Genesis Open preview: Tiger Woods makes second start of season among loaded field

Woods to make his second PGA Tour start this season after promising effort at Torrey Pines.

The PGA Tour season sometimes flies by anonymously before the Masters in April, but that has not been the case in 2018.

With Tiger Woods back in the fold, an a number of thrilling playoffs dominating the West Coast Swing, golf has been entertaining so far this year. Woods is back in action this week at Riviera Country Club, where he once played as a 17-year-old amateur.

Woods finished t-23 at Torrey Pines last month, showcasing an improved short game and solid command over his swing. His health will again be a main focal point this week, but Woods seems confident in his back following last year's fourth back surgery since 2014.

While Woods drives the headlines, this week's Genesis Open features one of the deepest, most compelling fields of the season.

The Course

Riviera is breathtaking from start to finish, but two holes really stand out on this 7,322-yard, par 71. Hole No. 6 is a short par 3 with a small pot bunker right in the middle of the green. Even with a short iron off the tee, this tricky par 3 usually garners extra attention.

Widely considered the best short par 4 on the planet, No. 10 challenges players from tee to green. Some will try to drive the razer-thin green with two deep bunkers guarding either side, while others will lay up in the fairway. Either way, anything from eagle to double bogey is in play.

Defending Champion

Dustin Johnson completed a commanding five-shot victory last year in the midst of a dominant stretch. He already has a win and a runner-up finish in his two PGA Tour starts this year, so expect the world's top-ranked golfer to be in contention once again.

The Favorites

Other than Johnson, who is the favorite every week he tees it up, this week's field boasts a plethora of big names. Rory McIlroy, Jordan Spieth and Justin Thomas are all looking for their first wins of the year, but Thomas did win during the fall.

McIlroy missed the cut last week after two top-3 finishes to start the year on the European Tour, while Spieth has yet to get up to speed with his putter.

Adam Scott and Charl Schwartzel, two stars struggling for form, have found success here and could get back on track this week.

European Invasion

A majority of the European Tour's top stars are in the field this week, including Tommy Fleetwood and Francesco Molinari, who are both ranked inside the top 22 in the world ranking.

Alex Noren, who lost in a playoff to Jason Day at Torrey Pines looks poised for another good finish, and Thomas Pieters returns after finishing t-2 here last year.