Things are in full swing
Timing in life is everything. With the Superbowl in our rear-view mirror, golf is about to explode onto the sports landscape. Tiger Woods is returning to PGA TOUR play outside of the majors and the atmosphere in Los Angeles is "elevated." Yes, I'm on the grounds of this week's event and I can assure you it has the feeling of a very, very important week.
Just one year ago, the professional golf world went from the traditional to the turbulent at The Genesis Invitational. Now as the Tour returns to "Hogan's Alley" or Riviera Country Club, we are blessed with an amazing betting opportunity. The field of 130 players will compete on one of golf's most iconic tournament venues. Most consider Riviera or "RIV," to be the best non-major course the tour plays annually.
- The Par 71 scorecard stretches to 7,322 yards across three Par 5's, four Par 3's and eleven Par 4's.
- Nestled amongst the Santa Monica mountains, the course boasts dramatic doglegs, terrific tree lined fairways and beautifully bunkered green complexes.
- The Los Angeles Open has been contested at Riviera 59 times and currently on a continuous run since 1999.
Riviera plays tough when it is firm and fast. Even though Los Angeles has had historic rain in 2023, it hasn't rained since in Pacific Palisades since January. Walking the course, you can see the pale yellow Poa greens look and play firm. The Kikuyu fairways and rough are healthy, but also in fantastic shape. The average winning score over the last five years is 15 under par (last 10; 14 under par). I expect the current course conditions will test these guys more on the ground than in the air.
The weather looks perfect this week with little rain predicted and winds only peaking in the mid-teens. There's some genius in George Thomas' architecture when it comes to the wind at Riviera. The course sits on a routing that mainly moves the players either southwest (8-holes) or northeast (6 holes). In the morning when the tide is going out, the predominate wind blows toward the water and the southwest holes play downwind. Later in the day when the tide returns, the wind will shift back in the opposite direction and allow for the finishing holes on both nines to play downwind.
Temperatures are below seasonal; especially in the morning. Days will open in the high 40's and peak in the mid to high 60's in the afternoon. We are less than two miles from the Pacific Ocean, so the air is always a little thick. The atmosphere each player will encounter is also going to be quite heavy as well. This is a difficult golf course. Don't let the mid-teens scoring fool you. The cutline has been even par or higher for the last 20+ years (average +2,2).
Players will have to navigate narrow fairways. Twelve of those fairways bend and create unique challenges not just on the tee shot, but the approach as well. Holes such as 12, 13, and 15 force the guys to get the ball on specific sides of the hole. Ball striking is a premium this week and with a field of thirty-nine of the Top 50 players in the world, I expect the cream to rise once again to the top. Just as we saw last week. The average winner's odds over the last decade have been +6500 (65-1). In that time only one winner had odds below +2500!
As I alluded to in the opening, this is a different PGA TOUR in 2023. The elite have been challenged by the status quo and are responding. The two designated events to date have been won by Jon Rahm and Scottie Scheffler. The average world ranking of the six winners this year is 30. The game couldn't be more exciting for fans and bettors alike. We have the perfect Hollywood setting for another epic Sunday and our outright card reflects the pressure of the moment.
Oh, and one more thing... did we mention Tiger is playing!
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Genesis on TV:
The Genesis Invitational starts in...
Only three men have won the Los Angeles Open three times: Ben Hogan, Arnold Palmer and Bubba Watson. Of those three, Hogan and Watson have three wins at Riviera. One of Hogan's wins was at the 1948 US Open as his 1942 LA Open win was not contested at RIV. Hence the name "Hogan's Alley" was coined a half century ago. In modern times, we must pay attention to Bubba and his impressive resume on this very difficult course. In his three wins, Watson's well-rounded play was the key to success.
Bubba gained on average in his victories against the field:
- Four strokes off the tee
- Five strokes on approach
- Two strokes around the green
- Four strokes on the greens
Much of Bubba's career success comes from creativity. The last ten Genesis winners are all tremendous ball strikers, but even more important they play creatively. For every three strokes they gain against the field off the tee, they gain three more around the green. When they gain five strokes on approach, they also average another four strokes gained on the greens. Rather than looking at any one major skill category this great design feeds comprehensive play by the professionals.
- Players hit approximately 55% of the fairways at Riviera which is 7% lower than the TOUR average.
- Similarly, they hit about 58% of their GIR's which is 8% lower than TOUR average.
- The three-putt percentage is high on these small Poa greens, and inside ten feet can always be a challenge.
Bubba's ability to attack these green targets (average size 7,500 sq/ft) from all different angles makes a difference. I'm looking specifically at players who when they miss tend to miss on the correct side of the fairway. We're talking (again) about that Good Drives Gained stat. Can you still hit the green even though you missed the fairway? Watson would always bend the ball toward the best side giving him the largest landing area. He does have two Green Jackets.
Another detail at Riviera are the bunkers, they are extremely penal. Of the fifty-eight bunkers, thirty-two of them are greenside. One of those bunkers is in the middle of the sixth green. Past champions have shown success from the sand in their winning week. A powerful detail we need when differentiating the world's best.
The eleven Par 4's are tough. Nine of them are over 430 yards and consistently challenge you off the tee. Eight of them move left to right and the remaining three right to left. You never get more than two holes bending in the same direction. Another aspect of the course that creates uneasiness. If you hit those fairways, chances are you must navigate your way to the green with a mid-iron.
- Seventy-three percent of approach shots are from 150 yards or more.
- The PGA TOUR average from that same range is 61%.
This why the GIR success percentage is so low. Compound the issue with firm greens to land on and these guys will have their fill. I'm following the same trend I did last week by staying near the top of the board. I cannot justify backing a long shot in a field where we can feel the anxiousness through the television.
As I walk the practice range and look through my PGA lens, I see a very intense level of preparation. The players are treating this week like a major. Upon further review through live looks and intense research here's my outright card for The Genesis Invitational.
Outright winners - The Genesis Invitational
*- member only content and a bonus pick this week!
We were undefeated in H2H matchups at WMPO
Let's carry that momentum into The Genesis Invitational and get a win!
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