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Tuesday, 20 November, 2018

Johnson ready to enter the winner's enclosure

Dustin can build on excellent Riviera record

Dustin Johnson can thrive at Riviera this week
1 of 1

Sky Sports 4, 7pm Thursday
Event starts 2.40pm

Wilkerson's top tip
Dustin Johnson 9-1
The world's top players head to California in their droves this week to pit their wits against one of the US Tour's most traditional tests and, if the weather holds, it should prove a cracking tournament.

The big names are not just turning up for appearance money either. They are producing some great performances as well.

Jordan Spieth steamed to victory at Pebble Beach last week, seven days after Hideki Matsuyama held his playoff nerve to win the Phoenix Open and Sergio Garcia was at his best to win the Dubai Desert Classic.

With less than two month to go until The Masters, the season is hotting up nicely.

The big guns are making the mark on the US Tour and it could be time for another of the star attractions to make an appearance in the winner's circle.

Rain is expected at Riviera this week and for a course with six par fours of more than 450 yards, short hitters could be at a disadvantage if wet fairways affect the run of the ball.

That should be good news for Dustin Johnson, who finished third at Pebble Beach last week and take up the challenge at a track where he has had decent results.

Although the US Open champion has not won at the Pacific Palisades track, he has claimed top-ten finishes in six of his last attempts at the tournament, which was previously known as the Northern Trust Open.

Already long off the tee, Johnson has shown his short game is in fine fettle too and he bounced back well last week after missing the cut at the Farmers Insurance open. He was caught up in the Tiger Woods circus and also had little time to readjust after a long trip to the Abu Dhabi Championship, where he finished second.

With other star players flexing their muscles in the run-up to Augusta, he should be geared to lay down a marker this week.

Next best
Adam Scott 25-1
Former Masters champion Adam Scott fluffed the chance to take this title last year when a double bogey on the eighth opened the door for Bubba Watson and the Australian missed out by a shot.

But he is another player with a decent Riviera record - he won in 2005 when the tournament was reduced to just 36 holes - and he should be confident of a bold showing.

A combination of driving distance and greens-in-regulation ability is a recipe for success at the course and although a tie for ninth has been the only action he has undertaken since the turn of the year, he has been the model of consistency.

He has finished in the top 20 in 11 of the 12 tournaments he has played since The Open and this is a good opportunity for him to remind the golfing world that he is still around.

Other selections
Bill Haas 66-1
Keegan Bradley 80-1
Brendan Steele 66-1
There is a great deal of competition at the top of the betting, but former champion Bill Haas could still prove a factor.

Haas won the tournament in 2012 in a playoff and finished third to following year so the man from Charlotte has plenty of fond memories of this week's surroundings.

He has missed the cut on his last two trips, but he heads into the tournament having posted five consecutive top-20 finishes, so he could go well at a big price.

Keegan Bradley lost in that playoff to Haas and finished fourth at Riviera two years ago when his game was in a worse place than it is now.

The former USPGA champion has had to make huge adjustments following the ban on anchored putters, but it looks as if he is getting to grips with the situation.

He missed the cut last time out in Phoenix but he was tied for fourth at the Farmers Insurance Open the week before, which was his third top-ten finish of the season.

Brendan Steele has pushed up the rankings following his win at the Safeway Open in October and has finished in the top 20 in each of his last four outings.

He was unable to keep up the pace after firing an opening 65 in Phoenix but he has not shot a round of more than 73 shots in his last 28 spins.

He finished tenth at Riviera in 2014 and 14th in 2015.

Others to note
Jordan Spieth
Comfortable winner at Pebble Beach who is rediscovering his mojo on the greens. Two top-12 finishes and two missed cuts at Riviera.

Jason Day
Fifth place at Pebble Beach was encouraging but his form figures at Riviera are MC-MC-62. Has not played in the tournament since 2012.

Hideki Matsuyama
Looks a big threat. Should be buzzing after his win in Phoenix and has decent course form figures (23-4-11).

Sergio Garcia
Three top-ten finishes at the venue and stormed to victory in Dubai the week before last.

Bubba Watson
Has won the tournament twice in the last three years but his recent form is sticky. Missed the cut in Phoenix.

Staking plan
D Johnson
2pts win 9-1 Betfair, Betfred
A Scott
1.5pts each-way 25-1 bet365, BoyleSports
B Haas
1pt each-way 66-1 general
K Bradley
1pt each-way 80-1 general
B Steele
1pt each-way 66-1 general

Course Riviera Country Club, Pacific Palisades, California
Prize money $7m ($1.260m to the winner)
Length 7,322 yards Par 71 Field 144

Course records – 72 holes 264 Lanny Wadkins (1985)
18 holes 61 Ted Tryba (1991)
Course winners taking part Ernie Els, Adam Scott, Charles Howell, Phil Mickelson (twice), Aaron Baddeley, Bill Haas, John Merrick, Bubba Watson (twice), James Hahn

When to bet By 2.40pm on Thursday
Where to watch Live on Sky Sports 4 for all four days from 7pm 
Time difference California is eight hours behind UK and Ireland
Last week – Pebble Beach Pro-Am 1 J Spieth (9-1), 2 K Kraft
(300-1), 3 D Johnson (8-1), 4 B Snedeker (20-1), T5 G Woodland (50-1), J Day (12-1), J Rahm (22-1)

Course overview Riviera Country Club has been used for this event (formerly the Los Angeles Open, Nissan Open and until this year the Northern Trust Open) every year since 1973 apart from 1983 and 1998. The only recent Major it has staged is the 1995 USPGA (won by Steve Elkington).

It has always been known as a faders’ paradise, and the left-to-right shot-shape of Fred Couples guided him to victory twice in the early 1990s, and all-time greats like Nick Faldo, Ernie Els and Phil Mickelson have prospered there since Boom Boom’s success.

Tom Fazio gently redesigned the track in 2008, lengthening the layout to combat technological advances. The lush kikuyu grass rough can be penal and is reminiscent of that commonly found on South African courses, while the creeping bentgrass, Poa annua greens require plenty of getting to know.

There are lots of doglegs and Riviera is renowned for being a ‘thinker’s course’ where experienced campaigners usually flourish. The tenth hole is a classic risk-reward driveable par four, which yields any score from a two to a seven, while the uphill 578-yard par-five is a serious test of muscle. The first is the easiest hole, the 12th is the most difficult

Story of last year Adam Scott looked to be heading for victory before a double bogey on the eighth and he allowed Bubba Watson to claim his second Riviera triumph in three years. Scott and Jason Kokrak were a shot behind.

Weather forecast Rain is expected on Thursday evening and all day Friday, although it is set to be heavier in the afternoon. Further rain is expected on Saturday afternoon but Sunday should be clear

Type of player suited to challenge Quality ball-strikers with sharp strategies typically prevail at Riviera, and punters should concentrate on players who have plenty of course experience in their locker.

The grip-it-and-rip-it brigade usually come unstuck along these eucalyptus-lined fairways – the gentle doglegs and tight angles demand sound positional play – although it has become a long course since the redesign and could prove a challenge for short hitters if the rain sets in.

Key attribute Accuracy

Rain is expected at Riviera this week and for a course with six par fours of more than 450 yards, short hitters could be at a disadvantage if wet fairways affect the run of the ball.
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