Best bets for the PGA Tour Genesis Invitational

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Scottie Scheffler regained his spot at No. 1 in the Official World Golf Rankings (OWGR) on Sunday with a successful defense of his title at the WM Phoenix Open. Scheffler, priced at 14-1 pre-tournament, carded a closing 65 at TPC Scottsdale to finish 19 under par and two shots ahead of Canada’s Nick Taylor, who also shot a brilliant 65 playing alongside Scheffler and world No. 3 Jon Rahm. Scheffler led the field for Strokes Gained: Approach and Strokes Gained: Tee-To-Green.

This week, Scheffler (11-1) and nearly every eligible PGA Tour player in the OWGR Top 100 head to Los Angeles for the Genesis Invitational. However, it is the 1294th-ranked player and tournament host who is the headliner this week as Tiger Woods (150-1) makes his return to competitive play for the first time since the British Open at St. Andrews last summer.

 

Rahm (17-2) is the tournament favorite and rightfully so considering he has four worldwide victories and has not finished worse than eighth in 11 of his last 12 worldwide starts. Rory McIlroy (10-1), already a winner this year in Dubai, lost his No. 1 ranking last weekend but has finished in the top 10 in this event in three of the last four years.

Justin Thomas (16-1) finished fourth in Phoenix and was runner-up in the 2019 Genesis. Tony Finau (18-1) is a two-time runner-up at the Genesis, including a 2021 playoff defeat at the hands of Max Homa (20-1).

Xander Schauffele (16-1) finished top 10 last week in Phoenix and has been 15th or better here in four of five appearances. Collin Morikawa (22-1) and Cameron Young (35-1) shared second here last year behind Joaquin Niemann, whom we tipped here in his victory last year. Niemann will not be defending his title as he joined LIV Golf last year.

Other top-15 players in this week’s field include Patrick Cantlay (25-1), Viktor Hovland (28-1), Sam Burns (33-1), Matt Fitzpatrick (40-1), Tom Kim (40-1) and Will Zalatoris (40-1).

Other former Genesis champions in this week’s field include Adam Scott (60-1), James Hahn (350-1) and JB Holmes (600-1).

The Event

In 2020, the Genesis Invitational was promoted to invitational status, same as Jack Nicklaus’ Memorial Tournament, the Arnold Palmer Invitational, the Charles Schwab Challenge and the RBC Heritage. This year, the field consists of 130 players and the total prize money has increased to $20 million as the Genesis is now a "designated event." A victory in this invitational event also carries with it a three-year PGA Tour exemption versus the standard two-year exemption.

This tournament was established in 1926 as the Los Angeles Open and was first played at the Los Angeles Country Club and has been played at a variety of courses in the greater Los Angeles area. Riviera Country Club, located in Pacific Palisades, has hosted the event 57 of 93 times and has been its permanent home essentially since 1984 (Valencia CC hosted in 1998). The event has been the site for several historical milestones in the game of golf. In 1938, the legendary Babe Zaharias became the first woman to play in a professional men’s golf event. In 1992, the Nissan L.A. Open was the site of Tiger Woods’ first PGA Tour event, which he played as a 16-year-old high school sophomore amateur.

Woods will be in the field while also serving as the tournament host as his Tiger Woods Foundation is the event organizer. This event has had many legendary winners, including Ben Hogan, Sam Snead, Tom Watson, Johnny Miller, Hale Irwin, Byron Nelson, Ben Crenshaw, Nick Faldo, Phil Mickelson, Fred Couples, Ernie Els and numerous other major champions. 

South Korea-based Hyundai Motor Group, through its Genesis Motors subsidiary, took over the tournament’s sponsorship in 2017.

Here is how the Genesis Invitational 130-player field is comprised:

  • Genesis winners from the past five years
  • The Players Championship and major championship winners in the last five years
  • The Tour Championship winners in 2017 and 2018; the FedEx Cup champion from 2019
  • World Golf Championships winners in the past three years
  • Arnold Palmer Invitational and Memorial Tournament winners in the past three years
  • Tournament winners since the last Genesis
  • Prior year U.S. Amateur winner (may have turned professional, pending Policy Board approval)
  • Current PGA Tour members who were playing members on the last named U.S. Ryder Cup team, European Ryder Cup team, U.S. Presidents Cup team and International Presidents Cup team
  • Top 125 from the prior year FedEx Cup points list
  • Top 10 from the current FedEx Cup points list (as of Friday prior)
  • 8 sponsor’s exemptions — 2 from Web.com Tour finals, 2 members not otherwise exempt and 4 unrestricted
  • Remaining positions filled from current year FedEx Cup points list (as of Friday prior)

The Course

Riviera Country Club is located in Santa Monica Canyon, just below the Santa Monica Mountains and one block south of the famous Sunset Boulevard. The course was designed by George C. Thomas and William Bell in 1926 with a Tom Fazio redesign in 2012. It is a classical parklands layout of 7,322 yards and plays as a par-71. Riviera has hosted three major championships: the 1948 U.S. Open and the 1983 and 1995 PGA Championship. It also hosted the 1998 U.S. Senior Open along with the 2017 U.S. Amateur and will serve as the golfing venue for the 2028 Olympics in Los Angeles. The course has been nicknamed “Hogan’s Alley” for the legendary Ben Hogan, who won the L.A. Open three times (1942, 1947, 1948) and won the U.S. Open here.

The Kikuyugrass fairways (only Riviera and Torrey Pines feature both Kikuyu fairways and rough) are very tight and the players will be hitting into bigger (7,500 square feet, seventh-largest on the PGA Tour) and undulating Poa Annua greens that will roll a fast 12.5 on the stimpmeter and closer to 13 on Sunday. While the greens are large, they have the second-lowest mark on tour for Greens In Regulation. That is because there are numerous dogleg holes where some players will be hitting blind approach shots, and while the course has just 58 bunkers, they are prominently placed, so shaping shots and creativity are rewarded. Three-time tournament winner Bubba Watson often said he intentionally missed certain fairways in order to gain better sight lines into the greens. Riviera has ranked as one of the top 10 most difficult courses on the PGA Tour in four of the last seven years but was only 13th in difficulty last year. It will play firm and fast, and Riviera is always known as a "shotmaker’s course." There are also zero water hazards at Riviera.

The four par-3s have an average length of 198.3 yards (three are over 190) and cumulatively played over par last season (two had a sub-12% birdie rate).

The 11 par-4s have an average length of 441.2 yards with seven of them in the 430-480 range.

Holes 12, 15 and 18 were the three hardest par-4 holes on the course last year.

The three par-5s had an average length of 558.7 yards (two are over 580) and were the three easiest holes on the course.

The opening hole proved to be the difference last year as 2022 Genesis champion Joaquin Niemann outscored runner-up Collin Morikawa by three strokes on the par-5 first.

Correlated courses that should indicate success here at Riviera include Augusta National, Torrey Pines South, PGA National, Quail Hollow, TPC Harding Park and the Copperhead course at Innisbrook.

Recent History/Winners

2022: Joaquin Niemann (-19/265); 50-1

2021: Max Homa (-12/272); 60-1*

2020: Adam Scott (-11/273); 33-1

2019: J.B. Holmes (-14/270); 150-1

2018: Bubba Watson (-12/272); 50-1

2017: Dustin Johnson (-17/267); 9-1

2016: Bubba Watson (-15/269); 25-1

2015: James Hahn (-6/278); 200-1**

2014: Bubba Watson (-15/269); 33-1

2013: John Merrick (-11/273); 250-1***

2012: Bill Haas (-7/277); 50-1****

2011: Aaron Baddeley (-12/272); 100-1

2010: Steve Stricker (-16/268); 16-1

Playoff win over Tony Finau – *

Playoff win over Paul Casey & Dustin Johnson – *

Playoff win over Charlie Beljan – **

Playoff win over Keegan Bradley & Phil Mickelson – ***

Trends

​Here are some Genesis Invitational recent winning trends:

  • 13 of the 15 winners had at least three previous career wins.
  • 15 of the last 17 winners had played in at least four previous Genesis Invitationals.
  • 13 of the last 17 winners have finished 12th or better in a previous Genesis Invitational.
  • 17 of the last 21 winners have finished 35th or better in their last start before the Genesis Invitational.
  • 13 of the last 16 winners played at Pebble Beach or TPC Scottsdale in their previous start.
  • 14 of the last 15 winners were age 29 or older.

Statistical Analysis

Joaquin Niemann led the field for Strokes Gained: Approach in his victory here last year.

Strokes Gained: Approach (Last 36 rounds)

  1. Tom Hoge 39.7
  2. Tom Kim 38.2
  3. Xander Schauffele 32.4
  4. Rory McIlroy 31.5
  5. Collin Morikawa 31.3
  6. Brendan Steele 30.9
  7. Russell Knox 29.1
  8. Tony Finau 27.4
  9. Mark Hubbard 24.5
  10. Shane Lowry 24
  11. Scottie Scheffler 23.4
  12. Corey Conners 21.8
  13. Will Zalatoris 21.6
  14. Russell Henley 19.4
  15. Jason Day 19.1

While the greens at Riviera are the seventh largest on tour, they are also the second hardest on tour for Greens In Regulation.

Greens In Regulation Gained (Last 36 rounds)

  1. Scottie Scheffler 43.7
  2. Corey Conners 41.4
  3. Collin Morikawa 41.3
  4. Xander Schauffele 40.4
  5. Tony Finau 37
  6. Jon Rahm 36.2
  7. Brendan Steele 33.8
  8. Tom Kim 32.9
  9. Russell Henley 31.4
  10. Jason Day 30.6
  11. Hayden Buckley 30.5
  12. Rory McIlroy 30.4
  13. Alex Smalley 30.2
  14. Aaron Rai 29.9
  15. Emiliano Grillo 29.2
  16. Patrick Cantlay 28.1

While shorter hitters off the tee that hit precise long irons can contend and even win here, longer driving distance is the easier path to contention and/or victory as the Driving Accuracy rate here is just 52.5% (fifth lowest on tour) and the rough is only around two inches high here.

Driving Distance Gained (Last 36 rounds)

  1. Rory McIlroy 24.1
  2. Wyndham Clark 18.6
  3. Cameron Young 17.7
  4. Cameron Champ 17.1
  5. Trey Mullinax 14.3
  6. Thomas Detry 13.9
  7. Jon Rahm 13.5
  8. Callum Tarren 12.7
  9. Luke List 12.1
  10. Will Zalatoris 11.6
  11. Jhonattan Vegas 11.3
  12. Davis Thompson 11.2
  13. Patrick Rodgers 10.8
  14. Keith Mitchell 10.8
  15. Cameron Davis 10.5
  16. Kurt Kitayama 10.4
  17. Gary Woodland 10.1
  18. Kevin Tway 10

Note: Average Yards Gained Per Drive

Even the most accurate hitters off the tee will miss plenty of fairways here. Good Drives Gained accounts for still being able to hit greens not only from the fairways but also from the rough.

Good Drives Gained (Last 36 rounds)

  1. Collin Morikawa 53.1
  2. Aaron Rai 45.1
  3. Corey Conners 40.6
  4. Jason Day 34.5
  5. Russell Henley 34.5
  6. Justin Suh 33.2
  7. Tony Finau 33
  8. Scottie Scheffler 28
  9. Adam Hadwin 27
  10. Hayden Buckley 26.7
  11. Emiliano Grillo 26.5
  12. Matthew NeSmith 26
  13. Xander Schauffele 25.8
  14. Jon Rahm 24.9
  15. Doug Ghim 24.5
  16. Tom Kim 24.2
  17. Tom Hoge 23.1

Six par-4s at Riviera measure between 450 and 500 yards.

Strokes Gained Par-4s 450-500 Yards (Last 36 rounds)

  1. Rory McIlroy 24.7
  2. Max Homa 23.2
  3. Sam Ryder 20
  4. Tyrrell Hatton 19.6
  5. Tommy Fleetwood 18.7
  6. Jason Day 17.4
  7. Joel Dahmen 17.3
  8. Hayden Buckley 16.9
  9. Tony Finau 16.4
  10. Viktor Hovland 15.8
  11. Sungjae Im 15.1
  12. Keegan Bradley 14.8
  13. Xander Schauffele 14.3
  14. Sahith Theegala 13.9
  15. Will Zalatoris 13.2
  16. KH Lee 13.1
  17. Jon Rahm 12.9

The most recent seven winners have totaled 59 shots under par on the par-5s. Last year’s champion, Joaquin Niemann went 10 under on the par-5s for the week.

Strokes Gained Par-5s (Last 36 rounds)

  1. Rory McIlroy 27.1
  2. Xander Schauffele 23.5
  3. Sungjae Im 22.9
  4. Justin Thomas 19.4
  5. Jon Rahm 19.3
  6. Patrick Rodgers 18.4
  7. Patrick Cantlay 18
  8. Cameron Davis 17.9
  9. Adam Hadwin 17.8
  10. Wyndham Clark 16.8
  11. Tony Finau 16.1
  12. Dylan Frittelli 15.4
  13. Davis Thompson 15.1
  14. Matt Fitzpatrick 14.8
  15. Will Zalatoris 14.8
  16. Shane Lowry 14.3
  17. Alex Smalley 14

The greens at Riviera are missed at a 44% rate, so players will have to scramble and gain around said greens.

 

 

Strokes Gained: Around The Green (Last 36 rounds)

  1. Justin Thomas 24.1
  2. Scott Piercy 19.6
  3. Danny Willett 18
  4. Luke Donald 17.8
  5. Francesco Molinari 14.6
  6. Max Homa 14.4
  7. Christiaan Bezuidenhout 14.3
  8. Stephan Jaeger 14
  9. David Lipsky 13.2
  10. Hideki Matsuyama 12.9
  11. Mackenzie Hughes 12.9
  12. Wyndham Clark 12
  13. Scott Stallings 11.8
  14. Martin Laird 11.3
  15. Andrew Putnam 11.3
  16. Rory McIlroy 11.1
  17. Tony Finau 11.1

Scrambling Gained: Poa Greens (Last 36 rounds)

  1. Adam Hadwin 20.3
  2. Danny Willett 18.7
  3. Brian Harman 17.7
  4. Kevin Kisner 16.6
  5. Matt Kuchar 16.4
  6. Harris English 14.4
  7. Rory McIlroy 13.9
  8. Matt Wallace 13.5
  9. Tiger Woods 13.3
  10. Adam Scott 13.3
  11. Seamus Power 12.5
  12. Billy Horschel 11.6
  13. Jason Day 11.6
  14. Tommy Fleetwood 11.5
  15. Wyndham Clark 11.2
  16. Matthew NeSmith 11

Riviera is also the fourth-toughest course on tour to gain with the putter. These are the toughest greens all season for putts shorter than five feet and the fourth-most difficult for putts between five and 15 feet. Riviera’s deep bunkers cause sand saves to be 6% tougher than the tour average. In fact, the bunkers are the second toughest in which to gain strokes. Short-game play is tested in a major way here and plenty of potential bogeys lurk.

Strokes Gained Poa Putting 0-5 Feet (Last 36 rounds)

  1. Peter Malnati 11.4
  2. Wyndham Clark 10.7
  3. Doug Ghim 10.1
  4. Rory McIlroy 10.1
  5. Jon Rahm 9.5
  6. Luke Donald 8.9
  7. Adam Schenk 8.4
  8. Tyler Duncan 8
  9. Sungjae Im 7.9
  10. Harris English 7.7
  11. Patton Kizzire 7.6
  12. Sam Burns 7.5
  13. Viktor Hovland 7.2
  14. Chesson Hadley 7.2
  15. Beau Hossler 7.1
  16. Max Homa 6.5
  17. Si Woo Kim 6.5
  18. Trey Mullinax 6.2

Bogey Avoidance (Last 36 rounds)

  1. Jason Day 28.7
  2. Rory McIlroy 28.4
  3. Matt Fitzpatrick 26.9
  4. Tony Finau 26.3
  5. Scottie Scheffler 25.6
  6. Andrew Putnam 25.4
  7. Xander Schauffele 24.7
  8. Lanto Griffin 22.6
  9. Brian Harman 22.3
  10. Jon Rahm 22
  11. Si Woo Kim 21.4
  12. Patrick Cantlay 21.2
  13. Adam Hadwin 21
  14. Thomas Detry 21
  15. Max Homa 20.3
  16. Hideki Matusyama 20

Selections

Rory McIlroy (19-2, BetMGM)

McIlroy broke a streak of finishing in the top 4 of his last seven events with a T-32 at the WM Phoenix Open last week.

He also lost the OWGR No. 1 ranking courtesy of Scottie Scheffler’s win at the WMPO.

Rory has to feel that he has unfinished business at Riviera considering he was the co-leader after 54 holes in 2020, and he has finished in the top 10 at the Genesis in three of the last four years.

McIlroy ranks No. 1 in this field for Strokes Gained: Off The Tee, Strokes Gained: Total, Strokes Gained: Off The Tee, Strokes Gained: Ball Striking, Opportunities Gained, Birdie Or Better Gained, Proximity Gained 175-200 Yards, Driving Distance Gained, Strokes Gained Par-5s, Strokes Gained Par-4s 450-500 Yards.

Justin Thomas (16-1, BetRivers)

Last week’s T-4 finish in Phoenix was Thomas’ best finish since the Tour Championship last August.

He was second in last week’s field for Strokes Gained: Off The Tee and led the field for Strokes Gained: Approach in Sunday’s final round when he shot the second-low round of the day at 66.

Thomas leads this field for Strokes Gained: Around The Green, and Poa is historically his best putting surface.

Tony Finau (17-1, Circa Sports)

Speaking of unfinished business, Finau certainly has some considering he lost out in a playoff to Max Homa here in 2021.

Finau finished T-14 last week in Phoenix but was T-5 for Strokes Gained: Tee-To-Green last week.

He has two runner-up finishes at Riviera.

Collin Morikawa (22-1, Circa Sports)

Morikawa was the biggest disappointment last week as he missed the cut in Phoenix due to being a mess both on and around the greens. He has dramatically improved in that area to start 2023 and perhaps last week was just a blip. He has won before on Poa at the 2020 PGA Championship (Harding Park) and at Muirfield Village for the 2020 Workday.

He comes back to Riviera to follow up on a T-2 here last year when he was third in the field for Strokes Gained: Putting.

Morikawa’s stellar approach game has returned to form and he leads this field for Good Drives Gained over the last 36 rounds.

Viktor Hovland (30-1, Superbook Sports)

Hovland finished just T-42 last week in Phoenix, but he was fifth in the field for Strokes Gained: Off The Tee.

In two appearances at Riviera, Hovland was fifth in 2021 and fourth last year. In those starts, he gained an average of 5.1 strokes on approach and 6.9 strokes from tee to green.

Hovland’s short game, like Morikawa’s, can be a bit volitale and have wide-ranging variance, but he has gained on the greens in both his appearances here.

Adam Scott (65-1, Circa Sports)

Scott is a two-time winner at Riviera (2005, 2020).

He also has five top-10s in his last eight starts at the Genesis.

The Aussie is playing well with four Top 6 finishes in his last nine starts and given he has made the weekend in each start since the 2022 PGA Championship last May.

Keegan Bradley (66-1, BetRivers)

Bradley is enjoying a career resurgence with a victory last fall at the ZOZO Championship.

He finished runner-up three weeks ago at the Farmers and has played well here at Riviera in the past with a second, 16th, 20th and fourth between 2011 and 2015 when he was at his best, and now he is slowly working his way back to that level now having his highest OWGR ranking (21st) since 2014.

Matchups (12-3 YTD; 2-1 last week)

Jordan Spieth -135 over Tom Kim

Patrick Rodgers -129 over Kurt Kitayama

Luke Donald -120 over Tiger Woods