The PGA Tour returns to Riviera Country Club for the Genesis Invitational this week. This will be the last tournament on the West Coast before the tour heads to Florida for the Honda Classic. Last year’s winner and hometown boy, Max Homa, will once again be in the field hoping to be the first golfer to defend a title at Riviera Country Club since Phil Mickelson, who won in 2008 and 2009.
The Genesis Invitational attracts a strong field each and every year with its substantial purse and its historic course. This year is no exception as it will feature each of the top 10 players in the most recent Official World Golf Rankings. World No. 2 Collin Morikawa will be teeing it up for the first time on the PGA Tour since the Sentry Tournament of Champions in early January and will want to add a win at the Genesis Invitational to his resume. This is the closest venue to his hometown and he has struggled on the greens here — much like Tiger Woods, who famously never won at Riviera.
The WM Phoenix Open was a tremendous appetizer for the Super Bowl last week. I actually enjoyed the golf played on Sunday much more than the performances on the field in the Super Bowl. It was great to see Ted Scott on the bag for Scottie Scheffler as he made a late charge to force a playoff with Patrick Cantlay. Scheffler had a chance to put it away on 18 but missed an 8 footer. I had my doubts that he could recover from that mistake and win against Cantlay, who has been great — if not spectacular — to start the 2021-2022 PGA Tour season. Scheffler was able to shrug it off, though, and battled Cantlay through multiple playoff holes before sinking a 30-plus foot birdie putt that would eventually be the winner.
Heading into Sunday’s round I looked at the board and settled on adding Cantlay at 6-1 to win to my card. I was alive with Xander Schauffele even though I didn’t have much faith in him going into the day. Schauffele’s water ball with his second shot into the 15th on Saturday was a gut punch. He was in perfect position in the fairway and then he stood over the ball a lot longer than he usually does regripping and adjusting his hands almost as much as Sergio Garcia tends to do. I really wonder if he had his usual caddy if he would have been more confident in the club or if he may have pulled him off the shot. Scheffler was 7-1 to win prior to the round and I decided to take my chances with Cantlay and Schauffele instead. As they went to a playoff I had to scramble to reset my wifi so I could hedge Scheffler and at least come out of the week with a small positive for my win bets.
Those small hedge bets may seem insignificant, but they add to the bankroll and allow me to play more down the road. Ideally, I would love to be in a position to hedge against a player I had at much higher odds. For example, a group of my friends were in a prime position to hedge against the Bengals for the Super Bowl because they had bet them at +3000 to win the Super Bowl in late November. They all should have enjoyed a group win, but one of my friends, who is a walking mush, decided to let it ride on the Bengals and will forever regret it.
Patrick Cantlay +1200 (or 12/1 odds) Has finished no worse than 17th in his last four trips to Riviera Country Club and sits at the top of my rankings for this week. He was two swings away from winning last week. He missed a three-footer for birdie on 15 and then followed that up two holes later by pulling his 3-wood into the water off the tee on 17. He saved his par, but missing out on birdies at both holes cost him the tournament in the end.
Rory McIlroy +1800 (18/1) hasn’t teed it up on the PGA Tour since his win at the CJ Cup back in October. He finished T6 at the DP World Tour Championship in Dubai in November and most recently finished T12 and 3rd in his last two tournaments in January. Everything I have seen from McIlroy’s videos looks like he is poised to have a big year. He looks fit and his swing has never looked better. Before missing the cut last year he had finished inside the top five the previous two years and had two top 20s before that. You can shop this to get a better price.
Marc Leishman +5000 (50/1) is a bit of an off the board play for me this week. He has been very good to start the 2021-2022 season with his approach numbers. He has gained 8.2 strokes on approach over his last four tournaments. He has also gained strokes off the tee in five of his last six tournaments. He was a hot putter away from contending at the Farmers and I’m hoping he can find that touch this week. He has two top-five finishes here in the last 10 years so there is some decent history to back this up.
Patrick Reed +9000 (90/1) is on a historically bad run of form off the tee and with his approach shots since July of 2021. Over his last 24 rounds, he is 117th in the field in strokes gained off the tee and 116th in the field in strokes gained on approach. Usually, these types of numbers would make me scratch him off my list, but I just can’t resist taking a chance on Reed at this number.
Robert MacIntyre +12500 (125/1) fits the mold of a player who can contend at Riviera. He is long off the tee and has excellent hands around the greens. He is second in the field over his last 24 rounds in strokes gained around the green. It doesn’t hurt that I have seen lefties like Bubba Watson and Phil Mickelson lift the trophy multiple times here.
Francesco Molinari +15000 (150/1) is a member at Riviera Country Club and looks to have found something in his game as he has made three straight cuts with a sixth place finish at the American Express. That finish was his best finish since his eighth-place finish at the Genesis Invitational in 2021.
Patrick Cantlay ($11,000 on DraftKings) See above.
Justin Thomas ($10,700) was fantastic from tee to green at the WM Phoenix Open. He gained 12.7 strokes tee to green and over 7 strokes just on approach. If he had a decent week putting he would have won. That’s the most strokes Thomas has gained on approach since the WGC at the Concession in 2021, which preceded his victory at The Players Championship.
Dustin Johnson ($10,200) is fourth in the field in strokes gained putting over his last 24 rounds. He gained 8.3 strokes tee to green at the Farmers but actually lost over two strokes putting that week which kept him from contending. He has excellent course history at Riviera Country Club with a win, four top fives, and three top 10s in his last 10 years.
Rory McIlroy ($9,700) See above.
Hideki Matsuyama ($9,300) is priced too low this week. He has two top 10s here in the last three years and comes into this week in excellent form. He has two wins under his belt already this season and most recently finished T8 at the WM Phoenix Open where he gained almost 10 strokes on the field. He has gained 13.5 strokes on approach combined in his last four tournaments.
Cameron Smith ($9,100) has two top six finishes here in the last four years and is one of the top players in my model for this week. He won at the Sentry Tournament of Champions and then missed the cut at the Sony Open. He finished T4 in the Saudi International against a strong field. His price seems pretty low, especially when you compare it to his 20-1 to win odds.
Sam Burns ($8,700) looked like he was going to win the 2021 Genesis Invitational before he fumbled it away on the back nine. He comes into this week off of two straight missed cuts which should chase away a lot of his ownership. He is still solidly inside of my top 10 players for this week and have no problem going back to the Sam Burns well.
Sungjae Im ($8,600) has gained strokes off the tee or been a zero every week since the 2021 John Deere Classic. He is third in the field in strokes gained off the tee and first in strokes gained around the green in his last 24 rounds. He has missed the cut here the last two years which should scare off some ownership. He should be a good fit here but just hasn’t put it together yet.
Matt Fitzpatrick ($8,100) is really playing well right now. He is coming off of two top 10s in a row and had a T5 here last season. He is 14th in the field in strokes gained off the tee over his last 24 rounds. He gained 6.6 strokes on approach combined over the last two weeks.
Talor Gooch ($8,000) had a miserable Sunday at the WM Phoenix Open. He looked poised to contend for another win heading into Sunday, but it wasn’t to be. He is 10th in the field in strokes gained on approach and 12th in strokes gained tee to green over his last 24 rounds. He has three straight top 20s at the Genesis Invitational.
Marc Leishman ($7,900) See above.
Russell Henley ($7,900) has been a plug and play for a while now. He is second in the field in strokes gained on approach and sixth in strokes gained tee to green over his last 24 rounds. He has even improved his putting since turning it around with the flat stick at the Houston Open. He struggled a little off the tee last week at the WM Phoenix Open, but I’m not too concerned. I like quite a few players in this price range so I will need to mix and match and keep track of who I play where.
Joaquin Niemann ($7,800) was one of my favorite plays at the Farmers Insurance Open because I thought everyone would forget about him since he didn’t tee it up since the fall. I think this week may be more of the same. He finished T6 at the Farmers and then went over and finished T8 at the Saudi International. He hasn’t had great success here yet, but he looks poised to have a big 2022.
Jason Kokrak ($7,700) hasn’t played a lot since his win at the Houston Open. He looked very shaky at the Sentry Tournament of Champions but followed that up with a solid top 20 at the Sony Open. Since then he has only played the Saudi International where he finished T45. He has a second place finish here in 2016 and has been a mainstay on my DFS teams here since then.
Paul Casey ($7,600) has not teed it up on the PGA Tour since the CJ Cup in mid-October. He has been playing on the European and Asian Tour since then and he has finished no lower than 31st in his last four tournaments. He has finished inside the top 40 in each of his last six tries with his best finish being second place back in 2015.
Alex Noren ($7,500) gained over a stroke off the tee and on approach last week at the WM Phoenix Open, but he also gained 7.4 strokes putting. He seems to be a bit of a course horse at Riviera Country Club with two top 16 finishes in his last three tries.
Tom Hoge ($7,500) is first in the field in strokes gained approach and 2nd in strokes gained total over his last 24 rounds. He has made three out of four cuts here but has never played particularly well. I wonder if he can keep it up this week.
Thomas Pieters ($7,400) has always shown a ton of promise and has even contended here a free years ago when he eventually finished T2. It looks like he may have turned a corner on the European Tour this year. He already has two wins under his belt in 2022 and has had five other top 16 finishes since September.
Patrick Reed ($7,400) is a total dart throw at this low price. He is only a sprinkle as I like a lot of other players in this range.
Luke List ($7,400) is fifth in strokes gained off the tee, fifth in strokes gained on approach, and fifth in strokes gained around the green over his last 24 rounds. How’s that for consistency? He gained over four strokes on approach last week but lost nearly six strokes putting. He has good course history here and is a sneaky play after fading out last week.
Cameron Tringale ($7,300) has made the cut here eight of the last nine years with six of them being top 30 finishes. He has traded missed cuts with top 10 finishes so far this year and always has some built-in volatility. I find myself putting him in a lot of lineups right now.
Lanto Griffin ($7,200) has made seven straight cuts including three top 10s. He has two straight top 40 finishes here. His price is very low and I expect extremely high ownership in almost every format.
Christiaan Bezuidenhout ($7,200) has made 14 out of his last 15 cuts since the 2021 Arnold Palmer Invitational. He is 11th in the field in strokes gained approach and 24th in strokes gained putting over his last 24 rounds.
Adam Hadwin ($7,100) has made seven straight cuts here with six top 35s finishes. His best finish was sixth in 2018. He has made eight of his last nine cuts and is 30th in strokes gained approach and 16th in strokes gained around the green over his last 24 rounds.
Francesco Molinari ($7,000) See above.
Troy Merritt ($6,900) has made the cut only two times in six tries here with an 11th place finish in 2016 being his best finish. He comes into this week in good form having made six of his last eight cuts with three top 16 finishes included. He is 10th in the field in strokes gained off the tee over his last 24 rounds.
Russell Knox ($6,800) is on fire with his irons as he has gained over 4.3 strokes on approach in three out of his last four outings. He is ninth in the field in strokes gained approach over his last 24 rounds. He doesn’t have the best course history here, but I am not completely fading him with his great ball striking form.
Cameron Young ($6,700) is second on the PGA Tour in average driving distance and is a decent putter to go along with all that distance. He has made four out of his last five cuts with three top 30s included. He is fourth in the field in strokes gained off the tee over his last 24 rounds.
Sebastian Munoz ($6,700) has made two straight cuts here and is coming off of a week at the WM Phoenix Open where he made 20 birdies. He had two top fives in the fall and then missed the cut at the American Express and everyone forgot about him.
Rickie Fowler ($6,600) is finally priced right. He has some upside at this price, considering how he scored last week. He had eight birdies and an eagle and missed the cut on the number. I am not fading him this week.
Patrick Rodgers ($6,500) is a course horse who is in average form. You can’t fade him even if you want to with every bone in your body. He has five straight top 30 finishes here. On a positive note, he is 10th in the field in strokes gained around the greens over his last 24 rounds.
Aaron Rai ($6,400) fell off a cliff a bit at the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am after he looked like he was going to back up his tremendous finish at the Farmers early on Thursday and Friday. He is pretty high in my model and I’m pretty excited by his price.
J.T. Poston ($6,400) has four straight made cuts here and is coming off of a top 25 finish at the WM Phoenix Open. He has gained strokes off the tee in four straight tournaments.
Taylor Pendrith ($6,400) is inside the top 10 in average driving distance and fits the mold of a player that should excel here. Not a bad gamble at this price.
One and Done
Justin Thomas was a balky putter away from making me some serious money in this One and Done at the WM Phoenix Open. I’m using another big gun this week by taking Dustin Johnson. There are a few other players on my radar for One and Dones, but it’s tough to pass up his history here.
Afterthought — If your significant other is watching too many Alan Ritchson shower scenes from Jack Reacher make sure you have the dad bod video of Harry Higgs ready to cast onto the TV to ruin it for them.
My stats come from my go-to site for golf statistics and lineup building: FantasyNational.com. I look forward to bringing you the very best in fantasy golf coverage and betting at The Athletic and interacting with all of you and maybe building some winning lineups and betting cards together. Please leave your questions below or hit me up on Twitter @CoachEsser.
(Top photo: Christian Petersen/Getty Images)