Pat Mayo and Geoff Fienberg preview the course and run through the odds while making their 2021 Genesis Invitational Picks. The guys give their fantasy golf picks, provide their one and done strategy for the event from Genesis Invitational.
2021 Genesis Invitational: Field
Field: 121 Players
Cut: Top 65 & Ties after 36 Holes
First Tee: Thursday, Feb. 18
Defending Champion: Adam Scott
Editor’s note: Daniel Berger and Cameron Champ has withdrawn from The Genesis Invitational.
Golf has the best spring training. Instead of playing half-games for no pay, it’s a collection of events with middling fields where the winners still cash million-dollar paydays. But now the PGA TOUR launches into its real season beginning with the 2021 Genesis Invitational, kicking off the road to The Masters.
Dustin Johnson, Justin Thomas, Jon Rahm, Xander Schauffele, Rory McIlroy, Patrick Cantlay, Bryson DeChambeau, Brooks Koepka, Tony Finau, Collin Morikawa, Hideki Matsuyama, Viktor Hovland, Matthew Wolff,
Daniel Berger, Jordan Spieth and defending champion Adam Scott lead the top tier of talent on the grounds at Riviera CC.
But it’s not just that, the second tier of talent would probably be the strongest field of the year by itself anyway. Three-time champ Bubba Watson, Joaquin Niemann, Kevin Na, Scottie Scheffler, Francesco Molinari, Si WOOO Kim, Marc Leishman, Cam Smith, Sergio Garcia, Abraham Ancer, Russell Henley, Sam Burns, Will Zalatoris, Carlos Ortiz, Jason Kokrak, Lanto Griffin, Corey Conners, Cameron Davis, Harold Varner III, Rickie Fowler, Max Homa, Gary Woodland and
Cameron Champ solidify a tremendous field.
World No. 20 Matthew Fitzpatrick is making his debut stateside in 2021, as well. Since he was last seen in America at the RSM Classic, the Brit picked up a win at the DP World Tour Championship in Dubai to close 2020 and went MC/T17 through the 2021 Middle East swing on the European Tour. The remainder of the top-ranked internationals are expected to make their first U.S. appearances next week at the WGC in Florida.
Additionally, Tae Hoon Kim was granted an invitation after winning The Genesis Championship in Korea last year and Willie Mack III is in on the Charlie Sifford Memorial Exemption. It’s worth noting as well, Doc Redman won the 2017 U.S. Amateur at Riviera CC.
2021 Genesis Invitational: Key Stats
Strokes Gained: Ball Striking
Driving Distance Gained
Par 4s Gained: 450-500 Yards
Strokes Gained: Around The Green
Mayo’s Key Stats powered by FantasyNational.com
2021 Genesis Invitational: Course
Course: Riviera CC
2021 Genesis Invitational: Past Winners
2020: Adam Scott -11
2019: JB Holmes -14
2018: Bubba Watson -12
2017: Dustin Johnson -17
2016: Bubba Watson -16
2015: James Hahn -6
2014: Bubba Watson -15
2021 Genesis Invitational: Notes
On paper, 7,322 doesn’t seem like it would be too long of a task for the field. That’s before a closer examination of the scorecard, however. Riviera CC is actually quite daunting. There’s a micro Par 4 (No. 10) under 300 yards, and all three of the par 5s measure under 600 yards. Hole No. 1 typically plays as the easiest par 5 on TOUR, generating a 6.3% eagle rate and 59.6% birdie rate for the field. What remains are seven par 4s measuring over 450 yards, all of which play over par. You’re going to be hard-pressed to find a course featuring more approach shots from 175 yards and beyond.
Since 2004, no hole in golf has ceded more eagles than No. 1 at Riviera. For reference, No. 9 at Waialae CC is second.
Short hitters with excellent long irons can definitely contend at Riviera, but the degree of difficulty is just so much higher for them. Since the fairways are difficult to hit (56%) and the rough is generally very short, bombers are the path of least resistance this week.
Like Augusta, there is a clear bias toward left-handers at Riviera and players who hit a draw. The only lefties with Green Jackets hanging in their closets have also won the Genesis on multiple occasions: Bubba three times, Phil twice and Mike Weir twice. There has also been a significant leaderboard crossover between Riviera and Quail Hollow historically. When JB Holmes and James HAHHHHHNNNNNN have won at both venues, there’s something similar in play.
An examination of the strokes gained influence among the top-five finishers from the past decade shows SG: APP to be around twice as impactful to that group as SG: OTT and SG: ATG. That sounds like a lot, but that gap is far more pronounced at most courses, you’re looking for a modicum of balance this week.
Riviera is one of the lowest driving accuracy courses (53%) and sports one of the smallest GIR rates (56%) on TOUR. TOUR averages are 61 percent and 66 percent, respectively. Short game will play a factor in determining the winner, but much like Pebble Beach last week, the green complexes at Riviera, both on and around the putting surfaces, are learned through experience. There’s a reason Bubba Watson can have wonky short game most places, yet know exactly the proper shot and speed of lag putting at Riviera, which will be the golf host site of the 2028 Olympic Games.
After Pebble Beach, Riviera sports the toughest greens to hit from inside 125 yards (76%). With the narrow fairways and broadcasters’ love of saying the word “Kikuyu,” expect the thick grass type of the rough to be mentioned over and over … and over.
Riviera historically ranks as the toughest course putting from under five feet, along with Pebble Beach GL and Torrey Pines South — all Poa Annua courses.
Over the past five years, Dustin Johnson (47), Adam Scott (47), Rory McIlroy (36), Bubba Watson (30) and Matt Kuchar (30) have the most Strokes Gained: Total at this event. Conversely, Tyler Duncan, Brian Harman, Brian Gay,
Cameron Champ and Francesco Molinari have lost the most.
Adam Scott, Matt Kuchar, Sung Kang, Dustin Johnson, Patrick Cantlay, Adam Hadwin, Carlos Ortiz, JT Poston, Abe Ancer, JB Holmes, Charles Howell, Rory McIlroy, Xander Schauffele and Bryson DeChambeau (outside of his 2017 WD) all have at least three starts over the past five seasons and have never missed a cut. Jon Rahm, Alex Noren, KH Lee, Russell Henley, Talor Gooch and Max Homa have made two-of-two cuts over the past three years.
As an invitational, the field for the Genesis is smaller than regular events. Since there are only 121 players in competition this week, a higher percentage of the overall field will make the cut — at least 54%, with the Top 65 and ties getting through. Now, there’s always a chance a few popular options can miss the cut and skewer lineups but anticipate this to be one of the higher 6/6 DraftKings weeks in some time. Not only will you need all six of your golfers through the cutline to cash, but you’ll need a few of them inside the Top 10 as well.
2021 Genesis Invitational Picks
Bryson DeChambeau ($10,100)
Since there’s so much negativity directed toward Bryson, you always tend to get a discount on his price from the other elites near the top of the board. The world’s No. 10 player has never missed a cut in three outings at Riviera and has progressively gotten better each year (T41/T15/T5). While his irons can be hit-or-miss overall, they’ve always been on point here, as he’s averaging over two strokes gained on the field with his irons. We know he’s going to be near the top in driving, and like his results, Bryson’s around the green work has gotten better every time he’s played the course.
Strangely, it’s been putting that’s kept him from a breakthrough. Which is strange as Poa is his best putting surface, and of all the top-end players, he’s one of the most consistent putters overall. Bank on the flat stick flipping to the positives and Bryson is in business.
Marc Leishman ($8,600)
Now, it should be said, that almost every time Bryson plays well, Matthew Wolff does too, so keep that in the back of your mind, but I’ll lean with Marc Leishman here. After a disastrous 2020 upon the return from COVID hiatus, Leishman has started to look like himself again. He’s averaging over four strokes gained on approach in his three events and has begun to roll it at an elite level again the greens. Plus, while he has a mixed history at Riviera, there’s plenty of upside. In the past five years, the Aussie sports a pair of missed cuts but two top 5 finishes as well.
Put your knowledge to the test. Sign up for DraftKings and experience the game inside the game.
Pat Mayo is an award-winning video host and producer of long and short-form content, and the host of The Pat Mayo Experience daily talk show. (Subscribe for video or audio). Mayo (@ThePME) won the 2020 Fantasy Sports Writing Association Daily Fantasy Writer of the Year and Golf Writer of the Year awards, along with the Fantasy Sports Trade Association Best Sports Betting Analyst award, and was a finalist for four FSWA Awards in 2020 (Best Podcast, Best Video, Daily Fantasy Writer of the Year, Golf Writer of the Year). His 21 FSWA nominations lead all writers this decade and are third-most all-time. Mayo has been recognized across multiple sports (Football, Baseball & Golf), mediums (Video, Writing & Podcasting), genre (Humor), and game formats (Daily Fantasy and Traditions Season Long). Beyond sports, Mayo covers everything from entertainment to pop culture to politics. If you have a fantasy question, general inquiry or snarky comment, ship it to Mayo at ThePatMayoExperience@gmail.com and the best will be addressed on the show.
I am a promoter at DraftKings and am also an avid fan and user (my username is ThePME) and may sometimes play on my personal account in the games that I offer advice on. Although I have expressed my personal view on the games and strategies above, they do not necessarily reflect the view(s) of DraftKings and I may also deploy different players and strategies than what I recommend above. I am not an employee of DraftKings and do not have access to any non-public information.
21+ (18+ NH). CO/IL/IN/IA/NH/NJ/PA/TN/VA/WV/MI only. Eligibility restrictions apply. See draftkings.com/sportsbook for full terms and conditions.