Genesis Invitational PGA Preview
GENESIS INVITATIONAL PGA PREVIEW - Always going to be tough for this degenerate gambler when someone like Scottie can cruise to victory like he did last week at +1100. Again, it’s just not a number I’ll ever bet, so no need to feel bad there.
What I can feel bad about is how badly I misjudged some other players, like Collin, but we are moving on.
This week is all about the return of The Big Cat, Tiger Woods, as he joins this absolutely loaded field at the site where he made his PGA Tour debut as an amateur about thirty years ago.
The Tour is headed back to California to play at The Riv. The legendary Riviera Country Club in Pacific Palisades, Los Angeles.
On to our preview.
This field is absolutely loaded. Basically, if you’re in the top-100 in the world and you aren’t injured or LIVing it up on Saudi money, you’re playing this week.
The reason that this field is so stacked is exactly the same reason that last week was stacked in Scottsdale. This is another “designated event” which means that most of the top players in the world have agreed to add this tournament to their schedule as the Tour seeks to elevate the prestige of some non-major tournaments. Also, the prize pool is $20 million, which provides ample motivation on top of the pure competitive aspect.
I don’t need to spend too much time on the field just because there are so many top players. If you’re a fan of basically any top player, they are here. This includes the new #1 player in the world, Scottie Scheffler who jumped back into the top spot after a win last week.
Riviera is a tricky course, but the good news is we have a decent idea of what it takes to win considering that it’s hosted this event off-and-on since 1929.
Twenty years ago, this was a course that was known to prize precision. In the early 2000s, the winners were typically guys who drove it pretty straight, hit greens and had tidy short games. In the advent of the bomb-and-gouge power era of golf, the winners of this event have shifted in recent years. Basically, it’s bombers who tend to be at the top of the leaderboard. You have to go back to 2015 to find a winner who wasn’t boasting elite stats off the tee.
The reason The Riv is tricky to handicap comes down to a few things. The rough is unusually penal for a regular Tour event and the Kikuyugrass is something that doesn’t pop up often on their schedule, which can make judging how the ball reacts out of there tricky.
In addition to the rough being tricky, the fairways are extremely narrow, so you’ll be hitting it out of the rough even if you’re an accurate driver of the ball.
We are also back on Poa annua greens this week which are typically extremely polarizing among players. They have a tendency to become bumpy in the afternoons as they bloom and get walked over, and at Riviera, they also happen to be extremely fast.
At 7,200ish yards, Riviera isn’t exceedingly long, but the par-3s are pretty beefy, averaging nearly 200 yards.
One last thing to note is that the greens are gigantic at Riviera, so guys will likely be facing a number of very long putts. You don’t need to be the world’s greatest putter to win here (J.B. Holmes, Bubba Watson and Adam Scott all have wins in recent memory), but you are going to need to avoid three-putting on these massive complexes.
Realistically, it’s probably going to be someone near the top of the odds board. Everyone in the top-10 or top-15 on the odds board has the skills to win here. I’m starting to come around on Hovland (+2500) who is showing me that maybe the short game is for real after I’ve doubted him for so long to start the season. Sam Burns (+3500) is a little bit deeper on the odds board, but he’s a proven winner who hits the ball plenty far and can get things done with his short game if things get squirrely.
JT (+1600) is probably my favorite if I had to pick a more elite level player. His relationship with Tiger will be a weekend narrative if he gets things going considering that Tiger hosts the Genesis, but he also tends to play his best golf on these classic style courses.
If you’re looking deep down the board, I’d caution you from getting too invested. If you insist on taking someone at triple digits, you could do worse than a guy like Lucas Herbert (+11000), I suppose. He’s really long, and everyone will be in the rough because the fairways are so narrow, so maybe get a guy who is comfortable being long and used to playing out of the rough.
If you’re looking for a longshot, I’d recommend taking a guy who is either really long off the tee or really accurate. Driving the ball well is the dominant stat here. You won’t find an elite all-around ballstriker at triple digit odds, so you’re just trying to find a guy who does one thing really well and hoping the rest of the game comes together.
A NOTE ON TIGER
Riviera is relatively flat aside from the hike off of the 18th tee up to the scoring tent and the walk down off the first tee. His ankle should be ok for the majority of his round if we’re just worried about the course.
Still, this is a man of 47 years of age with a myriad of injuries that have severely hampered his ability to compete. He may be the greatest to ever do it, but I’m not really buying that he’s here to compete so much as to fulfill obligations to a sponsor.
At 130/1, you can find someone who has been playing in real events more recently than July of last year, who might be more primed to compete. I’d love to be wrong, but I’m not sure how I could bet him here or encourage anyone else to.
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