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The Field Is LOADED This Week At One Of The Most Underrated Stops On The PGA Tour

Chris Trotman. Getty Images.

WOO BABY do we have a treat on our hands this week. After LA hosted last week's Super Bowl and the Tour hosted a strong field in Scottsdale, the stars are out in droves for the Genesis Invitational. ALL TEN of the World's Top 10 are teeing it up this week at Riviera Country Club, one of the Tour's better tests.

This is the 95th edition of this tournament, making it one of the longest running on the PGA Tour. Originally (and most traditionally) known as the Los Angeles Open, this tournament has gone through numerous name iterations. It's gone from a variety of names from the LA Open to the Nissan Open to the Northern Trust Open to the Genesis Open to finally starting in 2020… its current name as the Genesis Invitational. 

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Now what does "invitational" mean and how is it different than other tournaments? Glad you asked. Means a smaller field (120 this week) with more stringent predetermined qualifications and a bigger chunk of change and FedEx Cup points up for the grabs. Most tournaments on Tour have around an $8 Million purse and 500 FedEx cup points. This bad boy has been upped from $9.3M last year to $12M (!) this year, with 550 FEC points to boot. Invitational status also means a few more sponsor exemptions from the tournament host. Arnie's got his tournament down in Bay Hill, Jack has the Memorial, and starting in 2020 this became Tiger's tournament. Obviously El Gato Grande will not be teeing it up this week as he continues to build up strength from the car crash he suffered here a year ago, but he's around doing his hosting duties.

This tournament holds significance for Tiger as it's where he took his first shots on Tour as an amateur almost 30 years ago.

Tiger also displayed unreal drip here as an amateur in '93.

Gary Newkirk. Getty Images.
Gary Newkirk. Getty Images.

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Last year's edition was won by Max Homa in a playoff over Tony Finau. Such an awesome tournament. Sam Burns held a commanding 36 and 54 hole lead as a precursor to what would be a career year for him, but faltered early on the back 9 Sunday. Homa appeared to have the damn thing won by hitting a dart on the difficult 72nd hole, but missed the bunny to fall into a playoff.

Homa would find trouble left on the 10th to start the playoff, but produced an unbelievable chip to stay in it

 And eventually won with a par on the par 3 14th hole when Finau made bogey.

Last year's leaderboard and recent winners:

2021 Leaderboard

Recent Winners

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The Course

Riviera CC is a par 71 playing at just over 7,300 yards. That may not sound like a terribly long course for a par 71 relative to some other tracks on Tour, but that number is shortened considerably by the 1st and 10th holes. The 1st hole is the easiest par 5 on the entire Tour every single year. There's really no reason at this point for it not to be a par 4 with the way these guys hit it off the tee. The ravine that cuts off the fairway at about 320 yards keeps players from getting everything they can off the tee, but that hasn't stopped them from birdieing it more than half the time.

The rest of the course is challenging. You've got 6 par 4's in the 450-500 range that will bring the mid to long approaches into play, including the difficult iconic 18th hole with the blind tee shot up the hill. Miss left and you've got a nasty sidehill lie in the rough to contend with. Miss right and you've got tree limbs to contend with hanging over the right side of the fairway. With that said, overall length off the tee holds a bit more weight here than accuracy. The fairways are pretty narrow but the rough isn't all that punishing, so you can take your chances with a guy who gets it out there. 2019 Champion JB Holmes is a great example of that. Like Torrey Pines and Pebble the past few weeks, Riviera has poa annua greens, which are notorious for getting bumpier as the day goes on. 3-footers on Sunday can get real testy in a hurry on poa annua. Just ask Max.

This course is notorious for having a ton of leaderboard overlap with some place called Augusta National. Adam Scott's win in 2020 is a prime example of that. Riviera and Augusta both favor guys who can work the ball right to left, which is why drawers of the golf ball like Scott and lefties who cut it play well there. In fact, there are 3 lefties who have ever won The Masters - Mike Weir, Phil Mickelson, and Bubba Watson. All 3 of those guys have won MULTIPLE TIMES at this tournament. Pretty tough to ignore that type of pattern.

Best Hole - 10th Hole, Par 4 315 yards

Stan Badz. Getty Images.


Ooooooweeeeeeee this is one of my favorite holes on Tour. It's one of the great risk-reward holes in all of golf and a source of great debate every year at this tournament. So much so that my associates Riggs and another coworker at the time had a back and forth on Barstool SPORTS dot com about it a couple years ago. The evidence appears pretty damning that the decision for these Pros to go for the green off the tee is the right one to the tune of 3/10 of a shot. But by no means does going for it and missing narrowly take a big number out of play. This green is so preposterously tight (especially back right) and slopes towards the bunkers both front and back of this green. If you blast your tee shot and find yourself on the downslope at the back of one of these bunkers, there's no virtually no shot of you keeping it on the green. Poor Scott Piercy will be our volunteer for the class.

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Missing long and left can also set up a bad angle where your margin of error on a flop shot is razor thin too. You're going to see a lot of guys try to fade 3 woods and long irons to the front left edge depending on where the pin is. The further back right that pin is, the more cautious they'll be. Regardless, it's going to be a lot of fun for all of us to watch. 

The Weather

Liiiittle bit chilly in the mornings for SoCal but no real threat of weather here. Should be a dandy.

TV Coverage

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Doesn't get better than these lineups. Cherish it.

The Trophy

Sean M. Haffey. Getty Images.

This is a little too modern for my taste. It's got that College Football Playoff meets F1 racing trophy vibe. I suppose that's the idea given that the tournament is sponsored by a foreign luxury car brand, but I like my trophies to look a lot less corporate. It's sleek, it's got shine, but it also looks like you could be eating two scoops of Rocky Road out of it. It's the epitome of a 4/10, but gets a bonus point because you get it from the GOAT. 5/10.

Give me the 2005 edition of the trophy instead, compliments of a young Adam Scott.

Scott Halleran. Getty Images.

The Board

The fact that this field is absolutely STACKED always makes this one extremely hard to handicap. It's twice as hard when you consider the last 4 winners here were all at 40/1 or longer pre-tournament and some extreme longshots have won in the past decade. JB Holmes was around 250/1 three years ago. James Hahn was around 600/1 back in 2015. John Merrick was 800/1 back in 2013 and had to beat a 1000/1 shot in Charlie Beljan in a playoff back in 2013. You could easily build a card of some serious horses in this tournament and whiff completely. So picking from the board at the Barstool Sportsbook (gotta get my plug in) is as hard as ever here.

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There's two things that seem to be true here at Riviera. The first is Augusta overlap. I mentioned that earlier and here's another fact for you. Of the 58 LA Opens played at Riviera, 22 of them were won by players who also own a green jacket. That's a 38% clip. The other is that experience at Riviera seems to be key. Every single winner in the past 16 years had played the LA Open at least 4 times before winning it except for Hahn. And he won on his 3rd go at it. I know that doesn't rule out a lot of names at the top of the board, (sorry Collin, Hov, Scottie, and Will Z but we'll talk to ya) but it may be a differentiator as you reach down the board for a few longshots.

All of that said, amid all the guesswork I've laid out, I gotta go with what I know. And what I know is Bubba Watson LOVES Riviera. He's my pick this week at +4000. He's won here 3 times and has obv won twice at Augusta. He's had a couple of down years but he's starting to show some signs of life. HVIII had to knock in that absurd eagle at the Saudi just to keep him out of a playoff 2 weeks ago and he put on a solid showing at the Waste Management, shooting all 4 rounds in the 60's and finishing T-14. I've always said that there's a handful of places where I'll always bet Bubba. 8 of his 12 career PGA Tour wins have come at places where he's won multiple times. Horses for courses and this course is for Bubba.

Other Plays

Patrick Reed To Win +8000 - Might be a rat line. Disrespectul, really. Couldn't believe my eyes when I saw his name this far down the board. He fits the profile, too. Send it.

Patrick Cantlay To Win +900 and 1st Round Leader +1800 - Alright fine, I'll pick one stud of the top of the board too. Cantlay is the only guy who can give a run for Rahm's money these days. He's played well here in his past 4 tries, never finishing worse than T-17 and his worst 1st round score has been a 68. Plus as of this moment he's my pick to win Augusta anyway.

Robert MacIntyre Top 10 +1000 - If you've been reading me, you know I love Bob Mac. He's a lefty so he fits that profile. Not so experienced though, hence the Top 10 pick. He's +12500 to win it if you want to send that though.

Matt Jones To Win +17500, Top 10 +1400 - T-8 here last year

Charl Schwartzel To Win +25000 - Augusta Winner, experienced guy, longshot.

Dylan Frittelli To Win +35000, Top 10 +2500 - Hits it a long way, made some noise at Augusta a couple years ago. 4th time playing this tournament though.

Honorary Tony Finau FOMO Pick - Xander Schauffele To Win +1800 - Tony almost broke through here last year. Now that he's off the schnide and so is Scottie Scheffler, X is officially my guy who is way too due not to bet week in and week out. He's got a legit case here too. Results at Riv: T-15, T-23, T-15, and T-9. Ride it or don't. Just don't miss out. 

There ya have it. Healthy mix of longshots and big names.

Enjoy Riviera.