With football officially behind us, the PGA Tour kicks it into high gear this weekend with its own star-studded event, less than 20 miles up the coast from SoFi Stadium, site of Super Bowl LVI.
The Genesis Invitational, hosted by Tiger Woods, unsurprisingly has become one of the best events on the calendar. Players are quite eager to play historic Riviera Country Club in Woods’ tournament, and it’s the final leg of the West Coast swing to kick off the new season in earnest.
A major-level field will be in Pacific Palisades this weekend. Going off world golf rankings, this week’s tournament has a projected strength of field of 696. Last week’s WM Phoenix Open checked in at 463, and to further put it in perspective, the 2021 Open Championship had a strength of field of 792.
Let’s dive into this weekend’s tournament with our betting preview.
DEFENDING CHAMPION: Max Homa
Riviera Country Club
The future home of Olympic golf is one of the toughest tests on the PGA Tour. Hitting the fairway is difficult, and holding the fast, firm greens is easier said than done. As always, ball-striking is a major key to victory. You’ve gotta be pretty precise with your approach shots, as the greens are quite difficult to hold. Around the green becomes even more important, as you’re going to need to get up and down to save par a lot.
It’s an old course with a great layout — few holes on Tour rival the short, par-4 10th — and it’s a difficult test that has stood the test of time.
Here’s hoping the wind doesn’t get too out of hand as it did a year ago, forcing a delay.
Jon Rahm +800
Patrick Cantlay +1000
Justin Thomas +1400
Dustin Johnson +1600
Hideki Matsuyama +1800
Collin Morikawa +1800
Cameron Smith +2200
Xander Schauffele +2200
Rory McIlroy +2200
Scottie Scheffler +2200
Viktor Hovland +2500
Will Zalatoris +2800
By the way: If you’re looking to bet one of the favorites, keep this tweet in mind. Xander Schauffele, Jon Rahm and Justin Thomas all might go nuclear if they can just break even putting.
You might think with loaded fields the winners would come on short odds, but some relative long shots have hit in recent years. In some ways, that’s actually a reflection of how good the field really is. Getting Max Homa at 100-1 or even Bubba Watson at 50-1 in recent years speaks to that point.
Here are the odds for recent winners, via GolfOdds.com.
2021: Max Homa, 100-1
2020: Adam Scott: 35-1
2019: J.B. Holmes 100-1
2018: Bubba Watson 50-1
2017: Dustin Johnson 15-2
2016: Bubba Watson 20-1
Cameron Smith to win (+2200): It’s a little strange to see Smith alongside more established players — major championship winners — atop the betting board. But he checks every box for Riviera. Success requires an artful approach. Smith has that tool in his box, as we’ve seen in the past. He’s a great ball-striker and has added considerable length to the driver. He’s also great around the green and can get red-hot with the putter. A few more dropped putts might have given him the title last year, when he finished fourth here.
Bubba Watson to win (+4000): No player in the field gained more strokes on approach last week than Watson, a three-time winner here. He couldn’t putt, though, and sucked around the green. Still, for whatever reason, he’s a wizard around the Riv greens, and if he gets just a couple of putts to fall, he’ll be right there.
Talor Gooch top 10 (+330): He’s been really, really solid since winning the RSM Classic in November. Gooch has gained at least 2.4 strokes in five of his last six starts, making the cut in all but one. Riviera also seems to suit his eye: Gooch has finished no worse than 20th in three starts.
Sebastián Muñoz top 20 (+500): Muñoz had a quietly strong showing in Phoenix last week. He gained nearly 10 strokes tee-to-green, one of the biggest indicators of success at Riviera. He’s been very good around the green in his last two stops, and while he’s been atrocious putting since the calendar turned, he’s historically been better with the flat stick on poa greens. Munoz gained an average of 2.8 strokes putting here in two stops with a best finish of 26th. He could get into the top 20 this week.
Strokes gained data via Fantasy National Golf