Pat Mayo and Geoff Fienberg preview the course and run through the odds while making their 2022 Genesis Invitational Picks. The guys give their DraftKings fantasy golf picks and provide their one-and-done strategy for the event from Riviera CC.
2022 Genesis Invitational: Field
Field: 120 Players
Cut: Top 65 and Ties
Lineup Lock: Thursday, February 17
Defending Champ: Max Homa
You got a preview at Torrey and in Phoenix, but this is what Major championship golf is going to look like in 2022. And it starts at the top. Each of the world’s Top 10 players are in the field at the 2022 Genesis Invitational. But, remember, you have to go past the summit to the plateau to actually get to the top. Once you get there, you’ll see one man: Tiger Woods.
Since Tiger took over as the tournament’s host, this event has gone from an Open to an Invitational (smaller, more exclusive field, bigger purse, longer exemptions for winning) and has really taken the place once held by Bay Hill and the Arnold Palmer Invitational as one of two Major-level, non-Majors on the regular PGA TOUR schedule, along with the Jack Nicklaus hosted Memorial Tournament.
It’s not like Riviera was some scrub course before this — it’s the host venue for the 2028 Olympics and 2026 US Woman’s Open — but a lot of players, especially international ones, would simply wait until the PGA TOUR shifted to the East Coast next week to begin their Masters preparation. That just isn’t the case anymore. And if you don’t think that’s a Tiger effect, you’re daft.
Many will skip portions of the West Coast swing for rest or a big payday overseas, but when the calendar shows Riviera nearing, it’s time to tell the butler to gas up the jet and mark a course for Los Angeles. How loaded is this field? It’s expected to garner enough interest that DraftKings is offering its first $1,000,000 guaranteed to the winner contest of 2022 this week.
As mentioned, the 2022 Genesis Invitational features each of the world’s Top 10 players, but really, it’s all healthy players inside the Top 20, minus Louis Oosthuizen. Louis played in Phoenix, getting his custom bed to LA to tee it up back-to-back weeks just isn’t in the cards. Bryson is out due to injury, Harris English is expected to miss extended time with a hip problem, and Daniel Berger is still dealing with a back issue.
We can do a wellness check on some names you haven’t seen in a while. Rory McIlroy is making his 2022 PGA TOUR debut after collecting T12/3rd results during the DP World Tour’s Middle East swing. Collin Morikawa was T62/T18 between Abu Dhabi & Dubai after opening the year in Hawaii.
Just past the very top of the field, Riviera regulars Paul Casey and Sergio Garcia are making their 2022 USA debuts. Sergio has played three times this year and has yet to finish outside the Top 25. Ditto for Casey, he’s gone T16/T12/T24 between three DP and Asian Tour starts.
Thomas Pieters has elevated himself to No. 31 in the world rankings with two wins in his past five starts, including topping a stacked field a month ago at the DP World Tour opening event in Abu Dhabi. He followed that up with T12 and T24 finishes the following two weeks in the Middle East. Now, he gets his return to Riviera, to build off his 2017 success when he finished T2 on this site before going on to claim a Top 5 finish at Augusta later that year. The Belgian was T68 in his only other appearance in 2018, however, his game appears to be far closer to his 2017 level at the moment.
Mini Tour player and Sacramento State Asst. coach Aaron Beverly is in the field through the APGA Tour while world No. 396 Jaekyeong Lee received an exemption after winning the Genesis Championship on the Korean Tour last year.
Will Zalatoris is expected back after missing the last two weeks with COVID-19 following his playoff loss to Luke List at Torrey Pines.
2022 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
2022 Genesis Invitational: Course
- Course: Riviera CC
- Par: 71
- Yardage: 7,322
- Greens: Poa
2022 Genesis Invitational: Past Winners
- 2021: Max Homa -12
- 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
2022 Genesis Invitational: Notes
As an invitational, the Genesis field is smaller than regular PGA TOUR events. Since there are only 120 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 surviving to the weekend. Now, this doesn’t guarantee anything, just better probability. “Safe” picks miss the cut and skewer lineups every week but expect 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. And remember, just because you’re winning all the money Saturday night, doesn’t mean it will still be there Sunday afternoon.
Like Augusta, as mentioned, there is a clear bias toward left-handers at Riviera and players who hit a draw. There has also been a significant leaderboard crossover between Riviera and Quail Hollow historically. When Max Homa, JB Holmes and James HAHHHHHNNNNNN have won at both venues, there’s too much evidence to ignore.
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 are elevation swings all over the course but also a micro Par 4 (No. 10) at 315 yards, and all three of the par 5s measuring under 600 yards. That leaves a lot of yardage to go around. 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.
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. Since 2004, no hole in golf has ceded more eagles than No. 1 at Riviera. For reference, No. 9 at Waialae CC is second.
The drivable No. 10 is a prime example of great, short par 4. It’s been the second-toughest par 4 under 350 yards on TOUR the last decade, and really presents a legitimate conundrum for players on the tee box. Most of which has to do with where the pin is located that day. If you’re long and the pin is at the back, it’s death. If the pin is at the back, and you lay up, you must contend with the fact that the GIR% from inside 75 yards on the 10th hole is 62% over the last 10 years — toughest green to hit in regulation from within this distance of any hole on TOUR. The results bare out — since 2012, the field only manages to scramble for Par 52% of the time when the flagstick is on the back-right side of the green. Essentially, if you’re going to miss while going for the green, miss left. Another advantage for lefties and hard draw players — one in three players who miss right of this green make bogey or worse.
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 (55%) and the rough is generally very short, bombers are the path of least resistance this week.
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 (55%) and sports one of the smallest GIR rates (58%) on TOUR. PGA TOUR averages are 62% and 66%, respectively. Short game will play a factor in determining the winner, but much like at Pebble Beach, the green complexes at Riviera, both on and around the putting surfaces, are learned through experience. There’s a reason Bubba Watson can have a wonky short game most places, yet know exactly the proper shot and speed at Riviera. Unlike Pebble, however, Riviera has gigantic 6500 sq. ft putting surfaces, which puts an extra emphasis on lag putting. Beyond a similar strength of field, it’s another reason so many of the same players perform well at Riviera and Augusta National.
A week after a course that has some of the easiest putting inside ten feet in Phoenix, 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.
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. If you play the Kikuyu drinking game, have an ambulance on the ready.
2022 Genesis Invitational Picks
Collin Morikawa ($10,400)
We’ve seen nothing close to peak Morikawa performance in any of three 2022 starts, so now’s the time to buy the dip. He’s made both cuts at THE RIV in his career and absolutely lit it up with his irons — gaining an average of 6.9 SG: APP in these two starts. The putting has been a real problem, however. He finished T43 a year ago, and while finishing second in approach, lost 7.5 strokes on the greens. Being an awful putter isn’t new to Morikawa, though, and every few he rolls it OK on the greens and wins. Let’s hope this is one of those weeks.
Robert MacIntyre ($7,100)
Robert MacIntyre, the remaining International making his 2022 PGA TOUR debut, needs to be taken very seriously based on the success of left-handed players at Riviera. Since 2000, Bubba Watson has a trio of victories, while Phil Mickelson and Mike Weir both have a pair of wins. Currently ranked No. 66 in the world, the young Scotsman made a splash in his Augusta debut a year ago, finishing T12, and earning another invitation this year. It was a tough start for Bobby Mac to kick off 2022 with a pair of missed cuts in the first two Middle East events but has since followed it up with a pair of Top 15s in the Ras al Khaimah Championship series.
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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 is a finalist for three FSWA Awards in 2022 (Best Podcast, Daily Fantasy Writer of the Year, Golf Writer of the Year). His 24 FSWA nominations lead all writers this decade and are second-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.
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