Tiger Woods returns to the PGA TOUR for the first time since The Open Championship last July as the majority of the world’s best players head to the Riviera Country Club in Los Angeles for the Genesis Invitational.
The iconic old school course continues to beat the test of time although the modern-day bomber certainly has an advantage on the George C. Thomas layout. Driving accuracy is less important than most weeks on TOUR with the lean instead to Driving Distance and to a tee to green combination.
As such we need to look into Strokes Gained: Tee-to-Green as six of the last seven winners have slotted inside the top five of this stat.
The ability to get up and down from the Kikuyu is paramount, with the last seven winners all ranking inside the top nine in Bogey Avoidance. We can also have a wider look at Strokes Gained: Around the Green.
And you better have some success putting on poa annua surfaces as well should you want to put yourself in position for a trophy. This means ranking well in Three Putt Avoidance, something easier said than done late in the days on bumpy poa.
Here is a look at the players in this field currently ranking inside the top 10 on TOUR in these key stats.
STROKES GAINED: Tee to Green
2 – Jhonattan Vegas
3 – Tony Finau
4 – Jon Rahm
5 – Xander Schauffele
6 – Scottie Scheffler
7 – Collin Morikawa
8 – Justin Thomas
9 – Tyrrell Hatton
4 – Jon Rahm
5 – Cameron Champ
6 – Wyndham Clark
7 – Gary Woodland
8 – Cameron Young
9 – Cam Davis
STROKES GAINED: Around the Green
1 – Tommy Fleetwood
2 – Justin Thomas
3 – Christiaan Bezuidenhout
4 – Matt Wallace
5 – Hideki Matsuyama
6 – Jhonattan Vegas
10 – Matt Fitzpatrick
1 – Scottie Scheffler
2 – Brian Harman
3 – Patrick Cantlay
4 – Tom Kim
5 – Jon Rahm
6 – Andrew Putnam
7 – Jason Day
8 – Thomas Detry
10 – Tony Finau
Three Putt Avoidance
1 – Will Zalatoris
2 – Scottie Scheffler
4 – Sam Ryder
5 – Tommy Fleetwood
9 – Keegan Bradley
TOP OF THE BOARD
Despite being unable to run down Scottie Scheffler on Sunday at the WM Phoenix Open it is Jon Rahm who starts as betting favourite at 15/2. Rory McIlroy is next on the board at 9/1 with Scheffler at 10/1 to go back-to-back. Justin Thomas rounds out the top four at 14/1.
Rahm features in three of our five highlighted stats and has already won twice this season. After a T9 at Riviera on debut in 2009 Rahm has finished T17, T5 and T21 last year.
McIlroy has threatened to win at Riviera a few times without getting it done. In six trips he has five top 20s, three are top 10s and two top fives. He has one win on this season on TOUR and another on the DP World Tour.
Scheffler is coming off his title defence in Phoenix, making it five straight TOUR starts inside the top 11. He missed the cut on debut at Riviera in 2018 but over the last three seasons has improved each time (T30-T20-T7).
Thomas pushed his way to fourth place last week despite not having his best stuff in Phoenix. Sandwiched outside of two missed cuts in his last four trips to Riviera are a runner up (2019) and a sixth (2022).
Jason Sobel from The Action Network found an interesting point of difference for the top three. Since the start of last year both Scheffler’s and Rahm’s five wins around the world came after an off week. But on the nine occasions McIlroy played in back-to-back weeks, he won twice. All three played last week, but McIlroy was not in the stress of contention. It points to him knocking off some rust ready for this week’s assault.
While there are plenty of options to pay serious attention to between the top of the board and those in the mid-tier (check out Max Homa, Collin Morikawa and Patrick Cantlay among others) my personal (possibly biased) pick comes at 50/1 in Australian Adam Scott.
Scott has been inside the top seven at Riviera in three of his last four Riviera trips including a win in 2020. He also won in 2005 (unofficial 36 holes) and was runner up in 2006 and 2016.
The veteran is also one of the best putters at Riviera, having found a way to navigate the hard and fast poa, one of the few venues he can make that claim.
With big hitting on the agenda the likes of Wyndham Clark and Sahith Theegala can catch the eye at 75/1.
This is where you’ll find Tiger Woods (110/1) but as much as we’d love to see him contend, it’s not a play we can advocate having not seen him get through four competitive TOUR rounds since the Masters some 10 months ago. If you want to have some action, consider the 5/6 player market and take your choice on 80th or below, or 81st and above.
Jhonattan Vegas is the name that pops up above that deserves discussion at 175/1. Vegas is still on the comeback trail from shoulder issues and only has two top 15 results from nine previous tries at Riviera but he is coming off back-to-back top 25s on TOUR at Torrey Pines and Phoenix.
The three-time TOUR winner might not be quite ready to make it a fourth but could be worth looking at in the place or each way markets.
Don’t be afraid to consider the same on Australian duo Cam Davis (150/1) and Lucas Herbert (110/1). Riviera has long been kind to the Aussies and both fit the mould of hitting it far enough to contend. Herbert led the TOUR in Strokes Gained: Putting last season and Davis should be ready to burst out of his slow start to 2023.