Genesis Invitational final day preview: Johnson eyeing first World No. 1 win at Riviera

After wind caused chaos at Riviera Country Club on Saturday, the third round will need to be wrapped up before the final circuit begins.

"Wind stopped play" is not a common occurence on the PGA Tour, but it was the standout feature of Saturday at the Genesis Invitational.

For the first time since the 2015 Open (and the 2014 AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am on US soil), it was gales alone which called a halt to proceedings (as opposed to accompanying rain and threat of lightning).

Even when play resumed mid-afternoon the gusting breezes were sufficient to wreck a few scorecards.

Making significant progress was less a case of stringing together the birdies, more about staying resilient and avoiding bogeys.

The top six players on the leaderboard when darkness fell will all return in the morning to complete their third rounds with leader Sam Burns yet to tee off at the 14th hole.

World number one Dustin Johnson is hoping to become the first sitting leader of the rankings to win at Riviera since they began in 1986, but he has a few challenges ahead of him, not least the first shot he'll face when he returns first thing.

Let's take a closer look at the current situation, the Sunday weather forecast, and the prospects of the leading contenders.

The state of play

Burns remains the tournament leader on 10-under through 13 holes of his third round, but what was a significant advantage over the field dwindled to just two shots late in the day.

He made back-to-back bogeys right before the hooter sounded whilst Englishman Matthew Fitzpatrick made birdie at the 16th to reach 8-under, he then added par at the 17th.

Burns had hung tough over the early holes, making it to 30 straight holes without a dropped shot before signing for a bogey at the 8th.

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However, a superb sand save-birdie at the short par-4 10th got the shot back before his late trip-up.

Fitzpatrick had an eventful Saturday, at one stage not making a single par through ten consecutive holes. Crucially, he not only rebounded from every mistake, but ultimately made three more birdies (seven) than bogeys (four) and is on track to card the low score in round three.

Young Americans Wyndham Clark (through 15 holes) and Max Homa (13) are 1-under for their third round and 7-under for the tournament, in a share of third with Johnson.

He is level-par through 13 holes, but was in the process of making a mess of the par-3 14th hole when played was halted.

He found rough from the tee box, hacked out to 17-feet and has that putt to save his par when he heads back to the green.

Should he miss it, he will fall to 6-under and join Patrick Cantlay who was 3-under through 11 holes on Saturday, but made a pair of late bogeys and landed in the fairway bunker from the tee box of the par-5 17th with his last shot of Saturday evening.

Sunday's weather

It will be a beautiful day - sunny, with temperatures in the high 60s. Mostly, there will be nothing more than a breeze, but it will be a little stronger for those who return early.

That said, they do have a chance to make pars and birdies, rather than hang on for pars and avoid bogeys.

It might take the current clubhouse leaders on 5-under 208 (Matt Jones, Talor Gooch and Tony Finau) right out of the reckoning.

The leading contenders

Sam Burns

Chasing a first PGA Tour title (his current best was third at the 2018 Sanderson Farms Championship) and also just a second 54-hole lead on the circuit - in his first, at the 2020 Houston Open, he led by one and a final round 72 left him tied seventh.

Assuming it remains the case, by the end of the delayed round, it will be the fourth time this season that he has been within two blows of the 54-hole lead - however in the three previous instances he averaged 72.33 in the final lap.

Burns will want to find more fairways on Sunday.
Burns will want to find more fairways on Sunday.

As things currently stand, he leads the field for Strokes Gained Approach (8.006) and is second for Tee to Green (7.622).

A big weakness so far has been his accuracy from the tee. He found just 6-of-14 fairways in round one and has got worse since, landing just 7-of-25.

It hasn't hurt him yet, but will it when the pressure rises?

Matthew Fitzpatrick

Another player seeking a breakthrough at this level and to improve on a previous best of second at the 2019 Arnold Palmer Invitational (when he held a one shot 54-hole lead - it's not out of the question that he'll lead again).

His Strokes Gained stats paint a solid picture, ranking top eight for Tee to Green, Around the Green and Putting.

The short game skills have been key because he's missed nearly half the greens he's taken aim at and ranks outside the top 60 in the field for GIR.

Will the scrambling skills maintain through another lap (and a hole)? Or can he find something with his approach work?

Dustin Johnson

One way or another the remaining holes of the third round could define Johnson's day.

The chances are that he will drop a shot more or less immediately. How will he respond? And if he does save par with the long putt to come, can he ride the wave and apply pressure to those in front?

He sounded confident when returning to the clubhouse, reporting: "I feel like I'm playing pretty solid. Hadn't really made any putts, but I'm pleased with where I'm at."

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The putting has to be the worry. He got away with it on his last start, when winning the Saudi International on the European Tour, but he currently ranks 53rd in the field for SG Putting, in contrast to being first for Tee to Green.

Max Homa and Wyndham Clark

Homa (winner of the 2019 Wells Fargo Championship) has solid Strokes Gained stats, but traditional stats show he is in this position by dint of holing birdie looks: he's second for Putts per GIR and outside the top 20 for GIR itself.

He said, late Saturday: "I've hit it really well, driven it well. I'm doing a lot of things great."

Clark's PGA Tour best was playoff defeat earlier this season in the Bermuda Championship. Beware the injured golfer? He hurt his back earlier this week and has been careful with it ever since.

Riviera numbers

The last five winners on the course had very strong course form (a top three in past renewals), recorded excellent Greens in Regulation stats (all five top eight, two led the rankings, one was second), and were within four shots of the lead with 18 holes to play.

What does that suggest about those currently in the hunt?

It says that Fitzpatrick's poor tee-to-green game has real potential to be his downfall, that Clark, Homa and Cantlay all need very fine GIR numbers in the final round to contend (they are all currently ranked in the 20s) and that all four, in any case, lack the previous experience on the course (although Cantlay has a fourth and Homa a fifth). Finau has a top two at the course and solid greens hit numbers, but may well be too far back when the final lap starts.

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That leaves Burns and Johnson.

The former lacks the course history (MC-T23) while the latter faces a nasty par putt and needs to respond to whatever happens thereafter: stay close to the lead (within those four blows) and he's the man the numbers like.

Johnson is 7/2 to win the Genesis Invitational with Paddy Power, with Burns 3/1 and Fitzpatrick 4/1.