Augusta link too strong to ignore
Scottie value to double up after Scottsdale win
In existence since 1926, and originally known as the Los Angeles Open, the Genesis Invitational attracts a fantastic field and this year's renewal is absolutely no exception.
World number 23 Joaquin Niemann is unable to defend and fellow LIV defectors Cam Smith and Abraham Ancer are also absent. But the only other player inside the top-30 on the Official World Rankings not in attendance is the world number 29 Ryan Fox.
We have even got the tournament host Tiger Woods in the line-up so we're in for a treat.
Riviera Country Club, Pacific Palisades, California
Par 71, 7322 yards
Stroke index in 2022 - 70.46
Riviera has several quirks. There's a bunker in the middle of the par three sixth green, the 10th is a drivable par four, and the fairways are blanketed in kikuyu - a tough strain of grass imported from Africa over 80 years ago.
Polo was a popular sport in LA back then and kikuyu was used on the polo grounds in the area, so it wasn't long before it invaded and took over Riviera.
The kikuyu makes for perfect lies on the narrow fairways, perching the ball up high on its stiff leaves, but it's a different story if you find the rough. The grass grabs and buries the ball and control out of the thick stuff is often minimal.
Many of the holes are doglegs and the fairways are tough to find with regularity, as are the Poa annua greens that will run at around 12.5 on the Stimpmeter.
Traditionally, these are often some of the hardest greens to find on the PGA Tour all season and last year was the first time in 13 years that the scoring average was under-par.
In fact, last year's scoring average of 70.46 was the lowest here since basic records began in 1984.
Riviera is a classic, traditional and tough course.
The par four 10th measures only 315 yards but there's been only one eagle made there in three of the last five years (four in 2020 and five last year).
It averaged 3.87 12 months ago so, although short, it's far from simple.
By contrast, the par five opening hole is ridiculously simple. It averaged only 4.19 last year and there were 34 eagles recorded there throughout the week.
Live on Sky Sports all four days, starting at 14:30 on Thursday
Last Seven Winners with Pre-event Exchange Prices
2022 - Joaquin Niemann -19 65.064/1
2021 - Max Homa -12 80.079/1 (playoff)
2020 - Adam Scott -11 40.039/1
2019 - J.B Holmes -14 250.0249/1
2018 - Bubba Watson -12 85.084/1
2017 - Dustin Johnson -17 9.617/2
2016 - Bubba Watson -15 29.028/1
What Will it Take to Win the Genesis Invitational?
Although the rough is tricky to play from, the figures suggest hitting it straight of the tee isn't absolutely imperative.
Niemann only ranked 58th for Driving Accuracy and four of the five winners before him ranked no better than 27th, although the 2021 winner, Max Homa, ranked third.
Length is far from vital given Niemann ranked 64th for Driving Distance and Homa ranked 59th.
Statistically, this is a similar test to last week's WM Phoenix Open at TPC Scottsdale and the two stats to consider are Greens In Regulation and Strokes Gained Tee to Green.
The last six winners have ranked 14-1-7-2-1-5 for GIR and 1-2-2-11-3-3 for SGT2G.
The last six winners have ranked 2-16-13-6-15-1 for Putting Average and 26-3-21-1-27-7 for Strokes Gained Putting.
Is There an Angle In?
This is a fabulous venue and a tough examination so it's no surprise to see that major winners have a fantastic record. Riviera has hosted the event 59 times now and a major winner has won on 34 occasions.
The US Masters winners have by far the best record. Following Adam Scott's win here three years ago, and Dustin Johnson's success at Augusta in November 2020, 12 different US Masters winners have won 22 of the 59 renewals of the Genesis Invitational at Riviera.
Four-time Riviera winner, Macdonald Smith, was 44 when he played in the inaugural US Masters in 1934 (his only appearance) but he still finished seventh. Although he never won the Masters, the only other man to win this title four times, Lloyd Mangrum, had an incredibly good record at Augusta.
Mangrum finished second there on debut in 1940 and he finished inside the top-10 for 10 years in-a-row between 1947 and 1956. The fact that the tournament didn't even exist for the bulk of his career is the reason why Smith didn't win the Masters and the Second World War was a huge hinderance to Mangrum.
When he won here for the third time five years ago, Bubba Watson became the fifth to win it at least three times, joining Smith and Mangrum and Ben Hogan and Arnold Palmer, who both also won it thee times. Bubba, Ben, and Arnie are also multiple winners of the US Masters.
Phil Mickelson, Sam Snead and Tom Watson have also won this event and the US Masters at least twice. Augusta really is a great guide.
Previous course form is a big plus. Niemann won on his fourth start 12 months ago and James Hahn won on his third Riviera start eight years ago. But they're the only winners in the last 17 years to have played here less than four times previously.
Although Riviera and the PGA National Golf Club in Florida - home of the Honda Classic - aren't in the least bit alike, form at the two venues correlates nicely.
Quail Hollow is the most interesting correlating course. Following wins for Homa in 2021, J.B Holmes four years ago and James Hahn in 2015, three of the last seven Genesis winners have also won the Wells Fargo Championship at Quail Hollow. All three were matched at a triple-figure price before the off.
Homa was matched at a high of 120.00119/1, Holmes touched 400.0399/1 and Hahn was unconsidered 600.0599/1 chance.
Is There an Identikit Winner?
Major winners may have won on many occasions but there's no getting away from the fact that outsiders can and do prosper here regularly.
Last year's winner, Niemann was well tipped but he was matched at 100.099/1 when the market first opened. The 2021 winner, Max Homa, was generally an 80.079/1 chance before the off. But he too was matched at triple-figures.
The 2019 winner, Holmes, was generally a 250.0249/1 chance, having been matched at a high of 400.0399/1 before the off, despite having very respectable course form figures reading 51-7-6-3-12-8-MC-52-22-11-24-60.
Despite having won two of the previous four renewals, Bubba Watson was an 80.079/1 chance five years ago.
Scott Brown finished joint second seven years ago, having been matched at 910.0909/1 before the off, and he was matched at 1000.0 when finishing second again in 2020.
Prior to Holmes' win, three of the previous eight winners were very difficult to spot, and it could very easily have been four from eight...
Hahn was an unconsidered 600.0599/1 shot eight years ago. John Merrick was matched at 800.0799/1 before the off when he beat 1000.0 shot, Charlie Beljan, in a playoff in 2013.
Very few will have picked out triple-figure priced Aaron Baddeley in 2011. Jason Kokrak who was matched at 510.0509/1 before the off seven years ago, lead by two with four to play before losing out by a stroke to Bubba.
Despite the strength of the field. given the event's recent history, I wouldn't put anyone off throwing a few pounds at a couple of outsiders.
Winner's Position and Exchange Price Pre-Round Four
2022 - Joaquin Niemann - led by three 1.434/9
2021 - Max Homa T2nd - trailing by two 9.28/1
2020 - Adam Scott tied for lead with two others 4.94/1
2019 - J.B Holmes T2nd - trailing by four 17.016/1
2018 - Bubba Watson led by a stroke 4.03/1
2017 - Dustin Johnson led by a stroke 2.265/4
2016 - Bubba Watson led by a stroke 4.1
This is tricky event to assess for in-running trading. Niemann won wire-to-wire 12 months ago and the three winners before Scott in 2020 were all up with the pace throughout.
But prior to last year, DJ in 2017 was the only 36-hole leader or co-leader to win since Phil Mickelson back in 2008. Scott trailed by eight in a tie for 65th after round one in 2020 and he's far from the first to win here after a sluggish start.
Bubba Watson was so far back at halfway in 2014 (tied 40th) that he needed back-to-back rounds of 64 to win by two. He was eight back at halfway and still four behind after three rounds.
Off the pace or hard on it, it's difficult to gauge and recent results suggests the course conditions have a bearing but we can usually expect some final round shenanigans.
Three players traded at odds-on before the playoff in 2021. Sam Burns, who had led by five at halfway, was matched at a low of 1.4840/85. Tony Finau was matched at 1.351/3 when he led by one with one to play. The eventual winner, Homa, was matched at just 1.031/33 as he stood over a three-foot birdie putt to take the title on the 72nd hole, having birdied the 17th to tie Finau. But Homa missed and we were into extra-time.
And after an iffy drive on the par four 10th by Homa in the playoff, Finau was matched at a low of 1.091/11. Both players made par there and Homa went on to win at the par three 14th with a par.
Rory McIlroy hit odds-on in round four in 2020 before fading to finish fifth and the 2019 runner-up Justin Thomas entered the final round with a four-stroke lead before he twice traded at very long odds-on.
Having been matched at a low of 1.182/11, his price drifted back out to odds-against before plummeting back down to 1.21/5. But long odds-on players were left licking their wounds when he double-bogeyed 13 and bogeyed 14 to allow Holmes to par his way in for victory.
There are always trading opportunities here and many an odds-on shot gets turned over. We've witnessed all sorts of drama and in 2015 we saw three men trade at odds-on and lose.
Sergio Garcia was matched at a low of 1.42/5, Dustin Johnson hit 1.384/11, and Paul Casey hit a low of 1.855/6 but it was James Hahn who eventually won in extra-time.
This is ridiculously competitive and Jon Rahm is the only man in the field who trades at a single-figure price.
Having finished no worse than seventh in the last six months, and having won four of his last seven events, it's no surprise to see the Spaniard at the head of the market but in four previous visits to Riviera, he's never looked like winning.
His course form figures read an ordinary 9-17-5-21 and his fifth was from off the pace, so for once I'm happy to swerve Rahm.
Having been a 25.024/1 chance 12 months ago when only finishing 10th, Rory McIlroy comes into this year's renewal as a well-fancied 10/1 shot. But he too makes little appeal having finished outside the top-30 in Phoenix last week.
As already highlighted, the Irishman has traded at odds-on here and he does respectable course form figures reading 20-20-4-5-MC-10. But he looks short enough given how strong this field is.
Scottie Scheffler went on an incredible run after getting off the mark on the PGA Tour 12 months ago, finishing seventh here (it would have been better but for a poor second round) before putting up form figures reading 1-55-1-1, with his win at Augusta the crowning glory.
Having successfully defended his Phoenix Open title in impressive fashion on Sunday, he could very easily go on another spectacular run. Given he's improved on every appearance here to date (MC-30-20-7), and that Masters winners have such a sparkling record, he should perhaps be trading a little shorter than he is.
Tony Finau and Justin Thomas have both finished second here and both should have won the title.
I'm happy to play the last two US Masters winners - Scottie Scheffler and Hideki Matsuyama - at 13.012/1 and 70.069/1 respectively.
Matsuyama started last week's Phoenix Open too slowly to contend (finished 29th). However, he was ninth at the farmers insurance in his penultimate start and, with Riviera form figures reading 23-4-11-MC-9-5-MC-39, looked a very fair price.
Matsuyama also traded odds-on in the US PGA Championship at Quail Hollow.
Scottie Scheffler @ 13.012/1
Hideki Matsuyama @ 70.069/1
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