Although the physical party of the WM Phoenix Open is behind us, the figurative party of the PGA Tour continues with the Genesis Invitational.
This event is the third Signature Event of the season and the second full-field Signature Event, following the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am just two weeks back.
The NFL season is also behind us as the Kansas City Chiefs downed the San Francisco 49ers in dramatic fashion and now all eyes are on the PGA Tour.
Riviera Country Club in Los Angeles, California will once again play host as it is one of the most iconic venues the PGA Tour schedule has to offer. It’s no easy task by any measure, but one we as fans look forward to each year.
The event also welcomes the return of Tiger Woods, who has served as the host of this event since 2020 when the event changes from an open to its now invitational tag. The introduction of both the rebranding to a invitational and the welcoming of Woods as its host has given this already prestigious event a facelift.
This is actually where Woods made his professional debut in 1992 and although we can list the endless accolades of his career, winning at Riviera Country Club is not one of them.
Being a Signature Event, all of the PGA Tour’s biggest names will turn out to Los Angeles this week in hopes of claiming the $3.5 million share of the $20 million purse.
The field is set at 70-golfers. To qualify, golfers must:
Top-60 finishers from the prior season’s FedEx Cup Standings
Top-five FedExCup point earners over the last five PGA TOUR events (The Aon Swing 5)
Top-30 in OWGR, not otherwise qualified
Of those who meet the criteria listed above, Matthieu Pavon and Justin Rose are the only two not teeing it up this week.
With all of that being said, there will be plenty of star-power in attendance this week including the likes of World No. 1 Scottie Scheffler who opens as the odds-on-favorite to win.
Other headlining names include Rory McIlroy, Xander Schauffele, Viktor Hovland, Max Homa, Collin Morikawa, Patrick Cantlay and Justin Thomas.
Each of the names I listed above has established success here at Riviera.
Jon Rahm won this event last year but will not be in attendance this week due to his move to the LIV Tour. Additionally, Joaquin Niemann, another LIV member, won this event in 2022. Max Homa won in 2021 and is the latest champion to be teeing it up this week.
The only other former winner in this week’s field is Adam Scott (2020 & 2005.)
Riviera Country Club is simply a beautiful golf oasis and architectural masterpiece, carefully crafted into the cityscape of Los Angeles.
At 7,322 yards and par-71, Riviera’s distance doesn’t jump off the page, but the compact course sure does offer its challenges. A well rounded game will be needed as scoring will be held in check this week.
Even on the best of days, Riviera presents one of the most challenging courses we’ll see across the sport.
To put into perspective how daunting this course can be, the cut line for the last decade has been over par.
The first of its defenses are extremely narrow fairways that progressively get narrower the closer to the green. On top of the fairways being extremely narrow, the course too is littered with tight doglegs.
Due to this, Riviera ranked in the bottom two courses in average driving accuracy every year since 2015.
The high missed fairway percentage also plays into the fact that Riviera offers one of the lowest greens in regulation percentage on Tour annually as well.
Once a golfer misses the fairways, they’ll have to battle the unpredictable Kikuyu rough, which tends to “stick” to the club.
With such challenges facing golfers before they even get off the tee, even the best off the tee will be forced to think twice before “letting it rip '' and will oftentimes be forced to lay up along the way. This removes wedge shots more common on easier layouts. Roughly 75-percent of approach shots come from beyond 150 yards.
The course too offers a good amount of elevation change and is heavily bunkered; both around the fairways and around the green.
Once to the green, the challenges don’t go away. The greens are a tricky, fast and firm Poa that is destined to give even the best with the flat stick fits.
The course ranks in the top five for most missed putts both inside and outside 15 feet.
Don’t let the first hole get you too excited when tuning in this week either, as the downhill par five plays as the easiest par five on Tour. A bit of a mind game this course can add to its seamlessly endless list of defenses.
For the first time in a few weeks, the weather looks like it may cooperate this week. There is a zero percent chance of precipitation across all four days. Temperatures will range from 62-degrees on the lowest on Sunday and 69-degrees at the highest on Friday. Winds will also be minimal, peaking at eight miles-per-hour on Thursday. It is worth noting that the state of California has seen some of the heaviest rainfall leading into this week that it has seen in some time. Despite the lack of rain in the forecast, the ground will still be saturated and therefore, play softer than years past.
Strokes Gained: Approach (SG: APP)
Proximity to the Hole from 150-plus Yards
Good Drives Percentage
Greens in Regulation Percentage (GIR%)
Strokes Gained: Around the Green (SG: ATG)
Sand Saves Percentage
Strokes Gained: Putting on Poa (SG: PUTT Poa)
Par Four Average Scoring
We once again have just four names in this price range so I’ll be opting for just one play here and two in the others. With that being said, my favorite in this price range is Xander Schauffele ($10,100.) Schaffuele is currently first on Tour in bogey avoidance, second in GIR%, eighth in par four average scoring, 17th in both good drives percentage and scrambling, 18th in SG: APP, 30th in proximity to the hole from 150-plus yards, 31st in SG: ATG, 99th in SG: PUTT Poa and 127th in sand saves percentage. Schauffele has played in this event each of the last six years with a worst finish of T33rd last year. He placed in the top 25 in each of the other five playings and in the top 15 in four others. Outside of his T53rd at the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am, Schauffele has placed T10th at the Sentry Tournament of Champions, T3rd at The American Express and T9th at the Farmers Insurance Open. I’m also playing three units on him this week at +1600.
My overall favorite this week is Justin Thomas ($9,100.) A great value in my opinion at the bottom of this price range. Thomas has played in this event each of the last nine seasons. He does have two missed cuts within those nine tournaments but also placed sixth in 2022, second in 2019 and T9th in 2018. He’s also had a great start to this season, placing T3rd at The American Express, T6th at the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am and T12th at last week’s WM Phoenix Open. He is currently first on Tour in scrambling, third in both SG: ATG and bogey avoidance, fourth in par four average scoring, fifth in good drives percentage, 17th in SG: APP, 18th in proximity to the hole from 150-plus yards, 23rd in GIR%, 52nd in sand saves percentage and 69th in SG: PUTT Poa. I’m also playing two units on him at +2000. Also consider Jordan Spieth ($9,000.) Spieth has played in this event in each of the last ten years. His best finishes were T9th in 2018 and T4th in 2015. He did miss the cut last year but made the cut in eight of those ten events. He’s also placed third at The Sentry Tournament of Champions and T6th at least week’s WM Phoenix Open on the season. Spieth is currently fifth on Tour in both proximity to the hole from 150-plus yards and GIR%, sixth in all three of good drives percentage, bogey avoidance and par four average scoring, 11th in SG: ATG, 19th in scrambling, 22nd in sand saves percentage and 102nd in SG: APP. His downfall comes on the greens, especially Poa. He is currently 171st on Tour in SG: PUTT Poa. With some past proven success here and the current form he’s in, I think he’ll be just fine.
Leading off this price range is Jason Day ($8,000.) Day very quietly placed T6th at the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am and also placed tenth at The Sentry Tournament of Champions on the season. Unlike those we’ve touched on to this point, Day has not played this event a ton, especially as of late. However, he did place T9th here a season ago that really sparked the start of his impressive bounce-back season. He is currently third on Tour in par four average scoring, 14th in bogey avoidance, 15th in scrambling, 19th in good drives percentage, 23rd in both SG: ATG and SG: PUTT Poa, 30th in GIR%, 62nd in SG: APP, 69th in sand saves percentage and 86th in proximity to the hole from 150-plus yards. In other words, he’s above average in each of the ten statistical categories I took into consideration this week. Also consider Sam Burns ($8,700) who I feel is criminally undervalued this week. He’s fresh off a T3rd at last week’s WM Phoenix Open and also placed tenth at the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am and T6th at The American Express. Now I know the course history isn’t necessarily there with three missed cuts, including back-to-back over the last two years, in five years but he did place third here in 2021. He is also second on Tour in par four average scoring, fourth in bogey avoidance, fifth in GIR%, ninth in SG: PUTT Poa, 11th in scrambling, 20th in proximity to the hole from 150-plus yards, 27th in good drives percentage and 34th in SG: APP. Now his downfall does come around the greens as he ranks 123rd in sand saves percentage and 163rd in SG: ATG which could be concerning this week but he is also elite in terms of GIR% and approach shots from 150-plus yards so I’m not all that concerned.
I absolutely love both of my plays in this price range this week. First up we have J.T. Poston ($7,800.) Poston is currently third on Tour in proximity to the hole from 150-plus yards, sixth in par four average scoring, seventh in GIR%, eighth in bogey avoidance, 13th in SG: PUTT Poa, 16th in scrambling, 23rd in good drives percentage, 29th in SG: ATG, 30th in sand saves percentage and 61st in SG: APP. My model places him just below Thomas this week. Poston did miss the cut last week in Phoenix but prior to that, has been red hot to start this season. He placed T5th at The Sentry Tournament of Champions, sixth at the Sony Open in Hawaii, T11th at The American Express and T20th at the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am. He has played this event in six of the last seven years with some mild success. He has missed back-to-back cuts here over the last two years but had a run of four straight years in making the cut, highlighted by a T17th in 2017. I’m also playing a unit on him at +6000. Also consider Si Woo Kim ($7,600.) Kim is currently third on Tour in good drives percentage, fourth in GIR%, seventh in proximity to the hole from 150-plus yards, 11th in par four average scoring, 12th in bogey avoidance, 23rd in scrambling, 27th in SG: ATG, 41st in SG: APP, 75th in SG: PUTT Poa and 137th in sand saves percentage. Kim has played in five tournaments to start the season and outside of a T42nd at the Sony Open in Hawaii, he has placed top 25 in four of them. He placed T12th last week in Phoenix and T14th at the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am. Kim has not been great at this event over the last eight years he’s played here, with more missed cuts than not, but he did place third here in 2019. I’m playing a unit on him at +6500 as well.
Leading off this final price range is none other than Lucas Glover ($6,500.) Now Glover has not been great to start this season with a T29th at The Sentry Tournament of Champions and a T58th at the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am, around a missed cut at the Sony Open in Hawaii. Glover also has not made the cut at this event since 2011 when he placed T51st with seven missed cuts in that same time span. Luckily for us, this is a no cut event. He is also currently third on Tour in sand saves percentage, 11th in both SG: APP and GIR%, 16th in par four average scoring, 18th in SG: ATG, 34th in good drives percentage, 39th in proximity to the hole from 150-plus yards, 41st in scrambling and 42nd in bogey avoidance. His biggest issue is of course the putter as he ranks 161st in SG: PUTT Poa. Being a no cut event I’m taking a chance on Glover this week. I’m also playing a unit on him at +17000. Also consider Andrew Putnam ($6,600.) Putnam has had a modest start to the season, playing in five tournaments, capped by a T10th at the Sony Open in Hawaii. He has made the cut here in two of the last three years as well. He is currently fourth on Tour in good drives percentage, seventh in SG: PUTT Poa, eighth in par four average scoring, tenth in bogey avoidance, 14th in proximity to the hole from 150-plus yards, 15th in GIR%, 36th in scrambling, 44th in sand saves percentage and 123rd in both SG: APP and SG: ATG.
Xander Schauffele (+1600) - 3u
Justin Thomas (+2000) - 2u
J.T. Poston (+6000) - 1u
Si Woo Kim (+6500) - 1u
Lucas Glover (+17000) - 1u