For the second week in a row, the best players in the world will be competing for a $20 million-dollar purse at one of the most iconic venues on the PGA Tour schedule. This week, 23 of the top-25 players in the world travel back to California for the Genesis Invitational at Riviera Country Club in the Pacific Palisades neighborhood of Los Angeles.
Formerly known as the Los Angeles Open, this event has been a staple on the PGA Tour since its first iteration in 1927. The tournament moved around across multiple different courses in the greater Los Angeles area before settling on its current host site of Riviera. The event is sponsored by Genesis but also organized by the Tiger Woods Foundation, and the massive news of the week is that Woods will not only be helping present the tournament, but he will also be competing.
This will be the first time we’ve seen Woods in professional competition since the Open Championship at St. Andrew’s last July, and he will be tasked with taking down the likes of Rory McIlroy, Jon Rahm, Scottie Scheffler, Justin Thomas, Patrick Cantlay, Xander Schauffele, Tom Kim, Collin Morikawa, Tony Finau, Max Homa, Jordan Spieth, Viktor Hovland, and Matt Fitzpatrick, among others. However Tiger performs this week, golf fans are in for a treat.
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Genesis Invitational Course Preview
Riviera Country Club
Riviera Country Club has been a staple on the PGA Tour since 1973 and is consistently discussed by players as one of the most honest tests on the schedule. Riviera was designed in 1926 by the great George C. Thomas, and while the course has undergone a number of renovations to account for modern technology, the golden age design still tips out to just a hair over 7,300 yards, while consistently ranking as one of the hardest courses on Tour year in year and out.
There are a number of reasons that contribute to the challenge of the Thomas’ design. For starters, Riviera consistently features one of the lowest driving accuracy percentages on the PGA Tour. Last year, players hit a comically low 49.2% of their fairways. The second shot is nearly just as much of a challenge, as last year, Riviera featured the fifth lowest greens in regulation percentage on Tour.
Even the best ball-strikers in the world will be forced to rely on their short game heavily, and they will be tasked with navigating some of the deepest bunkers on the PGA Tour.
Finally, Riviera arguably features the most challenging greens on the PGA Tour. Each of the last eight years, it has ranked inside the top 10 in Strokes Gained: Putting difficulty.
Like all Poa courses, short putting is an incredible challenge, as each of the last eight years, Riviera has ranked inside the top six in putting difficulty inside five feet. Yet Riviera separates itself from other Poa courses such as Pebble Beach and Torrey Pines because it is such a challenging lag-putting course as well, ranking inside the top-eight in putting difficulty from greater than 15 feet each of the last eight years.
Ultimately, I will be looking this week for players with extremely balanced skill sets. Riviera is the type of course that will expose weaknesses quickly, and it is simply not enough to be elite in one singular area of your game. The ideal player is a powerful driver of the ball, who excels on approach, specifically between 150 and 200 yards, with a trustable short game and a proven track record of success on Poa greens.
Genesis Invitational Key Stats
- Long-term Proximity 150-200 yards
- Strokes Gained Around the Green and Sand Save Percentage
- Long-term Poa Putting and Putting Inside 10 feet
Genesis Invitational Picks and Predictions: Outright Winner
Justin Thomas (+1600) (Bet $100 to collect $1,700) BetMGM has the best odds on Justin Thomas to win this week
Justin Thomas is one of the rare players in this field that checks every single box that I am looking for this week. He packs plenty of punch off the tee, is one of the best middle iron players in the world, features one of the most underrated short games on Tour, and has a proven track record of success putting on Poa greens.
While the reigning PGA Championship winner remains the number one long-term player in proximity from 150-175, a range where over a quarter of approach shots at Riviera come from, Thomas’ iron play of late hasn’t been up to his usual standards. Yet that is beginning to finally change, as Thomas has now gained over three strokes on approach in back-to-back events for the first time since June.
Everything finally seemed to click for him on Sunday in Phoenix, as the World No. 7 gained 2.78 strokes on approach in the final round, good for the best out of anyone in the field. While Thomas has always been known for his iron play, the 15-time PGA Tour winner actually ranks number one out of all players in this field in Strokes Gained: Around the Green over his last 50 rounds. Now he returns to a course where middle iron play and short game are paramount, and it should not come as a surprise that Thomas already boasts two top-six finishes at this course, including a solo second in 2019. Uncoincidentally, my strongest comp course to Riviera is Southern Hills, the site of Thomas’ last victory.
Patrick Cantlay (+3000) (Bet $100 to collect $3,100) The best odds for this Patrick Cantlay pick are at FanDuel
While last week’s missed cut at the Waste Management Phoenix Open was extremely disappointing, this is the perfect bounce-back spot for the UCLA product. Similar to Justin Thomas, Patrick Cantlay is one of the most well-rounded players in the game. The World No. 5 is one of only three players in the world to rank top-25 in all four major statistical categories.
With so many elite players showing up last week in Phoenix, those who failed to make the weekend are sure to fall victim to recency bias and see their number drop in the betting markets. Now is the time to pounce on the World No. 5, who ranks above average in every statistical metric that I am looking at this week, and particularly shines as one of the most trustable players in the world inside 10 feet. Cantlay is already on record that Riviera is one of his favorite golf courses on the planet, and I expect him to be firmly in the mix come Sunday afternoon in Los Angeles.