Out of the Rough: The Genesis Invitational (2023)
From one elevated full field event to another.
With the Tour fresh off the first elevated event of the season with the WM Phoenix Open, attention is now turned to the daunting Genesis Invitational at Riviera Country Club in Los Angeles, California.
There may be no better segue from the official end of the NFL season last week as the Kansas City Chiefs defeated the Philadelphia Eagles, than to head into one of the most iconic tracks golf has to offer.
This event was changed from an open in 2020 when Tiger Woods himself became the host and face of the event, transitioning it into an invitational. This allowed for the event to endure a bit of a rebranding face lift and added some pedigree to an already top tier event.
The pot sits at $20 Million, with $3.5 Million and a three-year PGA Tour exemption awarded to the winner in part of this elevated status.
Woods will be playing for the first time since the 2022 The Open last year and will be making his first non-major appearance since the 2020 Zozo Championship.
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.
The attention will be on Woods for sure, but he’s more of a novelty this week. He won’t be in contention for a victory and he’ll be lucky to make the cut.
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 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.
Outside of majors, this is one of the best fields we will ever see, maybe one of the best complete fields we’ve seen in recent history. The field will include nearly every eligible player in attendance.
Aaron Wise, Maverick McNealy, Chris Kirk, and Ben Griffin will be the only top 100 Official World Golf Ranking golfers not playing in part of the 131 golfer field.
Joaquin Niemann won this event a year ago but of course will not be in attendance this week after joining the LIV Tour. Other past champions of the event playing this week are Max Homa, Adam Scott, J.B. Holmes and James Hahn.
Weather has been a factor for two straight weeks. First, rain and winds pushed the conclusion of the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am to Monday and a near two-hour frost delay at the WM Phoenix Open messed all sorts of things up.
As for weather this week in Los Angeles we should see a consistent mid 60-degrees with very little chance of precipitation in the forecast. Winds too shouldn’t be a problem, especially among the cityscape of Los Angeles.
Important statistics to consider this week include:
Strokes Gained: Approach (SG: APP)
Proximity to the Hole from 150+ Yards
Good Drives Percentage
Greens in Regulation Percentage (GIR%)
Strokes Gained: Around the Green (SG: ATG)
Strokes Gained: Scrambling (SG: SCR)
Sand Saves Percentage
Strokes Gained: Putting (SG: PUTT)
Average Par 4 Scoring
It’ll be hard for any tournament that includes Jon Rahm ($11,100) to not be my favorite or featured. Although a victory last week at the WM Phoenix Open propelled Scottie Scheffler back to World #1 status, Rahm is still the best golfer in the world. His game is unmatched and is nearly as well rounded as you can find. He’s currently second on tour in GIR% and average par four scoring, fourth in SG: SCR, fifth in bogey avoidance, seventh in good drives percentage, eighth in sand saves percentage, 13th in SG: ATG, 21st in SG: PUTT, 35th in SG: APP and 46th in proximity to the hole from 150-plus yards. Rahm has played in this event the past four seasons where he’s gone T21st, T5th, T17th and T9th. A very good track record here at the Riviera. He too is fresh off a third place finish at last week’s WM Phoenix Open, placed T7th at the Farmers Insurance Open in late January and of course has the back-to-back victories at the turn of the calendar year at the Sentry Tournament of Champions and The American Express. Even prior to that on the season he went T4th at the CJ Cup. Through all of that in five tournaments on the season, his worst finish has been T7th. Also consider current World #1 Scottie Scheffler ($10,700.) Although the World’s top ranked golfer, he’s still second in DFS pricing on DraftKings to Rahm. He’s currently tops on tour when it comes to bogey avoidance as shown last week time-and-time again where he put himself in multiple bad situations and was able to save par. He’s also second in average par four scoring, third in good drives percentage, fourth in GIR%, 14th in both SG: APP and SG: SCR, 47th in SG: ATG, 110th in proximity to the hole from 150-plus yards and 114th in SG: PUTT. His score in our model is a bit hindered by his horrible ranking in sand saves percentage where he ranks among the tour’s worst. To be fair, he only has four recorded sand save attempts. Over the past three consecutive appearances at the Genesis Invitational, Scheffler has shown improvement each year. He placed T30th in 2020, T20th in 2021 and T7th in 2022. If that trend continues following a victory last week, he’ll be in contention again late Sunday. On the calendar year Scheffler has gone T7th at the Sentry Tournament of Champions, T11th at The American Express and of course won last week in Scottsdale. On the season he added a T3rd at the World Wide Technology Championship at Mayakoba and a T9th at the Cadence Bank Houston Open.
If we’re talking well rounded statistical golfers, we have to include Tony Finau ($9,500.) He comes with a very fair price in the middle of this price range too with such a loaded field. We have to mention the past success he’s had here at this event, placing second in both 2021 and 2018. He’s made the cut here in five consecutive events and on top of the two second place finishes, has a T15th in 2019. Last week he went T14th at the WM Phoenix Open and has not placed worse than T16th on the calendar year. Along with his top 15 performance last week he’s gone T9th at the Farmers Insurance Open, T16th at The American Express and T7th at the Sentry Tournament of Champions. He too has a victory on the season with a win at the Cadence Bank Houston Open back in November. Statistically speaking on the season he’s currently eighth in average par four scoring, ninth in SG: APP, tenth in both GIR% and bogey avoidance, 18th in both SG: SCR and sand saves percentage, 25th in SG: PUTT, 26th in good drives percentage, 46th in SG: ATG and 59th in proximity to the hole from 150-plus yards. He’s second in our model this week to only Rahm. Also consider Xander Schauffele ($9,900.) When it comes to the Riviera Country Club, Schauffele is what we can call consistent. In playing this tournament for five consecutive seasons, his worst finish is T23rd, highlighted by a T9th in 2018. He also has three top 15 finishes in that same time span as well. Like those mentioned previously, Schauffele too has had a hot start to both the calendar year and season. He placed T10th last week at the WM Phoenix Open. He’s also placed third at The American Express and T13th at the Farmers Insurance Open on the year. He’s currently fourth on tour in SG: APP, seventh on tour in both average par four scoring and GIR%, 14th in bogey avoidance, 32nd in SG: SCR, 35th in good drives percentage, 36th in SG: PUTT, 39th in SG: ATG, 58th in sand saves percentage and 69th in proximity to the hole from 150-plus yards. With the consistency he’s proven at this event and his current form, Schauffele has a chance to win it this year.
I say it often, but this is usually where the void in my lineups come from. This is typically a difficult price range to gauge but I do like both options we have here this week per our model due to this deep field. Leading the way is Tom Kim ($8,500.) A very fair price in the middle of the price range for an elite ball striker. Kim struggled a bit last week at the WM Phoenix Open, although making the cut, placing T50th. Understandable for a 20 year-old playing in a tournament unlike any other out there. Beside that he placed T5th at the Sentry Tournament of Champions earlier this year, in a field among many of the game’s current stars. He also placed T6th at The American Express last month and we can’t forget the victory at the Shriners Children’s Open in October that put him on the map. He of course has not played this event prior but comes in with already proven success across the Tour with his every well rounded golf game. He’s currently fourth on Tour in bogey avoidance, fifth in GIR%, eighth in good drives percentage, 11th in SG: APP, 16th in SG: SCR, 18th in average par four scoring, 30th in SG: ATG, 56th in proximity to the hole from 150-plus yards, 58th in sand saves percentage and 88th in SG: PUTT. He actually comes in third in our model behind Rahm and Finau. Also consider Jason Day ($8,400.) It’s been nearly five years since Day has won on Tour but if last week was any indication of what’s to come, he’ll be back in the victory column soon. He put together a fantastic week to place fifth at the WM Phoenix Open. Leading up to last week he had been in good form as well. He placed T7th at the Farmers Insurance Open and T18th at The American Express. On the scoring season he has seven top 25s, four top 15s and three top tens as well. If we’re using past success at this event in gauging Day, we could be in for a long week. Dating back to 2010 he’s played the event just five times, missing the cut three of those times and placing the highest at T62nd. However, his track record at the WM Phoenix Open was similar and he put together a fantastic performance despite that. On Tour he’s currently fifth in SG: SCR, seventh in bogey avoidance, eighth in average par four scoring, 12th in good drives percentage, 15th in SG: APP, 22nd in GIR%, 31st in SG: PUTT, 46th in sand saves percentage, 92nd in SG: ATG and 113th in proximity to the hole from 150-plus yards. Competing into Sunday a week ago with a combination of a great start to the calendar year will keep Day in contention this week.
I’m very high on Si Woo Kim ($7,900) this week as he ranks highly in our model despite sitting in this penultimate price range. He’s currently 12th in SG: SCR, 18th in bogey avoidance, 19th in SG: APP, 22nd in good drives percentage, 29th in average par four scoring, 34th in sand saves percentage, 49th in proximity to the hole from 150-plus yards, 53rd in SG: ATG, 62nd in GIR% and 71st in SG: PUTT. In eight events played thus far this season, Kim has not missed a cut. In five of those events, he placed in the top 25 while winning the Sony Open in Hawaii in mid-January. He has played this tournament for seven consecutive years with a mixed bag of success. He has more missed cuts than not here at the Genesis but did place third back in 2019. With the way he’s playing this season and some proven success in the past, it wouldn’t be out of the question for him to return to the top of the leaderboard. Also consider K.H. Lee ($7,400.) Finding some lineup flexibility here will be crucial and that is what Lee offers below the midway point of this price range. He’s currently ninth on Tour in GIR%, 22nd in bogey avoidance, 29th in both SG: APP and average par four scoring, 32nd in SG: ATG, 43rd in good drives percentage, 74th in proximity to the hole from 150-plus yards, 82nd in sand saves percentage, 91st in SG: PUTT and 99th in SG: SCR. He’s top 100 in each of the statistical categories we’re taking into consideration this week. Lee has made seven-of-eight cuts this season thus far. It wasn’t too long ago that he went T7th at the Sentry Tournament of Champions as well, again, among some of the Tour’s best. His best finish of the season however was a third at the CJ Cup back in October. What really needs to be noted here about Lee is his proven track record at this event and course. He’s played the last four years, making the cut each time. He placed T13th in 2020, T25th in 2019 and T26th a year ago. This is a complete package you’re getting for a great price.
The Tour leader in SG: SCR leads off this price range in Andrew Putnam ($6,900.) Putnam is on a bit of a rough stretch, missing the cut in back-to-back events but prior to that, made the cut in ten consecutive events on the season. His season has been highlighted by a T2nd at the Zozo Championship in October and a T4th at the Sony Open in Hawaii in January. The last two years at this event, Putnam went T48th and T32nd. Making the cut is half the battle with someone in this price range and he has proven to be able to do that. As previously mentioned, he tops the Tour in SG: SCR. He’s also sixth in bogey avoidance, eighth in SG: PUTT, 17th in sand saves percentage, 29th in average par four scoring, 38th in good drives percentage, 41st in SG: ATG, 54th in GIR%, 76th in SG: APP and 144th in proximity to the hole from 150-plus yards. I like what he offers here for this final price range. Also consider Brendon Todd ($6,800.) It was just two weeks ago that we rode Todd into Monday with a chance of chasing down Justin Rose in the final round of the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am. Todd fell short but did come away T2nd at the event. He did miss the cut a week ago however but he did miss the cut at The American Express a week prior to a T2nd at Pebble Beach. The last time we saw Todd at this event was 2021 where he did miss the cut but did make the cut in 2020. His best finish at this event was a T14th back in 2015. He’s typically a rollercoaster-ride type of golfer and his mixture of successes here at the Riviera are no different. He is currently 21st on Tour in SG: SCR, 24th in SG: PUTT, 27th in bogey avoidance, 30th in SG: ATG, 35th in average par four scoring, 28th in sand saves percentage, 47th in good drives percentage, 66th in SG: APP, 100th in proximity to the hole from 150-plus yards and 104th in GIR%. Again, you’re getting a guy in the top 104 of each of the statistical categories we’re taking into consideration this week in this price range. Can’t beat that.