This week, the PGA Tour brings with it a second straight elevated event, which means a star-studded field. We have nine of the world's top-10 golfers by the OWGR rankings teeing it up this week. A similar setup led to a phenomenal leaderboard last week at the WM Phoenix Open.
Oh, and Tiger Woods is teeing it up at The Riviera Country Club, so there's that.
How should we handle a strong field for this week?
Let's dig into the course, the key stats, the win simulations, and the best bets of the week.
You can jump ahead to any specific section of the piece you would like.
Course Information and Key Stats
Golfers With Great Course History
Daily Fantasy Picks
The Riviera Country Club Course Info & Key Stats
Distance: 7,322 (as long as the average par 71)
Fairway Width: 34.3 yards (46th-narrowest of 80 qualified courses)
Average Green Size: 7,500 square feet (~125% of the PGA average)
Green Type: Poa
Stimpmeter: 12.5 (fast greens)
Past 5 Winning Scores: -19, -12, -11, -14, -12
Past 5 Cut Lines: Even, Even, +1, Even, +2
Key Stats (in Order of Importance): Strokes Gained: Approach, Driving Distance, Strokes Gained: Around the Green, Par 4 Scoring, Adjusted Strokes Gained
As evidenced by cutlines near even par and winning scores generally around 12-under par, golfers are in for a test this week at Riviera in Pacific Palisades, California.
Greens are poa, and splits on poa are pretty small. Notably, it's very difficult to putt on these greens (6th-toughest out of 80 courses). That's especially true on putts from within 5 feet and within 15 feet.
Fairways will be missed, but it's not that penalizing overall. What is going to matter is hitting greens and giving yourself as many chances to make what birdies are available and avoid putting for par from 10 feet. That puts an emphasis on distance and ball-striking overall.
datagolf shows an elevated frequency of approach shots from 150 to 200 yards and a lessened emphasis on shorter approach shots.
A reason I like to look at strokes gained: around the green here is that we have kikuyu rough, which is pretty rare. Plus, the data shows an added level of importance on getting up and down when you do inevitably miss greens.
It's an overall test this week.
Golfers With Great Course/Event History
The best strokes gained averages among golfers who have played at least twice here over the past five years (a "-" indicates a did-not-play situation):
- Viktor Hovland (+2.50): 4th, 5th, -, -, -
- Max Homa (+2.07): 10th, 1st, 5th, 37th, -
- Tony Finau (+1.72): 33rd, 2nd, 51st, 15th, 2nd
- Jon Rahm (+1.69):21st, 5th, 17th, 9th, -
- Wyndham Clark (+1.67): -, 8th, 17th, -, -
- Xander Schauffele (+1.67): 13th, 15th, 23rd, 15th, 9th
- Patrick Cantlay (+1.62): 33rd, 15th, 17th, 15th, 4th
- Collin Morikawa (+1.58): 2nd, 43rd, 26th, -, -
- Rory McIlroy (+1.50): 10th, MC, 5th, 4th, 20th
- Justin Thomas (+1.48): 6th, MC, MC, 2nd, 9th
- Ryan Moore (+1.45): -, -, 30th, 28th, 9th
- Maverick McNealy (+1.45): 7th, MC, -, -, -
- Matthew Fitzpatrick (+1.42): -, 5th, 30th, -, -
Past winners in the field include Max Homa, Adam Scott (2005 and 2020), J.B. Holmes (2019), and James Hahn (2015).
Five of the past nine winners -- and a slew of others -- are playing on the LIV Tour now.
Win Simulations for The Genesis Invitational
Here are the most likely winners this week, according to my win simulation model, as well as their golf betting odds at FanDuel Sportsbook.
Win Simulation Analysis and Best Bets for The Genesis Invitational
Although Rory McIlroy (+1000) was the biggest disappointment of the three favorites last week (along with Jon Rahm and Scottie Scheffler), his odds lengthened for this week, and he's now a betting value while it's Rahm who is noticeably overvalued. I'm done trying to suggest fading Rahm even if the odds are too short because he's always in striking distance.
Scheffler is a bit overvalued after his near-runaway win last week at Phoenix. Of the three, it's Rory who gets the nod this week on the betting card when we want to pick a favorite.
Beyond that, things are tough. Patrick Cantlay (+2600) and Will Zalatoris (+3400) are close to showing value, as is long-shot Keegan Bradley (+6500).
I'll update this with top-10 and my actual outrights once we get that market and we see some movement.
Daily Fantasy Golfer Picks for The Genesis Invitational
All stats cited below originate at datagolf and reference ranks relative to the field over the past 50 rounds. Putting surface splits also come from FantasyNational and include the past 50 rounds when possible -- unless noted. References to my combo model refer to a combination of long-term, field-adjusted form, key stat performance, and hole-by-hole-level strokes gained data.
Best of the Best
Rory McIlroy (FanDuel Salary: $11,900 | Golf betting odds: +1000) - The big three are all viable this week, and we're just going to be experiencing a lot of weeks where we have numerous great options at the top of the salary pool. This week, I'm again going with McIlroy to anchor lineups because he's the best combination of stats, form, and salary. He also ought to be less popular than he deserves to be after Scheffler and Rahm were all over coverage to end last week's event. McIlroy ranks first in strokes gained: off the tee and is ninth in approach. He also combines to rank ninth in short game over the past 50 rounds.
Patrick Cantlay ($10,700 | +2600) - This week, a more balanced lineup has appeal, and that's in part because we have so many strong options in the $10,000 range. Cantlay missed the cut on the number last week at the WM Phoenix Open while driving it well and putting it well, too. The irons were okay; the wedges were where he lost too much ground. We can probably get a lot of popularity leverage this week on the guy who ranks 13th in strokes gained: tee to green and 7th in strokes gained: putting over the past 50 rounds.
Others to Consider:
Xander Schauffele ($11,700 | +1400) - Top-25 in all four strokes gained stats; great pivot from Rory, Rahm, Scheffler.
Tony Finau ($11,400 | +1800) - Stats model loves him; without a lot in the $9K range, we can get top-heavy.
Will Zalatoris ($10,500 | +3400) - MC'd the Farmers in his last start; great fit here and T26 or better in two straight at Riv.
Cameron Young ($10,400 | +3100) - Super long off the tee and T2 here last year; weak short game held him back last week.
Tyrrell Hatton ($9,900 | +4500) - I have to be honest. I don't really love the $9,000 range. I think we lose a lot of win juice after Hatton and Matt Fitzpatrick ($10,000). With so many good names at the top of the salary pool, I'm willing to get a little more top-heavy as a result. But Hatton lingered in Phoenix last week due to great irons and driver play to finish T6. With any help from the short game, he could've firmly been in the hunt. Both he and Fitzpatrick are great anchors to balanced lineups.
Tommy Fleetwood ($9,300 | +9500) -Fleetwood missed the cut last week at the WM Phoenix Open despite gaining strokes with the approach play, and he picked up a lot of distance. He ended 2022 with some great worldwide results. He's 16th in approach over the past 50 rounds and has made both cuts at Riviera in his career. He's a fine low-end mid-range play, a tier without much to love.
Others to Consider:
Matt Fitzpatrick ($10,000 | +3700) - Added distance will help this week; irons are cooling off but can scramble his way up the board.
Keegan Bradley ($9,800 | +6500) - Still golfing well; T20 last week; consistently gains with irons at Riv.
Taylor Montgomery ($9,400 | +6500) - Has the distance and putting to find success here.
Brian Harman ($9,000 | +12000) - The salary stayed put at $9,000 for Harman after a T42 last week at the WM Phoenix Open. He's now lost strokes from his approach play in three straight events but still ranks 23rd in that stat over the past 50 rounds anyway. The long-term ball-striking is pretty strong (26th) for the salary.
Lucas Herbert ($8,600 | +14000) - There's at least a little win equity behind Herbert, according to my simulations, and he's a great putter with plus distance off the tee. He enters with four top-25s in his past five worldwide starts. The lone exception: T50 at the WM Phoenix Open last week. The profile suggests being able to grind his way to pars, which will help at Riviera. Herbert is one of the best course fits in the field, via datagolf.
Others to Consider:
Kyoung-Hoon Lee ($9,000 | +12000) - Super balanced profile and top-26 here in three of the past four seasons, too.
J.T. Poston ($8,800 | +14000) - Strong form entering if we ignore a missed cut at WMPO.
Alex Smalley ($8,300 | +21000) - Irons are good; putted well on these greens last year in his debut.
Andrew Putnam ($8,300 | +21000) - Trending down in salary due to consecutive missed cuts; long-term profile build on short game.