2021 Genesis Invitational Betting Picks: Our Favorite Outright Bets at Riviera
Ross Kinnaird/Getty Images. Pictured: Viktor Hovland
The 2021 Genesis Invitational is absolutely loaded with starpower. Twelve of the top 15 golfers in the world have made the trip to Riviera, meaning we’ve basically got a Major-level field to bet on this week.
Dustin Johnson, who has four wins and three second-place finishes in his last 10 starts, is the clear favorite at +550. Nobody is arguing that DJ shouldn’t be the favorite, but that is a ridiculously low price when you see names like Jon Rahm, Rory McIlroy, Justin Thomas, Xander Schauffele and Brooks Koepka right behind him.
Can anybody stop the PGA TOUR’s current boogeyman? Here are our favorite outright bets for the 2021 Genesis Invitational:
Viktor Hovland (+3500)
We should never feel overly confident with an early-week pick to win, but I admittedly feel especially uncertain about this one. There was a whole Goldilocks vibe as I surveyed the list of potential candidates: This one had odds too low; this one has ball-striking numbers that are too concerning; this one has too much scar tissue; and this one doesn’t have enough.
Eventually, I landed on Hovland, who isn’t without his detriment, either, having never played Riv in a professional competition, but his recent form and stats were too difficult to ignore.
The Norwegian is enjoying a coming-into-his-own experience right now, having finished in the top-six in four of his last five worldwide starts. He also ranks 19th this season in strokes gained tee-to-green. It’s a long way from Riviera Maya (where he won the Mayakoba last year) to Riviera, but his game should translate well.
During a week when none of the favorites feels like a slam-dunk, I think the 30/1-40/1 range should be a sweet spot and Hovland is the one who felt “just right” in this bunch.
Joaquin Niemann (+5000)
I’m betting on Niemann’s ball-striking to be a difference-maker at a difficult course this week. We haven’t seen Niemann in a month, but he finished second in both events in Hawaii and his approach game was dialed in, so I’m happy to back the Chilean, who could be flying under the radar because of his four-week layoff.
Niemann doesn’t have much of a track record at Riviera, but I’m anticipating that his ball-striking is where it was when we saw him last. If that’s the case, he’d be a decent putting week away from contending in this deep field.
Patrick Cantlay (+1800)
Patrick Cantlay has finished T13-2-T3 in his three starts in 2021. Those results tell us that Cantlay is right there and ready to break through for a win.
Cantlay was the best player in the field tee-to-green last week at Pebble Beach, gaining more than a stroke on the field both off the tee and on approach. His game is in great form and now he heads to a course where he’s posted three straight top-20 finishes.
I like this to be the week he gets it done.
Rory McIlroy (+1300)
When the Genesis Invitational begins on Thursday it will have been 473 days since Rory McIlroy’s last victory on the PGA TOUR. To say Rory is due is an understatement, and we are starting to see flashes of Rory’s peak form returning. In his two most recent starts he has gained 7.3 and 6.4 strokes tee-to-green, respectively.
When playing his best, Rory is immaculate off the tee and is an excellent long iron player; two skillsets that are a requirement for competing at Riviera. Rory has seemed to figure out his putting woes for the most part and is back putting roughly at or above field average in his past six starts.
With perfect weather in Los Angeles this week, the most challenging aspect of Riviera will be it’s firm conditions. In firm conditions over both the past 50 and 36 rounds, McIlroy ranks first in Strokes Gained: Total. Rory consistently ranks top three on TOUR in average apex ball height, which should help combat the firm conditions this week.
Course history also seems to be an important factor at Riviera. Rory has made four starts at the course with no finishes worse than 20th, including a 5th and a 4th, respectively, in his past two tries.
In his career, the Northern Irishman has thrived on long, classic courses and seems destined to eventually win here as well. The stars are aligning for McIlory to end his long winless streak and “Rory at Riviera” has a nice ring to it.
Xander Schauffele (+1500)
Schauffele is currently in the midst of the best stretch of golf he’s played in his young career. He’s now finished inside the top-25 in 26 of his past 28 PGA TOUR starts dating back to the 2019 BMW Championship. He technically doesn’t have a win in that stretch, but he finished with the lowest 72-hole score in the TOUR Championship and would have won if not for the starting stroke rules.
In that ridiculous stretch he’s posted 14 top-10s and nine top-fives. He ranks No. 1 in this field in total strokes gained over his past 48 and 36 rounds and No. 2 over his past 24 and 16 rounds. You get it, he’s good. He has back-to-back runner-up finishes at the WMPO and Farmers and is clearly knocking on the door of winning very soon.
In three starts at Riviera he’s gone T-23, T-15 and T-9, so he has some nice familiarity with the course and is definitely poised to contend yet again this week.
I like him at 15.5/1 on DK, but you can also bet him at 11/1 on Fanduel WITHOUT DJ, Rory, Rahm and JT, which actually may be the preferred way to play this.