Genesis Invitational 2021
An exciting Sunday, with Daniel Berger producing the goods down the stretch to land us a nice 14/1 winner. He will never win any style contests, but he has a bloody good attitude, and that absence of ‘flair’ sees him often overlooked by the media and betting public alike. His approach to 18 was as good as any of the top names have produced down the years, but will never get the accolades that say a Rory McIlroy would have received for the same shot.
What was nearly as satisfying, from a golf fan’s perspective, was the continuation of the Jordan Spieth resurgence. There are certain players that just make the game that bit more enjoyable to watch, and Jordan for me is certainly one of those. He’s not quite there, but the signs are getting ever more promising.
Our other bets were the cause of more frustration, and less pleasure, on Sunday. I really fancied Russell Knox to see off the challenge of Paul Casey over those 18 holes, and who knows if maybe he would have but for the ridiculous penalty stroke on the first hole. Scott Stallings also began the final round with serious prospects of delivering us a Top 20 winner, but 3 dropped shots in 2 holes just after the turn ultimately done for us. A double bogey after a great tee shot on 16 cost Kevin Streelman a share of the places.
An outright winner in a profitable week is never to be scoffed at, especially after the poor start to the year, but it really could have been a superb week altogether. Nevertheless, it’s always nice to have so many of the week’s bets still firmly in the hunt come payday, and that’s all we can hope for when we set out.
What a cracker we have in store this week! A venue deserving of any Major Championship, we also have a field reminiscent of what we have come to expect from the 4 big ones. Riviera Country Club time and again produces a feast of entertainment, and it’s little surprise that most of the world’s best have chosen to show up here, a layout amongst the very finest the Tour has to offer. A tough tree lined 7300 yard Par 71, it features probably the best short Par 4 on the circuit. The 10th hole will no doubt have a say in the destination of the top prize come Sunday evening, and will see much celebration and frustration in equal measure before that.
Decent greens in regulation figures are a must most weeks for any potential winner, but even more so here on this Los Angeles layout. Small greens, protected by clever bunkering, are tough to hit and with firm and fast conditions likely, they will be just as hard to hold. Course experience is more important here than most venues through the year. Missing in the ‘right’ places is crucial, and the strategic nature of the course means players are constantly learning their trade around here. A bank of experience is a big plus to your chances.
A stern and fair test featuring the world’s best, you would expect the roll of honour to be littered with big names and shorter priced winners. There are certainly some big names there, but we have also seen 3 winners of 125/1 and bigger over in the last 8 years. Length off the tee has thrived of late, but I think that has more to do with the best in the world now being of that nature, rather than length itself being overly important. Rory Sabbatini and Steve Stricker certainly aren’t among the bombers of the game, but have found a way to get it done here. Greens will be quick, and hitting the right part of them will be crucial. No one will want too many return 3 footers for par on these Poa greens, because a higher percentage than normal are sure to be missed.
Players of Interest:
It really is a stacked field here, with so many you could make a case for, and others you wouldn’t be surprised to see go well at a price. But the truth is, there is only one place to start, and that is with tournament favourite and world number one Dustin Johnson. To be honest, if DJ had been chalked up at 15/2-8/1, I would have had an easier write up this week. His credentials are absolutely rock solid, and it will take a bloody good performance to keep him out of the winners enclosure here. So why not back him? Well, he’s not 15/2! At the end of the day, it’s pretty much the only reason. I would make him the 11/2-6/1 shot that he has been chalked up as, and don’t really see any value in wading in at that. His record at Riviera is exemplary, and his win here in 2017 was nigh on faultless. He arrives off a win in Saudi despite putting like a blind man, and has the added benefit this year of having skipped Pebble off the back of the long journey from there. He deserves to be favourite, he is the most likely winner, but he isn’t big enough in this field for me to recommend.
As much as the head of the market is top heavy with the world’s best, and that should lead to a high class winner, most of them don’t really appeal to me this week. That is in part down to my respect for DJ, but also as I am rather strong on two others, who I will get to shortly.
It would be foolish to dismiss the claims of Justin Thomas for any event these days, but I do wonder just how much this whole homophic slur carry on has hurt him. I also have a slight niggle about him making the wrong decisions at crucial stages on courses like this. That could be being harsh on a truly wonderful player, but it’s there. He could easily find his best this week, but at the prices he would be one of the first I bypassed at the head of the market.
Jon Rahm too was easier to side step than normal. It will happen, and probably soon, but as suggested prior to the Phoenix Open he is still a work in progress with his new clubs. A watching brief for me once again on the fiery Spaniard.
How much will back to back runner up spots hurt Xander Schauffele? I think the defeat at Phoenix will really rankle. It’s anyone’s guess how he rebounds from that, but having been pretty tempted by the 22/1 here last year, the 14/1 this time around looks tight enough all things considered. A track I feel he will win on in time, I couldn’t make him any shorter than he is this week.
It is rare when I view Bryson DeChambeau as overpriced, and this week isn’t one of those occasions. It was great to see Brooks Koepka back in the winner’s circle at Scottsdale, and I expect him to continue to challenge for top honours through the year. Riviera is a course which takes knowing, and so far Brooks has been a slow learner. He will no doubt improve on his MC/43 here to date, but until he shows some more aptitude for the task at hand I can leave him be.
Last week I let PATRICK CANTLAY slide after DJ’s withdrawal saw his odds cut more than I wanted. I felt that may have been a poor decision after a scintillating round one of 62 at Pebble, but ultimately he didn’t make me regret it. I won’t be leaving him out this week however. Had all 4 rounds been played at Pebble Beach, Cantlay may very well have walked off with the trophy. It was very much Spyglass Hill, and a cold Saturday putter which did the damage as far as Patrick was concerned. His tee to green game at the host course was pretty much flawless, which is not surprising, given his prowess in that department over the past couple of years. Since coming back onto Tour properly in 2017, he has been 15/10/5/12th in strokes gained tee to green. He lies 8th in the current term.
He arrives this week in as hot form as he has ever been in. His last 5 starts have seen him win The Zozo, stall in the headlights somewhat after a great opening at The Masters, before finishes of 13th, 2nd and 3rd so far this calendar year. He has been operating at a seriously high level now for some time, and though one could crab him for not kicking on after that 62 last Thursday, it was a bit of a worry how he would cope the favourites mantle there. He has no such worries here, and can let DJ et al take most of the media coverage, and hype. Riviera is not an easy course, I would imagine 15 under par will get the job done, and controlled approaches to the right areas will be key to victory. Of course if he putts like he did last Saturday, then he won’t be winning, but I don’t get too worried about poor putting weeks from players like Cantlay. He is very adept on the greens on the whole, and days like those can happen at any time to any player. This week is all about clever, strategic tee to green work, and I expect our man to excel here.
4th in 2018, he has been a very respectable 15th and 17th the last two years. I believe him to be a different animal now. A bit like Berger in that I expect him to take the next step soon. A serial winner and major champion, to move alongside the greats in the game. He will need to become better at sealing the deal, but at 18/1 this week compared to the 7/1 on offer last week, I am more than prepared to take my chances.
I am far from a RORY McILROY fanboy, though I have trumpeted his case a couple of times this year already. I invested in him with no reward at the Farmers Insurance, and was close to doing so at Phoenix, but at the 12/1 available here I am more than happy to wade in with him again. 12 months ago I had a strong bet on the Northern
Irishman for this event at just 15/2. It is just a tad stronger field depth wise this year, but I would make him no bigger than 9/1 this time around. I will repeat plenty of what I said ahead of last year’s renewal, as most of it is just as relevant now.
Riviera is a course I feel is made for Rory, and given his quotes concerning the venue, he clearly feels the same. He views it as a ‘treat’ to be playing it, and I feel he may give his followers exactly that this week. It cannot be overstated just how important course knowledge and experience is here, and Rory now has 4 years of it banked. He was right in the heel of the hunt going into Sunday on debut in 2016 only for a 75 to derail him then. A 4th place finish in 2019 came ahead of what could have been victory here last year. Indeed he traded odds on during the final round before ultimately finishing 5th. It is his final rounds in contention that are the worry here. For a player of his standing, ability and success, he simply underperforms too often when it matters. I do feel that a recent success for DJ and Brooks allied with Jordan’s reincarnation may just spur the proud ego of McIlroy to greater things in the very near future. He knows he should be contending for the world number one slot, and on a course that should suit him down the ground in a field dripping with the world’s best, where better to showcase his talents.
I don’t expect this Sunday blip thing to last forever. He is simply too strong minded. Look how he responded from a disastrous start at Phoenix to ultimately finish within a few shots of Brooks. His response to a terrible opening round at Portrush also. His driving here has been superb on all 4 visits, and I envisage the strut we associate with an on song confident Rory returning here.
He is very close to showing the sort of form he was 12 months ago, just a hole or two here and there being his undoing. The way he finished at Scottsdale was very encouraging, his approach play was really dialled in. If he carries that over here, to a venue he has putted better than most in recent years, he will give DJ a serious headache. Par 5 scoring will be crucial in determining the winner this week, and McIlroy is one of the bets in this category year on year. I would make him a strong second favourite here, and view him as a decent bet at the current 12/1.
Taking two at under 20/1, and also very much respecting the 6/1 favourite, I typically wouldn’t go too much further in the outright staking. Maybe somewhat contradictory, given how I feel these types of events are highly likely to be won by the head of the market, I do like many others at bigger prices! A few have obviously had to miss out, but I have got some on side in other markets. The others I will run through quickly.
Matthew NeSmith misses out on the basis of having no previous experience here. An opening 74 at Spyglass last week, on the day of easiest conditions set him very much on the back foot. He was excellent from then though, shooting 11 under par for his 3 rounds at Pebble. Very impressive indeed. He’s a star on the rise, though he will need to produce a career best to be involved here.
Michael Thompson was 7th here two years ago, and this firm and fast test on a proper golf course is typically what sees him excel. I wouldn’t be surprised to see him have another good week.
Doug Ghim was runner up in the 2017 US Amatuer here, and given his recent run of hot form, he will approach this week with much confidence. Only one missed cut in his last 8, a period featuring a top 5 at The Amex, and finishing just outside the top 20 last week, Ghim is a stock firmly on the rise. I can’t back them all though, and given I have 3 more outright bets, I feel that is enough.
First of those is JAMES HAHN. Winner here in 2015, he has missed only one cut here in 7 starts. That, allied to the fact that his win came on just his 3rd visit shows you that Hahn and Riviera have just simply clicked. His 13th place here last year came off the back of some very poor lead in form, and given how well his game looked at Phoenix, I feel he is overpriced here this week. He threatened to steal the show at Scottsdale, absolutely scything through the field on Sunday. 4 bogeys in his last 8 holes put the skids on him, and it was no real surprise to see him miss the cut at Pebble in the aftermath of that. A weekend off there will be a blessing in disguise. He can restock, and take all the positives from that Phoenix showing, and arrive at what must be his favourite venue on Tour confident of yet another good showing. Certain players at big prices I would prefer to just play in alternative markets like the Top 20, butu with someone like Hahn who I feel can get the job done, I am prepared to take the plunge at big prices in the outright market.
I backed WILL ZALATORIS in the aforementioned Phoenix Open, and he very nearly delivered a payout. A superb showing on Saturday set him up for that, before a disappointing Sunday dented our hopes. I suggested there that quotes of 40-45/1 on him wouldn’t be around much longer, and sure enough he rocked up last week at just 22/1. If that was an overreaction to one good tournament, or indeed one really good round, well then the 66-80/1 on offer this week is surely the same to one bad one.
His displays in the US Open at Winged Foot and recently at Torrey Pines, show not only has he got what it takes to tame the toughest courses on Tour, but also that he is well capable of mixing with the best players it has to offer. Zalatoris is a serious talent, one who’s tee to green game has been stellar this past 12 months, and who has the ability to take the all important par 5’s apart this week. Adam Scott, Bubba Watson and JB Holmes will never be amongst the world’s best putters, and when they can get it done on the greens here, so too can young Will. Certain players will always be more susceptible to recency bias when it comes to their pricing, and Will seems to be one of those. He has the game to tame Riviera, and though he only has the two rounds under his belt in this tournament in 2015, he did also play in the 2017 Amatuer here. For a player of his talent, at this price, I am prepared to take my chances.
Last man in for me this week is ADAM SCOTT, and I have to say I am very surprised he has been put in so big,and quite bemused by his price on the exchange. This is very much a horses for courses venue, and Adam has excelled here most years. A winner on debut in 2005, that has a bit of an asterix beside it, as it was shortened to 36 holes. His win last year though was his 7th top 20 finish in just 10 appearances since. Year on year Scott produces here, and given his ball striking capabilities that is of no real surprise. He was poor in contention when I put him up at Torrey, but that experience could have been just what he needed to get the feel for the heat of Sunday flowing through him again. His long game deserted him from when he hit the front that Saturday, but had been an area of his game which was in seriously good shape for the rounds and weeks preceding that. I can see him getting right back on track here, and anything resembling a half decent week on the greens will see him right in contention for win number 3 around here.
When it comes to the greens, little things can make a big difference, and Scott will know that he has putted above average here in the past. That can only help, as will the fact he has seen many ‘better’ putters struggle. The mind is a funny thing! Clearly comfortable here, I will be surprised if he doesn’t give us a good run for our money.
Another who did miss out towards the head of the market, was Viktor Hovland. I can’t hide my high opinion of this lad. Many will disagree, but in my opinion he is already a better player than Bryson DeChambeau, and I expect that gap will only widen over the years. He has really got to grips with his past struggles in his short game, and in time I feel Riviera will be a very happy hunting ground for him. When playing at just 33/1 though I don’t want the drawback of him making his course debut. I will watch with interest though.
That is it for me in the outright market.
A quartet go to post here, and I feel the outsider of the 4 is the way to go. NICK TAYLOR had a respectable week as defending champion at Pebble, and with that duty performed I feel he can kick on now with what has been a very satisfactory start to his year. In his 18 rounds to date, only two have been over par. 6 appearances here have seen him make the weekend 4 times. There are grounds for thinking simply doing that this time around may be enough to land this section. He putted very poorly last week, which disguised what was actually a pretty decent week tee to green. It’s that tee to green game which will get it done around Riviera, and as said before poorer putters have thrived here. I can see him having another decent week, and given I am less than lukewarm on any of his opponents, I view him as a decent bet here.
Favourite to land this section is Corey Conners, and he is another who has that unwanted disadvantage of very little course experience. He made his debut here last year, which resulted in a missed cut. He may need another few rounds, before he is comfortable here.
Mackenzie Hughes is a player I feel is rather overrated. A hot year on and around the greens in 2020 camouflaged what is a pretty average long game, and he will need to improve in that department to better his two missed cuts from two around here. Adam Hadwin would be the danger in my opinion, but I prefer the chances and indeed the price of Taylor. Hopefully a couple of his compatriots don’t accompany him through to the weekend.
Top 20 Finish:
I had toyed with the idea of including James Hahn, and indeed Doug Ghim here, but in the end the sole bullet in this market will be CHEZ REAVIE. The two time winner on Tour has made a slow start to 2021, but signs at Pebble last week were that a corner is about to be turned. Indeed his approach play there, especially in a closing 67, suggested that he may round it here this week. Driving distance and accuracy haven’t been overly important in the scores of winners around here, and that can probably help explain Chez’s two top 10’s here in the last 5 years. He can struggle from the tee, he is very short by today’s standards, but from the fairways in he can mix it with the best. His display from the fairways on Sunday was superb. From 18 approaches, there were only 3 that you could say he wouldn’t have been very happy with. And that was in mildly challenging conditions. The former Canadian Open winner is a thorough grinder, and won’t let a bad hole here or there disrupt him, just the type you want on side when betting into this market. He is a player who traditionally bunches good finishes together, his latest win coming off the back of a 3rd place finish in the US Open of 2019. Earlier that summer he had grouped 3 top 20 finishes together. At the beginning of that year he was 3rd and 4th in the space of 3 weeks, with a respectable top 30 sandwiched in the middle at the now Amex. 2020 saw a similar trend, with his 3 best results outside of his 10th place here, coming together. Those results on back to back weeks at Muirfield followed by a 6th in the WGC, show Reavie is at his best on tougher layouts. He is likely to go well once again this week, and 5/1 that he notches his 3rd top 20 in his last 6 appearances here is too big.
If 5/1 was to appear on the exchange about James Hahn, I would be interested in that also. Top Australian:
I left ADAM SCOTT as the last man in in the outright market, and this as the last alternative market covered as I wasn’t sure which market was best to play him in. I feel it prudent to go with both.
It would be wrong to say this is a weak section, Marc Leishman is in decent and improving form coming here, and has shown that he can handle the layout. He has also however missed as many weekends as he has made in his last 6 appearances. Cameron Smith made hay for me in this market late last year, but as is always the case with a player trying to forge his way up the rankings, following that real breakthrough period or year is tough. Smith has struggled a bit in his 3 appearances this year to date. Cameron Davis is much too short at 4/1 here. Matt Jones could be a bit out of his depth, and maybe also in need of a week off.
Scott should be a touch shorter here based solely on outright prices, but then you also have to factor in that he seems much more likely to contend than anyone else. He absolutely loves it here, only once in his last 7 appearances has he finished outside the top 17, and he seems likely to give his running. It will take a decent performance to better him this week, and 15/8 looks quite juicy to me.
2.5pts ew Rory McIlroy 12/1 (⅕ odds 8 places, 365/WH/Skybet/PP/BFSB/888/Betfred)
1.75pts ew Patrick Cantlay 16/1 (⅕ odds 8 places) *I sent this recommendation out yesterday when he was 18/1. I will however settle at 16/1 as all may not have got on then. The 16/1 held until just about now. He is till 16/1 with Betvictor
.9pt ew Adam Scott 33/1 (⅕ odds 8 places, WH) *30/1 with 365/Sky/888/Betfred/Coral/Lads to 8 places is acceptable. He is 30 to 10 places on Betfair’s 10 place ew market
.5pt ew Will Zalatoris 66/1 (⅕ odds 8 places, WH/365/Skybet) *80/1 available with Unibet .3pt ew James Hahn 125/1 (⅕ odds 8 places, 365/Skybet) *110/1 and upwards acceptable Top Canadian:
5pts Nick Taylor 7/2 (WH/365/Lads/Coral/Sky/Boyles + more) *3/1 and upwards acceptable Top 20 Finish:
4pts Chez Reavie 5/1 (WH/Skybet/888/Betvictor/Betway/Coral/Lads) *6/1 available with Unibet/Sporting Index/Spreadex for those that can avail of it
7pts Adam Scott 15/8 (WH/PP/BFSB) *General 7/4 and upwards acceptable
Best of luck this week, hopefully we can have another good run here.