fantasy profile, Matsuyama would likely claim the top spot on this list.

Along with all that, Matsuyama ranks first on the PGA Tour in strokes gained: around-the-green and sixth in greens in regulation, so there shouldn’t be much to trip him up this week. As usual, he can anchor just about any fantasy lineup, so invest with confidence.

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3. Jordan Spieth
Six consecutive top 10 finishes

This Texan finally made his long-awaited return to the PGA Tour winner’s circle last week, striking and putting his way to a four-stroke AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am victory. Now armed with 12 professional wins on his resume, as well as a total game that’s been firing on all cylinders in the new year, Spieth looks poised to make a big impact at Riviera this week.

In his career at the Genesis Open, Spieth is just two-for-four, but keep in mind that one of those missed cuts came in 2012, before he turned professional. Since shedding his amateur status, he’s picked up a pair of top 15s at Riviera, including a tie for fourth in 2014, when he finished just one stroke out of a playoff. In terms of recent form, there’s nothing to be concerned about — Spieth has notched six consecutive worldwide top 10s in a row, including two wins, so he’s been enjoying an exceptionally hot stretch.

The only deficiency in Spieth’s game since the calendar turned to 2017 has been his iron play, but he struck it well at Pebble Beach last week, so there’s no reason for concern there. Look for him to continue his great run.

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4. Sergio Garcia
Five consecutive top 20 finishes

This Spaniard might not have the most momentum in this week’s field, but he’s close. Yet another player coming off a recent victory, Garcia is as ageless as they come and should have plenty of confidence as he prepares to make his first official start in the United States since the calendar turned to 2017.

Garcia’s win at the Dubai Desert Classic two weeks ago was merely a continuation of what has been week after week of strong form — since being bounced from the FedEx Cup playoffs after last September’s BMW Championship, the 37-year-old has found the top 20 in every one of his five official starts. That consistency bodes well for his chances at Riviera, where he’s posted three top 15s, including a pair of fourth-place finishes, in the last five years alone. The difficult, classic track is always a good fit for Garcia’s game. With a current ranking of fourth on the PGA Tour in greens in regulation, he looks especially well-equipped to tame it this year.

Garcia is already a winner on the other side of the pond this year, but with young countryman Jon Rahm making bank on the PGA Tour, he should have plenty of motivation to keep performing. Look for him to make a run at the title.

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5. Adam Scott
Five consecutive top 15 finishes

After a bummer of a 2015 season that saw him ousted after the first round of the FedEx Cup playoffs, Scott has spent much of the last year proving that he still has the game to rank among the world’s elite. With a grand total of seven top five finishes around the world since this time last year, the Aussie has reinforced his status as one of golf’s top players. He should be a popular pick to win as he heads to Riviera, a course where he’s enjoyed some past success.

Over the course of his illustrious career, Scott has compiled a seven-for-eight mark at the Genesis Open. Highlights of that track record include a victory in 2005 and four other top 20 finishes, including a share of second place a year ago. At last year’s event, he delivered his best putting performance of the season and torched the week’s par 5s to the tune of nine-under-par. He has what it takes to make some birdies this week.

In terms of recent form, Scott has found the top 20 in 12 of his last 14 starts dating back to last summer. While he’s made just one start since the calendar turned to 2017, he came away from it with a tie for ninth, so he doesn’t appear to be slowing down. He should contend for the win this week.

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6. Justin Thomas
Three victories in last six starts

After starting out the new year in incredible fashion, this phenom has fallen upon hard times recently. Thanks to pedestrian rounds of 69 and 73, he missed the cut at the Waste Management Phoenix Open. However, Thomas still has plenty of reason to feel optimistic about his chances this week. The 23 year old is a statistical beast, and his two recent wins in Hawaii should keep his confidence levels high even in the wake of a poor tournament.

While Thomas doesn’t have the greatest track record at Riviera — he’s two-for-two, but has yet to finish inside the top 40 — he’s been playing well enough to contend anywhere. With seven top 25s in his last eight starts dating back to last fall, his good form goes much deeper than his two most recent wins. While he struggled at TPC Scottsdale, his missed cut was mostly due to a nightmarish putting performance in the second round. He still ranks ninth on the new PGA Tour season in strokes gained: putting, so I’m willing to write the mishap off as an anomaly as we head to the Genesis Open.

With a well-rounded game that’s built to win, Thomas is fast becoming a fixture in the PGA Tour winner’s circle. Don’t be surprised if he finds himself there again come Sunday afternoon.

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7. Justin Rose
Two top fives in last three starts

This Englishman is off to a fast start in the new year, but he would love to take things to the next level with a victory. With his PGA Tour win drought coming up on two years in April, Rose should be hungry to add to his total. Luckily, he brings us a clear case of converging trends this week.

So far, Rose has made the cut in every one of his three starts in 2017, finishing solo second at the Sony Open in Hawaii and in a tie for fourth at the Farmers Insurance Open. While he faded to a tie for 39th at last week’s AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am, he still struck the ball well and was solid out of the sand, skills that will be particularly helpful at Riviera this week. With a total of three Genesis Open top 20s over the years, including a tie for 16th last year, he’s also looking good in terms of course history.

With last fall’s injury woes behind him, Rose has been playing as well as ever this year. Both his game and his confidence are on the upswing. He looks poised to post some good scores at Riviera.

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8. Brendan Steele
Four consecutive top 20 finishes

From a fantasy perspective, this California native has been one of the biggest risers out there over the last couple of years. Steele started off his PGA Tour career by winning the Valero Texas Open in 2011, but he was erratic in the ensuing years, earning the reputation of a guy with some interesting skills who just couldn’t put it together. Consistency has come with age, however, and Steele is currently enjoying his best campaign as a professional to date, highlighted by a win at the Safeway Open to kick off the season.

Steele hasn’t slowed down since that victory — he rolls into this week on a run of four consecutive top 20 finishes, including a tie for 16th at the Waste Management Phoenix Open most recently. He’s also got a solid track record at the Genesis Open — five-for-six with a pair of top 15s — so history is on his side this week. Like several others on this list, his ball striking skills have been a big factor in his success this season.

Even against a talented field, Steele stands out as one of the frontrunners. He’s been on the rise for so long now — it wouldn’t be at all surprising to see him take home his second PGA Tour victory in just eight starts.

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9. Jason Day
Tied for fifth at the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am

He’s owned the top spot in the Official World Golf Ranking for months now, but it feels as though Day has been awfully quiet lately. While he’s continued to post solid finishes, he’s also run into his usual injury troubles, and his victory drought is coming up on nine months. Pursuers like Henrik Stenson, Dustin Johnson, Hideki Matsuyama and Jordan Spieth are fast closing in on his crown as the game’s No. 1 player.

In addition to that, Day will carry some baggage into this week’s event — despite multiple attempts, he’s never finished inside the top 60 at the Genesis Open. Even so, I’m giving the Aussie a spot in this week’s power rankings. The last time Day teed it up at Riviera was in 2012, and we can all agree that he’s now a different and significantly better player than he was back then. What’s more, he tied for fifth at Pebble Beach last week, and a quick look at the stat sheet shows that he didn’t have his best game with him. If he can contend for a Pebble Beach win playing at 75 percent, then he can defy his personal history and come out on top at Riviera.

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10. Charl Schwartzel
Two career top fives at Riviera

This South African’s brand of quiet consistency doesn’t do much for him in the way of headlines, but it’s led to dozens of big-time paydays on the golf course. After a characteristically solid 2016 season, Schwartzel finished out the year with some fine play, so he appears to be trending well as he prepares to play the Genesis Open.

A recent fixture at Riviera Country Club, Schwartzel has made the cut in each of the last four years, finding the top five in both 2013 and 2014. He picked the course apart on a near daily basis back in those years, signing for a total of seven rounds in the 60s. Beyond that, his recent form is fairly encouraging — while he missed the cut in Malaysia last week, he was a first-timer at the event, so the poor result may well have had to do with inexperience. He closed out 2016 with back-to-back top five finishes and should still have some momentum from that stretch.

To go along with all that, Schwartzel is an outstanding ball striker, ranking seventh on the PGA Tour in strokes gained: approach-the-green last season. That skill will help him rise to the challenge on what should be a tough layout at Riviera.

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