Genesis Invitational Tournament Preview

The Genesis Invitational 2021 Tournament Preview: Everything You Need To Know About Riviera Country Club Before Tee Off

Dustin Johnson, Jon Rahm, Justin Thomas, Xander Schauffele, Rory McIlroy, Collin Morikawa, Bryson DeChambeau, Patrick Cantlay, Brooks Koepke, Viktor Hovland, Tony Finau, Daniel Berger.

12 of the Top 15 OWGR-ranked golfers in the world are in the Genesis Invitational field this week and I for one couldn’t be happier after the field we were just subjected to at last week’s AT&T Pro-Am. In case you’re wondering, Tyrell Hatton (5), Webb Simpson (8), and Patrick Reed (10) are the only players in the Top 15 not teeing it up at Riviera.

To put into perspective how terrible the AT&T Pro-Am field was, the 12th best player in last week’s field was Joel Dahmen, who ranks 70th according to OWGR. Just vile stuff. But this week we get 4 ShotLink-enabled rounds, no rotating courses, and a reasonably clear path to profile success. I can’t turn the page fast enough. Let’s dive in to all the need-to-know stats ahead of the 2021 Genesis Invitational.

Riviera Course Specs

  • Yards: 7,304
  • Par: 71 (4x 3’s / 11x 4’s / 3x 5’s)
  • Greens: Poa
  • Comp Courses: Monterey Peninsula CC, Nine Bridges, TPC San Antonio, Ridgewood CC, Augusta, Winged Foot
  • Past Winners: Adam Scott (20), J.B. Holmes (19), Bubba Watson (18), Dustin Johnson (17), Bubba Watson (16)
  • Other Past Winners In The Field: James Hahn, Charles Howell III

On paper, 7,304 looks like a fairly short course, but make no mistake, Riviera requires distance to contend. Overall yardage skews lower due to the infamous 285 Yard 10th hole Par 4, and the fact that this is a Par 71 with only 3 Par 5s. But the 12 Par 4s on this track hold their own against the length of any other course on the PGA circuit, featuring 7 Par 4s of 450+ Yards.

The fairways here are some of the tightest we’ll see on Tour, with players hitting just 56% of fairways off the tee, compared to the 62% Tour event average. If we learned anything from the US Open at Winged Foot last year, it’s that if no one can hit the fairways, and everyone is playing their approach shots out of the rough, you want the players hitting wedges in, not mid-irons. I’ll be looking a little more granularly at SG: APP on courses where hitting fairways was difficult in order to approximate strong approach players from the rough. History shows us however that long approach shots from the rough do not equate to a ton of Greens in Regulation, so SG: ARG and Scrambling will be crucial here for Bogey Avoidance.

In short, the formula here is to hit the ball far, be strong around the greens, and get a hot putter. If that doesn’t sum up every winner in the last 5 years here, I don’t know what does. If we’re trying to project that out to 2021, I’ll give you a spoiler alert for articles to come – Carlos Ortiz is sneakily amongst the best in Short Game + Driving Distance in this field.

The Course Horses this week are highlighted by past winners Adam Scott, Dustin Johnson, Bubba Watson, and (to a lesser extent) J.B. Holmes. However, 8 others in this field have multiple T10 finishes within the last 5 years, despite having not won here yet: Rory McIlroy, Matt Kuchar, Sung Kang, Justin Thomas, Marc Leishman, Martin Laird, Kevin Na, and Hideki Matsuyama. Conversely, Francesco Molinari, Daniel Berger, and Brooks Koepke highlight the list of top-tier players who have yet to find any success at Riviera.

At the risk of coming off as a Bubba obsessive, I’m probably going to be back on him again even after backing him in his last two lackluster starts at the Farmers and WMPO, because this is a certified #BubbaTrack. But the main takeaway here is that success is repeatable for those who understand the greens and how to attack them.

Key Stats

  • Driving Distance
  • SG: APP
  • SG: ARG / Scrambling
  • SG: Putting (Poa / Riviera)
  • Par 4 Scoring (450-500)
  • Proximity 175-200, 200+
  • Course History

Stats To Avoid

  • Driving Accuracy / Fairways Gained
  • SG: OTT (to remove skews from Driving Accuracy)
  • SG: P (TOT)

If you’re trying to find a correlation from past winners, look no further than Driving Distance. Every winner since 2016 (Adam Scott, Bubba (twice), Holmes, and DJ) has ranked Top-25 in Driving Distance.

Adam Scott, Bubba, and J.B. Holmes winning here in recent years should be evidence enough that overall putting form need not apply at Riviera. These greens are very unique, and similar to the WMPO where Hideki and Bubba have seen repeated success putting, certain troubled putters have been able to find a beacon of success at Riviera as well. Because of the nuances in these Poa greens, I’m weighting past Putting performance at Riviera and other Poa greens more heavily than overall Putting ranks coming into this event. For example, Mackenzie Hughes, Bryson DeChambeau, and Daniel Berger are all Top-10 Putters on Tour who rank worse than Field average Putting at Riviera. On the other hand, Dylan Frittelli, J.B. Holmes and Kyoung-Hoon Lee are all below-average putters on Tour who rank Top-20 putting at Riviera in this Field.

Fun fact about Riviera, no other course surrenders more missed putts inside 5 feet. Fun fact #2: Over the last 36 rounds, Rory McIlroy ranks 122nd in this Field of 126 in SG:P 0-5 feet.

What To Look Out For at the 2021 Genesis Invitational

Strength of Field has to be the primary storyline this week, as this will be the first fully loaded field we’ve seen since the Masters last November. That means there’s a lot of extremely talented players in this event that we’ll have to decide not to have exposure to. Fading players not because we think they’ll do poorly, but because they’ll be less great than others – never an easy task! But if we stick to the Distance + Short Game formula, it’ll be a more manageable task to whittle the player pool down.

I’ll also have to fight the temptation of betting on 100/1 outright bombs this week, as it will be a tall order to take down the top of this leaderboard. More likely, we’ll keep a tighter card in the 20-45/1 range and save the bomb plays to round out some DFS stars & scrubs builds.

This marks the third consecutive week I’ll have no idea what to do with Jordan Spieth, which means I’ll probably end up on the wrong side of another T5. But as I’ve spoken about at nauseum on Twitter, the good folks at BetUS are still hanging a +4600 number on Spieth to win the 2021 Masters while all other books have him down in the teens. So, go scoop that number up here before it’s gone, put a down payment on your very own Green Jacket, and we’ll cheers together on April 11th.