PGA Tour golf best bets: The Genesis Invitational at Riviera


The PGA Tour remains on its West Coast swing, this week heading to Pacific Palisades, California for The Genesis Invitational. Defending champion Adam Scott won last last year’s event by two shots, finishing 11-under.

Tournament host Tiger Woods will not play this week at Riviera Country Club, but the the event boasts a loaded field, headlined by betting favorite and world No. 1 Dustin Johnson.

So which players are the favorites, who offers good odds and what props are worthwhile?

Betting analysts Joe Fortenbaugh and Doug Kezirian, sports betting deputy editor David Bearman and fantasy analyst Anita Marks offer their best bets. Chris “The Bear” Fallica is out of the country but likes Justin Thomas and Jon Rahm this week.

Odds courtesy of Caesars Sportsbook by William Hill unless otherwise noted.

Bets to win

Rory McIlroy 12-1; Top-10 finish (+130)

Bearman: It’s hard to go wrong with Rory this week. He has finished T-4, T-5 the last two years at Riviera and entered the final round with the lead last year before a Sunday 73 knocked him down. He has only teed it up three times this calendar year, but it has resulted in T-3, T-12 and T-16 finishes. Dating back to the beginning of the season in September, Rory hasn’t finished outside of the top 21, so a top-20 at -175 is a safe bet, but I’d prefer the plus money for a top 10 and play him in tourney matchups.

Patrick Cantlay 14-1; Cantlay/Xander Schauffele finish 1-2 & vice versa (250-1 at DraftKings)

Marks: I’m picking Cantlay for the second straight week to win. He tied for third last week and tied the course record at Pebble Beach with a first-round 62. Sixteen of the last 20 winners at Riviera were top 10 in greens in regulation, and five of the last six were top 5 in strokes gained tee to green. Cantlay checks a lot of Riviera boxes; he is eighth in tee to green, 35th in greens in regulation, 27th in ball-striking and 32nd in par-4 birdies or better this season.

Cantlay 14-1

Kezirian: Cantlay’s peak form has been on display in his last two outings, with a second-place finish at The American Express and T-3 at last week’s AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am, which vaulted him to the top of the FedEx Cup Standings. The Long Beach native is poised for another strong weekend at Riviera Country Club as he looks for a win in familiar territory. He is currently fifth in total strokes gained and has had some hot moments in his last two tournaments, including his 20 birdies over the final 36 holes at The American Express and his first-round 62 last week at Pebble Beach. I want to back a guy who is currently in great form.

Collin Morikawa 33-1; Top-10 finish (+300)

Bearman: Riviera, with its small-ish, bumpy greens and narrow fairways, is a shot-makers course and, as Morikawa showed in winning the 2020 PGA Championship, he is one of the best in the game at that. He comes in ranked seventh in shots gained on approach and 13th in shots gained tee to green, two metrics needed at this course. He has the iron game to get it to the green and deal with tight fairways and tough approaches. He hasn’t played stateside yet, but he finished seventh in both Hawaiian events. Not a lot of course history to go on (this is his second appearance), but that didn’t matter last year when he won twice in events he hadn’t played before.

Adam Scott 40-1; Top-20 finish (+150)

Bearman: Scott needed a huge rally last year to pass McIlroy and Matt Kuchar and win this event for the second time. He was also runner-up in 2016 and has finished in the top 11 in five of his last six appearances at Riviera. Simply put, he plays this course great and you are getting 40-1 odds on him. The 14-time PGA Tour winner has won more money at this event than any other golfer in the 90-plus year history of the event. He was one of the few who took his time coming back after the COVID break, but he has made the cut in all nine appearances since, including a T-10 a few weeks back at Torrey Pines.

Carlos Ortiz 66-1; Top-20 finish (+225); Win 3-ball with Sergio Garcia and Cameron Smith (+175)

Bearman: This is a little bit of a longer shot with Ortiz at 66-1, but I really like what he has been doing, and this course sets up well for him. Ortiz followed up his November Houston Open win with three top 15s in five tour appearances since, including a T-4 two weeks ago at the Waste Management Phoenix Open. It was a nice rebound from the Farmers Insurance Open, where he led entering the final round before a Sunday 78. He ranks 11th in putting inside 10 feet, which is huge for the poa annua greens that historically rank as one of the hardest for the short putts. He is also great on par-5s, which is where you need to score to win here. Add the fact that he hasn’t finished worse than T-26 in his four appearance at Riviera and it’s a long shot I want to take.

Matthew Wolff 66-1

Kezirian: Wolff is in just his third season on the PGA Tour but has already produced some solid results, with one win and two top-five major finishes. Wolff finished just T-36 at the Waste Management Phoenix Open earlier this month, but some of his best results have come after poor performances. His only win and one of his second-place finishes came after missing the cut at the previous tournament, and his fourth-place result at the PGA Championship in 2020 came after a T-49 the previous week. Riviera’s length of just over 7,300 yards will allow him to show off his fifth-ranked driving distance, which will help Wolff put on another rebound performance at the Genesis Invitational.

Doc Redman 200-1

Kezirian: Redman enters the weekend under the radar, but he has shown the ability to stay in contention in recent months, posting a string of three top-four finishes over six events in the latter part of 2020. He is ranked 32nd in both strokes gained off the tee and approaching the green, and although his putting performance is subpar, the poa annua greens will likely serve as an equalizer for the entire field on the short grass due to the surface’s unpredictability. If you are looking for a dark horse this weekend, look no further than Redman.

Other bets

Dustin Johnson top-5 finish (+125)

Bearman: What else needs to be said about the world No. 1? Going back to August, DJ has gone T-2, win, second, win, T-6, T-2, win, T-11, win — so not betting on him in some capacity is a miss. The +550 is too small for me with 121 golfers in the field, but I’ll take the plus money on a top-5 finish.

Schauffele top-5 finish (+300); Schauffele (-120) over McIlroy

Marks: If I felt more comfortable in Schauffele’s closing ability on Sundays, I’d feel more comfortable selecting him to win. He has been the bridesmaid more so than the bride since 2019. I like him to finish in the top 5 for many of the same reasons I like Cantlay. Schauffele is fifth in strokes gained tee to green, 33rd in greens in regulation, 29th in ball-striking and seventh in par-4 birdies or better this season.

Tony Finau top-5 finish (+500); Top-10 finish (+240)

Bearman: Is this finally the week for his first tour win since 2016 Puerto Rico? I said before I am not picking him to win until he does, but I am going to keep firing top 10s. Finau has five starts worldwide since the November Masters, with finishes of T-8, T-31, fourth, T-2, T-2. He hasn’t be able to close the deal, but almost +250 on a top 10 is in his wheelhouse. A top 5 will pay five times your money, if he can avoid the Sunday fade. As mentioned above, this is a shot-makers course, and Finau is 10th in strokes gained tee to green, 19th on strokes gained on approach and 16th overall, making this course a good fit for him.

Morikawa top-10 finish (+300); Morikawa (+106 at DK) over Hideki Matsuyama

Marks: Morikawa was in the mix on Sunday last year but posted a triple-bogey during his final round and could not recover. His metrics scream contention: 13th in strokes gained tee to green, 10th in greens in regulation, eighth in ball-striking and 19th in driving accuracy this season. Accuracy will be crucial in avoiding the two-inch kikuyu rough.

Viktor Hovland top-10 finish (+300); Hovland (+110) over Finau

Marks: Hovland comes into Riviera sporting four top-6 finishes in his last five starts. His metrics say it all: 17th in strokes gained tee-to-green, eighth in greens in regulation, ninth in ball-striking and 10th in par-4 birdies or better.

Joaquin Niemann top-10 finish (+450); Niemann (-118 at DK) over Scheffler

Marks: Niemann missed the cut last year, so we are getting great odds here. His metrics have me sold; he ranks ninth in strokes gained tee to green, 12th in greens in regulation, second in ball-striking, 13th in driving distance and fifth in par-4 birdies or best this season. If he putted better on poa, I’d have him in my top five.

Hovland top-20 finish (+138)

Fortenbaugh: There’s some risk here considering that Hovland has never played in this event, but since last year’s U.S. Open, the Oklahoma State product has finished T-15 or better in five of seven starts and has a win at the Mayakoba Golf Classic and a T-2 at the Famers Insurance Open. Hovland ranks 17th on tour in strokes gained tee to green and has shot worse than 70 in only three of his last 16 rounds.

Bubba Watson top-20 finish (+180); Watson (-137 at DK) over Cameron Davis

Marks: A three-time winner here and getting plus money to finish in the top 20? This is like taking candy from a baby! Bubba heads to Riviera ranked third in strokes gained tee to green, 11th in strokes gained on approach and 23rd in driving distance this season.

Will Zalatoris top-20 finish (+250); Zalatoris (-125 at DK) over Kevin Na

Marks: Zalatoris had an off performance last week, finishing T-55, but I expect him to rebound at the Genesis. His metrics — sixth in strokes gained tee to green, ninth in approach and 16th in driving distance this season — will help him navigate many of the 58 bunkers on this track.

Matt Kuchar top-20 finish (+400)

Bearman: You haven’t heard Kuchar’s name in a while because he hasn’t played well at all recently. Since the season resumed last year, he’s only had two top 25s and no top 10s, hence why he is 125-1 to win. So why is he showing up in this column? Well, course history. Kuchar has made the cut at Riviera 13 of 14 times and finished runner-up last year to Scott, holding a share of lead after each of first three rounds. And he finished T-8 in 2016. Nothing helps poor play better than a familiar course. Just ask Jason Day, who I picked last week to finish in the top 20 for the same reasons. You are getting 4-to-1 on your money here — and, if you’re feeling lucky, sprinkle the 125-1.

Matthew NeSmith top-20 finish (+500)

Marks: This is one of my favorite plays on the board. NeSmith has been crushing it this season, but he is not getting any respect from oddsmakers. Another golfer that checks all the boxes to win this week: 20th in strokes gained tee to green, second in greens in regulation, tied for fourth in ball-striking and 44th in driving accuracy.

Niemann top-30 finish (+115 at DK)

Fortenbaugh: Niemann missed the cut here last year, but he is going to be a popular “bet on” golfer this week thanks to his recent form, which includes finishing T-23 or better in eight of his last nine starts with six top-20s. He ranks ninth on tour in strokes gained tee-to-green and 13th in driving distance, two metrics that have proven to be extremely valuable at Riviera. You might want to consider sprinkling a little on this guy to win as well.

Francesco Molinari top-40 finish (+125 at DK)

Marks: Molinari is ranked 24th in strokes gained tee to green this season. I’m banking on him finishing in the top 40 due to the fact that Riviera is his home course. There’s nothing like knowing a course’s many secrets better than most.

James Hahn top-40 finish (+138 at DK)

Marks: Hahn missed the cut last week, but here’s an interesting fact: the last three winners on tour missed the cut at their previous tournament (Daniel Berger, Brooks Koepka, and Patrick Reed). Hahn has won here before, and he has the metrics this season to do it again: 23rd in greens in regulation, tied for 11th in ball-striking, 29th in driving accuracy and 30th in par-4 scoring birdies or better.

Doug Ghim top-40 finish (+175 DK)

Marks: Ghim has made the cut in seven of his last eight tournaments and finished T-21 last week at Pebble. He is 33rd in strokes gained tee to green and 25th in par-4 scoring birdies or better.

Patrick Rodgers top-40 finish (+225 at DK)

Marks: Another sneaky good play to finish in the top 40 on his home course. Rodgers is one of the best golfers this week putting on poa, ranking top 5 in his last 24 rounds.

Max Homa (-118 at DK) over Jason Kokrak

Fortenbaugh: The 30-year-old has finished T-21 or better in four of his last five starts, punctuated with a T-7 at last week’s Pebble Beach Pro-Am. He finished T-37 at Riviera in 2019 and T-5 here last season, so we’ve got the much-desired horse-for-the-course plus recent form combination working in our favor. Kokrak has had plenty of success on this track in the past, but he missed the cut here last year, not to mention finishing T-29 or worse in each of his last five starts on tour with two missed cuts.

Scott (+100) over Matsuyama

Bearman: I talked about how much I love Scott here to defend his title. Hideki has played well at Riviera with four top 11s in his last five appearances, but he is struggling across the board right now. A T-19 in Hawaii is his best finish dating back to the Masters, so I’ll take the defending champ as a ‘dog in this matchup.

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