2022 Genesis Invitational Round 2 Buys & Fades: Will Zalatoris Set for Big Friday Move
Rob Carr/Getty Images. Pictured: Will Zalatoris of the United States and caddie Ryan Goble
The return to Riviera this time of year is always a reminder of how a firm and fast golf course can really test these players. They often come in off of a slew of birdie fests to start the year and the Genesis Invitational is usually the first test that is a grind from start to finish.
That held true for most on Thursday as the top score of the morning was just 5-under, and only Jordan Spieth and Scottie Scheffler got to that mark. The afternoon waive was mostly held to that same standard, outside of Joaquin Niemann who matched the opening round scoring record at Riviera with an 8-under 63. He was fantastic throughout the round, ranking tops in the field in Strokes Gained Tee to Green and in the Top 5 both on approach and around the green. He will get the luxury of getting right back on the course on Friday morning and will look to stretch his lead from the three-shot advantage he currently holds.
Outside of Niemann, the leaderboard is really packed with 21 players who shot between three and five under on the day. There will be a lot of movement in the second round and we should have plenty of value to play with in the betting markets. I’ll be looking to buy some value to add to the card as we head into Round 2 as I don’t expect anyone to run away from this field.
Strokes Gained Explanation
Strokes Gained can give golf bettors, DFS players and fans way more detail on how a golfer is truly played by measuring each shot in relation to the rest of the field.
Using the millions of data points it collects, the TOUR calculates how many shots on average it takes a player to get the ball in the hole from every distance and situation. If a player beats those averages, he’s gaining strokes on the field.
Every situation in golf is different. Strokes Gained measures how players perform relative to the situation.
In this piece, we’ll touch on a variety of Strokes Gained metrics:
- Strokes Gained: Off-the-Tee
- Strokes Gained: Approach
- Strokes Gained: Around-the-Green
- Strokes Gained: Putting
- Strokes Gained: Ball-Striking (which is Off-the-Tee + Approach)
- Strokes Gained: Tee-to-Green (which is Ball-Striking + Around-the-Green)
In general, ball-striking and tee-to-green are the most stable long term, while putting is more prone to volatility.
You can often find live-betting advantages by identifying golfers who are hitting the ball well, but just not getting putts to drop. Likewise, players with high SG: Putting numbers may regress moving forward.
3 Golfers to Buy in Round 2
One of my top plays before the tournament this week was with Will Zalatoris. He has been a favorite of mine since he made the transition to the TOUR over a year and a half ago, and it seems like he is really close to a breakthrough win. Obviously, falling a putt short at the Farmers amplifies that, but Riviera seems like another place that can be a great fit for his game.
Zalatoris started well on Thursday with an opening round 69 even without one of the best parts of his game. He simply could not get off the tee in the opening round as he lost more than a shot to the field and only found four fairways on the day. His driver is usually a big strength to his game and I guess it is a plus that all of the misses seemed to be to his right, so I’ll hope he can quickly turn that around on Friday. His odds have ballooned out to +4000 at most books, and it seems he’s just a slight correction off the tee from having a chance to go low and cut into the lead before Saturday.
Si Woo Kim is my long-shot dart throw going into the second round. He has been all over the map in his results at Riviera with his one really positive outcome being from 2019 when he finished third. The key that week was that he brought a complete game with him — it was the only time he gained strokes on the field in all metrics as iron play has been an issue for Si Woo in recent appearances to the Genesis.
He came out with the good version of his game on Thursday, shooting a solid 2-under 69 from the more difficult afternoon wave. He did it by having everything working in his bag tee to green as he gained more than three shots on the field in that metric. It could have been a better round if the hot putter he brought in years past had shown up, but I expect we may see that come together better heading into the weekend. We know that elite fields don’t intimidate the former Players Champion, so I’ll take a shot on Si Woo at +10000 on BetMGM for the win but will also be looking for solid odds in the placing markets going into Friday.
If I’m looking for a big name who can make a run at longer odds from down the leaderboard, my favorite is Patrick Cantlay. We aren’t getting huge odds, but +3300 on PointsBet feels like pretty good value for the track record Cantlay has shown around Riviera.
I was hesitant to go to Cantlay last Sunday as he continued to struggle with his irons during the week, but he found the form to put himself in that playoff. He really didn’t come storming out of the gates at the Genesis as he was merely field average on approach and never really got things going until the final few holes. I expect that we may see him come out with some momentum after closing his opening round with back-to-back birdies to get in under par. He’s seven shots back of the lead, but just four short of the main pack of players and he too gets the better conditions of the morning tee time to try to position himself well going into the weekend.
3 Golfers to Fade in Round 2
Cameron Smith was really bad off the tee in the opening round as he hit just four fairways and lost more than a shot to the field in that metric. He is a player whose weakness is in that aspect of the game, separating him from my buy on Willy Z above. While the Australian has strong results at Riviera, it is certainly his game off the tee that has held him back from those being even more impressive. Last year was the only year he gained shots off the tee, and unsurprisingly it led to his best finish at the event.
Smith was actually worse than the numbers indicate as on at least one occasion he got a favorable kick off a tree to keep him in play. He’s not a player to me that will be able to just find it going into the second round tomorrow morning, which has me pegging him as likely to drop down the leaderboard across his next 18 holes.
No player has been more all over the map since the start of the new year than Charley Hoffman, and that has nothing to do with his Instagram post from last weekend. He’s been a roller coaster ride on the course with multiple withdrawals, some low rounds, and some really ugly ones too.
I have no reason to expect the ride to continue to climb even after his 4-under 67 on Thursday. He made the most of his day on and around the greens in the opening round despite losing strokes to the field on approach. Hoffman lost shots with his irons on five of his final six approaches, which will be a negative trend he will have to shake off going into his second round on Friday. I’ll stick with a fade on him until he shows some consistency from round to round.
Ever since the Houston Open, we have seen Kevin Tway’s name flash a bit even if just for a round. He hasn’t been able to hold it together to produce results, but he has a bit of a one-man fan club on Twitter that always bangs the drum for him when he has some good results.
Tway played well on Thursday with a 3-under round that has him T12 going into Day 2. Similar to Hoffman, his consistency is the overall concern as he has struggled to put consecutive rounds together. Tway also did most of his work with the flat stick in the opening round, gaining more than two shots on the greens while playing to field average in all metrics tee to green. I don’t expect him to have staying power over the next 18 holes as that putting just isn’t sustainable across four rounds.