Sobel’s Genesis Invitational Notebook: Setting Odds for the Race To Be No. 1
Andrew Redington/Getty Images. Pictured: Brooks Koepka
LOS ANGELES — One of the underlying subplots to this week’s star-studded Genesis Invitational is the immediate flexibility of the No. 1 position in the Official World Golf Ranking, which already changed hands just a few days ago.
Not for the first time in his career, Rory McIlroy didn’t tee it up last week, yet still ascended to the top spot, usurping Brooks Koepka, who’d held the position for the previous 38 weeks.
As evidenced, betting on No. 1 status is essentially betting on math, which might be one reason why even the most informal sportsbooks aren’t offering props, either over the long term or the short term.
That’s too bad. This week alone, McIlroy will attempt to retain that position, but Koepka and Jon Rahm can each mathematically overtake him. Odds for No. 1 at the end of this week would heavily favor the incumbent, but there could be value in wagering on either of the other candidates, especially if you like them to win the event.
It’s a greater shame that such a bet isn’t available for the entire year. A prop which asks, “Which player will be No. 1 in the world on Jan. 1, 2021?” would offer several options.
Just in case any books decide to take some action or you wanted to bet with some of your golf buddies, here’s what the current odds might look like:
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Rory McIlroy (+110)
He’s now reached No. 1 for an eighth different time in his career, trailing only Tiger Woods and Greg Norman for the highest number of stints at the top.
Many believe that Rory’s highest gear is slightly more powerful than his fellow elite-level peers, which makes him the favorite here. That said, it might take his first major in a half-dozen years to retain this position.
Brooks Koepka (+125)
Pro: The most world ranking points are available at majors and Koepka tends to play these events better than anyone else over the past few years. Con: It will likely take success at more than just majors to move back atop the list and remain there, but that’s not usually part of Koepka’s M.O.
We’ll get a sense of his motivation this week, playing for the first time outside of the top spot since last spring.
Tiger Woods (+160)
If books did offer this prop, you’d better believe that Tiger – just as in most tourneys he plays – would have the highest ticket count.
Even though he’s dropped to eighth in the ranking, Woods might have the highest potential upside, as we’re all well aware of his potential dominance when he gets on a streak, plus he’s not losing any victories on the two-year-rolling calendar until September.
Jon Rahm (+195)
If this prop instead asked the question, “Which player will be No. 1 in the world on Jan. 1 , 2026?” the correct five-years-later answer might indeed be Rahm.
He still owns a good chance of it this year, as he’s been performing at a consistently elite level for months now, with just one result outside of 13th in his last 16 starts.
Justin Thomas (+325)
Here’s your value play. It’s tough to believe that a player of Thomas’ world-class caliber could be a mere fifth on this list, but it’s similarly tough to rank him any higher than this. It wouldn’t take much for him to make a furious run to the top and stay there.
Already this year, Thomas ranks behind only Webb Simpson with the most points accumulated.
Dustin Johnson (+850)
If you’re a DJ truther, this price might be too juicy to pass up. He obviously owns the game to reach No. 1, having reached this position five previous times for a total of 91 weeks.
We know he can win in bunches, which might be what it takes to get back to this level for a sixth time by year’s end.
Patrick Cantlay (+1400)
In Cantlay’s favor is the fact that he rarely has a down week, instead consistently piling up strong results.
He’ll need more than that to move up from the sixth spot, though. It will probably take (at least) tripling his career PGA Tour win total of one to overtake all of those above him.
Xander Schauffele (+2250)
Often an afterthought when speaking about the game’s best players, Schauffele at least deserves to be in the conversation. If he can turn his many major championship close-calls into a few triumphs, he’ll move up the board quickly, but it will still take a Herculian effort to surpass all those in front of him.
The Field (+1000)
This is hardly a throwaway wager. You’ve got Webb Simpson here, currently seventh in the ranking. Then there’s former No. 1 Justin Rose, who’s always a candidate to pile up a few wins. Other options: Tommy Fleetwood, Tony Finau, Patrick Reed and Adam Scott.
At this number, it might be worth taking a chance that one of ‘em will make a big move by the end of the year.