Charl Schwartzel should dominate his Genesis group
Tiger Woods no match for buzzing Berger
Sky Sports Golf, 7pm Thursday
Tiger Woods, Rory McIlroy and Justin Thomas form a mouthwatering all-star threeball on day one of the Genesis Open at Riviera Country Club, California, the illustrious trio scheduled to tee off at 3.22pm UK and Ireland time.
World number one and defending champion, Dustin Johnson, appears at 8.12pm, while Jordan Spieth is also a late starter. One man who will not be featuring, though, is Bill Haas, the ante-post 80-1 chance who was injured in a car accident on Tuesday night. The driver of the Ferrari in which Haas was a passenger was killed in the crash. First alternate, Joel Dahmen, will replace Haas in the Genesis field.
Riviera is a track which demands strong ball-striking and Charl Schwartzel is well equipped to succeed there. The South African, who was swinging nicely in the SA Open in his only previous start this year, looks a solid threeball option against Cody Gribble and Brian Gay in the 3.43pm contest.
More golf by Steve Palmer
Schwartzel finished third on his Riviera debut in 2013, then was fifth the following year. Added comfort comes from the fact the course has kikuyu grass, which is prevalent in his homeland, and this is the US Tour venue which suits him best. South Africans have an excellent record in the event, with Ernie Els and Rory Sabbatini both titleists.
Gribble has missed 19 of his last 29 cuts, with 14th place in the 32-runner 2017 Sentry Tournament of Champions his best finish in that period, and he missed the cut by five shots in his only previous Genesis start. Gay has been in tidy form, but his last five Riviera visits have resulted in five missed cuts, the lengthened track overwhelming this powder-puff driver.
Marc Leishman, who typically employs a power-fade off the tee which is the ideal shot-shape for Riviera, is the other threeball option which appeals. The Australian has three top-20s to his name in this event, including fifth place in 2016, and there is every reason to believe he will prove too solid for Adam Hadwin and Peter Malnati in the 7.51pm group.
Leishman has won twice on the US Tour in the last 11 months, posting ten top-tens in that period, and looks far better equipped to handle the stiff tee-to-green test of Riviera than his playing partners. Hadwin and Malnati rely heavily on their short-game skills to make a score.
Pick of the 72-hole match-bet prices is the 10-11 about Daniel Berger defeating Woods. Berger can boast rock-solid 2018 form figures of 11-14-11 and he was oozing long-game control in the Phoenix Open last time out.
Woods battled his way to 23rd spot in the Farmers Insurance Open in his only outing of the year, but his driving was awful. Short-game magic kept the living legend competitive and he made the cut by a shot, but the lack of tee-to-green control was alarming for his army of fans. Even in his pomp, Woods failed to triumph at Riviera, and it is difficult to imagine the rusty 2018 version contending on Sunday.
C Schwartzel to win threeball
3pts 11-10 general
M Leishman to win threeball
3pts Evens general
D Berger to beat T Woods
3pts 10-11 Betway
Follow us on Twitter @racingpostsport
Like us on Facebook RacingPostSport