Odds, picks, best bets for Riviera

Starting this week, I’ll be writing regular betting previews for each PGA Tour event this season.

My focus is mostly on outright winners, but I do occasionally place bets.

This week, the Genesis Invitational will be held at Riviera Country Club just outside of Los Angeles.

With just 70 golfers in the field, the event still has a capacity limit in place after the first two rounds. Golfers tied for the top 50 and within 10 strokes of the lead will remain in place and play through the weekend.

Riviera is one of my favorite courses on the PGA Tour. The start of the 2024 season won’t be the birdie extravaganza we’ve seen so often. The 7,322-yard par-71 course will test every aspect of a golfer’s game.

The fairways are not narrow, but they are undulating and there are many dogleg holes. In 2023, Field hit the fairway on just 51% of his tee shots. Even for accurate hitters, finding short grass can be difficult.

Given the length of the course and the difficulty of hitting the fairway, distance will be more important than accuracy this week.

Although the greens at Riviera are large (7,500 square feet), they are very difficult to hit due to regulation. This can be due to several factors.

Many golfers hit their approach shots from the rough, but many golfers end up having their approach shots blocked by trees. There is also a run-off area around the green to deflect errant shots.

The greens are made of Poa Anua grass and are fast compared to tour average. Looking at the relative importance of the strokes gained statistic compared to total strokes gained, strokes gained around the greens was the most important for this course in 2023.

A pretty obvious course holds true for the Riviera this week. I’m looking for golfers with the following qualities:

  • Someone who is a considerable distance from the tee.
  • A person who is good at approach shots from 150 yards or more.
  • Someone who is good around the green.
  • Who doesn’t care about Poa Anua Green.

Riviera’s course history is more predictable than most regular PGA Tour venues, so past top finishes at this event are definitely a plus.

With all that in mind, here are the three perfect bets that stuck with me from this week’s Genesis Invitational.

Patrick Cantlay. Getty Images

Best bets for the Genesis Invitational

Patrick Cantlay (+1800, Bet Rivers))

It was a bit of a slow start for Cantlay.

He finished 12th at the Sentry, 52nd at the American Express and 56th at the Farmers Insurance Open. His most recent appearance was at Pebble Beach, where he finished 11th.

There are concerns about his basic ball striking numbers, but trips to his favorite courses should encourage quality shots. He has five top-20 finishes and two top-five finishes in each of his past six starts at Riviera.

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Historically, he is one of the most complete golfers on the PGA Tour. He is good off the tee, regularly earns strokes on his approach, has good hands around the greens and is a good putter off Poa Anua.

If he does well, the odds will be +1200 to +1400.

Collin Morikawa (+1800, BetMGM)

Morikawa was born in Los Angeles and played golf in California during his college days, so he is familiar with the state’s golf and poa annua (a type of grass) greens.

The 2022-23 season ended with somewhat disappointing results, but they managed to win the ZOZO Championship held in Tokyo in the fall. Since then, he tied for fifth at Sentry, missed the Farmers Insurance Open and finished 14th at Pebble Beach.

He is an elite total driver (distance and accuracy), one of the best in the world on approaches (especially from 150 yards and beyond), and has recently made great strides in his short game.

Morikawa has competed in all four of his starts at Riviera, finishing sixth and second on the course over the past two years. Let’s hope he gets across the finish line if he’s in contention again.

Tony Finau (+3500, fan duel)

Finau hasn’t played the most consistent golf over the past six months, but we don’t look for consistency when it comes to outright betting. We are looking for potential golfers to compete on Sunday.

Finau has finished seventh or higher in three of his last nine appearances at worlds, so he’s not far off in form.

He tends to play his best golf on the West Coast and needs a good rest after missing last week’s Phoenix Open.

Tony Finau.
Tony Finau. Getty Images

He is one of the best players in the field in terms of strokes gained on approaches from the rough and strokes gained on approaches from 150 yards or more.

He has good distance off the tee and may be the most underrated short game on the PGA Tour. Putter is always a wild card, but he prefers Poa annua over other grass species.

He has finished second in this competition twice in his career (2018, 2021).



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