Steve Bamford

Steve Bamford's Genesis Invitational Tips

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Congratulations to those of you on Daniel Berger last week at Pebble Beach. A couple of top-10 finishes in his only 2 appearances at the AT&T was a concrete block of a form line, but my relationship with him from a betting perspective is fraught with disappointment and I let the 18/1 (which became 14/1 post-DJ withdrawal) pass quite easily. His 4th PGA Tour title – and 2nd in 16 appearances – was pretty impressive and well deserved as he was on the wrong side of the Thursday/Friday draw.

For this column you can add Jordan Spieth at 25/1 to the list: since the start of this PGA Tour season (mid-September), I’ve landed 6 runner-up places and a couple of 3rd place spots in 17 tournaments. Jordan was another 36- and 54-hole leader who didn’t convert. Interestingly it was Jordan‘s putter (not his driver) that actually kept him from landing his first win since the 2017 Open Championship. He’s undoubtedly on an upward trajectory.

With January in the rear view mirror, it’s well worth checking out our latest best golf additional each-way places analysis to make sure you have all the golf additional each-way angles covered.

The Genesis Invitational closes the 2021 west coast swing and sees the strongest elite field of the year so far arriving in Los Angeles. World Number 1 Dustin Johnson, Jon Rahm, Justin Thomas, Xander Schauffele, Rory McIlroy, Brooks Koepka, Patrick Cantlay – the stars just keep coming. With the Genesis Invitational now organised by TGR Live (Tiger Woods Foundation), it’s no surprise to see such a stellar field attend Riviera Country Club the week before the WGC in Florida.

Before we go into the detail surrounding my Genesis Invitational tips, we always have new visitors to Golf Betting System as we work our way towards April and The Masters. Welcome to you all and let me point you in the direction of our weekly Golf Betting System podcast (published every Tuesday of the golfing calendar), the Steve Bamford Golf Channel on YouTube and our hugely popular, 5,800+ strong, private Group on Facebook – you can Join Here.

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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 7,500 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 Poa Annua greens.

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″; 7,500 sq.ft average featuring 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. 2020: 71.26 (+0.26), Rank 10 of 41 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.
  • Seaside Course: 250 yards from the tee: 42 yards wide; 275:40; 300:34; 325:31; 350:23.
  • TPC Summerlin: 250 yards from the tee: 35 yards wide; 275:37; 300:33; 325:30; 350:31.

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

  • Atunyote GC – 2007-10 Turning Stone Championship.
  • Conway Farms GC – 2013, 2015, 2017 BMW Championship.
  • Corales GC – Corales Championship
  • Eagle Point – 2017 Wells Fargo Championship
  • Raptor Course Greyhawk GC – 2008/09 Fry’s.com Open.
  • Shadow Creek Golf Course – 2020 CJ Cup.

Fazio has also had re-design input into:

  • Quail Hollow – 2016, 2018, 2019 Wells Fargo Championship & 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 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, Watson again and Scott shot -11 (-11/273 winning total), -8 (-15/269), -6 (-6/278), -9 (-15/269), -7 (-17/267), -8 (-12/272), -5 (-11/273) respectively on the par-5s. The only odd scoring performance away from this par-5 trend was J.B. Holmes (who else!) in 2019, who shot -6 -5 -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, with Riviera traditionally ranking in the top 5 hardest for Proximity to Hole on the Tour.

Conditions-wise I’m expecting on the firm side, especially as we head into the weekend. That would fall in line with what we saw 12 months ago, and as per the 2015 (Hahn) and 2018 (Watson) renewals which undoubtedly featured firm and fast playing conditions.

genesis invitational tips

Winners: 2020: Adam Scott (-11); 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).

Lead Score Progression:

  • 2020: Round 1 -7; Round 2 -9; Round 3 -10; Round 4 -11.
  • 2019: Round 1 -8; Round 2 -11; Round 3 -16; Round 4 -14.
  • 2018: Round 1 -5; Round 2 -7; Round 3 -10; Round 4 -12.
  • 2017: Round 1 -7; Round 2 -10; Round 3 -17; Round 4 -17.

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, Jon Rahm, Xander Schauffele, Tony Finau, Bryson DeChambeau, Marc Leishman, Adam Scott, Sergio Garcia and Justin Thomas.

Recent Player Skill Rankings: These top 25 in the field rankings are based on an 8-tournament window that stretches back to the Mayakoba Golf Classic, Golf in Dubai Championship and South African Open, which includes PGA Tour and European Tour events. Rankings are based on performance relative to the rest of the field:

  • Driving Accuracy: 1) Jim Furyk; 2) Corey Conners; 3) Keegan Bradley; 4) Jim Herman; 5) Brendon Todd; 6) Ryan Armour; 7) Martin Laird / Collin Morikawa; 9) Brian Stuard; 10) Lucas Glover; 11) Abraham Ancer; 12) Kevin Streelman; 13) Matthew Fitzpatrick / Viktor Hovland; 15) Joel Dahmen; 16) Michael Thompson; 17) John Augenstein; 18) Brian Harman; 19) Kramer Hickok / Matt Kuchar / Henrik Norlander; 22) Xander Schauffele; 23) Emiliano Grillo / Mark Hubbard / Russell Knox / Joaquin Niemann.
  • Greens in Regulation: 1) Dustin Johnson; 2) Viktor Hovland; 3) Kevin Streelman; 4) Matthew Fitzpatrick; 5) Tony Finau / Jason Kokrak; 7) Patrick Cantlay / Corey Conners / Joaquin Niemann / Kyle Stanley / Justin Thomas; 12) Russell Knox; 13) Cameron Tringale; 14) Lucas Glover / Jon Rahm / Sergio Garcia; 17) Keegan Bradley / Jim Furyk; 19) Michael Thompson; 20) Abraham Ancer / Charley Hoffman / Collin Morikawa / Doc Redman / Xander Schauffele; 25) Rory McIlroy.
  • Scrambling: 1) Bryson DeChambeau; 2) Patrick Cantlay / Dustin Johnson; 4) Joaquin Niemann / Nick Taylor / Brendon Todd; 7) Si Woo Kim / Xander Schauffele; 9) Mackenzie Hughes / Francesco Molinari; 11) Marc Leishman; 12) Daniel Berger / Matthew Fitzpatrick / Bubba Watson; 15) Henrik Norlander / Jon Rahm; 17) Tony Finau / Martin Laird; 19) Scottie Scheffler; 20) Matt Kuchar / Pat Perez; 22) Bo Hoag; 23) Abraham Ancer / Dylan Frittelli; 25) Branden Grace.
  • Putting Average (Putts per GIR): 1) Max Homa / Carlos Ortiz; 3) Patrick Cantlay; 4) Viktor Hovland / Justin Thomas; 6) Brendon Todd; 7) Tony Finau; 8) Xander Schauffele; 10) Dustin Johnson; 11) Joaquin Niemann; 12) Corey Conners; 13) Andy Ogletree; 14) Sergio Garcia / Brooks Koepka; 16) Ryan Armour / Brian Harman / Rory McIlroy / Adam Scott; 20) K.H. Lee; 21) Stewart Cink / Jordan Spieth; 23) Joel Dahmen / Robert Streb; 25) Bryson DeChambeau / Collin Morikawa.

Recent Player Strokes Gained Rankings: These top 25 in the field rankings are based on an 8-tournament window that stretches back to the Golf in Dubai Championship and South African Open (both European Tour), which includes PGA Tour and European Tour events. Players’ rankings are based on performance relative to the rest of the field:

  • Top 25 SG Off The Tee: 1) Sergio Garcia; 2) Rory McIlroy; 3) Corey Conners; 4) Viktor Hovland; 5) Patrick Cantlay / Bryson DeChambeau; 7) Xander Schauffele; 8) Dustin Johnson; 9) Cameron Champ / Luke List / Jon Rahm; 12) Joaquin Niemann; 13) Cameron Davis; 14) Daniel Berger; 15) Tony Finau; 16) Emiliano Grillo / Brendan Steele / Justin Thomas; 19) Abraham Ancer; 20) Henrik Norlander; 21) Matthew Fitzpatrick; 22) Kramer Hickok / Charl Schwartzel; 24) Adam Scott / Bubba Watson.
  • Top 25 SG Approach: 1) Joaquin Niemann; 2) Dustin Johnson; 3) Viktor Hovland; 4) Marc Leishman; 5) Jon Rahm; 6) Patrick Cantlay; 7) Tony Finau; 8) Henrik Norlander; 9) Kyle Stanley; 10) Max Homa; 11) Justin Thomas; 12) Keegan Bradley / Rory McIlroy / Xander Schauffele / Jordan Spieth; 16) Lanto Griffin; 17) Collin Morikawa; 18) Abraham Ancer / Russell Henley; 20) Harry Higgs; 21) Kevin Na; 22) Kevin Streelman; 23) Corey Conners / Cameron Tringale; 25) Russell Knox.
  • Top 25 SG Around The Green: 1) Dustin Johnson; 2) Sergio Garcia / Brendon Todd; 4) Bryson DeChambeau; 5) Martin Laird; 6) Rickie Fowler; 7) Joaquin Niemann; 8) Patrick Cantlay; 9) Mackenzie Hughes / Kevin Na; 11) Tony Finau / K.H. Lee / Andrew Putnam / Vaughn Taylor; 15) Jordan Spieth; 16) Adam Hadwin; 17) Robby Shelton; 18) Si Woo Kim; 19) Rory McIlroy / Cameron Smith; 21) Daniel Berger / J.B. Holmes; 23) Cameron Davis; 24) Nick Taylor; 25) Wesley Bryan / Wyndham Clark / Francesco Molinari / Carlos Ortiz / Will Zalatoris.
  • Top 25 SG Tee to Green: 1) Joaquin Niemann; 2) Dustin Johnson; 3) Rory McIlroy; 4) Cameron Davis / Viktor Hovland; 6) Patrick Cantlay; 7) Jon Rahm; 8) Tony Finau; 9) Xander Schauffele; 10) Bryson DeChambeau; 11) Sergio Garcia; 12) Collin Morikawa; 13) Corey Conners; 14) Luke List / Marc Leishman / Justin Thomas; 17) Adam Scott; 18) Jordan Spieth; 19) Henrik Norlander; 20) Keegan Bradley / Brendan Steele; 22) Abraham Ancer / Daniel Berger; 24)  Si Woo Kim; 25) Kevin Na / Cameron Tringale.
  • Top 25 SG Putting: 1) Xander Schauffele; 2) Patrick Cantlay; 3) Brendon Todd; 4) Carlos Ortiz; 5) Daniel Berger; 6) Adam Hadwin; 7) Matthew Fitzpatrick / Joaquin Niemann; 9) Mark Hubbard; 10) Lanto Griffin / Marc Leishman; 12) Bryson DeChambeau / Matt Jones; 14) Brooks Koepka; 15) Wesley Bryan; 16) Mackenzie Hughes; 17) Ryan Armour; 18) Adam Scott; 19) Russell Henley; 20) Stewart Cink / Robert Streb; 22) Rory McIlroy; 23) Peter Malnati / Jimmy Walker; 25) Pat Perez / Scottie Scheffler.
  • Top 25 SG Total: 1) Joaquin Niemann; 2) Xander Schauffele; 3) Patrick Cantlay; 4) Dustin Johnson; 5) Rory McIlroy; 6) Viktor Hovland; 7) Tony Finau; 8) Bryson DeChambeau / Jon Rahm; 10) Cameron Davis / Marc Leishman; 12) Daniel Berger; 13) Sergio Garcia; 14) Carlos Ortiz / Justin Thomas; 16) Corey Conners / Matthew Fitzpatrick / Adam Scott / Brendon Todd; 20) Sam Burns; 21) Lanto Griffin; 22) Matt Jones / Brendan Steele; 24) Wesley Bryan / Jordan Spieth / Michael Thompson.

Winners & Prices: 2020: Scott 33/1; 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 7 Renewals Average: 71/1. Overall Average: 83/1.

For a full summary of winner’s odds on the PGA Tour since 2010 click here.

Historical Weather:

  • 2020: Thursday: Sunny, with a high of 64. Light SE wind in the morning, switching to SW wind at 5-9 mph in the afternoon. Friday: Sunny with a high of 65. Wind SW 4-7 mph with gusts up to 10 mph. Saturday: Sunny with a high of 65. Wind SW 5-9 mph with gusts up to 12 mph. Sunday:  Sunny with a high of 65. Wind SW 5-9 mph with gusts up to 12 mph.
  • 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 be between 20-22 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 29th January and 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.

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

  • 2020, Adam Scott (-11). 305 yards (15th), 41.1% fairways (63rd), 72.2% greens in regulation (1st), 38’5″ proximity to hole (22nd), 60.0 % scrambling (46th), 1.69 putts per GIR (15th).
  • 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: 28th, Driving Accuracy: 40th, Greens in Regulation: 13th, Proximity to Hole: 18th, Scrambling: 14th, Putting Average 15th.

Strokes Gained Tournament Trends:

  • 2020, Adam Scott (-11). SG Off the Tee: 17th, SG Approach: 3rd, SG Around the Green: 17th, SG Tee to Green: 3rd, SG Putting: 27th.
  • 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: 7th, SG Around the Green: 23rd, SG Tee to Green: 5th, SG Putting: 13th.

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

Adam Scott (2020): Yeah, I really just like a lot of the holes out here. You know, I stand on the tee very comfortable here, and shots into the green. Somehow I manage to putt generally well here when it’s one of the courses that guys struggle most on tour with. Something about it reminds me a lot of some golf in Australia, too, in areas. Just feel very comfortable every time I’m here.

I guess I scrambled well today. I think I got up and down five times out of five, so probably that. You know, it’s very tough here in the afternoons putting. Yesterday when I missed a green and I chipped them up, even good chips, it was hard to be sure you’re going to make them from inside that 10 feet, five feet, and missed a few. This morning when you could chip them up, you’re just a little more confident with the smoother greens. So my chipping and my putting was very solid out there this morning.

But I think with the putting, it’s a bit of both. I seem to not struggle too much on the greens here and I guess at least by the stats everyone else does compared to normal. I don’t know what it is because they putt on poa at other places, but maybe it’s just the undulation and it’s more difficult here. But I’ve kind of always been fairly comfortable on these greens.”

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 winners of the Genesis Invitational since 2010:

  • 2020 – Adam Scott: Round 1: 15th, Round 2: 3rd, Round 3: 1st.
  • 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.

From the Lead: Below are the shots from the lead during the tournament of the Genesis Invitational since 2010:

  • 2020 – Adam Scott: Round 1: 3 back, Round 2: 2 back, Round 3: 1 ahead.
  • 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:

  • Adam Scott: 1st Aus PGA/MC Aus Open/11th WGC HSBC/33rd ZOZO.
  • 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.

  • 2020 – Holmes – AM -7/64 – 60/1.
  • 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:

  • 11 – Dustin Johnson.
  • 6 – Bubba Watson.
  • 4 – Bryson DeChambeau, Rory McIlroy, Brandt Snedeker.
  • 3 – Collin Morikawa, Jon Rahm, Adam Scott, Jordon Spieth, Jimmy Walker.
  • 2 – Brooks Koepka, Scott Piercy, Brendan Steele, Gary Woodland.
  • 1 – Daniel Berger, Keegan Bradley, Patrick Cantlay, Cameron Champ, Stewart Cink, Emiliano Grillo, James Hahn, Padraig Harrington, J.B. Holmes, Russell Knox, Matt Kuchar, Nate Lashley, Marc Leishman, Hideki Matsuyama, Chez Reavie, Nick Taylor, Vaughn Taylor, Justin Thomas, Richy Werenski.

There’s undoubtedly a form link between Riviera and a couple of other classical golf courses. The course here features Kikuyugrass fairways and rough, agronomy which is only shared with Torrey Pines, so it’s hardly a surprise to see that recent winners like Baddeley, Haas, Johnson, Merrick, Watson and Scott 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:

Dustin Johnson 4pts Win 6/1 with bet365

We may live in a Dustin Johnson era of domination right now and just how long that lasts is a question that remains to be seen – indeed I discussed this with both Barry and Paul in last week’s podcast from timestamp 11:19. It seems to us that we could be witnessing more than just a good run of form. 5 wins including the Tour Championship, The Masters and his last start at the Saudi International, plus 3 runner-up spots in his last 15 starts, is imperious stuff. He won this at 9/1 when we were on him in 2017 and clearly is the class of the field.

So I’m leading with DJ at 6/1. If you can’t beat them, join them and that was exactly the strategy I used here in 2017 when he won at 9/1 coming straight off a 3rd place the week before at Pebble Beach. Dustin Johnson simply adores Riviera Country Club and I believe that this is a trophy he’d love to hold aloft again this week. Prior to 2017 he was very much the bridesmaid here with a pair of runner-up finishes in 2014/15, 3rd in 2010 and a further couple of 4th spots in 2012/2016. He kept knocking at the door and in 2017 it opened in a big way as he beat Scott Brown and Thomas Pieters by 5 shots.

Since then 16th (2018), 9th (2019) and 10th (2020) have been Dustin’s efforts here at ‘Hogan’s Alley,’ the last 2 coming after he played Saudi/Pebble Beach/Riviera in 3 straight consecutive weeks. That is some ask and he definitely showed signs of fatigue here 12 months ago as he went into Sunday just 2 shots back of joint-leaders Rory McIlroy, Matt Kuchar and Adam Scott, but shot a +1/72. 2021 for me sees a far more mature and confident World Number 1 and a tactical WD from the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am last week was clearly to get himself ready for a big challenge here in Pacific Palisades and to sort out his putting which was poor in Saudi. Clearly though Johnson at the very peak of his powers can now grind out victories, even with a misfiring flat stick!

And although I’m not a fan of win-only 6/1 punts, with Dustin he’s certainly got form when it comes to winning at short prices. In 2017 he won here at 9/1 and then won the WGC-Mexico Championship the week later at 7/1. Later in March he added the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play at 10/1. 2018 saw him take the Sentry Tournament of Champions, St Jude Classic and RBC Canadian Open at 15/2, 8/1 and 7/1 respectively. 2019 saw him win the Saudi International at 10/1 and the WGC-Mexico Championship at 11/1. And across his last 4 outings he’s won The Masters at 9/1, the Saudi International at 5/1 and finished runner-up to Carlos Ortiz in Houston at 15/2. As favourites go, he actually delivers and I’ll be amazed if he’s not right in the mix come Sunday back-9. RESULT: T8

 

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Patrick Cantlay 2pts EW 18/1 (8EW, 1/5) with William Hill

Patrick Cantlay has been playing some outstanding stuff this season and still finds himself outside of the automatic Ryder Cup qualification places and Olympic qualification spots. And we are talking about the World Number 8 here!

8th at the Shriners Open (Las Vegas, Nevada), 1st at the ZOZO Championship (Thousand Oaks, California), 17th at The Masters, 13th at the Sentry Tournament of Champions (Hawaii), 2nd at The American Express (Palm Springs, California) and 3rd at the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am (Carmel-by-the-Sea, California), Cantlay has certainly hit the ground running this season. And this red hot form comes out across in my 8-week Strokes Gained skill set trackers (you can see the full analysis above): 5th for Off the Tee, 6th for Approach, 4th for Around the Green, 6th for Tee to Green, 6th for Putting and 3rd for Strokes Gained Current Form – all facets of Patrick’s game are in rude health.

6th (2018), 15th (2019) and 17th (2020), the California-born 28 year-old, who went to UCLA, has masses of experience around Riviera. 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.”

We’ve been on-board 2 of Patrick’s 3 PGA Tour wins, which have come at 20/1 (Shriners Open), 18/1 (Memorial Tournament) and 28/1 (ZOZO Championship) respectively. The most recent two were in very strong fields, where he outlasted Adam Scott (Memorial) and both Justin Thomas and Jon Rahm (ZOZO) to take the spoils. Form at Kapalua (4th 2020), Pebble (9th 2013 and 3rd last week), Muirfield Village (4th 2018, 1st 2019), Bethpage Black (3rd 2019), Conway Farms (9th 2017) and Medinah Number 3 (2nd 2019) correlates extremely well with the last 4 winners here, namely Scott, Holmes, Bubba and DJ. RESULT: T15

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Bubba Watson 1pt EW 45/1 (8EW, 1/5) with Coral

Bubba Watson is an auto-bet at Riviera Country Club, and this price is more than acceptable for a player who clearly has a high ceiling when it comes to actually getting across the line. 57(Masters)-MC(Farmers)-22(WM Phoenix) is under the radar enough to not raise the suspicions of the bookmakers too much and more importantly not raise the expectations of Bubba himself. As we saw at The Masters in November, a well-backed Bubba Watson who is full of expectation himself is not a good thing!

Rewind to pre-Augusta last November and Watson ranked in the top 10 for Greens in Regulation on 5 of his 6 outings. He also ranked in the top 11 for Ball Striking across his last 5. Strokes Gained Tee to Green he ranked 14th (Northern Trust), 10th (BMW), 6th (U.S. Open), 1st (CJ Cup) and 5th (ZOZO). And results wise he had a form line of 18(Northern Trust)-16(BMW Championship)-31(U.S. Open)-7(CJ Cup)-4(ZOZO), with the last 2 results coming at short field, no-cut events which in many ways played to a WGC level. He was clearly peaking and finding his tee-to-green mastery again.

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 year.

3 wins here on greens he tends to putt well on have been supported by 14th (2008), 17th (2009), 13th (2012), 14th (2015) and 15th (2019), meaning that the 42 year-old from Baghdad, Florida has amassed the mere total of $4.237 million in Pacific Palisades. And let’s not forget that he finished strongly at TPC Scottsdale last time out with a -8/134 weekend total, just 3 strokes shy of Koepka’s field best -11/131. RESULT: MC

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Marc Leishman 1pt EW 60/1 (8EW, 1/5) with William Hill

Looking further down the betting at players who have shown a liking for Riviera Country Club is never a bad ploy at this event. 33/1 (Watson 2014), 50/1 (Watson 2018) and 33/1 (Scott 2020) have all landed here in recent times, so this traditional seam of winners is worth exploring.

Marc Leishman has shown some good signs of late and has landed some excellent results here in Los Angeles and in California generally. 13th at November’s Masters, his last 2 outings have seen him finish 4th at Waialae Country Club and 18th at Torrey Pines when defending. As we know, Torrey Pines’ agronomy pretty much matches here at Riviera Country Club, so it’s not a huge surprise to see that Genesis winners including Scott, Holmes, Johnson, Watson, Haas, Baddeley and even John Merrick have all got strong results down in San Diego. Australian Leishman clearly gets on with the mix of Kikuyugrass and Poa Annua as his results at Torrey Pines include 2nd (2010), 9th (2011), 2nd (2014), 20th (2017), 8th (2018) and 1st (2020).

Here in Los Angeles, outings at Riviera Country Club include 15th (2010) on course debut, 17th (2012), 5th (2016) and 4th (2019). He’s gone close before and right now is playing well if a little under the radar. 3 straight rounds of 65 at the Sony Open scored him a 4th place finish in January – his best on the PGA Tour since 2nd at the 2020 Arnold Palmer Invitational – and his name appears readily across my 8-week Strokes Gained skill set trackers. 4th for Approach, 14th for Tee to Green, 10th for Putting and 10th for Strokes Gained Current Form – classical layouts are undoubtedly where the World Number 33 comes to the party. RESULT: T32

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Sergio Garcia 1pt EW 66/1 (8EW, 1/5) with Betfair

Finally I’ll add Sergio Garcia to the Riviera squad.

The Spaniard has started Ryder Cup year in excellent spirits and has already split his schedule in 2021 between both the PGA Tour and the European Tour – a new development for Sergio. His appearance at the Sentry Tournament of Champions was his first since 2006 and a week later he went to the Sony Open for the first time since 2003!  11th and 47th across the Aloha Swing, Garcia then took part in the Dubai Desert Classic and Saudi International on the European Tour. 6th behind Paul Casey at the Emirates GC, saw Sergio go out in the 2nd from last group on Sunday, which he then followed up with 12th at Royal Greens G&CC. A -7/64 on Saturday was the very best in the field that day.

So he must arrive at Riviera Country Club well-rested and pretty confident. Yes the putter has been typically poor from a Strokes Gained perspective, but across my 8-week Putting Average (Putts per GIR) tracker he still ranks 14th in this field. That means he’s been converting enough chances – indeed 2 Eagles and 23 Birdies, 1 Eagle and 19 Birdies plus 19 Birdies across the Tournament of Champions, Dubai and Saudi was in the top 10 for Birdie or Better Conversion across 3 of his last 4 appearances.

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 9  appearances here speak volumes for his liking of this classical track. I think patience will be a buzzword this week and Sergio, at 41 years of age, can play par golf well enough – plus of course it’s Ryder Cup year and Sergio undoubtedly will want to make his 10th Ryder Cup across 4 different decades. From an 8-week tracker perspective he sits 14th for Greens in Regulation, 14th for Putting Average, 1st for Strokes Gained Off the Tee, 2nd for SG Around the Green, 11th for SG Tee to Green and 13th for Strokes Gained Current Form. RESULT: MC

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Odds and bookmaker offers correct at 16:15GMT 15.2.21 but naturally subject to fluctuation.