Here’s who our expert picker, Brady Kannon, likes to win this week at Riviera.
Welcome to our weekly PGA Tour gambling-tips column, featuring picks from GOLF.com’s expert prognosticator, Brady Kannon. A seasoned golf bettor, Kannon is an on-air host for VSiN, the Vegas Stats & Information Network, and host and creator of Long Shots, the network’s golf betting show. You can follow Kannon on Twitter at @LasVegasGolfer, and you can read below to see his favorite plays for the Genesis Invitational, which kicks off Thursday at Riviera Country Club. Keep scrolling past Kannon’s picks, and you’ll also see data from Chirp, a free-to-play mobile platform — and GOLF.com affiliate — that features a range of games with enticing prizes, giving fans all kinds of ways to engage in the action without risking any money. For more from Kannon, you can also listen to his Long Shots podcast.
Last week’s event at TPC Scottsdale was definitely “elevated” in every sense. The scene at the 16th hole was nothing like we see in golf outside of the Ryder Cup. I thought it was great. And while we might not get the same raucous atmosphere this week in Pacific Palisades, Calif., I do believe it will inspire more than a muted golf-clap experience. A major championship-like field is on hand to compete.
The Genesis Invitational at Riviera Country Club is the second straight elevated event on the PGA Tour schedule, part of a cluster of tournaments with prize pools that have grown by more than 50 percent since 2022. Because this is an invitational, 131 players will be in this week’s field and of those players eligible, only four golfers inside the top 100 in the OWGR will not be present at Riviera.
Tiger Woods is this week’s tournament host and is teeing it up at one of the few Tour courses where he has yet to win. In 12 attempts, Woods has never won here but has finished 2nd twice. This will be Tiger’s first official appearance since last July when he missed the cut at the Open Championship at St. Andrews.
As most Tour pros will tell you, Riviera is one of the best courses they play. The course is not tricked up with brutally thick rough or rock-hard greens. There are no water hazards. Exquisite ball-striking is a key, with the ability to move the ball around doglegs that move in both directions. You also need a deft touch around the greens. While Riviera’s surfaces are big, above Tour average size, they are also challenging to hit in regulation. Errant approaches often wind up in Kikuyu rough. It is not terribly long, but the grass is sticky, which makes chipping tough. The fairways are Kikuyu as well but when mown down, it provides a terrific surface off of which to play as the ball with sit up high on the strong grass blades. The greens themselves are poa annua. They are fast and have proven to be some of the most difficult on Tour in terms of holing putts inside of 10-feet.
That ought to give you an idea of what we are looking at statistically this week.
As for correlated and similar golf courses to Riviera, I focused on four tracks. First, Augusta National. On the face of it, the layouts are not terribly similar. But both feature large greens and elevation changes. And both call for shot-shaping and creativity. When looking at who has won or had success at both Augusta and The Riv, the results are telling. This leads us to the Plantation Course at Kapalua, a course we saw just six weeks ago for the Sentry Tournament of Champions. Again, big greens and elevation changes as well as a great deal of crossover success with both Augusta and Riviera. And then two courses where it is more about a similar layout: PGA National, home to the Honda Classic, and The Renaissance Club, home to the Scottish Open for the last four years.
6 picks I like to win the Genesis Invitational (and to finish top 20)
Rory McIlroy (10-1)
It is not often that I play someone at this short of a price but when I do, it is typically for a major championship or in a stacked field where the cream tends to rise. (I do, by the way, already have a ticket that I played back in September on McIlroy to win the Masters at 12-1.) Rory is clearly a top-three player in the world right now. Some might argue he is No. 1. He has recent wins in Dubai and South Carolina. He has finished 10th, 5th and 4th at Riviera. He has six top-10 finishes at Augusta, including a 2nd-place finish last year. He’s won the Honda Classic, also finished 2nd there, and has finished 4th at Kapalua. From an “intangibles” standpoint, there might also be some additional motivation for Rory to win this week in front of his new partner and fellow PGA Tour ambassador, Tiger Woods.
Patrick Cantlay (28-1)
Cantlay was disappointing last week in Phoenix but I think that has created some value in his price this week. It is interesting to see players like Xander Schauffele, Collin Morikawa, Tony Finau, Max Homa and Justin Thomas all priced significantly lower than Cantlay as they all rank beneath him in the OWGR. You can argue that his play has been middling in the 2022-23 season compared to his red-hot 2022 summer, but statistically he is still right there. Over the last 36 rounds, Cantlay is 20th in this field for SG: Ball-striking and 17th in GIR. He is a California native who knows this course well and has the short game to contend, ranking 17th in putting from inside 10 feet, 12th in bogey avoidance, and 10th in scrambling. I expect he’ll bounce back from last week at a course that he loves.
Sungjae Im (30-1)
I’d love to have 35-1 and you might be able to find it but I had to settle for 30. Im’s track record here is not great, with two missed cuts and a 33rd-place finish last year but more than course form, I am looking at his current form, the stats, and how he’s done on the comp courses. I like the progression of his latest results: 18th at the American Express, 4th at Torrey Pines and 6th last week in Phoenix. He has finished 8th and 2nd at Augusta, 1st and 8th at the Honda and 8th and 5th at Kapalua. Over the last 36 rounds, he is 26th in this field for SG: Approach, 13th in SG: Ball-striking, and 19th in bogey avoidance. Im ranked 1st on Tour last season for bogey avoidance, 12th in SG: Around the greens, 9th in GIR percentage, 5th in scrambling, and 3rd in ball-striking. With the way he is going lately, I think he’ll have a good week on a course that has been difficult for him in the past.
Tyrrell Hatton (55-1)
Hatton has an excellent short game as evidenced by his SG: Around the greens, scrambling, and putting from inside 10 feet numbers. He’s had exceptional results on poa greens as well, having played four times at Club De Chapultepec for the WGC Mexico, with finishes of 6th, 19th, 3rd and 10th. He has finished as high as 18th at the Masters, 4th at the Honda, and in three recent trips to the Scottish Open at The Renaissance Club, he’s never finished worse than 24th. In his three most recent tournaments on the DP World Tour, Hatton has finished 2nd, 7th and 38th, and he’s coming off a 6th-place finish last week in Phoenix. The form is there. I think anything at 50-1 or better is a bargain.
Alex Noren (100-1)
Like Hatton, Noren is another player with a terrific short game. Over the last 36 rounds, he is 30th in this field in scrambling and 18th in proximity to the hole from 150-175 yards. He’s 38th on Tour in bogey avoidance and ranked 14th last season. Noren has never missed a cut here at Riviera and has finished as high as 12th and 16th in his career. He’s also taken 3rd and 5th at the Honda Classic. In his last two DP World Tour events, back in late November and early January, Noren finished 2nd and 5th. He’s a long shot for sure but I could definitely see another top-20 finish for a guy that seems to play well in big events, on tough courses, and is a top-50 player in the world.
Tommy Fleetwood (125-1)
This past November, Tommy Fleetwood won the Nedbank Challenge on the DP World Tour and followed it up with a 5th-place finish at the DP World Tour Championship. It is worth noting that this was the second time, Fleetwood won the Nedbank in South Africa — on a course that features Kikuyu grass, like Riviera Country Club does. He took 4th at the CJ Cup back in October and made his 2023 debut last week in Phoenix, missing the cut. His results at Riviera have been decent, finishing 28th and 37th, but he’s done very well at the comp courses. He’s only missed one cut at Augusta and finished top 20 three times. He’s finished 3rd and 4th at the Honda, and 4th and 2nd at the Scottish Open. He checks a lot of boxes this week as far as ball-striking and short game. A lot of my numbers this week actually come out better on the higher-priced Fleetwood than they do on Alex Noren. He’s another guy, currently ranked 26th in the world, who I think triple-digit odds is too high.
3 full-tournament head-to-head matchups I really like
Rory McIlroy (+100) over Jon Rahm Alex Noren (-110) over Sahith Theegala Cameron Young (-105) over Sam Burns
Who Chirp users like to win
Jon Rahm, 25.49% Scottie Scheffler 21.15% Rory McIlroy 18.49%