Genesis Invitational Updated Odds & Expert Picks: Rory McIlroy Ready for Riviera
Getty Images. Pictured: Rory McIlroy.
Click arrow to expand the Genesis Invitational odds via PointsBet
|Si Woo Kim||+10000|
Just in case you spent the past four days in varying states of consciousness at the WM Phoenix Open – a very real possibility – allow me to offer the spoiler that Tiger Woods will tee it up at this week’s Genesis Invitational, his first official start since last year’s Open Championship and first at a non-major since the 2021 Zozo Championship.
As the host of his original hometown tournament, Tiger loves this one … but it hasn’t exactly loved him back. In 14 career starts, he’s made 11 cuts and has four top-10s, with two runner-up finishes. That includes his lone career playoff loss, a defeat at the hands of Billy Mayfair at Valencia CC in 1998.
All of which leads to a pair of mind-numbing T-Dub facts: He owns a ridiculous 11-1 record in PGA Tour playoffs and he’s never won the erstwhile L.A. Open, the tourney he’s played the most (by far) without a title.
When Woods announced his commitment to the field on Friday, Jeff Sherman, the VP of Risk at SuperBook Sports, listed him at 100-1 odds to win this tournament outright, a number that has already drifted to 150-1.
He also initially posted Tiger’s odds to miss the cut at -155, which saw immediate action, moving the line to -170, then -250 and finally -300 by day’s end – all within the span of about five hours.
As for his first-round score, the original over/under of 72.5 was hit so hard on the high side that it quickly shifted to 73.5.
I’ve only said about a billion times over the years that I’ll never doubt the man. I don’t care if Tiger is 78 years old and can barely swing a club, I’ll still believe there’s always a chance.
That said, I’m in line with the fades this week. It’s hard to envision this appearance as much more than great PR for the tournament and essentially a spring training rep for Woods. That’s not to sound negative, because I love the fact that he’s healthy enough to tee it up and is getting in some competitive rounds before major championship season rolls around, but I find it hard to believe he’s going to shoot some impressive scores right out of the chute, especially on the day when he’s playing in chilly morning conditions.
It wasn’t that long ago when Tiger’s return to a tournament such as this wouldn’t just be the big story, but the only story. After him, everything else paled in comparison – even determining a champion.
Not to over-glorify the one thing you’ve come here to read about, but this is the biggest difference that I’ve witnessed in how the game is perceived over the past half-decade: With more gaming platforms legally and readily available, every tournament tends to transcend the biggest names. That’s not to suggest it doesn’t matter who’s playing – of course that’s important – but greater personal investment has led to more fan engagement beyond just the biggest story.
Sure, Tiger will make headlines this week – and every other week he tees it up – but it’s no longer the only headline. That’s a massive step in the right direction for a tour which is openly promoting so many of its players on a regular basis.
Onto this week. The Genesis marks our second designated event in as many weeks — the first time this season that we’ll see the best of the best compete in back-to-back tournaments. I love the idea behind this, one which is mutually beneficial to players and fans, however there is a growing rumor that I want to quickly address.
It’s hardly a done deal, but there is plenty of talk that these designated events will become limited-field, no-cut affairs next year. That means no Monday qualifiers for non-invitationals and no grinding for a weekend paycheck – none of the many things which make professional golf tournaments so intriguing.
There will be, if the rumors are right, an entire schedule of, basically, WGCs. For all the Tiger heroics at those events over the past couple of decades, there was often a lethargic, apathetic undercurrent. They often felt like rich-get-richer, everyone-gets-a-trophy (or at least a fat check) propositions.
Allow me to echo the sentiments of so many others in hoping the PGA Tour reverses that rumor and sticks to the current blueprint. You can’t tell me anybody who attended or watched the WM Phoenix Open last week and thought: “Great tourney, but you know what would make it even better? FEWER GOLFERS AND LESS GOLF!”
Here’s hoping there’s still time for the PGA Tour brass to rethink this idea and continue to host designated events with the same roots as all other tournaments.
There’s no easy segue from vamping over the necessity for more inclusivity at these events to analyzing the game’s three best players, but here we go anyway.
With his victory this past weekend, Scottie Scheffler is once again the world’s No. 1-ranked player, zooming past Rory McIlroy and Jon Rahm to regain a position he held for seven months last year.
Like it or not, that’s just math. If you feel like one of those other guys is the “best” player right now, I don’t necessarily disagree with that assessment. It’s hard to argue, though, that they aren’t the top-three and any subjective ordering can’t be deemed incorrect.
(For the LIVbots out there who are instantly incensed that I’ve left Cameron Smith out of this discussion, I’ll have you know that he’s still undoubtedly within my own personal top-four. Then again, the LIVbots probably believe Brooks Koepka and Bryson DeChambeau should be part of this discussion, as well, so I guess you can’t please everyone.)
For golf fans, the great part about having three world-class, at-the-top-of-their-games players is that we never know which one of them is going to step up on any given week. For golf bettors, the terrible part about having three world-class, at-the-top-of-their-games players is that we never know which one of them is going to step up on any given week.
With these three players all making back-to-back starts and comprising the top of the odds board for the Genesis, I did some digging to examine which one might have a little edge at Riviera. And wouldn’t you know, I found something.
Let’s start with Scheffler. Since the beginning of last year, he’s now won five times. I’ll bet you couldn’t name the one correlation between all of those victories, though. The answer: Each one occurred after an off week, not on the second week of a back-to-back.
|Starts||Wins||Top 10s||Average Finish|
|14 After Off Week||5||7||19.1|
|11 On Back-to-Back||0||5||19.5|
As you can see here, the top-10 percentage and average finish (for the sake of this exercise, I considered all MCs to be 70th-place results) are nearly identical when Scheffler is playing after a week off or on a back-to-back, but it’s tough to ignore those five wins coming solely on one side of the ledger.
Now let’s check out Rahm and his worldwide results (not just PGA Tour) during the same timeframe:
|Starts||Wins||Top 10s||Average Finish|
|20 After Off Week||5||14||11.6|
|7 On Back-to-Back||0||3||20.6|
Hmm, anyone else notice a trend here? Much like Scheffler, Rahm’s five wins have all taken place when he’s been off the previous week. Unlike Scheffler, though, the disparity continues with his top-10 percentage and average finish, each of which fall in line with the victories as being better when he’s been off.
OK, time for McIlroy. See if you can spot this difference here:
|Starts||Wins||Top 10s||Average Finish|
|15 After Off Week||2||9||16.9|
|9 On Back-to-Back||2||7||8.4|
What we find from Rory is a complete reversal of Scheffler and Rahm. He’s won a pair of events in each situation, but that’s with a half-dozen fewer opportunities when playing on a back-to-back. Meanwhile, his top-10 percentage is much better in these scenarios and his average finish is more than twice as good.
What does it all mean? While I wouldn’t draw any definitive predictive conclusion from these results – after all, they’re each talented enough to win anyplace, anytime, in any situation – there’s more than enough here to point some big blinking neon arrows at these trends.
Perhaps Scheffler and Rahm prepare and reenergize themselves during a bye week better than McIlroy. Maybe Rory needs a little appetizer to get those competitive juices flowing after a break.
Whatever the case, it’s fascinating to understand how this dynamic can alter how we view each of these players in certain situations. It should also help us find a potential edge when noting that all three will be playing their second event in a row this week.
It should be little surprise after all of this that I’ll be starting this week’s picks with McIlroy. Fresh off a red-eye flight from PHX, during which I did all of the above research (thanks, wifi!), let’s get to all of the selections for this week’s Genesis Invitational.
Outright Winner (Short Odds)
One player to win the tournament.
Rory McIlroy (+1000)
What, did you really think I was going to do all that research and write that entire intro, then just neglect everything I found?
I’d love it if Rory’s price was a little longer this week, but I mean, he’s really good and this is how really good players are priced. If we’ve learned anything at the designated events so far, it’s that a Nick Taylor type can certainly contend, but these are going to largely be the domain of the big boys – at least until the novelty wears off.
While I understand that McIlroy might scare some of us based on his T32 finish last week, just in briefly speaking with him prior to the start of the event, I think there was always some reason to believe he might not be fully engaged in all of the festivities at that one.
Besides, this is a perfect opportunity to take that research out for a spin. Let’s see how a world-class player with an average finish of 8.4 on a back-to-back start turns things around at this one.
Pick: Rory McIlroy +1000
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Outright Winner (Long odds)
One player to win the tournament
Thomas Detry (+17000)
I don’t know that Detry is ready to win an event of this magnitude against a field of this strength, but I like the course fit so much that I won’t be able to resist a small outright play and didn’t want to bury his name here for some mid-column top-20 prop, even though I’ll play him for some of those, too.
The truth is, the long-hitting PGA Tour rookie owns nine career top-three results on the DP World Tour without a victory, so there’s viable rationale behind questioning his win equity at this level. If we can look beyond that, Detry ranks 34th this season in strokes gained tee to green and I wouldn’t be surprised if that number keeps rising as he continues to feel more comfortable. He’s already shown us an impressive ceiling/floor combination, with eight made cuts in eight starts, including four top-25s and two top-10s.
Again, I don’t know if he’s ready to win this type of tourney, but he certainly doesn’t seem intimidated. I’ll have a small piece at a big-value price and chase it with some other investments.
Pick: Thomas Detry +17000
Potential selections for one-and-done options.
Max Homa (+2000)
If it’s California, then it’s gotta be Homa. Even the most neophyte golf bettor knows this much: Homa is a California native who’s won four of his six career PGA Tour titles in his home state, including the Genesis two years ago.
After he won the Farmers Insurance Open last month, I half-joked that the #GolfTwitter groundswell of support on Homa futures for the U.S. Open at LACC was going to knock him down to the favorite pretty soon and while that might be an exaggeration, you won’t find many who fade him in a California-based event anytime soon.
For OADs, my advice is that if you’re in a smaller pool and are satisfied treading water or a bigger pool and in a strong position on the board, this is a perfectly fine play for the week. If you’re already feeling the pressure here in February to differentiate, though, it might be wise to stay away from the guy everyone seemingly likes here.
Jordan Spieth (+2900)
Not to criticize the critics (myself included), but there’s always an interesting dynamic this time of year which suggests we collectively struggle to see the forest through the trees. Consider this: We all understand that the game’s uppermost echelon of players wants their game to peak four times per year.
And this: By mid-February, we haven’t reached any of those four times.
And yet: If a top player fails to play his best golf by this point of the year, we tend to start audibly wondering what’s wrong with his game.
I was speaking about this dynamic with Spieth’s caddie, Michael Greller, prior to the start of last week’s Phoenix Open. A few days later, Spieth had changed the narrative following a 63rd-place finish and missed cut in his previous two starts. It wasn’t just that he claimed a T-6 result, it was that he sounded surer of himself throughout it.
“I definitely have seen stuff like that coming,” he specifically said of a second round during which he hit all 18 greens in regulation. “It builds a lot of confidence.”
It hasn’t always worked out perfectly, but I do believe that Spieth has been more patient than other top players during the early parts of the past few years. It’s something to keep in mind for the future, as maybe we wait a little while before playing him. That game seems sharper now, though, and there’s no reason he can’t “peak” for this one, where he’s had a mixed bag of results over the years.
Sahith Theegala (+7500)
Broken record alert: Here’s the part of the weekly preview where I tell you for the millionth time that Theegala is really talented and mention that I’ll have some wagers on him this week, because I pretty much do every week and don’t want to miss out when he hits, then for good measure tell you that the West Coast should be his best coast, so don’t wait to play him until they’re done here.
That’s everything, right? To the new readers here, just clip and save. I’ll bore you with this again soon.
One player to finish top-five
Adam Scott (+1000 for top-five)
This is simply a situation of class recognizing class. There are few players as classy (on or off the golf course) as Scott and few venues as classy as Riviera.
Ever since an unofficial, weather-shortened, 36-hole victory in his initial start here back in 2005, Scott has taken to this track like, well, a duck to water. In 14 career starts here, he owns seven top-10s and four top-twos, if we include that unofficial result. Some players you can pencil in for a certain tournament annually; other players you can write it down with a Sharpie.
That’s the case here for Scotty, who’s a similarly smart play in DFS and OADs, too.
One player to finish top-10
Corey Conners (+750 for top-10)
If you’d have said two Canadian players would be in the mix entering last week’s final round, I would’ve been shocked that one of ‘em wasn’t Conners. As it turns out, Nick Taylor more than held his own Sunday, hanging with the big boys to finish runner-up, while Adam Hadwin faltered a bit, though did nearly make an ace on the famous 16th hole, such a close call that it brought him to his knees.
Conners, meanwhile, finished way back in 50th place, his first result outside the top-25 in seven starts. This one should suit him better and I like playing him for a strong bounce-back here. If nothing else, one of the game’s best ball-strikers should be motivated by seeing a pair of his countrymen sniffing around the leaderboard throughout last week.
One player to finish top-20
Wyndham Clark (+300 for top-20)
I’m just going to keep riding this one until I have reason to jump off – and that hasn’t happened yet, as he posted his second top-10 in four starts last week. A year ago, he posted a big number in the opening round at Riv and was DQ’d for signing an incorrect scorecard, but in his previous two starts he finished top-20, so this feels like a safe play once again.
Perhaps more importantly than any of that, though, is that I heard a little intel recently on some things he’s doing to help his game right now – some of the same things a few of the game’s top players have also done – which could help him soon clear that hurdle into the winner’s circle.
One player to finish top-30
This is always one of those quandaries which has no right answer, because the stats have essentially proven it both ways: On potentially bumpy poa annua greens, would you rather bet a great putter who can maybe deal with the conditions a little better or a poor putter since the greens could level the playing field?
Noren has always been known as a terrific ball-striker, his hands forever calloused from long range sessions, but recently his putting has been tremendous, as he’s gained strokes on the greens in 14 of his last 16 measured starts. With a pair of top-20s in four previous starts here, I think top-30 is a solid, if not overly cautious, play.
One player to finish top-40
Not gonna lie: Without looking it up, I don’t have a clue as to how/why Tway has qualified for these designated events. Let’s face it, there’s been a lengthy rough patch for a guy who made a splash early in his career, as he MC’d in 20 of 29 starts last season and only posted two top-40 results. There are signs he’s starting to come around, though, with four made cuts in five starts this year, including a T-18 at Torrey Pines and a T-32 in Phoenix. This play is less about “you’ve gotta hammer Tway this week” and more about “here’s a guy who should be gradually creeping back onto your radar.”
DFS Free Bingo Square
A safe plug-and-play option for DFS.
Collin Morikawa and Patrick Cantlay
Perhaps this combo play doesn’t exactly fit the category, since neither of these guys should be considered “safe” after missing the cut in Phoenix last week, but I do love the idea of playing the pair of California natives as high-priced contrarian selections when so many of your fellow DFSers might be a bit skittish. None of this means you shouldn’t play a Rahm or a Rory or a Scheffler; I’m just offering up some potentially more unique suggestions.
I was regrettably high on Morikawa last week — especially after walking a few holes and talking with him during the Wednesday pro-am — and while I’m not making excuses for him, the ball-striking numbers were his usual sublime stuff, so there’s reason to believe he’ll bounce back here, at a place where he finished in a share of second place a year ago.
Same goes for Cantlay, who despite finishing runner-up in his WMPO debut last year, might not own the type of personality to ever fully embrace the scene. In friendlier confines, expect him to be much more comfortable inside the ropes this week.
A medium-priced option for DFS lineups
Nobody will ever mistake Riv for Torrey South, but there are at least some similarities in the necessary skill set — namely, banging it long and straight off the tee seems to work. Tiger himself might debate any correlation, considering he cleaned up on one of these tracks and has never won on the other, but there’s at least some reason to sneak a peek back at the recent Farmers Insurance Open leaderboard to garner some ideas. Bradley finished solo second that week, though his recent Genesis results have left more to be desired.
In Bradley’s first five starts at Riv, he posted four top-20s, but his last seven have yielded nothing better than 34th place. I’m willing to take a chance that Skinny Keegan can reverse that trend and continue his solid play this week.
A lower-priced option for DFS lineups
Lucas Herbert and Callum Tarren
We often hear that golf needs more personalities, to which I’ve always answered: Doesn’t everything? Whether it’s a sport or another entertainment product or just your local brick-and-mortar store, I’m not sure how many businesses would improve with “less personality.”
In any case, yes, I do understand this idea within the context of golf and don’t disagree, though I’d like to proffer the suggestion that maybe these personalities really do exist and we just haven’t learned about them yet, because they’re not the most accomplished players.
All of this leads to Herbert and Tarren, who were two of the 27 (!!) guests that Michael Collins and I had on our SiriusXM PGA Tour Radio show last Tuesday and Wednesday from the 17th tee. I’d never spoken to either one for an extended conversation previously, but I can now confirm that neither lacks personality. Once these guys start climbing even more leaderboards, the public will become even more aware. Of course, personality alone doesn’t cash in DFS.
The truth is, I like both of their games and they’re each not too far removed from playing some very good golf, so here’s hoping they do it again this week — and if so, listen up in those interview sessions.
One player to post the low score Thursday.
My podcast partner and frequent craps table companion Ben Everill started crowing to me in the middle of Schauffele’s first round last week, offering reminders that he picked him for FRL on the pod. It was only fitting that Benny’s own Aussie mate Jason Day clipped Xander by a couple of strokes and kept him from picking a winner and continuing the self-applause.
Well, I want to rub a little salt into this wound and make it hurt even more, so I’m taking Schauffele for the same bet this week. There are plenty of other reasons, of course, not just vengeance. He ranks 11th on the PGA Tour this season with a 68.20 R1 scoring average and he’s broken 70 in half of his rounds at Riv over the last two years, so he understands what it takes to go relatively low at this golf course.
And just in case you think Ben won’t see this, don’t worry: I plan to read this entire paragraph to him on the pod.
One player who should beat comparable players.
Sungjae Im (+2400)
In today’s sharp-betting age, when even casual fans can recite advanced analytics and the oddsmakers don’t miss a thing, there aren’t many undervalued, or even underrated, players. And yet, I can’t help but think Im remains a small exception to that rule.
Don’t get me wrong: It’s obviously not like he’s being completely ignored on a weekly basis, but he’s also probably priced in a tier just below where he deserves. That likely has to do with the fact that he hasn’t won as much as some others — those wins are coming, though.
With finishes of T-4 and T-6 in his last two starts and only one result worse than 18th in his last six, Sungjae is clearly trending in the right direction. I’ll play him for an outright this week, but I like taking advantage of that value in matchups, as we should be able to get him at plus-money against some bigger-name players who might not be any better.
Also Receiving Votes
Other players who should provide value
Justin Thomas (+1500), Tony Finau (+1800), Tommy Fleetwood (+9500), Keith Mitchell (+10000), Kurt Kitayama (+12000), Brendan Steele (+19000), Francesco Molinari (+28000), Lanto Griffin (+30000), Dylan Frittelli (+32000)
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