Last Updated Aug 30, 2021, 9:54 AM
Best Bets - Genesis Invitational
Genesis Invitational – Best Bets
Just like for the guys out there on Tour playing golf, it's always hard to follow up a win with another great performance, and last week's results with my selections at the Pebble Beach Pro-Am weren't the best. Only Kevin Kisner was able to survive the cut of the three selections, and while Grace did manage to beat McDowell in their head-to-head matchup, it was far from my best showing overall.
Thankfully, all these events with multiple courses being used are not going to show up for quite some time now and that's the type of golf handicapping I prefer. This week the Tour heads to Los Angeles for the Genesis Invitational, a long standing favorite event for the game's top names. It's a very deep field overall, which means you can get some high quality all-around golfers at some very good prices.
Venue: Riviera Country Club
Par-Yardage: 71, 7,322 yards
Riviera Country Club has some interesting features to it as it's a fascinating design all the way around. It's use of Kikuyu grass is rare on Tour these days and what that means for players is you'll want to keep your ball out of the rough as much as possible. The “bomb-and-gauge” strategy that has become more popular in recent years by the longer hitters who don't fear playing out of most rough has it's limitations at Riviera.
Secondly, this is a track that's been awfully kind to lefty golfers this century, as three different southpaws – Mike Weir, Phil Mickelson, and Bubba Watson – have accounted for seven wins here since 2003. The latter two are likely to be popular selections again this week – especially with Mickelson having the week that he did at Pebble Beach – but more important then their handedness, Watson and Mickelson share a great knack for shaping the ball both ways, arguably the most important skill needed at Riviera.
Shaping the ball here and playing fairway to green golf is what you've got to do to have the most success here. Course history is important in that some areas to miss are just brutal and force guys to take their medicine no matter what, and with tighter fairways to aim for, and smaller greens to hit, accurate and creative ball striking is a must. Smaller greens also means that this is one of the first events this year where scrambling skills are quite important, another skill set that Watson and Mickelson are known to be good at.
With this being an event many of the best guys in the game prefer, there are plenty of great names at the top. The favorite of them all is last year's Player of the Year in Rory McIlroy, followed by Justin Thomas and Jon Rahm. Those are the only three guys that are listed in the 10/1 range or better, and given who we've got in this field, it's tough to consider any of them at those prices.
It's the odds range after that and up to about 30/1 where things really get interesting, as you've got names in there like Dustin Johnson, Tiger Woods, Patrick Cantlay, Xander Schauffele, Bubba Watson, Brooks Koepka, Tony Finau, Hideki Matsuyama and Adam Scott. That's a loaded range and it's hard to really knock any selection from here, as they are all very good golfers who are more then capable of topping a field like this.
So we might as well start there with this week's betting choices:
Top 10 Betting Choices
Golfers to Watch
- Rory McIlroy 8/1
- Justin Thomas 10/1
- Jon Rahm 10/1
- Dustin Johnson 12/1
- Tiger Woods 20/1
- Brooks Koepka 20/1
- Patrick Cantlay 20/1
- Xander Schauffele 20/1
- Bubba Watson 20/1
- Tony Finau 25/1
Favorite: Dustin Johnson (14/1)
Tough not to look at DJ's track record at Riviera and not like him each year at this event. It's a course he obviously likes as he's played here each of the past 10 seasons, missing the cut twice, never finishing worse than 16th in the other eight starts, has seven Top 10's in that span, six of which have been Top 4's, and has won it once. From a course history perspective it doesn't get much better then that, and although with Johnson having finishes of 7th and 2nd in his last two starts on Tour – not counting the family affair in the Pebble Beach Pro-Am last week with famous father-in-law Wayne Gretzky – current form is there as well for DJ.
DJ is always among the leaders in Strokes Gained: Off-the-tee at the end of each season, and that skill seems to always pay off well at Riviera. He would be one you may consider as a “bomb-and-gauge” guy overall, but he's always found a way to make it work here, and if the putter starts to heat up, the rest of the guys are in trouble.
Heck, with all those Top 10's here in the past, Riviera is clearly a place where DJ can read the greens and see the lines very well – which is sometimes an issue for him elsewhere – so counting on that putter to be lukewarm at a bare minimum isn't a big ask from him at all this week.
DJ has come into this tournament as the favorite the past three years with odds of 10/1 or less, and after what some would consider just an 'average' season for Johnson in 2019, he's slid down the odds board slightly this week. I'm not entirely sure it's all that warranted, but I'll gladly back him at these odds.
Mid-Range: Justin Rose (40/1)
No matter where the event or how deep a field may be, Justin Rose at this price screams of value, and I simply can't pass it up. Now, it did cross my mind that he's priced in this range for a reason and if it were another sport, thoughts of a potential “trap” may be legitimate, but that's just not the case in golf betting. Could Rose go out and shoot two awful rounds and miss the cut? Of course. But this price is still too good to pass up given his ceiling.
Rose is also a guy that hasn't been to Riviera in a couple of years, but it's not like he hates the place. His last start here in 2017 ended with a 4th place finish, and in his six starts at this event the past 10 years he's never finished worse then 45th, and has two Top 10's and four Top 16 finishes. That covers the course history aspect of his consideration, as knowing where to leave his golf ball on every hole shouldn't be an issue.
As it does with everyone, it comes down to execution as Riviera will test the full gamut of a golfer's game. And there aren't that many guys out there who have as good as a well-rounded game as Rose when he's going well. Rose has long been one of the best pure ball-strikers out there, and if he combines that with strong weeks scrambling and on the greens, that's typically when his wins show up.
Whether he goes the distance this week remains to be seen, but he's definitely worth an investment to do so in my view.
Long Shot: Ryan Palmer (125/1)
Palmer is a guy who's week will be make-or-break on and around the greens this week, as if he's scrambling a lot, chances are he won't be too high on the leaderboard. But his ball striking in the long game is what I'm banking on to continue to be his strength, and if that's on, those scrambling concerns will be mitigated. Palmer will still have to knock some putts down to beat this caliber of field, but as I mention every week, guys in this range will always have a hole or two in their game statistically that you've just got to accept.
In terms of course history, Palmer's another guy like Rose who hasn't been here for a couple of years, but with three Top 50's in four starts here the past nine seasons, a strong week at Riviera shouldn't be that far-fetched of a thought for Palmer. If he can continue to hit those greens in regulation (72.2% this year), the birdie opportunities will come, and from there who knows.
72 Hole Matchup to Take: Justin Thomas (-105) over Jon Rahm (-115)
If you are looking for action with the guys up top, taking Thomas over Rahm is arguably the way to go. Despite finishing 9th here a season ago in his first ever start at Riviera, I'm not quite sure this is going to be a course Rahm really prefers over the course of his career. It's one that requires a certain level of patience to deal with misses and the type of grass used here, and I'm not entirely convinced that last year's result here for him didn't have an element of “beginner's luck” to it. You can't take anything away from his top tier skill set, it's just that there are probably much better course fits for Rahm throughout a PGA Tour season.
Thomas can be a bit impatient at times as well, but he's steadily shown improvement at this track over the past five years playing here. He's got two Top 10 finishes here the past two seasons – including a runner-up a year ago – and shot shaping and working the ball both ways is right up his alley. This is an event I'd expect Thomas to win at least once during his career, and he is among the favorites in this field to do so this season. Obviously from my selections earlier I hope that isn't ultimately the case this week, but topping Rahm should be what happens.