The PGA Tour caps off the California swing with a trip to Riviera Country Club in Los Angeles for the Genesis Invitational. As an invitational, the field is smaller with only 121 golfers. Riviera Country Club is a challenging course, that will require golfers to be playing well in all aspects of their game in order to contend. Riviera is a Par 71 and measures 7,233 yards. There are four Par 3s, eleven Par 4s, and three Par 5s. The first hole at Riviera is a Par 5 and is an absolute “must birdie” hole. The fairways are Kikuyu grass which gives a slight edge to Australian and South African golfers where this type of grass is more common. The tree-lined fairways are very difficult to hit, and the Poa Annua green complexes lead to some very difficult short putts. The course plays longer than it says on paper, in particular on the Par 4s. Golfers will need to capitalize on their birdie opportunities, and understand that Par is a good score on most of these holes.
Former winners of this event are Adam Scott, J.B. Holmes, Bubba Watson, Dustin Johnson, and Bubba Watson (again). Upon reviewing their winning scorecards, it becomes obvious that Tee-to-Green play is going to be essential. Over the last five years, the winners have averaged 9.4 strokes gained Tee-to-Green. Strong approach play will be important as always. With such tough putting greens, golfers will need to strike the ball well and give themselves as many short putts as possible. Par 5 scoring will be crucial, as the last five winners have scored on 55% of the Par 5s throughout the tournament.
This week I looked at more correlated courses than usual. I separated the correlated golf courses into two tiers: high-end, and value courses. The high-end courses I looked at were Augusta National, the Plantation Course at Kapalua, and Nine Bridges. These are considered “high-end” courses because they draw an elite field. Augusta is a second shot golf course where the cream rises to the top. Augusta has also seen the likes of Bubba Watson win multiple times. The Plantation Course at Kapalua hosts the Sentry Tournament of Champions, where the field is full of winners. The course requires distance and approach, a recipe for success at Riviera. Nine Bridges caught my eye because there was strong cross-over correlation with the leaderboards, and Nine Bridges has been kind to Australian golfers in the past.
The Value Courses I looked at were TPC San Antonio and TPC Summerlin. These courses host weaker fields and were ranked highly by DataGolf as correlated courses. When reviewing leaderboards from these events players like Martin Laird and Ryan Moore have played very well. Both of those golfers have also recorded Top 10s at Riviera in recent years.
Genesis will host the strongest field of 2021 to date. 20 of the Top 30 golfers in the Official World Golf Ranking will be teeing it up this week. With such an elite field there is great value in the betting markets for high quality golfers.
Key Stats: Approach, Tee-to-Green, Distance, Greens-in-Regulation, Around the Green, Putting, Putting Inside 10 feet, and 3 Putt Avoidance
Scoring Stats: Birdie or Better Percentage, Par 3 Birdie or Better Percentage, Par 5 Birdie or Better Percentage, Par 4 Scoring Average, and Par 4 Efficiency 450-500 yards
Genesis Invitational Tips
Justin Thomas 14-1 (DraftKings)
JT is one of the best players in the world and he has won events against elite fields. Thomas played at the Waste Management Phoenix Open where he faded on Sunday but still recorded a T13th finish. Thomas has had success at Riviera with two Top 10s in his last three years. Thomas has performed well at Augusta where his last three finishes have been: 4th, T12th, and T17th. At Kapalua the last three years, Thomas has finished: 3rd, 1st, and 3rd. Thomas won the CJ Cup at Nine Bridges in 2019 and 2017. Thomas has dominated the correlated courses I looked at this week, and his stat profile fits Riviera very well.
Using 2020 ShotLink data, Justin Thomas ranks amongst this field are: 1st Tee-to-Green, 1st in Approach, 24th in Distance, 17th in Greens-in-Regulation, 22nd in Proximity, 8th Around the Green, 1st in Birdie or Better Percentage, 6th in Par 4 Efficiency (450-500 yards), 1st in Par 5 Birdie or Better Percentage, and 1st in Par 4 Scoring Average. JT has been playing at an elite level for some time now. At the top of the odds boards there is a case to be made for every golfer, but I am going to ride with JT.
Collin Morikawa 40-1 (Fanduel)
Morikawa returns to PGA Tour action this week after a brief trip to the Middle East on the Euro Tour. The last time we saw Morikawa he put together back-to-back T7th finishes in Hawaii. In Hawaii, Morikawa was stellar with his irons and he will need them again this week. Last year, Morikawa finished T26th at Riviera. However, he played much better than the leaderboard would indicate. Morikawa found trouble during the final round specifically on the 11th Hole where he posted a triple bogey. If Morikawa can avoid big mistakes like that his overall game fits Riviera. Morikawa has not had too much success at correlated courses but he has finished T7th at Kapalua each of the last two years.
In this field, Morikawa ranks: 5th Tee-to-Green, 2nd in Approach, 17th in Proximity, 25th in Greens-in-Regulation, 20th in Par 4 Efficiency (450-500 yards), 14th in Birdie or Better Percentage, 6th in Par 3 Birdie or Better Percentage, and 13th in Par 5 Birdie or Better Percentage. Morikawa is a world class player, 7th in the Official World Golf Rankings and coming in at a very attractive price.
Hideki Matsuyama 45-1 (DraftKings)
Hideki last played at the Waste Management Phoenix Open and was a very popular pick. He disappointed many bettors with his T42nd finish, which might explain the bump in his outright price. Hideki is an elite ball-striker and has had success at Riviera. In his last 6 appearances, Hideki has 5 Top 25s, 3 Top 10s, and one missed cut. Matsuyama has recorded solid finishes at Augusta notching two Top 20s in his last three tries. His last appearance at Nine Bridges resulted in a T3rd finish. Matsuyama also added a T16th at TPC Summerlin in 2019.
In this field, Hideki ranks: 2nd Tee-to-Green, 4th in Approach, 2nd Around the Green, 25th in Proximity, 23rd in Distance, 15th in Birdie or Better Percentage, 12th in Par 5 Birdie or Better Percentage, and 12th in Par 4 Scoring Average. Admittedly, backing Hideki can be frustrating due to struggles with his flatstick. However, if his ball-striking is sharp and he gets hot, he could be sitting at the top of the leaderboard come Sunday afternoon.
Max Homa 70-1 (DraftKings)
Max Homa loves the California swing. A lot of Homa’s success has come early in the season during these recent events. The last two times Homa has played Riviera he has finished T37th and T5th. During the California swing this season, Homa has finished T7th at Pebble Beach, T18th at Farmers, and T21st at the American Express. Over his last three events Homa has gained 14 strokes on Approach and 12 strokes Tee-to-Green. Homa’s lone PGA Tour win came at Quail Hollow which is also a Tom Fazio course. In this field, Homa ranks: 23rd Par 4 Efficiency (450-500 yards), and 24th in 3 Putt Avoidance. Homa had been struggling with his putter, but he gained strokes on the Greens last week which is an encouraging sign for this week. If Homa keeps striking the ball well he can be hunting for his second PGA Tour win.
Carlos Ortiz 90-1 (DraftKings)
Carlos Ortiz is one of the hottest players on Tour right now. Since his win at the Vivint Houston Open in November, Ortiz has recorded two more Top 10s, a T14th, and has not missed a cut. Two weeks ago, at the Waste Management Phoenix Open Ortiz recorded a T4th finish. Ortiz has played at Riviera four times in his career. He has not missed the cut, and he has never finished worse than T26th. In this field, Ortiz ranks: 10th Around the Green, 15th in Par 4 Efficiency (450-500 yards), and 21st in Par 3 Birdie or Better Percentage. Ortiz has been playing himself into contention recently, and has good course history. 90-1 is a huge number for one of the hottest guys on Tour.