Paul Williams

Paul Williams' Genesis Invitational FRL Tips 2022

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For full FRL stats for the 2022 Genesis Invitational with tee times added click here.

With a blank week on the DP World Tour and a stellar field assembled at Riviera, I’ve taken a deeper look at the First Round Leader market for this week’s event.

Using our historical FRL stats for this event, we can now investigate the tee times, incoming FRL form, event FRL history and odds of the field from the last 4 years:

We’ve added the eventual day 1 finishing positions to each of the stats sheets above and all columns can be sorted, so if you sort by the ‘Result’ column on the end you can review the data for those players who performed best.

Looking at the FRL winners and those who placed from an each-way perspective, my summary of the key factors is as follows:

Tee Times. Of the eventual FRL winners and those in the top 5 and ties after day 1, the split between AM and PM starters is almost identical:

  • AM starters: 16 players
  • PM starters: 14 players

Event Experience. Each of the eventual FRL winners, including the share for the lead in 2018, had experience of the course in the past:

  • 2021: Sam Burns, 2 starts
  • 2020: Matt Kuchar, 13 starts
  • 2019: JB Holmes, 12 starts
  • 2018: Patrick Cantlay 2 starts; Tony Finau 3 starts

Event FRL Performance. There’s evidence of repeat FRL performances here at Riviera:

  • Matt Kuchar (2020) and JB Holmes (2019) finished as FRL here at Riviera for the 2nd time in their respective careers those years.
  • Patrick Cantlay (2021), Tony Finau (2019) and Sam Saunders (2018) each finished in the places, having previously been FRL here.

FRL Winners’ Odds. Each of the eventual FRL winners, including the share for the lead in 2018, were priced in the 50/1 to 100/1 bracket:

  • 2018: Patrick Cantlay, 55/1; Tony Finau 55/1
  • 2019: JB Holmes, 100/1
  • 2020: Matt Kuchar, 50/1
  • 2021: Sam Burns, 66/1

Recent FRL form. There’s evidence of recent fast starts from a number of the eventual FRL winners and those in the top 5 and ties after day 1:

  • 11 of the 30 players had a FRL win (or tie) in their recent history, as detailed on the stats pages.
  • 27 of the 30 players had finished inside the top-15 after day 1 in one of their last 6 starts.

Some trends to follow there and if you combine that with the firm and challenging conditions expected underfoot this week as Steve Bamford describes in his full betting preview, this should help lead us to the right kind of players.

Here’s the latest weather forecast for the area.

History would suggest that there’s no major bias from AM to PM tee times, and there’s little wind in the forecast to counter this with maybe just a touch more later on in the afternoon to accompany the higher temperatures. Poa annua can get a little bumpy to putt on in the afternoons though, and to that end I’ll stack my team 2:1 in preference of the morning wave.

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My 3 selections for First Round Leader are as follows:

Kevin Na 1pt EW 60/1 (6EW, 1/5) with Ladbrokes

  • Riviera Starts: 18
  • Riviera FRL Best:  2nd (2007); 6th (2018)
  • Last 10 Event FRL Form: 13/63/4/56/3/24/26/5/1/56
  • Tee Time: 7.57AM

Heading my team this week for First Round Leader is Kevin Na. Last year’s Sony Open winner also tied for the best 72-hole score in the season-ending Tour Championship before winning the QBE shootout alongside Jason Kokrak in December to cap a fine year.

The 38 year-old knows that some modern courses simply don’t suit his game, so he tends to target weeks like this where tracks that play on the shorter side give him far more of a chance. Overall finishes of 2nd, 3rd and 4th here over the years highlights this nicely and he’s ranked inside the top-8 after day 1 on 3 occasions to give us hope that he can get off to a fast start this week.

61 to open his account at the Sony Open a month ago was enough for the lead after 18 holes and he’s finished inside the top-5 after day one a further 3 times from his last 8 starts globally in regular tournament golf. Firm golf courses suit and he’s quite capable of performing on Poa Annua greens as field rankings of 3rd and 6th for SG Putting at the 2020 Pebble Beach Pro-Am and Mexico Championship demonstrate in relatively recent times. RESULT: T77

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Jason Kokrak 1pt EW 60/1 (6EW, 1/5) with Ladbrokes

  • Riviera Starts: 10
  • Riviera FRL Best: 4th (2021); 6th (2018)
  • Last 10 Event FRL Form: 107/34/63/6/31/78/18/29/9/13
  • Tee Time: 7:46AM

Kevin Na’s QBE Shootout partner Jason Kokrak is another player who ticks a lot of boxes this week and who, like Na, enjoyed a stellar 2021.

Wins at the Charles Schwab Challenge and Houston Open before his pairs success catapulted the 34 year-old to a career-high 20th in the OWGR at the end of the year with the promise of more to come now that his putting has caught up with his long game.

That new-found prowess with the flat stick was evident here 12 months ago when Jason topped the SG Putting charts on the week, only to be held back by his long game; he’s proven himself in that respect here in the past though when finishing 2nd overall in 2016, ranking 4th for SG Off the Tee, 2nd for SG Approach and 1st for SG Tee to Green into the bargain.

Jason has sat in the top 8 after day 1 here at Riviera on 3 of his last 5 starts and led to halfway in 2016 courtesy of a personal best round of 64 on this course. 2nd to halfway last year was let down by his weekend long game performance, however for this bet all we need is for him to get hot with the putter over the first 18 holes and that’s quite possible for a player in confident mood overall. RESULT: T6

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Matt Kuchar 0.5pt EW 100/1 (6EW, 1/5) with William Hill

  • Riviera Starts: 15
  • Riviera FRL Best: 1st (2013, 2020)
  • Last 10 Event FRL Form: 112/20/108/41/17/36/34/9/88/18
  • Tee Time: 11:48AM

Finally I’ll close with a more speculative punt on Matt Kuchar rekindling some of the old magic here at Riviera from a slightly later tee time.

Twice from 15 starts the 43 year-old has finished top of the pile here on Thursday evening, including as recently as 2020 when he came closest yet to lifting the trophy, eventually finishing in a tie for 2nd behind Adam Scott having led for the first 3 days.

That effort is as close as the American has come to adding a 10th regular PGA Tour trophy to his cabinet since his Sony Open success the year before, however 7th at the Sony Open last month reminded us that he’s still capable on the right course, and an opening round of 64 that week was encouraging.

68 to open last week in Phoenix was also positive before a Friday let-down, however he’s entitled to a little more respect in this market given his ability on firm tracks as well as Poa Annua greens over the years, especially when you consider his record here at Riviera specifically. RESULT: T22

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Odds and bookmaker offers correct at 08:00GMT 16.2.22 but naturally subject to fluctuation.