GENESIS INVITATIONAL: The stars have come out for this week’s Genesis Invitational, as 8 of the world’s top-10 players will be teeing it up at the final stop on the PGA Tour’s West Coast Swing. This tournament, formerly known as the Los Angeles Open, has long been one of the premier events on the schedule, and much of that can be attributed to the host course, Riviera Country Club, a historic gem that draws near-universal acclaim from the players.
Built in 1926 by architects George C. Thomas and William P. Bell, Riviera has stood the test of time, presenting a stiff challenge for players of every era. Now measuring a little over 7,300 yards, it’s not particularly long by Tour standards, but length off the tee provides a definite advantage, which is one reason why the last four winners have been Adam Scott, J.B. Holmes, Dustin Johnson, and Bubba Watson– all notorious bombers. But Riviera is more than just a “bomb and gouge” track– it requires precise ball-striking due to the abundance of small targets both off the tee and on approach, as you won’t be seeing many birdies from the sticky kikuyu rough. Even par has been good enough to make the cut in this tournament every year since 2004, a rarity on Tour and all the proof you need that Riviera is a true test. This week we’re looking for guys who have been striking it well recently and have proven capable on the notoriously fickle poa annua greens.
The player who best fits that description– striking it beautifully, and loves the poa annua– is world No. 1 Dustin Johnson, so it’s no surprise that he heads BETDAQ’s Win Market at 7.0. While I certainly wouldn’t try to talk you out of backing Johnson if that’s the way you’re leaning, as he’s a good bet to give it a run, the price is awfully short for a field of this caliber, so I think I’ll be looking elsewhere. Here’s what I’m thinking:
Recommendations to BACK (odds in parenthesis)
Jon Rahm (14.0)- Rahm is going to win this tournament, it’s only a matter of when. He’s hung around the first page of the leaderboard in each of his first two appearances here, finishing T9 in 2019 and T17 last year, and with his combination of length and accuracy he’s perfectly suited for Riviera. Actually, when you rank 5th on Tour in Strokes Gained: Off the Tee and 4th in Strokes Gained: Tee to Green, your game is suited for pretty much anywhere, which is why Rahm has found the top-25 in each of his last 11 starts, with 7 top-10s in that span. He’s played three events in 2021, finishing 7th in Kapalua, 7th at the Farmers, and 13th in Phoenix a couple of weeks ago, so he’s primed and ready for a victory in the biggest tournament of this young season. I think he gets it.
Max Homa (82.0)- After struggling a bit towards the end of last season Homa has completely turned things around and is currently playing the best golf of his career, finding the top-25 in 4 of his past 5 starts and finishing 7th at Pebble last week, breaking par in all four rounds. A California native, he’s become something of a Golden State specialist in his brief career, notching six top-25s in California-based events in the last two years alone. One of those performances came last year in this tournament, when he tied for 5th, proving conclusively that he has what it takes to succeed at Riviera, including– and perhaps most importantly– confidence on the poa annua greens. The strength of the field and the fact that he has only one career victory are the only possible explanations for Homa’s price being so big here, and at better than 80/1 he may be the best value on the board this week.
Jason Kokrak (152.0)- While it’s true that this tournament has mostly been dominated by the big names in recent years, you don’t have to go too far back to find some triple-digit winners at Riviera– James Hahn got the job done in 2015 and John Merrick in 2013, to name a couple. If you’re looking for a “live” longshot this week, you could do a lot worse than Kokrak, the 30th-ranked player in the world and a guy who has had considerable success in this event throughout his career, finding the top-25 in 3 of the past 5 years and finishing runner-up in 2016. While he hasn’t been setting the world on fire in 2021, he’s played some solid golf, making the cut in all three of his starts and finishing 29th at the Farmers last time out. Plus, he’s only six starts removed from his victory in October’s CJ Cup, so it’s not like he’s been lost in the wilderness– Kokrak is a legit week-to-week threat. He’s definitely worth a bet at such an inflated price.