After a disappointing performance last week at Pebble Beach – where he missed the secondary cut and snapped a streak of five consecutive top-15s worldwide – Watson returns to the site of his 2014 victory, where he went 64-64 on the weekend to win. He also has four other top-20s in nine career starts at The Riv. Rose is coming off a T-6 at Pebble Beach but he has traditionally struggled here – in nine career starts, he has only one top-10 (2011). Hahn is the defending champion, but he has managed only two top-10s since.
McIlroy makes his first Tour start of 2016 and also his debut at Hogan’s Alley. The world No. 3 finished in the top six in both of his starts last month on the European Tour. Matsuyama won in his last start, in Phoenix, and likely will be one of the favorites again this week. Last year, he tied for fourth here. Kuchar has never finished inside the top 10 in nine career starts at Riviera. He hasn’t played since a T-49 at the CareerBuilder Challenge.
Perhaps a trip to L.A. will get Johnson back on track. After a surprising T-41 at Pebble Beach (where he has won twice), he now returns to the familiar environs of Riviera, where he has four top-five finishes since 2010, including runners-up the last two years. Scott hasn’t played since a T-56 at the Sony Open. He won the rain-shortened event here in 2005, added a runner-up in ’06 and has three other top-20s since. Garcia is making his first Tour start of 2016, but he has a solid record in this event, with seven top-25s in nine starts. The Spaniard hasn’t finished worse than 11th in his last five worldwide starts, including a T-7 a few weeks ago in Qatar.
Spieth is grouped with fellow 22-year-old Thomas, whom he beat, head-to-head, during the NCAA finals to give the Longhorns their first national title in 40 years. Last year, Spieth finished a shot out of a playoff here, while Thomas tied for 41st. The world No. 1’s T-21 last week at Pebble (on the strength of a final-round 66) broke a streak of seven consecutive top-10s worldwide. Couples is making his 34th start in this event. After a stellar run, he has three missed cuts and a T-46 in his last four appearances.