Genesis Invitational Round 3 Odds & Picks: How Confident Are Genesis Contenders?
Harry How/Getty Images. Pictured: Patrick Cantlay on the 18th green at Riviera Country Club.
LOS ANGELES — There are times when we can read between the lines of player interviews, parsing their verbiage to assess whether they are truly confident in their own games at the moment or simply trying to convince themselves (and us).
This is usually more effective before the start of a tournament, but halfway through the Genesis Invitational, we can listen to the words of the highest contenders on the board and try to figure out whether they’re actually dialed in or posting scores with smoke and mirrors so far.
Here’s the top-seven on the board, everyone within three strokes of the lead:
1. Matt Kuchar: -9
“It definitely wasn’t my best stuff today. … Wasn’t driving it nearly as accurate as I did the first day and I had to play very defensive. However, did some good scoring. When I had opportunities, I seemed to take advantage.”
Confidence level : 6/10
Posting a 2-under 69 at Riv with something less than your “best stuff” is pretty impressive, but Kuchar doesn’t exactly sound like a guy who feels like he’s in control of this tournament right now.
T-2. Harold Varner III: -7
“I’m hitting it really well. It’s a lot of fun. … I’ve just been going through a little slump on my ball-striking and it’s coming around right now.”
Confidence level: 7/10
Fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me. We’ve seen HV3 in this situation before (see: last year’s PGA Championship and Northern Trust) and it rarely ends well, but his attitude right now is so infectious that it’s hard to believe he won’t stick around for the weekend.
T-2. Rory McIlroy: -7
“I’m feeling pretty good about my game. I’ve hit some nice short irons, I’ve held on pretty well for the most part, my chipping and short game’s been good, so those are all things I’ll need over the weekend.”
Confidence level: 9/10
Rory owns the rare distinction of being both the best golfer in the world and the best interview in golf these days. He doesn’t mince words. If he’s not performing up to his capabilities, he’ll tell us — and if he is, he’ll say that, too. The fact that he seems confident in his game right now could spell trouble for the rest of the contenders this weekend.
T-2. Wyndham Clark: -7
“I just had a little shaky start with missing a couple of short putts. Then I played solid, had a lot of looks, a lot of easy pars. Really could have been nice if I made some of those short putts, but yeah, I feel good with my play so far.”
Confidence level: 6/10
You see, this is sort of a weird deal and open to interpretation, because if a player insisted he holed every putt he looked at, then his confidence would be soaring, whereas the player who says he missed some short ones in theory has left the window open to post an even lower score.
Clark is a very good young player who normally putts very well from inside 10 feet, so expect him to turn that around this weekend.
T-5. Sung Kang: -6
“I struggled a little bit off the tee and I’ve been really struggling with my putting probably the last four, five weeks and then last week we changed a lot. I mean, really changed totally and feeling comfortable now and making some putts and it helps a lot.”
Confidence level: 4/10
Look, I like Kang’s game a lot and I think he’s going to contend for a handful of titles this season. But you have to wonder whether these changes he’s speaking about are a quick-fix band-aid or long-term solution. It’s hard to know whether to trust his new putting stroke under pressure yet.
T-5. Adam Scott: -6
“I really just like a lot of the holes out here. 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.”
Confidence level: 8/10
Scott put on a beautiful ball-striking display during Friday’s round of 7-under 64. The only two reasons our confidence might not be higher are these: 1. It’s his first tourney of the year and he might not be into the four-round rhythm yet; and 2. We all know it’s hard to chase one low round with another, so he’ll be hard-pressed to even get close.
T-5 .Vaughn Taylor: -6
“I putted well again today, but I did a little bit of everything well. I drove it good and hit some good iron shots and just kind of all in all, I hit some good up-and-downs and overall pretty solid.”
Confidence level: 5/10
He just sounds like a guy who’s pleased with his game, but hardly overjoyed with the prospect of winning this weekend. Then again, four years ago he held off some big names at Pebble Beach, so there is some reason for optimism.
T-5. Russell Henley: -6
“I think I can definitely play. I think it’s been a weird couple of years for me, unlike my first five on Tour, but I think there’s a lot of good golf for me left. I feel really good, I feel strong and I’m excited to play. I’ve been putting the practice in, so I’m just trying to focus on my game.”
Confidence level: 3/10
In fairness, this quote — from after Thursday’s round — was in response to a question about why Henley has struggled recently, having failed to win in almost three full years and missing five straight cuts entering this week. Even so, he sounds like a guy who’s trying to convince himself as much as anyone else.
Round 3 Matchup
Patrick Cantlay over Brian Stuard and Kyoung-Hoon Lee (-125)
Of the 68 players who made the cut, only five players have worse putting numbers than Cantlay through the opening two rounds. He’s a player who really turned his putting around last year, improving from 153rd in 2018 to 26th in 2019.
Yes, they’ll be playing in groups of three again this weekend — a West Coast tradition unlike any other.
I like him to turn his putting around, post a score in the 67-68 range and get himself at least into shouting distance entering the final round.