GENESIS INVITATIONAL: The PGA Tour makes its annual stop in the City of Angels this week for a tournament that has traditionally been one of the premier non-majors on the schedule and will continue to maintain that distinction now that it’s one of the Tour’s official Designated Events, complete with a $20 million purse and the mandated attendance of the top 20 players in the PIP standings.
Last week’s Phoenix Open, also a Designated Event, turned out just the way Tour officials must have envisioned when they conceived of the series, as Scottie Scheffler topped a star-studded leaderboard to reclaim the top spot in the Official World Golf Rankings. Scheffler looks to make it two in a row this week and he’s performed well here in the past, finishing 7th last year and 20th in 2021. He’s currently trading at 12.5 at BETDAQ, putting him third in a market led by Jon Rahm (9.6) and Rory McIlroy (10.0). Given the way all three have been playing lately, this has the potential to be a really fun week.
Regardless of how many big names are in attendance, however, the true star of the show for the next four days will be the golf course, the timeless Riviera Country Club. Originally built in 1926, the Riv has been the site of three major championships, a senior major, and the U.S. Amateur, in addition to hosting this tournament 59 times. It has changed very little over the years, with the last renovation occurring in 1992, when Ben Crenshaw and his design partner Bill Coore returned the bunkers to their original character and appearance. It’s not particularly long by modern standards and its most famous hole is probably the 315-yard par-4 10th, which is widely considered the best short par-4 in golf. It’s not easy, though– the winning score usually hovers in the 10-15-under range, as the narrow fairways, small greens, and sticky kikuyu rough will put the players to the test. There’s no “faking it” around Riviera– tee-to-green precision will be required this week.
Here are three guys you may want to keep an eye on:
Recommendations to BACK (odds in parenthesis)
Jon Rahm (9.6)– For the second time this season we’re going with the pre-tourney favorite, and all things considered I don’t know how you could resist throwing a little money Rahm’s way, as a hedge if nothing else. He’s been on quite a heater recently, winning twice in his past five starts and finishing no worse than 7th in that span. He nearly got the job done last week, ending up in solo 3rd after he couldn’t quite keep pace with Scheffler in the final round, and he loves it at Riviera, finishing no worse than 21st in this tournament in four career appearances and finding the top-5 in 2021. Rahm absolutely ticks every box this week, and I have a feeling his current price won’t feel so short on Friday evening after he’s opened with a couple of rounds in the 60s.
Sam Burns (43.0)- Burns has quietly gotten off to a great start in 2023, improving with every tournament– first a T32 at the Sentry TOC, then a T11 at The American Express, and then last week’s 6th-place finish in Phoenix. He currently ranks 16th on Tour in Total Driving and 18th in Total Putting, and if he can stay elite in those two areas he’s going to win a lot of tournaments. Of course, I’m not breaking any news there– he won three times last year and already has four PGA Tour victories at the ripe old age of 26, so he’s shown the ability to close the deal when in contention on Sunday. And with a record in this tournament that includes a pair of top-25 finishes across four career starts, including a T3 in 2021, I’d say his game is pretty well-suited for Riviera, and I fully expect to see him on the first couple of pages of the leaderboard when the weekend rolls around. Burns is a great value at better than 40/1.
Taylor Moore (192.0)- It took Moore better than half a season to find his sea legs on the PGA Tour, but over the last few months he’s been terrific, logging ten top-25 finishes and six top-15s since July of last year. He’s been remarkably consistent lately, finishing T11 at the Farmers, T15 at the Pebble Beach Pro-Am, and T14 in Phoenix last week. So, he’s clearly swinging it well right now, and he should have plenty of confidence in his ability to navigate Riviera after finishing 21st here in his tournament debut last year. Remember also that this tournament has produced some unexpected champions over the past decade, names like John Merrick and James Hahn, and a triple-digit longshot (J.B. Holmes) got the job done as recently as 2019. Moore is worth a shot at such an inflated price.