GENESIS INVITATIONAL PREVIEW
This week the players head to Pacific Palisades, California and Riviera Country Club for the Genesis Invitational. The event is now organized by Tiger’s foundation, who will be in the field coming off his Top 10 performance at Torrey Pines. Along with Tiger, the final stop on the West Coast swing will bring us one of the best fields we will see all year. New World Number 1 Rory McIlroy, Brooks Koepka, Dustin Johnson, Justin Thomas, Jon Rahm, Xander Schauffele, Jon Rahm, Tony Finau, Marc Leishman, Patrick Cantlay, Jordan Spieth will all be in attendance. Gaining Invitational status last year, sharing that with the Memorial Tournament (Jack Nicklaus’s event) and the Arnold Palmer Invitational, means a smaller field, increased prize money and a 3-year PGA Tour exemption. All of this makes Tiger’s event one of the marquee stops of the year on one of the iconic PGA Tour courses. But before breaking down Riviera, lets check in on last week’s AT&T Pro Am
AT&T PRO AM RECAP
What an incredible performance by the University of Washington (Go Dawgs Baby!) Alum Nick Taylor. It is incredibly difficult to go wire to wire on the PGA Tour, especially in a tournament where the courses change the first 3 rounds. Add in holding off multiple time winner at Pebble Phil Mickelson and that will go down as one of the more impressive performances of the year. Overall, as usual, the tournament didn’t do much for me. The head to head featured in this space last week got home but the Outrights were disappointing and the Top 20 tip missed the cut. I am happy to see the WMPO and Pebble Pro-Am in my rearview mirror as I struggled at both for countless seasons. Now we are onto one of the best fields and most iconic courses we see all year. Onto the breakdown of Riviera!
One course all four days! YAY! The Par 71 Riviera Country Club is a classic, old-style golf courses, measuring in at 7,322 yards. The course is an all around test to players, who will be forced to work the ball off the tee and on approach both left and right.
Off the tee, players will be faced with tight, tree lined fairways that year after year are amongst the hardest to hit all season. However, the rough typically is not penal but the issue is a wrong miss will leave you completely blocked from hitting the greens. This could be why it seems as though course experience at Riviera is a premium as missing in spots where you can still have a viable shot at hitting greens in crucial. With some of the most undulated fairways players will see, even hitting fairways doesn’t offer a huge advantage which is why bombers are able to stake an advantage at Riv.
The Poa greens, again the least favorite surface on Tour, were the toughest to hit in regulation on Tour last year and putting is difficult inside 10 feet (4th toughest last year) as the bumpy Poa will often move balls off line. Riv also features some of the deepest bunkers on Tour, making approach shots even more important.
Finally, it is important to talk about the weather in LA this week. Last year the area saw an immense amount of rain leading up to the tournament, leaving Riv soft and very getable. This year is a complete 180 as Riv hasn’t seen rain in over three weeks which will mean the course will be playing fast and firm. A hard and fast Riviera consistently ranks within the top 10 most difficult courses on Tour and with Invitational status and Tiger being around (loves fast courses), my guess this week we will see winners around 9 to 10 under.
It is also important to note that winds will pick up around 2pm each day at Riviera, so if you are looking for First Round Leader bets or DFS Showdown lineups check the tee time draws before locking in any players.
Adam Scott +3450 – Scott started last year’s rendition of this event with an opening round 62 and was in the hunt until a 76 in extremely windy conditions on Sunday left him in a tie for 7th. If it is a bomber and iron player you want, look no further than Adam Scott as he ranks 4th over the last 50 rounds in my ball striking heavy course fit statistic. The 13! time winner on Tour, including a win here back in 2005 (rain shortened but whatever), Scott checks the course history box as 3rd in strokes gained here since 2012, including multiple top 10 finishes. Long time PGA Tour followers know that Adam Scott’s issue is putting. After being wrongly robbed of the belly putter, it has taken Scott since that rule was instituted prior to the 2016 season until now to figure it out on the greens. In 2019, the stats suggest he finally found something that worked, gaining strokes with the flat stick in an amazing 13 of 15 events since January of last year. It just so happens Poa is his favorite surface since 2012 as he gains a.3 strokes on average per round on the most disliked green surface on Tour. With Scott’s ball striking prowess combined with his new found putting stroke it is only a matter of time before he puts it all together for his 14th win on Tour and I don’t see why a week on one of his favorite courses isn’t the time to do so.
Patrick Reed +5250 – The Patrick Reed disrespect in the market is just unreal, and I will back him week after week until there is a major correction. First and foremost, he has won 7 times on Tour and isn’t even 30 yet. The idea that he is double the price of Tony Finau and Hideki Matsumaya, one who has never won a real event and the other who hasn’t won in 2 years, is just incredible. Secondly, he comes into this event in incredible form. In his last 9 starts he has a win and 6 top 10s including a 6th at Torrey last time out, a correlated course to Riviera where he gained 5 strokes on approach, and a playoff loss to JT at the Tournament of Champions. Look, I get the fact that he is one of the most unlikable guys on Tour, but if the market is going to use that fact and price him this ridiculously I will be a Reed backer week in and week out. And you know what, while I have you, go find Fatty at 40-1 or better to put on another Green Jacket at the Masters. So disrespectful.
Sergio Garcia Top 20 +225 – The Spaniard is a forgotten man. Gone are the days when he was priced at the top of the market and winning at Augusta. Since that win, he has been a favorite of mine to fade, but there are a few things that make me think a return to the old Sergio is imminent. First off, he made an equipment change. For the last two years he has been with Callaway and while they are awesome for the high handicap guys they have issues with their top of the line equipment, especially their golf ball. I watched an interview from a Euro event in the desert and you could tell by his tone that he was unhappy with Callaway the last few years and is excited to be a free agent, only putting in his bag the clubs and ball that he feels performs best. That alone wouldn’t lead me to back a guy, and equipment changes are tricky, but his results have shown a change as well. He has an 8th, a 23rd and a 6th to open the European Tour Season and in a Ryder Cup year you know his motivations will be there to return to form. I’ve been waiting for a spot to back him early, in an effort to get ahead of what I think will be a market change by the end of the year and an Outright bet here at incredibly long odds as well as a Top 20 bet at over 2-1 seems like the perfect spot.
I don’t have any strong edges on matchups this week as it seems the books priced this event really well. This happens in tournaments with fields like this as it is difficult to distinguish between such high caliber players. I find many more edges in the secondary players but with fields like these books rarely offer those guys head to heads. So rather than a break down of a 2u play, I will give a short synopsis of multiple 1u full tournament head to head plays.
1u Xander -1.5 +100 over Koepka – This is simply a fade of Brooks who has admitted to not liking poa greens and rarely plays West Coast events. The market as a whole is down on Brooks, I’m seeing him as high as 28-1 (this may be too far and I don’t mind grabbing that) but ultimately the surgery combined with his lackadaisical approach to non majors leaves me thinking a Top 20 from X gets it done here.
1u Champ -105 over Cam Smith – I featured a successful fade of Cam Smith here a few weeks back and I have no problem going back to the well considering he is yet to show any ability on approach, which should leave him slamming the truck on Friday. Champ is a great fit for Riv and considering his recent success at Torrey a few weeks back I would be surprised with a missed cut at this event.
1u Howell -1.5 +105 o N. Taylor – Your typical fade the guy who won the week before in a gutty and mentally draining performance play. Pebble played so incredibly difficult on Sunday I can only imagine how gassed my fellow Husky Alum is. He is matched up against a guy in Howell who has always played decent at West Coast events and while he hasn’t shown the best form, he is a Top 40 machine.
That is it for this week’s breakdown! As always, thank you for reading and make sure you follow my Twitter @jmazzjd. I’ll be releasing my full card there on Wednesday morning as well as any Outright adds tournament progresses.