Wednesday, February 28, 2024

PGA TOUR Betting: Genesis Invitational Odds; Tiger Woods Return

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From one elevated event to another, the party was only just getting started in Phoenix. An even more loaded field is in store for the 2023 Genesis Invitational at Riviera Country Club in Los Angeles. As always here at TheLines, we’ll go over an early look at the tournament, giving you what you need to know before the Genesis Invitational odds even hit the board.

With its elevated status, this event feature virtually every eligible player on the PGA TOUR. That includes Will Zalatoris, the only notable top player absent from the WM Phoenix Open last week, along with the No. 1,283 player in the world, Tiger Woods. Ever heard of him?

Riviera CC is one of the most iconic venues on the PGA TOUR schedule. Fun fact, it will host the Olympic Men’s Golf competition in 2028. It features tight doglegs, narrow fairways, unpredictable Kikuyu rough, and tricky, firm, and fast Poa greens. Riviera CC is always known to keep scoring in check and reward shot makers with well-rounded skillsets from tee to green. With the strongest field we’ve seen in recent memory on tap this week, the stakes will be higher than ever before.

Here’s a look at everything you can expect to help navigate 2023 Genesis Invitational odds.

2023 OPENING GENESIS INVITATIONAL ODDS: THE FAVORITES

Scroll to the bottom of this article to compare complete outright odds across legal U.S. sportsbooks. Find the favorites in Los Angeles this week with odds shorter than 20-1 here:

THE FIELD AT A GLANCE

With football season officially coming to a close, what a perfect stage it sets for golf to continue its momentum from the electric WM Phoenix Open. A second consecutive elevated event is the perfect way to fill the void left behind for casual sports bettors, especially those with a little extra Super Bowl winnings in their accounts to spare.

This week’s invitational will feature a field of 131 with no Open qualifiers or replacements for players who withdraw. Every eligible PGA TOUR member inside the OWGR top 100 – with the exception of Aaron Wise, Maverick McNealy, Chris Kirk, and Ben Griffin – are here to tee it up. When Tiger Woods invites you to his invitational event with a $20 million purse on the line, it’s the type of event you work your schedule around.

Outside of Majors, this is poised to be the strongest field in golf this year. World No. 1, 2, and 3 (Rory McIlroy, Scottie Scheffler, and Jon Rahm) highlight the field this week. All three are strong fits for the course with proven past results and are expected to be the favorites when odds are released on Monday.

Tiger Out Of The Woodwork

Tiger Woods became the host and face of this event since transitioning to a more prestigious Invitational designation in 2020. This year, the world will be watching as he prepares to make a surprise return, his first PGA TOUR start since The Open in July 2022. It’s also his first non-Major start since the 2020 ZOZO Championship.

Is Tiger going to win this event? No. Will he even make the cut? Unlikely.

But Tiger is nothing if not a competitor, so we should assume he wouldn’t be accelerating his recovery time to enter this field if he himself didn’t believe he could contend. Judging by PGA Championship futures, which tend to set a fair line with course history bias removed, I project Tiger to open at around 65-1.

The most prudent betting approach would likely be to target against Tiger in Matchups markets with his odds often overinflated. If you want to bet on Tiger for the novelty of it, there is a non-zero chance he finds his way into the weekend through his short game alone.

Riviera CC is the site of Tiger Woods’ first PGA TOUR start back at the 1992 Los Angeles Open. Despite that history, it remains on a short list of courses he has yet to conquer. I’m sure in Tiger’s mind he believes he can take care of that unfinished business at age 47. For bettors’ sake, you’ll find better value looking anywhere else on the outright board.

Woods handed the trophy to Joaquin Niemann this time last year. However, the defending champion but will not be in the field for his title defense after leaving the PGA TOUR behind for LIV. Instead, the list of past champions back to tee it up include Max Homa, Adam Scott, J.B. Holmes, and James Hahn.

INTRODUCTION TO RIVIERA COUNTRY CLUB

The iconic Riviera Country Club was once my favorite course to play on EA Sports’ Tiger Woods PGA TOUR ’07. Now it has matured into one of my favorite landscapes to watch golf, as well.

It’s a beautiful oasis and architectural marvel, built into the cityscape of Los Angeles. George Thomas is the course architect behind both Riviera CC and LACC, with a common design philosophy displayed on both courses. This may be good week to monitor U.S. Open futures if value players impress.

There are so many memorable holes at Riviera CC:

  • First hole: The easiest par-5 on TOUR, playing 500 yards downhill
  • Sixth hole: 200-yard par-3 with a two-tiered green featuring a bunker right in the center
  • 10th hole: One of the shortest yet most challenging risk-reward par-4s on TOUR
  • 15th hole: A narrow dogleg right, which recently inspired a trend of players playing down the neighboring 17th hole fairway instead

About The Course

This event shifted from an “Open” to an “Invitational” in 2020 when Woods took over as host. That distinction (and his presence) adds more prestige to the tournament. As an elevated event this time around in 2023, the purse will be among the highest of any non-Major event this season. The pot sits at $20 Million, with $3.5 Million and a 3-year PGA TOUR exemption awarded to the winner.

On a calm day, Riviera presents one of the toughest challenges we see across golf. That attracts the best players each year to compete and test their all around skillsets ahead of Major season. The cut line has been over par at the Genesis Invitational every year over the last decade.

Narrow fairways and tight doglegs make the course extremely challenging. This event ranked in the bottom two in average Driving Accuracy every year since 2015. That high Missed-Fairway percentage also correlates with one of the lowest Green-In-Regulation percentages on TOUR. The fairways get narrower as you get closer to the green, encouraging even the longest hitters to take less than driver off the tee, and effectively removes wedge shots that would be more common on easier layouts. About 75% of approach shots come from beyond 150 yards.

These firm and fast Poa greens also give players fits every year. The course ranks in the top five for most missed putts both inside and outside 15 feet.

Riviera CC also features a number of elevation changes and is heavily bunkered both around the fairways and green-side complexes. So, Sand Saves will be an important stat to track this week. Between Scrambling, SG: Around The Green, and Sand Saves, I’m looking to build around players who possess an imaginative, pressure-tested short game to find success on this course.

Monitor Genesis Invitational Weather

All of those factors come under the assumption that play occurs on a calm day, which we’re not always promised. In 2021, we saw play suspended due to severe winds. With a high volume of approaches expected from the rough onto these greens, any semblance of wind will divert the emphasis to Scrambling and Bogey Avoidance, so it’s a crucial week to monitor the weather before locking in your bets.

How It Breaks Down

At 7,322 yards and par-71, Riviera’s distance doesn’t jump off the page. However, imposes one of the most stern challenges on the PGA TOUR nonetheless. The opening hole is a downhill, 500-yard “Par-5.” (I’m air-quoting the designation because it could just as easily be labeled a difficult par-4.) The hole plays 14 yards longer than the difficult par-4 12th hole and features the same scoring average of 4.3. That said, players won’t gain much on the field with a birdie start on 1.

After the first hole, the two other par-5s and 315-yard par-4 10th are the only other holes to feature a scoring average below par. The presence of these reachable par-4s and par-5s creates hidden distance in the rest of the course, which also includes three par-3s over 190 yards and six par-4s over 450 yards. This places a particular emphasis on Proximity from 150+, especially with angled doglegs which encourage less than driver off the tee.

Riviera CC is a refreshing reminder that you can design a golf course to be challenging at just 7,300 yards. You don’t need to grow out the rough or push tee boxes back to extreme lengths. Riviera rewards shot makers who position themselves well off the tee, work their drives in both directions, and scramble at a high percentage around the tricky, undulated green complexes.

GENESIS INVITATIONAL COURSE SPECS

  • Yards: 7,322
  • Par: 71 (4x 3s / 11x 4s / 3x 5s)
  • Greens: Poa (Firm & Fast)
  • Average Green Size: 7,500 Sq. Ft. (Above-Average)
  • Average Fairway Width: 33 Yards (Below-Average)
  • Rough: 2″ Kikuyu (Not thick, but unpredictable)
  • Architect: George Thomas (Renovations from Ben Crenshaw, Bill Coore, and Tom Fazio)
  • Historical Cut Line: +1 to +4
  • Comp Courses: Club de Golf Chapultepec, TPC Harding Park, Bay Hill, Torrey Pines (South), Innisbrook (Copperhead), Quail Hollow, TPC Potomac, The Country Club, Southern Hills, Augusta National
  • Hole-by-hole Breakdown:
Riviera CC (7,322 Yards)

GENESIS INVITATIONAL ODDS: BETTING TRENDS & COURSE HISTORY

Year Winner Pre-Tournament Odds Winning Score Field Median Score
2022 Joaquin Niemann +6000 -19 -5
2021 Max Homa +6000 -12 -1
2020 Adam Scott +3300 -11 -1
2019 J.B. Holmes +15000 -17 -2
2018 Bubba Watson +5000 -14 -1
2017 Dustin Johnson +900 -17 -4
2016 Bubba Watson +2500 -15 -4
2015 James Hahn +20000 -6 +1
2014 Bubba Watson +3300 -15 -3
2013 John Merrick +25000 -11 -1

Over the last 10 years, Dustin Johnson is the only favorite at odds shorter that 25-1 to win the Genesis Invitational. Four of the last five winners opened at 50-1 odds or longer, so mid-range longshots make for viable bets. In recent years, we’ve also seen the Genesis Invitational serve as a stage for young and burgeoning stars like Homa, Joaquin Niemann, Cameron Young, and Sam Burns. They made names for themselves by contending in difficult conditions against the game’s best, so breakout opportunity exists here for yet-to-be-proven stars.

Course History

The Genesis Invitational slightly favors longer hitters with great short game, particularly on Poa. A look down the list of past champions illustrates a trend of above-average driving distance with total driving as a strength of their games. Shorter hitters like Kevin Na, Matt Kuchar, and Chez Reavie also found success here. They may again if they can play from the fairway and make up for it with elite Short Game.

Adam Scott

With the usual Riviera stalwarts of Dustin Johnson and Bubba Watson absent this year, the Course Horse honors are instead bestowed onto Adam Scott. He is a two-time winner at Riviera CC, winning his event debut (then known as the Nissan Open, 2005) and again 15 years later in 2020. Over 14 career appearances, Scott missed just one cut to go along with eight top-11 finishes, including three over the last four years.

Scott credited his repeated success at Riviera to his comfort on Poa greens. That checks out considering he’s gained strokes putting in 11 of his 14 career appearances. He also drew parallels to the familiar windy, firm, and fast conditions of the Australian Sandbelt as explanation for his preference to Riviera CC’s setup. Scott has not missed a cut since the PGA Championship in May 2022, and has four top-6 finishes over his last nine starts. Scott is in great form to continue his strong play at Riviera this week.

Others Excelling (And Sputtering) At Genesis Invitational

After Scott, the rest of the top 10 in Event History includes: McIlroy, Rahm, Homa, Xander Schauffele, Luke Donald, Viktor Hovland, Justin Thomas, Aaron Baddeley, and Hideki Matsuyama. Some notables in this weeks field among the worst in terms of total strokes gained at Riviera CC include: Kevin Kisner, Jason Day, Keith Mitchell, Tyrrell Hatton, and Gary Woodland.

16 players avoided missing the cut at the Genesis Invitational over the last five years (min. three appearances): Scott, Schauffele, Homa, Rahm, Hahn, Holmes, Collin Morikawa, Tony Finau, Patrick Cantlay, Jordan Spieth, Russell Henley, Alex Noren, KH Lee, Lanto Griffin, Scott Piercy, and Brian Harman.

Nine players in this field delivered multiple T10 finishes over the last five years: Scott, Finau, Homa, McIlroy, Rahm, Thomas, Hovland, Matsuyama, and Chez Reavie.

Comp Courses

It would be cliché to say that no course compares to Riviera CC, but I do struggle to find an exact match.

From a leaderboard overlap standpoint, Quail Hollow and Augusta National would have to be up there. Quail Hollow shares the motley crew of Homa, Holmes, and Hahn. Both are difficult tests that favor distance over precision off the tee with a classical and tree-lined look, and share the Tom Fazio influence after his renovations to Riviera in the 2000s.

Overlapping winners at Augusta National includes: Scott, Watson, Dustin Johnson, Phil Mickelson, Mike Weir, Fred Couples, and Nick Faldo. The courses are very different, but an emphasis on creative shot making is prevalent on both courses. There’s a particularly notable overlap from the three lefties in Watson, Mickelson, and Weir.

Most of the recent difficult scoring venues like TPC Potomac, The Country Club, Southern Hills, Torrey Pines (South), Innisbrook (Copperhead), and Bay Hill should serve as strong comps to simulate the all-around tee-to-green game required to contend. TPC Potomac stands out, with top 10 finishers at the 2022 Wells Fargo Championship featuring many perennial Riviera standouts. That group includes Homa, Hahn, McIlroy, Matt Fitzpatrick, Cameron Yong, and Griffin. Francesco Molinari– a member at Riviera CC and top-10 finisher in this event in 2021– was also dominant in his victory at the 2018 Quicken Loans National at TPC Potomac.

Agronomically, Torrey Pines (South), TPC Harding Park, and Golf Club de Chapultepec share similar Poa greens and penal Kikuyu rough.

Mashing those comp courses together, the top-10 players in SG: TOT are McIlroy, Morikawa, Zalatoris, Schauffele, Scheffler, Fitzpatrick, Jon Rahm, Matsuyama, Thomas, and Keegan Bradley, illustrating a theme of predominantly regular Major contenders.

KEY STATS TO CONSIDER FOR 2023 GENESIS INVITATIONAL ODDS

  • SG: APP / Prox: 150+
  • Good Drives Gained / SG: OTT
  • SG: ARG / Scrambling / Sand Saves Gained
  • SG: P (Poa) / SG: P 5-15 ft
  • Bogey Avoidance (Comp, Difficult Conditions)
  • P4: 450-500
  • P5: 550-600
  • SG: T2G (Difficult Scoring Conditions)
  • Course & Comp Course History

A true all-around test from tee-to-green is fairly rare on the PGA TOUR schedule outside of the Majors. While recent form is always important, this is one of the weeks I’ll be leaning more heavily on a mixed condition model to simulate performance in other comparable conditions.

I’m placing the most importance on Bogey Avoidance in Difficult Scoring Conditions this week. Fighting for pars will be crucial on a firm, wind-exposed course with just one hole outside of the three par-5s featuring a scoring average below par. The top 10 in this category are: McIlroy, Fitzpatrick, Scheffler, Finau, Homa, Bradley, Morikawa, Shane Lowry, Sungjae Im, and Tommy Fleetwood.

Riviera CC’s sneaky length and persistent doglegs culminate into a funneling of about 75% of approach shots from beyond 150 yards. Nearly 50% of those approaches come from between 150-200 yards. The top 10 players in terms of weighted proximity from this range are Morikawa, Rahm, McIlroy, Young, Fleetwood, Si Woo Kim, Tom Kim, Danny Lee, Justin Rose, and Justin Lower.

Good Drives Gained

This is a huge week for Good Drives Gained. You can’t bomb-and-gouge Riviera given all the elevation changes and forced layups from angular tree lines. Any wayward drives into the trees are essentially an automatic bogey.

On the other hand, I think there’s just too much length on par-4s to lean on your typical fairway finders here. Even they will struggle to hit a high percentage of fairways with the firm conditions, undulated runoffs, and intermittent pick ups in wind. Driving Accuracy specialists like Reavie, Kuchar, and Donald found their fair share of success here.

But the ideal player for Riviera CC should have total driving be a strength of their game. The top 10 players in Good Drives Gained are: Morikawa, Hahn, Fitzpatrick, Lowry, Sungjae Im, Martin Laird, Kevin Streelman, Harris English, Nick Taylor, and Luke List.

Short Game, Scrambling Also Key At Genesis Invitational

This will be one of the most crucial weeks for short game outside of Majors. A slew of long Par 4s and long par-3s require long irons into multi-tiered greens at different elevation.

For the par-4s, many of these approaches will come from the rough with players hitting less than 50% of fairways on average. That means a lot of Scrambling from the green-side rough and difficult bunkers. The top 10 players in SG: ARG are Thomas, Piercy, Donald, Matsuyama, Christiaan Bezuidenhout, Byeong Hun An, Taylor Montgomery, Kurt Kitayama, Brendon Todd, and Patrick Rodgers.

Just four players rank in the top 30 in SG: ARG, Scrambling, and Sand Saves: Matsuyama, Todd, Robby Shelton, and JJ Spaun.

This will be our last stop on the West Coast swing, so it’s worth revisiting the Poa specialists: Homa, Rahm, Rodgers, Kuchar, Taylor, Scott, Peter Malnati, Wyndham Clark, Webb Simpson, and Justin Suh. Riviera’s greens are known to be among the trickiest on the PGA TOUR to hole putts on from short range, so I’ll be looking to dial in on those who are most comfortable on the crucial 5-10 footers. The top-10 from this range are: Suh, Montgomery, Day, Fitzpatrick, Todd, Finau, Andrew Putnam, Cam Davis, Sam Ryder, and Lucas Herbert.

The perfect golfer for Riviera CC should be solid in Good Drives Gained + SG: OTT, Proximity: 150-200, and SG: Around the Green. They should also have established success both at this event and other difficult comp courses. Just six players rate out above average in each of those categories: McIlroy, Homa, Finau, Rahm, Cantlay, and Scheffler.

Correlation And Riviera CC

Like last week at TPC Scottsdale, correlation stats at Riviera CC are fairly on par with the TOUR average. That tends to favor the best overall players. The biggest differences at this course compared to TOUR average come from P5: 550-600 and Opportunities Gained, which fall outside the top 10.

Instead, Bogey Avoidance, GIRs Gained, P4: 450-500, and SG: Short Game make the biggest jumps inside the top 10 at this event. We also see a substantial increase in the importance of Good Drives Gained and Sand Saves GainedScrambling Gained and SG: Short Game make the biggest jump compared to TOUR average, each falling inside the top 10.

In terms of stats to de-prioritize when handicapping Genesis Invitational odds, all proximity stats from inside 150 yards did not correlate with success at Riviera CC. Given the high percentage of approaches from the rough onto greens, even the best approach players needed to rely on a balanced short game to account for missed greens in regulation.

Top-10 Correlated Stats with SG: TOT
Top-10 Correlated States with SG: TOT at Riviera CC

10 players rank above-average in each of this week’s top-10 correlated stats with success at Riviera CC. Each player also happens to fall inside the top 15 of my model, which rarely ends up being the case. That list includes McIlroy, Homa, Finau, Rahm, Cantlay, Schauffele, Day, Zalatoris, Harman, and Sungjae Im.

PLAYER SPOTLIGHT: HIDEKI MATSUYAMA

hideki matsuyama, genesis invitational odds

There are few certainties in golf betting, but Matsuyama’s odds slipping to an unjustifiable range of the board is one of them. Those at the top of Genesis Invitational odds boards rarely prove able to close the door at this event. I’m looking to stockpile value in the mid-range of the odds board and I can’t think of a better candidate than the 2021 Masters champion.

Riviera CC calls for creative shot shaping, imaginative ball striking, and delicate touch around the greens. These are all skillsets Matsuyama leaned into to win the 2021 Masters and have helped him contend regularly at this event over the years. Since 2015, Matsuyama has posted four top-11 finishes in seven appearances.

Excellence In Difficult Conditions

At Riviera CC, I’m defining “Comp Conditions” as layouts that also feature narrow fairways, penal rough, and difficult all-around scoring. Matsuyama ranks No. 1 in the field in terms of SG: T2G in comp conditions. That also checks out when looking at Riviera CC itself, as he ranks No. 1 in terms of total strokes gained from tee-to-green at this event.

Matsuyama has six top-20 finishes over the last two years between The Farmers, The Masters, Arnold Palmer Invitational, and U.S. Open at The Country Club. It’s clear he gets the most out of his game as the conditions grow more difficult. Putting is usually a concern for Matsuyama backers, but on Poa greens, he is actually a positive putter over the course of his career. At the Genesis Invitational, Matsuyama gained strokes putting in three of his last four appearances.

Matsuyama ranks top 10 in Bogey Avoidance (Difficult Scoring Conditions), Comp Course History, SG: ARG, Scrambling, Sand Saves, and SG: P (5-10 feet). It appears the lingering neck injury may now be behind him and, with back-to-back high finishes on this west coast swing, he’s poised to make another run at contention in Los Angeles. He’ll be on my betting card assuming his odds surpass 35-1.

WHAT TO LOOK OUT FOR AT 2023 GENESIS INVITATIONAL ODDS

I was fortunate to enjoy a (relatively) sweat free wire-to-wire win from Niemann last year. He put all of his shot-making skillsets on display from start to finish and used this event as an emphatic statement to be taken seriously among golf’s rising stars. He then cashed in on his rising stock by taking a Saudi paycheck months later and faded to golf obscurity ever since.

While we won’t have a title defense to look forward to, unfortunately, I’d say Woods’ return to competitive professional golf is a pretty decent consolation prize. He didn’t look great in exhibition display in December’s “The Match,” but it will be interesting to see what a couple more months of rest and rehabilitation can do for his ailing Plantar Fasciitis. Whether good or bad, we don’t know how many more times we’ll get to see Tiger play in a professional event, so I can’t wait to see how he looks this week.

With all the course-fit profiles in mind, I’m leaning early toward the 2023 Genesis Invitational player pool below. I’ve broken the list down by projected pricing/odds tier for DraftKings:

genesis invitational odds

For my model in Fantasy National this week, I’m prioritizing Bogey Avoidance (Difficult Conditions), Comp Course History, SG: APP, Prox 150-200, SG: T2G (Comp Conditions), and Good Drives Gained. After that, I’m looking at a balanced mix of SG: ARG, SG: P (Poa, 5-10 ft), Scrambling, Sand Saves, Par-4: 450-500 and Par-5 Scoring.

Model Favorites

McIlroy was on my betting card at 25-1 in Genesis Invitational odds last year and was my One And Done selection as well. A year later, he continues to suit Riviera CC well and claims the No. 1 spot in my model this week.

Unfortunately, his odds are likely to open at about one-third of his 2022 price, so it’s hard to imagine McIlroy will end up on my betting card again this year. But, the fit is undeniable as the World No. 1 also ranks No. 1 in Bogey Avoidance in comp conditions and Comp Course History. He’s still chasing his first career win at this event, but with three top-10 finishes over the last four years, it’s clear this layout is suited to his game.

After McIlroy, my model’s top-10 rounds out with: Homa, Finau, Morikawa, Rahm, Sungjae Im, Cantlay, Schauffele, Day, and Scheffler.

With a loaded field in store– and a trend of mid-tier players beyond 25-1 odds winning this event– I don’t have a single player in particular I’m locked in to betting this week. Instead, it’ll be a week for patience to observe where the value slips to. Matsuyama, Young, Homa, and Sungjae Im are all players I’ll be keeping a close eye on when odds release Monday.

Thanks for reading and good luck navigating 2023 Genesis Invitational odds!

2023 GENESIS INVITATIONAL OPENING ODDS COMPARISON TABLE

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