Genesis Invitational ⏤ Expert's Picks & Analysis

Fantasy Golf

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The PGA Tour returns to Los Angeles this week as the players tackle the iconic Riviera Country Club in Pacific Palisades, California. The venue will certainly be among the stars of the show as this George C. Thomas design is perennially ranked among the top 50 courses in the world and always shows up at the top of the list when PGA Tour players are asked for their favorite tournament venues. The course’s tree-lined fairways and small putting surfaces demand precision both in thought and execution. The unique kikuyu grass the course is famous for awaits those who miss their targets and the subtle greens will certainly puzzle many of the world’s best.

Given the quality of the golf course, it comes as no surprise that the 2020 Genesis Invitational has attracted a quality field. Nine of the top ten players in the Official World Golf Rankings will be competing this week—including Rory McIlroy, Brooks Koepka, Jon Rahm, Justin Thomas, Dustin Johnson, Patrick Cantlay, Tiger Woods, Xander Schauffele and Justin Rose. The lone absentee among the top ten is seventh-ranked Webb Simpson—who is taking some time off after his victory in the 2020 Waste Management Phoenix Open.

J.B. Holmes will be defending his title from last year—having won the 2019 event with a 72-hole score of -14 at Riviera that finished one clear of Justin Thomas and two clear of Si Woo Kim. Thomas entered the final round with a four-shot lead on the heels of a near-flawless trio of rounds (66-65-65) but struggled mightily with the flatstick on Sunday en route to a surprising 75.

Group A 

This group has all the big guns in it and fantasy players could easily pick any of these six names from a hat and not feel too disappointed with whomever they ended up with.

Dustin Johnson and Brooks Koepka have games that make them a threat every week they play—but there are compelling reasons not to pick either of them. While Johnson’s fade would seemingly suit this golf course very well, his play last week at Pebble Beach with the flatstick and especially on Sunday (where he shot 78) leaves us with a fair amount of concern about his game. Koepka’s year appears to be just getting started and he had a lackluster two week run playing on the European Tour in Saudi Arabia and Abu Dhabi. We wouldn’t be afraid of picking either of these guys, but there are better cases to make with some of the other players.

Sitting out Tiger Woods is difficult to do any week—especially when he showed no real loss of form between the clinic he put on at the 2019 Presidents Cup and his only event of 2020 at the Farmers Insurance Open. That having been said—Woods and Riviera have a rather complex relationship as the golf course was the first venue on which he played a PGA TOUR event (as an amateur in 1992) but also the only venue he’s played more than seven times without bagging a win. Something about Riviera vexes Woods and so we’re going to pass on him for that reason.

Our pick in this group is Rory McIlroy. The Irishman took back the world number one ranking just last week and somewhat quietly had one of the most consistent seasons we’ve ever seen from him in 2019. He’s only had one start to this point in 2020 but made great use of it by firing 67-69 at the South Course at Torrey Pines to finish 3rd in the Farmers Insurance Open. He got himself into the hunt at Riviera last year as well and his driving ability should be a tremendous asset on a golf course that places a premium on your skill off the tee.

Group B 

There are a few guys in this group you can write off pretty quickly. Bryson Dechambeau has embarked on a mission to gain yardage—but while he may be hitting it further, he hasn’t seen that translate to better overall results. He did manage a top-ten at the Omega Desert Classic, but in ten rounds so far this year he’s only managed to break 70 twice. He missed one of his three cuts this calendar year and finished well down the board two weeks ago in Phoenix. We think you can cross Rose off the list here too—he’s played just once so far this year and missed the cut at the Farmers Insurance Open. We’ll need to see a run of better form from him before we make him a viable choice in a group with this much talent.

Patrick Cantlay makes a fair case here as his steady game suits a ball-strikers paradise like Riviera, but our pick in this group is Jason Day. While Day may be coming off a run of disappointing years—his game tends to go whatever direction his health is going. When he’s at 100% (which he seems to be close to now) he is one of the best players in the world. His short game and putting make him a great fit for a venue like Riviera and he’s shown some form in the last two weeks—finishing 16th at the Farmers Insurance Open and 4th last week at Pebble Beach.

Group C 

Jordan Spieth has been a hands-off option in our view as he hasn’t shown any form at all this season until his first top-ten in a while last week at Pebble Beach. He carded a final-round 67 and the grip changes he’s made this off-season looked like they finally started paying some dividends. He’s starting to warm up as a viable option again but we’re going to keep holding off until we see it for a few weeks in a row.

Mickelson also seemed like a hands-off choice after two missed cuts to open the season, but he’s now posted consecutive top-three finishes and easily could have won last week at Pebble Beach after three great rounds to open the tournament. He struggled on Sunday to a round of 74 but it was just his second round in his last eight outside the 60s. He won back-to-back titles here in 2008/2009 and his short game and iron play should make Riviera a swell fit for him—but we do wonder at his age if he has three great weeks in a row in him.

Our pick in this group is Bubba Watson. He’s always been a horses for courses kind of guy and one of his favorites has always been Riviera. He’s won here three times—including every other year in 2014, 2016 and 2018. Riviera is a shotmaker’s paradise and that plays right into the hands of a creative player like Watson. We might be worried about him if he wasn’t on form, but he’s had two very strong starts to open up the season (finishing 3rd in Phoenix and 6th in San Diego) and we suspect he’ll be in the mix here come Sunday.

Group D 

There isn’t a ton of form going on in this group as the majority of these players have been relatively invisible so far in 2020. Jason Dufner continues to struggle with the putter and has only put up three rounds in the 60s among his last 14 rounds (across four tournaments) and shot 78 to close last week at Pebble Beach. Charles Howell III had a decent Sony Open and he’s had some success at this tournament in the past (winning in 2007) but we’re not particularly bullish on his game at large as he moves into his 40s. Jim Furyk is getting up there in years and will become eligible for the Champions Tour this year—so it’s increasingly difficult to opt for him over the younger veterans in this group.

We’re going to go with defending champion J.B. Holmes. We’ve spoken before about how Riviera is a fader’s golf course (part of why Ben Hogan had so much success here) and he’s given us some reason to believe his game is close early this season. After an awful trip to Hawaii—he’s been pretty consistent since he came back to the mainland. All three of his last events have been top-20 finishes and that kind of form bodes well as he returns to a venue that suits his eye and holds positive memories.

Group E 

Group E continues what is becoming the weekly tradition that is the young guns group. Each of these players has shown a ton of promise early in their careers on the PGA TOUR and on any given week it seems like any of these guys can pop up and make a run. Collin Morikawa has gotten off to a good start this season—making every cut going back to the fall series and finishing in the top 25 in each of his starts this calendar year. Scottie Scheffler had a great run at the American Express—but missed cuts in his subsequent two starts in San Diego and Phoenix.

We’re going to go with Max Homa here. He got off to a relatively slow start this season with sluggish performances at Kapalua and in Palm Springs, but in the three events since he’s played extremely well. He finished 9th in San Diego after a final-round 67 and then 6th in Phoenix closing with a run of 67-64-68. He was solid last week at Pebble Beach as well—opening with 67-69 before sliding back over the weekend with 71-74 en route to a top-fifteen finish.

Group F 

This is a curious group as nearly every single player in the bunch has plenty of items in both the pro and con columns. The three players with the most pedigree here are Garcia, Scott and Molinari—but two of the three (Scott and Garcia) will be making their first start of the season in the U.S. and the third (Molinari) missed the cut in both of his first two starts. Molinari really hasn’t been the same guy since his collapse at Augusta National last spring and we think he’s still he’s a hard pass until he shows some more form.

Paul Casey is a guy whose game seems like it would be well suited for Riviera. He’s a fairways and greens kind of player and has made every cut thus far in the 2019-2020 season. Matt Fitzpatrick is another precision player who might do well here and finished 2nd over in the Middle East a few weeks ago. Brandon Grace won in his home country and has been really good to start the season (9th in Phoenix, 17th in Abu Dhabi and the win at the South African Open) and has probably shown the most form of anyone in this group.

Still, we feel silly not taking Adam Scott in this group. Riviera rewards ball-striking and despite a cold putter Scott finished in the top five here last year thanks to the great fit between player and course. He may not have a ton of form to speak of (having not played at all this season) but he’s by far the best player in the group here and we can’t pass on him to take Brandon Grace.

Winning Score Prediction: -15