PGA Tour Picks: Genesis Invitational

By Tom LaMarre

Perhaps the best field so far in 2021 on the PGA Tour will play this week in the Genesis Invitational at one of the iconic golf courses in the world, Riviera Country Club in Pacific Palisades.

The 95th edition of the Los Angeles-area event will feature eight of the top 10 players in the World Golf Rankings, headed by Nos. 1 through 4—Dustin Johnson, Jon Rahm of Spain, Justin Thomas and Xander Schauffele of La Jolla and San Diego State.

No. 6 Collin Morikawa of La Canada Flintridge and Cal, No. 7 Rory McIlroy of Northern Ireland, No. 8 Patrick Cantlay of Los Alamitos and UCLA and No. 10 Bryson DeChambeau of Clovis also will be in the field.

There will be 19 major champions including Johnson, Thomas, McIlroy, DeChambeau, Brooks Koepka, Jordan Spieth, Francesco Molinari of Italy, Gary Woodland and Adam Scott of Australia, who will defend his Genesis title.

“It’s incredibly satisfying to win a tournament of this stature on a golf course of this stature,” said Scott, who also won at Riviera in 2005, but that victory was declared unofficial because the tournament was shortened to 36 holes because of heavy rain much of the week.

“It’s amazing. I’ve loved this place from day one and it was tough out there today. … I just enjoy it here and I always counted the other one from 2005, too, because I have the trophy.”

Other former winners at Riviera include J.B. Holmes (2019), Bubba Watson (2018, 2016, 2014), Johnson (2017), James Hahn of Alameda and Cal (2015) and Charles Howell III (2007).

Tiger Woods, who incredibly has never won his hometown event which he first played at the age of 16, also will be there as tournament host, but he won’t be teeing it up because he is recovering from his latest back surgery.

The tournament benefits Woods’ TGR Foundation and other Southern California charities.

The event that started as the Los Angeles Open was first played in 1926 at Los Angeles Country Club, where “Lighthorse Harry” Cooper claimed the first of his two L.A. Open titles.

Other courses that have hosted the tournament include El Caballero Country Club, Griffith Park Golf Course (Wilson Course), Hillcrest Country Club, Fox Hills Country Club, Inglewood Country Club, Brookside Golf Course, Rancho Park Golf Course and Valencia Country Club.

Riviera became the permanent host in 1984 and the event has been played there every year since except 1998, when it was held at Valencia because Riviera was preparing to host the U.S. Senior Open that year.

Macdonald Smith and Lloyd Mangrum each won the tournament four times, while Ben Hogan and Arnold Palmer and Bubba Watson all have claimed the title three times and Phil Mickelson won in 2008 and 2009.

Others on the illustrious champions list include Sam Snead, Byron Nelson, Billy Casper, Tom Watson, Gene Littler, Jimmy Demaret, Nick Faldo, Johnny Miller, Hale Irwin, George Archer, Dave Stockton, Lanny Wadkins, Ernie Els, Fred Couples, Corey Pavin, Ken Venturi, Bob Goalby, Phil Rodgers, Gil Morgan, Tom Kite and Steve Stricker.

And Charlie Sifford, who became the first African-American to win on the PGA Tour in the 1967 Greater Hartford Open, claimed his second title in the 1969 L.A. Open at Rancho Park.

BEST BETS

  1. Dustin Johnson, United States – DJ planned to play at Pebble Beach, but took last week off after the flight back following a fourth victory in his last eight events at the Saudi Invitational. Johnson captured the Genesis by five strokes in 2017, in addition to finishing second twice among his nine finishes in the top 10 at Riviera Country Club.
  2. Jon Rahm, Spain – Has finished in the top 25 in all six of his starts this season, including ties for seventh in each of his last three tournaments in the Masters, the Sentry TOC and the Farmers, and also tied for second in the Zozo Championship. Rahm tied for ninth in his first appearance at Riviera two years ago before tying for 17th last season.
  3. Justin Thomas, United States – JT has been close but hasn’t won yet this season, tying for second in the Zozo, finishing third in the Sentry TOC, fourth in the Masters and tying for eighth in the U.S. Open, in addition to two ties for 12th. Thomas held the lead at Riviera before closing with a 75 to finish second in 2019 and tied for ninth a year before.
  4. Patrick Cantlay, United States – Leads the FedEx Cup point standings after claiming his third PGA Tour victory in the Zozo Championship, finishing second in The AmEx, tying for third at Pebble Beach last week and tying for eighth in the Shriners. Cantlay tied for fourth at Riviera in 2018, tied for 15th the next year and tied for 17th last season.
  5. Xander Schauffele, United States – After finishing fifth in the U.S. Open, Schauffele has placed second in the CJ Cup, tied for fifth in the Sentry TOC and tied for second in each of his last two starts, the Farmers Insurance Open and Waste Management Phoenix Open. Tied for ninth at Riviera in 2018, tied for 15th and tied for 23rd the last two years.
  6. Rory McIlroy, Northern Ireland – Even though he hasn’t won since the 2020 WGC-HSBC Champions, McIlroy tied for fifth in the Masters, tied for eighth in the U.S. Open and hasn’t finished outside the top 25 in six events this season. He tied for fifth at Riviera last year, tied for fourth in 2019 and has placed in the top 20 in all four of his starts there.
  7. Bryson DeChambeau, United States – The reigning U.S. Open champion also tied for seventh in the Sentry Tournament of Champions and tied for eighth in the Shriners Hospitals for Children Open this season, in addition to tying for 18th in the Saudi International. DeChambeau tied for fifth and tied for 15th at Riviera the last two years,
  8. Brooks Koepka, United States – Captured the Waste Management Phoenix Open in his last start. Koepka also tied for fifth in the Houston Open and tied for seventh in the Masters after battling back and neck injuries for more than a year. Has played in the Genesis Invitational only twice, tying for 43rd last year and missing cut the year before.
  9. Collin Morikawa, United States – The reigning PGA champion tied for seventh in each of his last two starts, the Sentry Tournament of Champions and the Sony Open in Hawaii to start the new year, after also tying for 12th in the CJ Cup at Shadow Creek. Morikawa tied for 26th in his only appearance in the Genesis Invitational last season.
  10. Jordan Spieth, United States – Even though he could not earn his first victory since the 2017 Open Championship, Spieth tied for third at Pebble and tied for fourth in the Phoenix Open the last two weeks. His best result in eight starts at Riviera was a tie for fourth in 2015 and he also tied for ninth in 2018 among four finishes in the top-25.

OTHER PLAYERS TO WATCH: Tony Finau, United States; Marc Leishman, Australia; Francesco Molinari, Italy; Adam Scott, Australia; Abraham Ancer, Mexico; Adam Hadwin, Canada; Hideki Matsuyama, Japan; Keegan Bradley, United States; Kevin Na, United States; Viktor Hovland, Norway.

SLEEPERS

  1. Kyoung-Hoon Lee, South Korea – Finished T-2 behind Brooks Koepka in Phoenix Open and T-19 at Sony Open in Hawaii. Was T-13, T-25 at Riviera the last two years.
  2. Matthew NeSmith, United States – Finished T-16 at Pebble Beach after a T-7 in WM Phoenix Open, T-8 in Shriners, T-15 in RSM Classic and T-17 at Sanderson Farms.
  3. Henrik Norlander, Sweden – Opened with 64-70 at Pebble, but slipped to a T-26 with 74-73 on weekend, missing fifth T-25. But has T-2s in Farmers and at Sanderson Farms.
  4. Will Zalatoris, United StatesAfter a T-6 in the U.S. Open, also posted a T-5 in Shriners, T-7 in Farmers, T-8 at Puntacana, T-16 in Bermuda and T-17 in Phoenix.
  5. Maverick McNealy, United States – The former Stanford star was solo second at Pebble Beach and has five T-25 finishes this season. Making his debut at Riviera.

For first-round tee times, visit https://www.pgatour.com/leaderboard.html

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