Steve Bamford

Steve Bamford's Genesis Invitational Tips

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Nick Taylor delivered a best-priced 160/1 victory for his backers at Pebble Beach, seeing off the twin threat of Phil Mickelson and Jason Day. He joins the list of Ted Potter Jnr, Vaughn Taylor, D.A. Points and Steve Lowery who have all won the AT&T Pebble Pro-Am title at a big price and held off significant elite golfers in the process.

On to this week and the freshly titled Genesis Invitational, which closes the 2020 West Coast swing, sees the strongest elite field of the year so far arriving in Los Angeles. 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 – the stars just keep coming. And with the Genesis Invitational now organised by TGR Live (Tiger Woods Foundation), it’s also no surprise to see Tiger Woods in the field after a strong enough Torrey Pines outing 2 weeks ago.

The eagle-eyed amongst you will have also noticed that this tournament is now the Genesis Invitational. In essence it has been promoted to Invitational status, sharing that with the Memorial Tournament (Jack Nicklaus’s event) and the Arnold Palmer Invitational. The field therefore has decreased from 144 to 120, whilst the prize money has increased to $9.3 million. In Ryder Cup year, the Genesis is therefore a huge tournament to win and comes with a 3-year PGA Tour exemption, rather than the standard 2 years. Be in no doubt this is Tiger Woods’ Invitational, aptly located in Los Angeles, and this tournament is set to stay for many, many years to come.

Before we talk through my Genesis Invitational tips for 2020, the number of new visitors to Golf Betting System is increasing in the inevitable build-up to The Masters. Welcome to you all and let me point you in the direction of our weekly Golf Betting System podcast (published Tuesday), the Golf Betting Show on YouTube and our hugely popular private group on Facebook – you can Join Here.

2020 Majors Competition Sponsored By bet365:

Following on from the success of the last 8 annual GBS Majors competitions, bet365 have kindly offered to sponsor the 2020 edition with a massive £250 CASH prize fund! Our 2020 winner will receive £150 (or currency equivalent) in cash with additional £75 and £25 prizes for 2nd and 3rd place finishers.

Basically we want you to pick a single player for each of the 4 Majors any time before the start of the 2020 Masters and get those 4 names entered into the competition by one of the methods detailed on our rules page here. Best of luck all!

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Course Guide: Riviera is a stretching 7,322 yard, 35-36, Par 71 old-style golf course. Nicknamed ‘Hogan’s Alley’, it’s a classical course which features tight, tree-lined uneven fairways, plus fast green complexes that average 5,000 square feet and feature plenty of surrounding run-off areas for overly aggressive or wayward approach shots.

The course itself favours longer hitters, where finding fairways is extremely difficult – although the penalty tends to be the danger of blocked approach shots rather than thick, lush rough. The course features some of the deepest bunkers on Tour and fairway positioning is key as approach shots can be blocked by trees. Every season Riviera plays as one of the hardest courses to hit greens (Toughest in 2018) and putting is difficult especially from 10 feet and in on the fast Bentgrass/Poa Annua mix greens – indeed it ranked as 4th most difficult 12 months ago in that respect.

Riviera Country Club, Pacific Palisades, Los Angeles, California: Designer: Neville and Thomas 1926 with Fazio re-design 2008; Course Type: Classical; Par: 71; Length: 7,322 yards; Holes with Water Hazards: 0; Fairways: Kikuyugrass; Rough: Kikuyugrass 2.5″; 5,000 sq.ft average Creeping Bent with Poa Annua; Tournament Stimp: 12ft; Course Scoring Average 2012: 72.22 (+1.22), Difficulty Rank 7 of 49 courses. 2013: 71.85 (+0.85), Difficulty Rank 11 of 43 courses. 2014: 71.21 (+0.21), Rank 24 of 48 courses. 2015: 72.59 (+1.59), Rank 5 of 52 courses. 2016: 71.03 (+0.03), Rank 21 of 50 courses. 2017: 71.01 (+0.01), Rank 23 of 50 courses. 2018: 71.76 (+0.76), Rank 9 of 51 courses. 2019: 71.20 (+0.20), Rank of 10 of 49 courses.

Fairway Widths (yards): Below are the fairway widths for Riviera Country Club and how they compare to recent courses that we’ve seen on Tour:

  • Riviera: 250 yards from the tee: 33 yards wide; 275:27; 300:26; 325:26 350:28.
  • Pebble Beach: 250 yards from the tee: 33 yards wide; 275:33; 300:29; 325:30 350:26.
  • TPC Scottsdale: 250 yards from the tee: 33 yards wide; 275:30; 300:28; 325:27; 350:27.
  • Torrey Pines South: 250 yards from the tee: 26 yards wide; 275:27; 300:25; 325:24; 350:23.
  • TPC Stadium: 250 yards from the tee: 29 yards wide; 275:27; 300:26; 325:26; 350:24.
  • Waialae: 250 yards from the tee: 34 yards wide; 275:32; 300:34; 325:37; 350:34.
  • Plantation Course: 250 yards from the tee: 59 yards wide; 275:61; 300:65; 325:60; 350:62.

Course Designer Links: For research purposes, other Tom Fazio designs include:

  • Atunyote GC – Turning Stone Championship 2007-10
  • Conway Farms GC – BMW Championship 2013, 2015, 2017.
  • Corales GC – Corales Championship 2018-2019
  • Eagle Point – Wells Fargo Championship 2017
  • Raptor Course Greyhawk GC – Fry’ Open 2008/09

Fazio has also had re-design input into:

  • Quail Hollow – Wells Fargo Championship to 2016, 2018, 2019 & 2017 PGA Championship.
  • Merion – 2013 U.S. Open.
  • Oakmont – 2016 U.S. Open.
  • Seaside Course at Sea Island – RSM Classic.

Course Overview: Riviera CC is one of the most classical and undulating golf courses in the United States. It tests the all-round game of a player and undoubtedly takes time to master.

Riviera and Torrey Pines are the only courses on Tour to feature Kikuyugrass fairways and rough. This may sound technical but be aware that West Coast specialists, plus Australians (remember Marc Leishman 3 weeks ago at Torrey Pines) and South Africans, have a distinct advantage playing on this.

Course experience is a real premium on this classical set-up which features a testing set of par-4s. It’s a course that can’t simply be overpowered, but the tournament as ever will be decided on the 12 looks at the par-5s. Most recent winners Merrick, Watson, Hahn, Watson again, Johnson, and Watson again shot -11 (-11/273 winning total), -8 (-15/269), -6 (-6/278), -9 (-15/269), -7 (-17/267), -8 (-12/272), respectively on the par-5s. That changed though 12 months ago when J.B. Holmes shot -6, -5 and -3 across the par-3s, par-4s and par-5s.

With a host of dog-legs, combined with 26 yard wide fairways at the 300 yard landing points, Riviera always ranks in the top 12 hardest fairways to hit on Tour. However with relatively low rough, the penalty for missing fairways is not a key factor this week on a course where getting close to the pin is tough even for players who hit the fairway. Getting the ball close here on approach is always very difficult and 12 months ago Riviera ranked as the 4th hardest for Proximity to Hole on the Tour.

Drawing full comparisons from last year is dangerous though as we’re going to see different course conditions this week. 2019 saw soft conditions across Thursday and Friday. But I’m expecting faster conditions this week, the like of which we saw with 2015 (Hahn) and 2018 (Watson) renewals which undoubtedly featured firm and fast playing conditions.

genesis invitational tips

Winners: 2019: J.B. Holmes (-14); 2018: Bubba Watson (-12); 2017: Dustin Johnson (-17); 2016: Bubba Watson (-15); 2015: James Hahn (-6); 2014: Bubba Watson (-15); 2013: John Merrick (-11); 2012: Bill Haas (-7); 2011: Aaron Baddeley (-12); 2010: Steve Stricker (-16).

Tournament Stats: We’ve published some key player statistics for this week’s event that are well worth a look. Naturally they’ll help to shape a view on players who could go well this week: Current Form | Tournament Form | First Round Leader | Combined Stats.

Published Predictor Model: Our published predictor is available here. You can build your own model using the variables listed on the left hand side. Top 10 of my published predictor are Dustin Johnson, Rory McIlroy, Phil Mickelson, Bubba Watson, Justin Thomas, Jon Rahm, J.B. Holmes, Xander Schauffele, Jason Day and Hideki Matsuyama.

Recent Player Skill Rankings: These rankings are based on an 8-tournament window that stretches back to the RSM Classic, DP World Tour Championship and the Dunlop Phoenix, which includes PGA Tour, European Tour (where recorded) and the Dunlop Phoenix (Japan Golf Tour) events. Players must have played in a minimum of 2 Tour events to be included and rankings are based on performance relative to the rest of the field:

  • Driving Accuracy: 1) Brendon Todd; 2) Bryson DeChambeau; 3) Matthew Fitzpatrick; 4) Kyle Stanley; 5) Nick Taylor; 6) K.H. Lee; 7) Rory McIlroy / Brian Stuard; 9) Chez Reavie / Tiger Woods; 11) Paul Casey / Joel Dahmen / Ryan Palmer / Jhonattan Vegas; 15) Corey Conners; 16) Tyler Duncan / Matt Kuchar / Jon Rahm; 19) Patrick Cantlay / Scott Piercy.
  • Greens in Regulation: 1) Jon Rahm; 2) Corey Conners; 3) Rory McIlroy; 4) Cameron Champ / Marc Leishman / Collin Morikawa; 7) Sergio Garcia / Tony Finau; 9) Patrick Cantlay / Xander Schauffele / Harold Varner III / Tiger Woods; 13) Bubba Watson; 14) Paul Casey / Hideki Matsuyama / Joaquin Niemann; 17) Max Homa; 18)  Abraham Ancer / Charles Howell III / Ryan Moore.
  • Scrambling: 1) Tiger Woods; 2) Bud Cauley / Xander Schauffele; 4) Danny Willett; 5) Andrew Putnam; 6) Hideki Matsuyama / Collin Morikawa; 8) Brendon Todd; 9) Keegan Bradley / Alex Noren; 11) Sergio Garcia; 12) Abraham Ancer; 13) K.H. Lee / Bubba Watson; 15) Jason Dufner; 16) Jason Day; 17) Justin Rose; 18) Matthew Fitzpatrick / Russell Knox / Joaquin Niemann / J.T. Poston / Erik van Rooyen.
  • Putting Average (Putts per GIR): 1) J.B. Holmes; 2) Dustin Johnson / Jon Rahm; 4) Brian Gay; 5) Tony Finau / Marc Leishman; 7) Justin Rose / Brendon Todd; 9) Patrick Cantlay; 10) Branden Grace; 11) Jason Day / Rory McIlroy; 13) Vaughn Taylor; 14) Bubba Watson; 15) Matthew Fitzpatrick; 16) Lanto Griffin / / Max Homa; 18) Abraham Ancer / Justin Thomas; 20) Jimmy Walker.

Recent Player Strokes Gained Rankings: These top 20 in the field rankings are based on an 8-tournament window that stretches back to the RSM Classic and DP World Tour Championship, which includes both PGA and European Tour events where recorded. Players must have played in a minimum of 2 Tour events to be included and rankings are based on performance relative to the rest of the field:

  • Top 20 SG Off The Tee: 1) Bubba Watson / Jhonattan Vegas; 3) Cameron Champ; 4)  Jon Rahm / Xander Schauffele; 6) Justin Thomas; 7) Ryan Palmer; 8) Matthew Wolff; 9) Max Homa / Sergio Garcia; 11) Danny Willett; 12) Paul Casey; 13) Corey Conners; 14) Joaquin Niemann; 15) Collin Morikawa; 16) Matthew Fitzpatrick; 17) J.B. Holmes; 18) Joel Dahmen; 19) Dustin Johnson / Patrick Reed.
  • Top 20 SG Approach: 1) Marc Leishman; 2) Bubba Watson; 3) Collin Morikawa; 4) Hideki Matsuyama; 5) Ryan Moore; 6) Abraham Ancer / Rory McIlroy; 7) Justin Thomas; 8) Kevin Na; 9) Jon Rahm; 10) Emiliano Grillo; 11) Sergio Garcia / Nick Watney; 13) Russell Knox; 14) Joaquin Niemann; 15) Corey Conners; 16) Joseph Bramlett; 17) Branden Grace / Patrick Reed; 19) Keegan Bradley / Patrick Cantlay.
  • Top 20 SG Around The Green: 1) Jason Day; 2) Rory McIlroy; 3) Alex Noren; 4) Tony Finau; 5) Hideki Matsuyama; 6) Abraham Ancer; 7) Jon Rahm / Justin Rose / Jordan Spieth; 10) Aaron Baddeley; 11) Sergio Garcia; 12) Nate Lashley; 13) Xander Schauffele; 14) Chez Reavie; 15) Si Woo Kim / Cameron Smith; 17) Charles Howell III; 18) Branden Grace / Brian Harman / Joaquin Niemann / Patrick Reed.
  • Top 20 SG Tee to Green: 1) Rory McIlroy / Bubba Watson; 3) Jon Rahm; 4) Collin Morikawa; 5) Sergio Garcia / Marc Leishman; 7) Jason Day / Justin Thomas; 9) Abraham Ancer; 10) Tony Finau; 11) Joaquin Niemann; 12) Alex Noren; 13) Corey Conners; 14) Patrick Cantlay; 15) Russell Knox / Patrick Reed; 17) Branden Grace / Hideki Matsuyama / Ryan Palmer / Jordan Spieth.
  • Top 20 SG Putting: 1) Jon Rahm; 2) J.B. Holmes; 3) Bubba Watson; 4) Brendon Todd; 5) Kevin Na; 6) Andrew Putnam; 7) J.T. Poston; 8) Rory McIlroy / Danny Willett; 10) Patrick Rodgers; 11) Matthew Fitzpatrick / Branden Grace; 13) Tony Finau; 14) Abraham Ancer; 15) Abraham Ancer; 16) Cameron Champ / Erik van Rooyen; 18) K.H. Lee / Steve Stricker; 20) Patrick Cantlay / Charles Howell III.
  • Top 20 SG Total: 1) Bubba Watson; 2) Jon Rahm, 3) Rory McIlroy; 4) Sergio Garcia; 5) Abraham Ancer; 6) Marc Leishman; 7) Collin Morikawa; 8) Jason Day; 9) Tony Finau / J.B. Holmes / Alex Noren; 12) Branden Grace; 13) Corey Conners / Kevin Na; 15) Patrick Cantlay / Justin Thomas; 17) Cameron Champ / Xander Schauffele; 19) Brendon Todd; 20) Keegan Bradley / J.T. Poston.

Winners & Prices: 2019: Holmes 150/1; 2018: Watson 50/1; 2017: Johnson 9/1; 2016: Watson 25/1; 2015: Hahn 200/1; 2014: Watson 33/1; 2013: Merrick 250/1; 2012: Haas 50/1; 2011: Baddeley 100/1; 2010: Stricker 16/1. Past 6 Renewals Average: 77/1. Overall Average: 88/1.

Historical Weather:

  • 2019: Thursday: Rain, with a high of 62. Wind SW at 15-25 mph, gusting to 30 mph. Weather caused a suspension of play at 7:30 a.m. Following the suspension of play, the weather rapidly deteriorated and officials announced that play would remain suspended until at least 1 p.m. and all first-round scores would be reset. After a seven-hour delay, the first round restarted at 1:40 p.m. and was suspended due to darkness at 5:34 p.m. Two inches of rain was recorded at Riviera between midnight Wednesday and the restart of round one. Friday: Clear in the morning with rain in the afternoon. High of 57. Wind WSW 10-18 mph. Saturday: Sunny, with a high of 62. Wind W at 10-20 mph. The second round resumed at 7:00 a.m. and was completed at 2:46 p.m. The third round began off both Nos. 1 and 10 tees at 3 p.m. and was suspended due to darkness at 5:45 p.m. Sunday: Partly cloudy with scattered showers. High of 59. Wind W 15-25 mph, with gusts to 30 mph. The third-round resumed at 6:45 a.m. and was completed at 11:10 a.m.
  • 2018: Thursday: Sunny. High of 67. Wind SW 5-10 mph. Friday: Sunny. High of 70. Wind SW 10 mph. Saturday: Sunny. High of 70. Wind S 5-10 mph. Sunday: Partly cloudy. High of 62. Wind SW 10-15 mph.
  • 2017: Thursday: Partly cloudy, with a high of 64. Wind SW 7-12 mph. Friday: Due to inclement weather, round two was suspended for the day at 12:18 p.m. A total of 2.97 inches of rain fell from Friday morning to Saturday morning. Saturday: Scattered showers through early afternoon gave way to cloudy skies in the late afternoon. High of 61. Wind SSW 6-12 mph. Sunday: The third round resumed at 6:50 a.m. and was completed at 12:03 p.m. Mostly cloudy, with a high of 60. Wind SW 6-12 mph.
  • 2016: Thursday: Early showers gave way to partly cloudy conditions in the morning before sunshine and mid-60 temperatures in the afternoon. Wind WSW at 8-16 mph. Friday: Mostly sunny and reasonably cool weather with temperatures moving into the mid-60s. Wind WSW at 6-12 mph. Saturday: Mostly sunny and pleasant after a cool start with temperatures climbing to near 70 degrees in the afternoon. Wind WSW at 4-8 mph. Sunday: Mostly sunny and pleasant with temperatures reaching the high 60s. Wind WSW at 4-8 mph.

Weather Forecast: The latest weather forecast for Pacific Palisades, Los Angeles, California is here. Calm conditions will greet this high quality field in Los Angeles this week.  With no real wind to speak of, and sunny conditions throughout, the players can’t really ask for a better environment in which to play this week.

Temperatures will peak between 17-19 degrees Celsius across all 4 days. Turf conditions though this week are likely to be the key. The course has had no significant rain since 16th January and despite 3mm yesterday (Sunday), the forecast is for no more precipitation this week. With the tournament organisers and Tiger Woods open to creating turf conditions that will test the world’s best around Riviera Country Club, I’m expecting firm and fast conditions, the last of which we saw in 2018.

Tournament Trends & Key Factors: Analysing the final stats of the 10 winners of the Genesis Invitational since 2010 gives us a little more insight into the requirements for this classical test:

  • 2019, J.B. Holmes (-14). 281 yards (41st), 51.8% fairways (59th), 72.2% greens in regulation (2nd), 38’5″ proximity to hole (31st), 70.0 % scrambling (17th), 1.67 putts per GIR (6th).
  • 2018, Bubba Watson (-12). 304 yards (21st), 57.1% fairways (27th), 63.9% greens in regulation (7th), 36’4″ proximity to hole (10th), 69.2 % scrambling (20th), 1.65 putts per GIR (13th).
  • 2017, Dustin Johnson (-17). 315 yards (1st), 51.8% fairways (45th), 77.8% greens in regulation (1st), 34’11” proximity to hole (10th), 81.3 % scrambling (5th), 1.70 putts per GIR (16th).
  • 2016, Bubba Watson (-15). 295 yards (17th), 50.0% fairways (50th), 70.8% greens in regulation (7th), 32’6″ proximity to hole (6th), 76.4 % scrambling (4th), 1.73 putts per GIR (21st).
  • 2015, James Hahn (-6). 287 yards (50th), 51.8% fairways (37th), 55.6% greens in regulation (28th), 36’11” proximity to hole (15th), 68.8 % scrambling (13th), 1.70 putts per GIR (14th).
  • 2014, Bubba Watson (-15). 319 yards (1st), 62.5% fairways (8th), 70.8% greens in regulation (3rd), 31’3″ proximity to hole (5th), 71.4 % scrambling (16th), 1.65 putts per GIR (7th).
  • 2013, John Merrick (-11). 299 yards (20th), 53.6% fairways (29th), 63.9% greens in regulation (24th), 33’9″ proximity to hole (11th), 65.4% scrambling (19th), 1.67 putts per GIR (8th).
  • 2012, Bill Haas (-7). 280 yards (60th), 55.4% fairways (32nd), 50.0% greens in regulation (59th), 44’3″ proximity to hole (64th), 72.2% scrambling (1st), 1.72 putts per GIR (12th).
  • 2011, Aaron Baddeley (-12). 277 yards (42nd), 50.0% fairways (57th), 72.2% greens in regulation (3rd), 35’0″ proximity to hole (21st), 80.0% scrambling (1st), 1.83 putts per GIR (54th).
  • 2010, Steve Stricker (-16). 270 yards (37th), 69.6% fairways (29th), 66.7% greens in regulation (11th), 29’2″ proximity to hole (2nd), 75.0% scrambling (8th), 1.63 putts per GIR (3rd).

Tournament Skill Averages:

Driving Distance: 29th, Driving Accuracy: 37th, Greens in Regulation: 15th, Proximity to Hole: 18th, Scrambling: 10th, Putting Average 15th.

Strokes Gained Tournament Trends:

  • 2019, J.B. Holmes (-14). SG Off the Tee: 37th, SG Approach: 6th, SG Around the Green: 33rd, SG Tee to Green: 11th, SG Putting: 1st.
  • 2018, Bubba Watson (-12). SG Off the Tee: 17th, SG Approach: 11th, SG Around the Green: 6th, SG Tee to Green: 2nd, SG Putting: 21st.
  • 2017, Dustin Johnson (-17). SG Off the Tee: 1st, SG Approach: 20th, SG Around the Green: 44th, SG Tee to Green: 2nd, SG Putting: 3rd.
  • 2016, Bubba Watson (-15). SG Off the Tee: 16th, SG Approach: 3rd, SG Around the Green: 36th, SG Tee to Green: 5th, SG Putting: 11th.

Strokes Gained Tournament Skill Averages:

  • SG Off the Tee: 18th, SG Approach: 10th, SG Around the Green: 30th, SG Tee to Green: 5th, SG Putting: 9th.

Let’s take a view from players as to how Riviera Country Club sets up and what skill sets the course favours:

J.B. Holmes (2019): ” I knew that it was going to get really windy in the afternoon and that’s what the weather had said. Always thought that would have been a better chance for me; usually when the conditions are crappy I do better. You never know out here. This is a tough golf course and you throw that kind of wind in there. But yeah, at one point it looked like,  Brandon looked at me and said, Do you think Justin is going to get to 20 under, and I was like, You mean this round? He was playing unbelievable there that third round. You can’t just get up there and whack it when it’s blowing that hard. You’ve got to read wind and there’s a lot of slope on these greens. It’s not an easy golf course and you throw in winds like that. On 13 or 14, the par 3, I hit a 5-iron and it stays pretty good. He hits a 5-iron really good and a gust of wind comes up and he comes up like 15 yards short, and I think he hit it better than I hit mine. It’s very tough. Then when you get putting like that, it’s just not going to be fast anywhere.”

Bubba Watson (2018): “You know, there was a great champion that went bogey free on the weekend one time. But no, it’s a tough one because of the greens, because of this grass. We know late in the day you’re going to get some bounces that you don’t agree with, so it’s very difficult. You’ll hit a chip shot or an iron shot that you think is great, hits a little bounce and goes opposite or whatever, or your putt does that. So it’s very difficult and you’re going to make a mistake. It might not be a mistake by you, it might be the ball bounces the other way. So you’ve got to just keep fighting and hopefully you make more birdies than bogeys. This golf course stood the test of time. Nobody’s talking about changing it unless they mention a major involved with it. They added a tee on No. 2 a long time ago, a few years ago, and we never played it because No. 2 doesn’t need it. So when you think about history and not messing with the golf course, today, this day and age you can’t build a golf course like this. It stood the test of time. It’s the only golf course that has a perfect par 3 with a bunker in the middle of it. You know, it’s just a beautiful layout and it’s fun to play. You’ve got to hit shots from every different angle, you’ve got to move it right to left and left to right, so it’s just fun. Then the greens are the equalizer so it makes me look, I putt as good as the other guys.

Jordan Spieth: “I mean, you can go back in your memory, and I can picture all the holes, I know where the pins are, I know where the breaks are on those greens. But you’ve still got to get on to the practice greens and then dial in the feel, dial in the speed. This poa annua putts differently than it did last week at the courses that we played there in Pebble Beach, and so you’ve got to be careful here. It can get away from you very quickly. And it’s hard to get below the hole. That’s the thing out here. So you start to go to the driving range and I’ll start to try and work on some shots where you kind of float ones in, work on a lot of shots that you can loft up in the air more than maybe you would do last week. So there’s still a lot of adjustments to be made, even if you are familiar with the place, because with the weather here compared to what it could be last week, normally it’s less wind here and it’s more positioning. You’ve got to be in the fairways, even with little rough, to be able to hold these greens. You start working on a lot of different shots.

Rory McIlroy: “It’s a great golf course. We don’t play golf courses like this very often anymore on Tour, and it’s a real treat when you come to a golf course like this where it’s not overly long, you don’t have to really bomb it off the tee, but it’s real strategic. You’ve got to place your ball on the right sides of the fairways. You have to make sure you hit it to the right side of the greens. You really can’t short-side yourself here. You can’t really get it above the pin. It’s a real thinker’s golf course and it’s a real treat to play something like this because we don’t get to play them that often anymore. Especially those, I think I saw a stat the other day, that there was more 3-footers missed here than there was anywhere else last year, I think by a long way actually. Inside sort of five or six feet is going to be really important this week, because you’re not going to hit the amount of greens that you’re used to hitting. You hit 12 greens around here, you’ve done pretty well. So there will be a lot of those holing-out-type distances for pars that will be important. I think that’s one of the big things this week for me, and I’ve been trying to work on that.

Bubba Watson: “Today obviously with the rain it was easier. The golf course is accepting shots. But this golf course, the history of this golf course, this is one of those golf courses that we talk about a lot, because of the history. There’s not much change around here. The golf course has stayed the same, same kind of grass, it’s not heavy rough. It’s basically getting the right bounce. You lands it six inches short, it stays short. You land it just on the green it could bounce over. It’s all about hitting the right trajectories, hitting the right line, and hopefully on certain pins, hitting the fairway so you can produce a little bit of spin. So your answer is: It’s just a traditional old school golf course that’s got a lot of history. I love it because of the history, and as you can see, there’s some trees down compared to where the first time I played here. I think I started playing here nine, ten years ago. And so you can spray it a little bit but still manage the golf course. But at the same time, you can hit fairways and manage the golf course. It’s one of those golf courses where it can bite you at any minute, but at the same time you can score and you can imagine a bunch of shots around the trees and around the greens.”

Path to Victory: Below are the end of round positions for the last 10 Genesis Invitational winners:

  • 2019 – J.B. Holmes: Round 1: 1st, Round 2: 3rd, Round 3: 2nd.
  • 2018 – Bubba Watson: Round 1: 6th, Round 2: 6th, Round 3: 1st.
  • 2017 – Dustin Johnson: Round 1: 2nd, Round 2: 1st, Round 3: 1st.
  • 2016 – Bubba Watson: Round 1: 2nd, Round 2: 3rd, Round 3: 1st.
  • 2015 – James Hahn: Round 1: 1st, Round 2: 11th, Round 3: 7th.
  • 2014 – Bubba Watson: Round 1: 35th, Round 2: 40th, Round 3: 6th.
  • 2013 – John Merrick: Round 1: 7th, Round 2: 3rd, Round 3: 2nd.
  • 2012 – Bill Haas: Round 1: 36th, Round 2: 11th, Round 3: 6th.
  • 2011 – Aaron Baddeley: Round 1: 1st, Round 2: 2nd, Round 3: 1st.
  • 2010 – Steve Stricker: Round 1: 6th, Round 2 2nd, Round 3: 1st.

Shots From the Lead: Below are the last 10 Genesis Invitational winners and where they were positioned in terms of shots from the lead during the tournament:

  • 2019 – J.B. Holmes: Round 1: 1 ahead, Round 2: 1 back, Round 3: 4 back.
  • 2018 – Bubba Watson: Round 1: 2 back, Round 2: 2 back, Round 3: 1 ahead.
  • 2017 – Dustin Johnson: Round 1: 2 back, Round 2: 1 ahead, Round 3: 5 ahead.
  • 2016 – Bubba Watson: Round 1: 3 back, Round 2: 2 back, Round 3: 1 ahead.
  • 2015 – James Hahn: Round 1: Level, Round 2: 4 back, Round 3: 4 back.
  • 2014 – Bubba Watson: Round 1: 4 back, Round 2: 8 back, Round 3: 4 back.
  • 2013 – John Merrick: Round 1: 4 back, Round 2: 1 back, Round 3: 3 back.
  • 2012 – Bill Haas: Round 1: 6 back, Round 2: 4 back, Round 3: 2 back.
  • 2011 – Aaron Baddeley: Round 1: Level, Round 2: 2 back, Round 3: 1 ahead.
  • 2010 – Steve Stricker: Round 1: 3 back, Round 2: 1 back, Round 3: 6 ahead.

Form of winners since 2010:

  • J.B. Holmes: MC Pebble/26th TPC Scottsdale/MC Torrey/48th Mayakoba.
  • Bubba Watson: 35th Pebble/40th Torrey/MC PGA West/67th RSM Classic.
  • Dustin Johnson: 3rd Pebble/MC Torrey/2nd Abu/6th Kapalua.
  • Bubba Watson: MC Pebble Beach/14th TPC Scottsdale/10th Kapalua/1st World Challenge.
  • James Hahn: 29th Pebble/41st Torrey/59th TPC Scottsdale/20th PGA West.
  • Bubba Watson: 2nd TPC Scottsdale/23rd Torrey/30th Thailand/3rd World Challenge.
  • John Merrick: 16th Pebble/57th TPC Scottsdale/MC Torrey/MC PGA West.
  • Bill Haas: 19th TPC Scottsdale/4th Torrey/64th PGA West/20th Kapalua.
  • Aaron Baddeley: 6th Pebble/37th TPC Scottsdale/MC Torrey/34th Waialae.
  • Steve Stricker: 3rd Waialae/10th Kapalua/10th World Challenge/6th East Lake.

First Round Leader Analysis: First round leader(s), their wave and winning score since 2010. Full First Round Leader stats are here.

  • 2019 – Holmes – PM -8/63 – 100/1.
  • 2018 – Cantlay/Finau – Both PM -5/66 – Both 55/1.
  • 2017 – Saunders – AM -7/64 – 300/1.
  • 2016 – Villegas PM -8/63.
  • 2015 – Fathauer/Goosen/Hahn/Singh/Summerhays/Watney – 5AM/1PM -5/66.
  • 2014 – D Johnson – AM -5/66.
  • 2013 – Kuchar – AM -7/64.
  • 2012 – Mickelson – PM -5/66.
  • 2011 – 9 players -4/67.
  • 2010 – D Johnson – AM -7/64.

For the record, here’s the breakdown of pure Poa Annua and Bentgrass/Poa Annua mix PGA Tour victors in the field since 2008:

  • 10 – Dustin Johnson.
  • 6 – Bubba Watson.
  • 5 – Phil Mickelson.
  • 4 – Jason Day, Rory McIlroy, Tiger Woods.
  • 3 – Jimmy Walker.
  • 2 – Bryson DeChambeau, Brooks Koepka, Scott Piercy, Jordan Spieth, Nick Watney.
  • 1 – Aaron Baddeley, Keegan Bradley, Patrick Cantlay, Cameron Champ, Jason Dufner, Emiliano Grillo, James Hahn, J.B. Holmes, Russell Knox, Matt Kuchar, Nate Lashley, Marc Leishman, Hideki Matsuyama,  Collin Morikawa, Andrew Putnam, Jon Rahm, Chez Reavie, Patrick Reed, Justin Rose, Adam Scott, Scott Stallings, Steve Stricker, Chris Stroud, Vaughn Taylor, Justin Thomas, Kevin Tway.

There’s undoubtedly a form link between Riviera and a couple of other classical golf courses. The course here features Kikuyugrass fairways and rough, a feature which is only shared with Torrey Pines, so it’s hardly a surprise to see that recent winners like Baddeley, Haas, Johnson, Merrick and Watson have all finished 11th or better (Merrick’s was at the 2008 U.S. Open) down the coast in San Diego.

2015’s shock winner James Hahn doesn’t share that distinction, but he had finished 3rd on the Poa Annua greens at Pebble Beach in his rookie season of 2013. Steve Stricker, who won here in 2010, has no Torrey Pines form of note, however he’d finished 2nd at Riviera 12 months earlier showing he could handle the Kikuyu.

So I’m looking for upwardly mobile ball-strikers this week who have a penchant for playing positively at Torrey Pines, Pebble Beach or naturally here at Riviera. A high ball flight, the ability to grind when scoring is tough, plus the ability to move the ball confidently both ways are also key attributes for me this week.

My final Genesis Invitational tips are as follows:

Patrick Cantlay 2pts EW 20/1 (8EW, 1/5) with Betfair

First up in my Riviera Country Club squad is Patrick Cantlay. A very best price of 12/1 at Pebble Beach in a relatively poor field has seen 8 points added to it this week, and in my mind Riviera is the kind of Ball-Striking test that the World Number 6 thrives on.

6th (2018) and 15th (2019) here at Riviera, the California-born 27 year-old, who went to UCLA, has masses of experience around these parts. Asked about his time spent on the course back in 2018 when joint-leader after 36 holes, Cantlay said, “I’m pretty familiar with the golf course and you’ve just got to hit a lot of smart shots over and over and over again and not get too greedy. I feel very familiar with the lines on the golf course and it’s one of my favorite golf courses. I think the architecture out here is definitely one of the best we play all year. I think it rewards really smart, safe golf a lot. I say safe, but just picking your spots, not trying to get overly aggressive. You don’t have to shoot at all the flagsticks, you can have a lot of 30-footers up the hill and occasionally make a few of them. So I think there’s something to that, something to being used to poa annua and growing up on golf courses that are kikuyu grass because I think it might be the only one we play all year with kikuyu grass.”

2020 form of 4th(Kapalua)-34th(Abu Dhabi)-11th(Pebble) is typically solid and Patrick has finished in the top 20 for Greens in Regulation across a 7 tournament streak, which goes back to the BMW Championship at Medinah Number 3.

We’ve been on board both of his wins on the PGA Tour at 20/1 (Shriners Open) and 18/1 (Memorial Tournament), and this kind of price-point up to now has been when he has delivered the wins, which ultimately both he and punters would like to see more frequently.

Form at Kapalua (4th this year), Pebble (9th 2013 and 11th this year), Muirfield Village (4th 2018, 1st 2019), Conway Farms (9th 2017) and Medinah Number 3 (2nd 2019) correlates extremely well with the last 3 winners here, namely J.B. Holmes, Bubba Watson and Dustin Johnson. And Cantlay sits across most of my 8-week trackers including Greens in Regulation (you won’t be surprised), Putting Average, SG Approach, SG Tee to Green, SG Putting (you might be surprised) and SG Total. Result: T17

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Bubba Watson 2pts EW 22/1 (7EW, 1/5) with Betway

While he’s playing some of his best stuff at the moment, Bubba Watson is an automatic bet this week. As we know with Bubba, he comes alive on certain courses – and with 12 PGA Tour victories to his name, he’s not afraid to convert contending performances. 3 wins here at Riviera Country Club (2014, 2016, 2018), 2 wins at Augusta National (2012 and 2014) and 3 wins at TPC River Highlands (2010, 2015, 2018) highlight the pattern perfectly with Watson, who since 2012 has delivered 7 of his 9 wins in Ryder Cup years.

3 wins here on the Bentgrass Poa Annua mix greens that Bubba thrives on have been supported by 14th (2008), 17th (2009), 13th (2012), 14th (2015) and 15th (2019), meaning that the 41 year-old from Baghdad, Florida has amassed the mere sum of $4.237 million in Pacific Palisades.

I just love the way that Watson is playing confidently right now. 6th at Torrey Pines saw him rank 3rd for Ball Striking, 3rd for SG Off the Tee, 6th for SG on Approach, 2nd for Greens in Regulation and 1st for SG Tee to Green. Then 2 weeks ago at another ‘Bubba track’ he ranked 8th for SG Tee to Green. Even the putter is working nicely as he sits 3rd in this field currently for SG Putting across the past 8 weeks of qualifying action. Result: MC

Tony Finau 2pts EW with 25/1 (8EW, 1/5) with Betfair

You’ll have to excuse my lack of creativity this week, but the combination of the quality of this Genesis Invitational field and what seems the necessity for bomber-like power off the tee, says to me that players in the top 15 of the betting market are exactly where I want to be.

Tony Finau at 25/1 with the 8 places (1/5 odds) that Betfair Sportsbook are giving to their customers this week is acceptable to me, especially as he was a best price 33/1 shot at TPC Scottsdale a fortnight ago. Yes, the field is tougher, but Big Tony’s form here over the past 2 renewals reads 2nd (2018) and 15th (2019). Indeed on his course debut, way back in 2015, he was 11th at the halfway stage when ranked in the mid 130s in the World Rankings and when he was a Tour rookie.

I’ve always had Finau down as a high-class Tee-to-Green sort, who’s backable on non-Bermudagrass green complexes. He’s undoubtedly Bentgrass-positive and can cope with Poa Annua or Bent/Poa Annua mix greens just fine. The fact that Riviera Country Club doesn’t feature water hazards is also a big upside for me on the basis that Tony is aggressive with the driver and that can lead to double-trouble on courses with water. That though was not the case 2 weeks ago, when Finau played some outstanding golf at TPC Scottsdale, only to be beaten by 3 straight birdies which Webb Simpson conjured up across 17,18 and play-off hole 1. Could he have been more clinical? Yes. Did he throw the tournament away? In my opinion, no.

So that leads us to this week and Tony has always been the sort when in form to string results together. 2018 saw him finish 5th at the U.S. Open, 9th at the Open Championship, 2nd at the Northern Trust, 4th at the Dell Technologies, 8th at the BMW Championship, 10th at the Dunhill Links and 2nd at the WGC-HSBC Champions across a 12 tournament stretch. So early 2020 form of 5th(Hong Kong Open)-14th(American Express)-6th(Farmers Insurance Open)-2nd(Waste Management Phoenix Open) is top-notch. When he finally gets over the line again, I think it will be at a top-level tournament on a classical golf course where power off the tee is important. Riviera Country Club is a good identikit fit, so I’m running with the World Number 12. Result: T51

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Sergio Garcia 1pt EW 66/1 (6EW, 1/5) with Unibet

Finally I’ll add Sergio Garcia to the Riviera squad. This week marks his United States season debut and a tournament where Tiger Woods is the host may not be the ideal situation!

But being serious, the World Number 41 is attending as Sergio is a regular at Riviera Country Club and he’s played very well around here in the past. 3 top-6 finishes across 2007 (6th), 2012 (4th) and 2015 (4th) in his last 8 appearances here speak volumes for his liking of this classical track. And let’s be frank here, Garcia has been playing some nice golf on the European Tour. 6th at the DP World Tour Championship,  8th in Abu Dhabi and 6th last time out in Saudi Arabia are great results in fields which had quality and depth.

Yes his numbers are all European Tour, but across my 8-week trackers in this Genesis Invitational field he ranks 9th for SG Off the Tee, 11th for SG on Approach, 11th for SG Around the Green, 5th for SG Tee to Green and 4th for SG Total. For traditionalists 7th for Greens in Regulation and 11th for Scrambling also make plenty of sense this week at a course where distance off the tee, strong approach and a decent short game will seriously make a difference.

I think patience will be a buzzword this week and Sergio, at 40 years of age, can play par golf well enough. It’s Ryder Cup year and Sergio will undoubtedly want to make his 10th Ryder Cup across 4 different decades. As we’ve seen with both Lee Westwood and Graeme McDowell of late, the Ryder Cup motivates like little else and experienced individuals can take main Tour victories on courses which suit. So outside of the top 20 in the betting, I’m playing the Spaniard this week as he’s more than likely to play Riviera, Chapultepec, PGA National and TPC Sawgrass across 4 of the next 5 weeks on the PGA Tour. Result: T37

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Odds and bookmaker offers correct at 15:25GMT 10.2.20 but naturally subject to fluctuation.