Jordan Spieth put down a marker for the US Masters by winning the Pebble Beach Pro-Am last week and now it is Justin Rose’s chance to make a statement which he can do by winning the Genesis Open on the PGA Tour. The Perth Super 6 on the European Tour has a unique format that combines strokeplay and match play and Alex Noren can confirm his status as the highest world ranked player in the field by picking up the trophy.
The Genesis Open in the States has been played under different guises and titles. In effect it is the old Los Angeles Open which is played annually at Pacific Palisades in California. The tournament has been contested at Riviera Country Club almost continuosly since 1973 and former sponsors include Nissan and Northern Trust but Genesis takes over sponsorship for the first time this year. The club has some famous members and old US Presidents have been seen playing the course.
Riviera Country Club is known as ‘Hogan’s Alley’ because Ben Hogan won here three times in 17 months in the late 1940’s. It was also famous as the course where Tiger Woods could not win as the former world number one never took a title here even in his pomp. Riviera is an old-fashioned test of golf, requiring players to position their tee shots well, move the ball both ways in the air and keep out of trouble. At about 7,300 yards the course is average in length by modern standards.
The features and skill’s profile sums up Justin Rose who won the US Open in 2013 showing just those attributes. The bentgrass greens are smaller than average and have subtle contours which makes them similar to those at Pebble Beach and that brings Dustin Johnson into the mix. He was third at Pebble Beach last weekend but couldn’t get near Spieth who won by four shots. Spieth won the US Masters in 2015 and was coasting last year when capitulating at the par 3 12th allowing Danny Willett to seize the moment.
Rose would probably swap 10 Genesis Opens for one US Masters and he has contended at Augusta in the past. He has proven major championship temperament and can give his confidence a boost as we count down to the first major of the season with a win this week in California. Driving distance, greens in regulation and scrambling are the key skills for decent scoring and Rose is better than average in each area and looks a good thing this week. The English player has won a title on the PGA Tour in each of the last six seasons and can extend that run at Riviera.
Spieth and Johnson go to the well again and Hideki Matsuyama is also prominent in the betting. Jason Day and Sergio Garcia are other leading contenders but Keegan Bradley looks a better alternative to Rose. The 2011 PGA Champion is now back on form and seems to have adjusted to new putting regulations. Bradley scores well for the important attributes and can get in the payout places behind Rose. He last won in 2012 but two of his three PGA Tour titles were a major and WGC event. Given a decent week on the small greens Bradley can contend again.
In Australia the Perth 6 has an unusual look because the tournament is a mix of results determined by strokes and holes. The first 54 holes are played in the conventional format and then the last round becomes a knockout event. The host course is at Lake Karrinyup Country Club which was used for the Perth International from 2012 to 2014 and again in 2016. The fairways are generally generous and forgiving but wind can be a factor and can increase the degree of difficulty. This is no walk in the park and the cream should come to the top.
Noren is at number 11 in the world rankings and makes his first appearance in Western Australia after a solid start to the season. He won four times in total last year and at one point made the top 10 in the rankings which was a career first. Louis Oosthuizen and Thorbjorn Olesen are former course winners in opposition but Noren can make his class tell with another win which should take him back into the top ten in the standings. Rose can complete the European player double by winning the Genesis Open on the US PGA Tour.