Steve Bamford

Steve Bamford's Genesis Invitational Tips 2022

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Scottie Scheffler delivered for this column at 30/1 last week at TPC Scottsdale. I know that plenty of you were on board. It’s always an extra thrill to land a player who wins their first ever PGA Tour victory at a nice price, and I think we all agree that Scottie will go on to capture some more significant titles in the future.

The Genesis Invitational closes the 2022 West Coast swing and sees the strongest elite field of the year so far arriving in Los Angeles. World Number 1 Jon Rahm heads them, with Collin Morikawa, Patrick Cantlay, Viktor Hovland, Rory McIlroy, Dustin Johnson, Xander Schauffele, Justin Thomas, Scottie Scheffler, Hideki Matsuyama and Cameron Smith all in the field. That makes the top 11 in the OWGR all present in Los Angeles this week. 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.

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Before we go into the detail surrounding the Genesis Invitational, we always have new visitors to Golf Betting System. Welcome 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, +6,000 strong, private Group on Facebook – you can Join Here.

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, uneven tree-lined 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, 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. 2021: 71.21 (+0.21), Rank 17 of 51 courses.

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

  • Atunyote GC – Turning Stone Championship 2007-10.
  • Caves Valley GC – BMW Championship 2021.
  • Congaree GC – Palmetto Championship 2021.
  • Conway Farms GC – BMW Championship 2013, 2015, 2017.
  • Corales GC – Corales Championship.
  • Eagle Point – Wells Fargo Championship 2017.
  • Raptor Course Greyhawk GC – Fry’s.com Open 2008/09.
  • Shadow Creek GC – CJ Cup 2020.
  • The Summit Club – CJ Cup 2021.

Fazio has also had re-design input into:

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

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.
  • TPC Scottsdale: 250 yards from the tee: 33 yards wide; 275:30; 300:28; 325:27; 350:27.
  • Pebble Beach: 250 yards from the tee: 33 yards wide; 275:33; 300:29; 325:30 350:26.
  • 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.
  • CC of Jackson: 250 yards from the tee: 29 yards wide; 275:28; 300:29; 325:28; 350:25.
  • Silverado: 250 yards from the tee: 27 yards wide; 275:26; 300:24; 325:25; 350:24.

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, Scott and Homa shot -11 (-11/273 winning total), -8 (-15/269), -6 (-6/278), -9 (-15/269), -7 (-17/267), -8 (-12/272), -5 (-11/273) and -11(-12/272) 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 it to be 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), 2018 (Watson) and 2020 (Scott) renewals which undoubtedly featured firm and fast playing conditions.

genesis invitational tips

Winners: 2021: Max Homa (-12); 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).

Cut Line: 2021: E; 2020: +1; 2019: E; 2018: +2; 2017: E.

Lead Score Progression:

  • 2021: Round 1 -7; Round 2 -12; Round 3 -9; Round 4 -12.
  • 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 Jon Rahm, Justin Thomas, Xander Schauffele, Rory McIlroy, Dustin Johnson, Hideki Matsuyama, Paul Casey, Adam Scott, Luke List and Patrick Cantlay.

Tournament Winners & Prices: 2021: Homa 60/1; 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 8 Renewals Average: 70/1; Overall Average: 81/1.

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

Historical Weather:

  • 2021: Thursday: Sunny. High of 68. Wind NE 10-15 mph, with gusts to 20 mph. Friday: Sunny. High of 65. Wind SW 6-12 mph. Saturday: High of 63. Wind NNW 15-20 mph, with gusts to 35 mph. Play was suspended at 10:08 a.m. due to inclement weather (high winds), with all but the last group having teed off. Play resumed at 2:02 p.m. for a total delay of 3 hours, 54 minutes. The third round was delayed due to darkness at 5:45 p.m. with 23 players yet to complete their round. Those players will be back in position at 6:50 a.m. Sunday, with final-round tee times scheduled to begin at approximately 8:30 – 10:30 a.m. off split tees. Sunday: Sunny. High of 72. Wind SW 10-15 mph.
  • 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, although temperatures will be down on 2021: 19 degrees Celsius across Thursday and Friday falls to 16 degrees Celsius on the weekend.

Turf conditions though this week are likely to be the key. The course has had no significant rain since the turn of the year 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.

Player Strokes Gained Rankings: These top 25 in the field rankings are based on an 8-tournament window that stretches back to the Houston Open & AVIV Championship which includes both PGA Tour and DP World Tour events. Players’ rankings are based on performance relative to the rest of the field:

  • Top 25 SG Off The Tee: 1) Jon Rahm; 2) Dustin Johnson; 3) Cameron Champ / Collin Morikawa / Thomas Pieters; 6) Sungjae Im; 7) Patrick Cantlay / Rory McIlroy; 9) Will Zalatoris / Xander Schauffele; 11) Jhonattan Vegas; 12) Min Woo Lee; 13) 13) Ryan Palmer; 14) Luke List; 15) Sergio Garcia / Jason Kokrak; 17) Marc Leishman; 18) Aaron Rai / Si Woo Kim; 20) Abraham Ancer; 21) Viktor Hovland / Troy Merritt; 23) Hideki Matsuyama / Erik van Rooyen; 25) Adam Scott.
  • Top 25 SG Approach: 1) Bubba Watson; 2) Dustin Johnson; 3) Will Zalatoris; 4) Sergio Garcia; 5) Justin Thomas; 6) Hideki Matsuyama; 7) Paul Casey / Jon Rahm; 9) Kevin Na; 10) Thomas Pieters; 11) Matt Fitzpatrick / Jason Kokrak; 13) Luke List; 14) Keegan Bradley / Marc Leishman; 16) Ryan Palmer; 17) Russell Knox; 18) Viktor Hovland; 19) Collin Morikawa / Erik van Rooyen; 21) Lanto Griffin / Tom Hoge; 23) Talor Gooch / Rory McIlroy; 25) Cameron Smith.
  • Top 25 SG Around The Green: 1) Paul Casey; 2) Rory McIlroy; 3) Xander Schauffele; 4) Cameron Tringale; 5) Hideki Matsuyama / Cameron Smith; 7) Patrick Reed; 8) Si Woo Kim / K.H. Lee; 10) Dustin Johnson / Luke List; 12) Patrick Cantlay / Will Zalatoris; 14) Matt Fitzpatrick / Scottie Scheffler; 16) Sebastian Munoz; 17) Sergio Garcia / Mackenzie Hughes / Taylor Moore; 20) Sungjae Im / Robert Streb / Harold Varner III; 23) Matt Jones / Kevin Na; 25) Sam Burns.
  • Top 25 SG Tee to Green: 1) Dustin Johnson; 2) Paul Casey; 3) Rory McIlroy / Bubba Watson / Will Zalatoris; 6) Thomas Pieters; 7) Hideki Matsuyama; 8) Luke List; 9) Sergio Garcia; 10) Jon Rahm; 11) Ryan Palmer; 12) Keegan Bradley / Collin Morikawa; 14) Sungjae Im; 15) Matt Fitzpatrick / Marc Leishman / Kevin Na; 18) Xander Schauffele; 19) Russell Henley; 20) Jason Kokrak; 21) Scottie Scheffler / Justin Thomas; 23) Cameron Smith; 24) Maverick McNealy; 25) Tom Hoge / Si Woo Kim.
  • Top 25 SG Putting: 1) Mito Pereira; 2) Matt Fitzpatrick; 3) Brooks Koepka; 4) Jason Kokrak; 5) Patrick Cantlay; 6) Viktor Hovland / Thomas Pieters; 8) Cameron Smith; 9) Matt Kuchar / Francesco Molinari; 11) Rory McIlroy; 12) Max Homa / Jon Rahm / Xander Schauffele / J.J. Spaun / Kevin Tway; 17) Robert MacIntyre / Erik van Rooyen; 19) Russell Henley / Collin Morikawa / Andrew Putnam / Patrick Reed; 23) Harry Higgs / Carlos Ortiz; 25) Wyndham Clark / Hideki Matsuyama.
  • Top 25 SG Total: 1) Rory McIlroy; 2) Matt Fitzpatrick; 3) Thomas Pieters; 4) Jon Rahm; 5) Sergio Garcia / Dustin Johnson / Bubba Watson; 8) Hideki Matsuyama / Xander Schauffele; 10) Paul Casey; 11) Jason Kokrak / Will Zalatoris; 13) Marc Leishman; 14) Russell Henley; 15) Patrick Cantlay / Sungjae Im; 17) Ryan Palmer / Justin Thomas; 19) Scottie Scheffler; 20) Mackenzie Hughes / Luke List; 22) Maverick McNealy / Collin Morikawa / Kevin Na / Cameron Smith.

For a summary of the Strokes Gained Performances from this week’s field here at Riviera Country Club since 2016 click here

Strokes Gained Tournament Trends: Analysing the Strokes Gained final stats of the Genesis Invitational winners since 2016 gives us a little more insight into the requirements for this test:

  • 2021, Max Homa (-12). SG Off the Tee: 2nd, SG Approach: 21st, SG Around the Green: 9th, SG Tee to Green: 3rd, SG Putting: 7th.
  • 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: 15th, SG Approach: 11th, SG Around the Green: 24th, SG Tee to Green: 4th, SG Putting: 12th.

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:

  • 2021, Max Homa (-12). 290 yards (51st), 57.1% fairways (3rd), 62.5% greens in regulation (5th), 42’4″ proximity to hole (33rd), 66.7 % scrambling (24th), 1.58 putts per GIR (1st).
  • 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).

Traditional Skill Set Averages:

  • Driving Distance: 30th, Driving Accuracy: 37th, Greens in Regulation: 13th, Proximity to Hole: 19th, Scrambling: 15th, Putting Average 28th.

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

Max Homa (2021): “I know the golf course pretty well. I’ve been fortunate to play a few more times since college and it’s the grass I grew up on. Kikuyu, poa annua, it’s very, very comfortable for me.”

“I was patient. I did a lot of the things the same as yesterday. My touch wasn’t quite as good around the greens, left myself too many six- to eight-footers, but stayed patient, waited for some good numbers, took advantage when I had them at the end. Yeah, it felt very similar to yesterday, just kind of Riviera doing what it does. But the fairways are really firm, so it’s running. If you can hit the ball in the fairway, you’re going to have a pretty short club in. If you miss it in the rough, you’re going to have quite a bit longer in, it just stops it right away. It was similar to yesterday. Tough test. Some pins a little easier, but some pins much harder.”

“I didn’t make a bogey over the final 26 holes. I was proud of that. Fred Couples oddly enough has been texting me especially throughout this week and he told me Thursday or Friday that solid golf wins at Riviera and just keep playing solid, and I’ve been thinking about that ever since and especially on a day like today. Really difficult this morning when we came back out, made two great putts to start, kind of settled my nerves and I just was trying to be as solid as I could. My coach and caddie, Joe, we’ve had a mantra this week, position over perfection, so we were just trying to leave it in the best spot all week and I thought we did a really good job of that this week.”

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 last 12 Genesis Invitational winners:

  • 2021 – Max Homa: Round 1: 2nd, Round 2: 6th, Round 3: 2nd.
  • 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.

Shots from the Lead: Below are the last 12 Genesis Invitational winners and where they were positioned in terms of shots from the lead during the tournament:

  • 2021 – Max Homa: Round 1: 2 back, Round 2: 6 back, Round 3: 2 back.
  • 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 Genesis Invitational winners since 2010:

  • Max Homa: 7th Pebble/42nd TPC Scottsdale/18th Torrey/21st PGA West.
  • 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.

  • 2021 – Burns – PM -7/64 – 85/1.
  • 2020 – Kuchar – 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 – Rory McIlroy, Jon Rahm.
  • 3 – Colin Morikawa, Patrick Reed, Jordan Spieth.
  • 2 – Max Homa, Brooks Koepka, Scott Piercy, Adam Scott, Brendan Steele, Nick Watney.
  • 1 – Keegan Bradley, Patrick Cantlay, Cameron Champ, Cam Davis, Jason Dufner, Emiliano Grillo, James Hahn, Tom Hoge, Russell Knox, Matt Kuchar, Marc Leishman, Hideki Matsuyama, Andrew Putnam, Chez Reavie, Scott Stallings, Justin Thomas, Kevin Tway, Erik van Rooyen

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, Scott and Homa 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 to hold fast greens, 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:

Xander Schauffele 2pts EW 22/1 with Paddy Power

Xander Schauffele absolutely loves tough tests and stretching, classical golf courses. You only have to look at his U.S. Open record to understand that: 5th at Erin Hills (2017), 6th at Shinnecock Hills (2018), 3rd at Pebble Beach (2019), 5th at Winged Foot (2020) and 7th at Torrey Pines (2021), the tougher the better has to be the mantra of the 28 year-old Californian. Let’s remember that Schauffele dominates around East Lake Golf Club, and that the World Number 7 has finished 2nd (2019) and 3rd (2021) at the last two Masters Tournaments held in April. He loves the big courses and the big tournaments so theoretically The Genesis Invitational held at Riviera Country Club should be right in his wheelhouse.

9th (2018), 15th (2019), 23rd (2020) and 15th (2021) here across 4 appearances, Schauffele ranks 7th for Strokes Gained Total here since 2016 in this field and 4th for Scoring Average of regular visitors here to Riviera Country Club. I know it’s not overly exciting, but you cannot argue that Xander is due a seriously big contending performance here at Hogan’s Alley. Poa Annua green correlating course form also rates out for the man from South California, as he’s finished 3rd at Pebble Beach and 2nd (2021 Farmers Insurance Open) plus 7th (2021 U.S. Open) on the Kikuyugrass at Torrey Pines. Talking of La Jolla, it’s worth noting that Xander does his home practising on a Tom Fazio designed golf course (The Grand Golf Club) and also won the Olympics on the East Course at Kasumigaseki Country Club, which like Riviera Country Club, is a Tom Fazio renovation.

3rd for Total Driving, 1st for Greens in Regulation, 2nd for Total Accuracy and 2nd for Ball Striking at TPC Scottsdale last week; Xander from a Strokes Gained perspective ranked 8th for Off the Tee, 9th for Approach, 4th for Around the Green and 1st for Strokes Gained Tee to Green. If the putter thaws just a little bit this week back in his home state, I think he is likely to end his 3-year winless streak on the PGA Tour in Los Angeles. RESULT: T13

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Marc Leishman 1pt EW 55/1 (8EW, 1/5) Betfred

Patience and a slightly longer-term betting strategy I’m hoping will lead to better results. I’ve been on-board Marc Leishman at both the Sony Open (22/1) and the Farmers Insurance Open (40/1) so far in 2022 and the Australian has delivered no return at all, but it’s hardly been a total disaster for the 38 year-old Victorian. 10th at Kapalua, 36th at Waialae and 16th at Torrey Pines, he joined the venture to Saudi Arabia a fortnight ago and finished 28th. It’s all been okay, but not spectacular.

That brings us to Riviera Country Club, a course which has a close form correlation with Torrey Pines. Leishman was 2nd there to Ben Crane in 2010, 2nd to Scott Stallings in 2014, and held off Jon Rahm by a single shot to win the 2020 Farmers. You can add a 9th (2011) and 8th (2018) to his list of Torrey achievements, which has earned him a smidge over $2.85m on that particular stretch of the Pacific coast.

Both courses share Kikuyugrass fairways and rough as well as Poa Annua greens, so I like the Torrey Pines South Course angle a lot. Transfer that to Pacific Palisades and Marc finished 15th here on course debut way back in 2010 and since then has added 17th (2012), 5th (2016) and 4th (2019) to that tally. And despite him languishing outside the top 20 in the betting in a loaded field this week, across my 8-week Strokes Gained trackers, in this field, he ranks 12th for Off the Tee, 14th for Approach, 15th for Tee to Green and 13th for Strokes Gained Current Form. Not too shabby.

Leishman shot a final round -6/64 in Saudi Arabia last time out which was only matched by Bubba Watson and I’m hoping that positive vibe kicks him into a contending performance this week at Hogan’s Alley. RESULT: T15

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Thomas Pieters 1pt EW 66/1 (8EW, 1/5) with Paddy Power

Thomas Pieters is upwardly mobile in the World Rankings powered by DP World Tour wins in November (Portugal Masters) and January (Abu Dhabi Championship). Now that he’s regained his position within the coveted top 50, he can opt-in to playing more on the PGA Tour. It’s worth recounting that Pieters attended the University of Illinois, where he had a very strong amateur career, winning NCAA Division 1 Championship and Big Ten Conference individual honours in consecutive years. Indeed that NCAA victory came here at Riviera Country Club in 2012.

And it’s also well worth remembering that much of his play in the United States, across limited appearance opportunities, has been top notch. A rookie member of the European Ryder Cup team in 2016, his exploits at Hazeltine were legendary. 3 points from 3 matches when teamed with Rory McIlroy, he then went on to beat both J.B. Holmes in the singles and become top points scorer in the process.

2017 was also productive for the Belgian. 2nd here on tournament debut the year Dustin Johnson won by 5 shots, Pieters mentioned in an interview, “I love Riviera. It just suits my eye. You want to keep playing the course almost. I just want to go out there right now and play some more, it’s so much fun to play.”

From California he went on to finish 5th at the WGC Mexico Championship on Poa Annua greens, 4th at The Masters amazingly came as a rookie, and 4th at the WGC Bridgestone Invitational came on Bent Poa Annua mix greens. Throw in a 6th at the 2018 PGA Championship played at Bellerive Country Club and you can see that U.S. classical layouts are a forte of the 30 year-old.

2022 so far has gleaned his 6th DP World Tour title, followed by 12th in Dubai and 24th in Saudi Arabia. 1st and 20th for Strokes Gained Tee to Green in Abu Dhabi and Dubai respectively, Thomas topped Total Driving, Greens in Regulation, Total Accuracy and Ball Striking in Saudi Arabia. A revitalised Thomas, with no pressure or expectation, must be looking forward to this week immensely. RESULT: MC

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Lanto Griffin 1pt EW 80/1 (8EW, 1/5) Betfred

Lanto Griffin is another who has grabbed my attention across the last couple of months. 6th at the Shriners Open (TPC Summerlin, Las Vegas, Nevada,), 7th at the ZOZO Championship and 3rd at The American Express (PGA West, Palm Springs, California), he’s mixing it in some strong fields. As many will remember he has already captured a PGA Tour event – the 2019 Houston Open – a season where he made it through to the Tour Championship as a rookie. That is an accomplishment that few achieve, and those that do tend to have excellent careers.

2 visits here have gleaned 36th (2020) and 26th (2021), but Griffin’s results across the West Coast swing, since he made the jump to the main Tour, have been quietly impressive. 13th and 13th at Kapalua (2020 and 2021); 7th (2020) at Waialae; 3rd at PGA West (2022); 12th and 7th at Torrey Pines (2018 and 2021); 9th and 16th at Pebble Beach (2020 and 2022); 17th at Silverado (2019); 18th and 6th at TPC Summerlin (2020 and 2022); 7th at Shadow Creek (2020); 11th at Sherwood (2020). Consistent for sure, Griffin is the sort who can mix it in strong fields. Born in California, he moved to Virginia as a youngster and he’s undoubtedly the sort who plays well in the state of his birth, plus Hawaii and Nevada.

9th, 23rd and 4th for Strokes Gained Tee to Green in his 2022 PGA Tour outings, he has impressively ranked 12th, 12th and 11th for Strokes Gained Approach across the same outings. RESULT: T39

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Christiaan Bezuidenhout 1pt EW 90/1 (8EW, 1/5) Betfred

I’ve had Christiaan Bezuidenhout earmarked for The Genesis Invitational for many weeks.An old-style, parkland, classical golf course player as many South Africans are, Bezuidenhout goes best on shorter, tougher assignments.

With Christiaan, a look at his DP World Tour heritage is well worth highlighting. 2nd at the 2016 South African Open at the mere age of 21 came at the classical parkland Glendower GC, which features Kikuyugrass fairways and rough as well as Bentgrass greens. 2019 was Bezuidenhout’s breakout year as June saw him claim his first ever main Tour victory which came at Valderrama. The Trent Jones design is a classical, claustrophobic, parkland course which features Bentgrass greens. The following September he finished 3rd behind Danny Willett and Jon Rahm at Wentworth, which at 7,300 yards again is a classical, tree-lined affair with Bentgrass greens.

Late 2020 saw ‘C-Bez’ take his 2nd and 3rd DP World Tour victories in consecutive weeks. He won the Alfred Dunhill Championship at Leopard Creek (7,249 yard, Par 72) and then won the South African Open at Gary Player Country Club, which again is a tree-framed set-up with Bentgrass greens. 5th at last September’s BMW PGA Championship on the West Course at Wentworth just adds more evidence to the fact that the 27 year-old loves classical, tree-lined tests.

With a United States flavour, outings have naturally been limited to date, but 18th (2020) and 7th (2021) at Bay Hill, plus 22nd (2020) at Muirfield Village highlight again a player who prefers classical tests over birdie-fests. 5th after 54 holes at the Kiawah Island-hosted PGA Championship and 9th after 54 holes at the Torrey Pines-hosted U.S. Open last year also highlight a player who can mix it with the very best players in the world.

2022 has seen Christiaan focus entirely on the PGA Tour. 17th (Sony Open), 40th (American Express), 46th (Farmers) and 14th (AT&T Pebble) have been steady returns on courses the Pretoria-based South African has never seen. Riviera Country Club will undoubtedly suit and bogey-free closing rounds of 66-69 around Pebble Beach were eye-catching, where he ranked 18th for Strokes Gained Tee to Green and 6th for Putting on Pebble’s Poa Annua greens. RESULT: MC

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Odds and bookmaker offers correct at 17:00GMT 14.2.22 but are naturally subject to fluctuation.