GOLF analyst Lewis Blain (@LewisBlainSport) shares his betting thoughts ahead of the Genesis Invitational.
Genesis Invitational | 18th-21st February 2021 | Sky Sports
The PGA Tour's ‘west coast swing' draws to a conclusion this week as a star-studded field takes centre stage for the Genesis Invitational at Riviera Country Club.
It's a classical par-71 course stretching over 7,300 yards and features plenty of doglegs, tight tree-lined fairways and tricky Poa Annua greens which often have run-offs surrounding.
Course form often counts for a lot here, and the perfect combination of elite ball-striking, superb scrambling and red-hot putting sees the cream rise to the crop.
An interesting debate arose on Twitter earlier this week as a trend as emerged for fields of this quality – rarely are we seeing an outsider win the event, so that's something to remember albeit with an open mind.
We've also seen winners here correlate such illustrious form across to Augusta (Masters), TPC River Highlands (Travelers), Torrey Pines South (Farmers), Memorial Park (Houston), Firestone (WGC) and a few more.
There was no preview last week as Dustin Johnson's withdrawal decimated a lot of value and as such, I couldn't tip up Daniel Berger, who went on to win the whole damn event – followers on Twitter will have seen my frustrations.
Of those that I did pick out for selection, it was a similar tale of missing place money by one or two shots. Again, this has been a frustrating trend for us in the past few weeks, but surely it means we're bubbling on the surface and something is surely coming our way soon.
Anyway, into my staking plan for the Genesis. It's fairly top-heavy, but I will be shocked if someone outside the first 20 to 30 wins this event this week.
We'll begin with Patrick Cantlay (18/1 Ladbrokes)
at the front of the betting, who very nearly won at the weekend. His form is mightily impressive right now having won the Zozo only five starts ago and since the Shrines (seven starts back), he's only finished outside the top 17 once.
For rolling form over the last six events, Cantlay is 10th for SG:T2G, 7th for par-4 scoring, 5th for scrambling and 2nd for bogey avoidance. His iron play has been back at its best too, gaining strokes in his last two events – in fact, he outperformed Berger with his irons at Pebble.
There is some added motivation for the world no.8 this year too as he's currently not qualified for either the Olympics or USA's Ryder Cup squad, so he'll perhaps need to win one of these early events to throw himself into the reckoning without having faith in a captain's pick.
The 28-year-old is a phenomenal all-round player and not only has decent form here (6th/15th/17th) but has played it loads of times having attended the nearby UCLA.
All three of his PGA Tour wins have come in this sort of bracket in pricing as well as at events as competitive as this one, so I feel it's only right to jump aboard him at the front of the market.
He just gets the nod over Bryson DeChambeau whilst DJ's 6/1 is unbackable for me, but he'll be in the running come Sunday, that's for sure.
I'm going to make a case for Tony Finau (25/1 SkyBet)
to finally clinch a long-awaited second win on the PGA Tour. Some will argue that here's no value for him here, particularly as he's ahead of USPGA champion Collin Morikawa (30/1), last week's victor Berger (30/1) and a couple of former winners here but alas I think he makes for great appeal.
‘Tony can't Finau', or ‘top-five Tony', as I like to call him, must wonder what it'll take for him to get over the line on a Sunday. Once again, he was in the running in his last two outings – a runner-up to Patrick Reed at Torrey and a 4th behind Si Woo Kim at the AmEx. At the former, a 74 on Saturday curtailed his chances whereas nothing was stopping the remarkable South Korean.
He was runner-up to Bubba Watson here in 2018, so clearly, it's a venue he can perform at. In terms of putting on Poa, he ranks fifth overall in this field, which is only behind some big names like DJ, Rory and the aforementioned lefty.
Finau is also one of the best damn ball-strikers in this game, and Riviera is set-up perfectly for him as he ranks fourth (over last six events) for proximity from 150-175 yards and 200+ yards, which is where the majority of his approaches will be from.
He's also fourth for par-4 performance in the same timeframe. And when stretching out to the last 12.5 tournaments alone, he's seventh in this field overall from a statistical standpoint which should put him among the shots 18/1 and below.
I hate to do it, and I'm prepared for a typical fourth place, but at least we'll be getting our money back minimum. He's often a risk-free, albeit frustrating, gamble.
I've thrown an auto-bet on Bubba Watson (45/1 William Hill)
as he's a three-time winner of this event and is usually found delivering around here regardless of current form.
His ball-striking is in a pretty good spot right now, only failing to gain strokes in his only missed cut this year at the Farmers, whilst we know he has a solid short-game (6th for scrambling in last 6 events) and putting on Poa greens (3rd overall in this field).
He's won twice at Augusta and also three times at River Highlands, which only reinforces the view that he rises at the same venues each year – coincidentally, he often turns up in Ryder Cup years too – and given he's bubbling along a bit under the radar, we simply cannot avoid these odds.
The stars could well be aligning for another Bubba win at Riviera.
I never get him right, but I will take a punt on Marc Leishman (60/1 SkyBet)
as he has all the attributes to win an event of this nature. His recent form overall and on correlated courses is somewhat encouraging – 13th at the Masters, 18th at Torrey (the venue he won at in 2020).
After a tough end to the year, Leishman has been on point with his irons, gaining strokes in three straight events, whilst he ranks fourth in this field for scrambling over the past six events. All in all, that could combine as a recipe for success.
The Aussie has also had a fourth and fifth here at Riviera in the past, which hints towards a Bubba-like trend.
Recent Houston Open winner Carlos Ortiz (70/1 William Hill)
also makes the list in a toss-up between him, Max Homa and Matthew Wolff. The former is in great nick lately, though I fear in the lack of value in this sort of field, while I think Wolff's around-the-green game opens up the potential for trouble here. Instead, the Mexican could build on his impressive form.
He has continued to deliver despite the awe of picking up his maiden PGA Tour title at Memorial Park, where he saw off both DJ and Hideki Matsuyama. That's no mean feat – and you could forgive him if his form tailed off after such a grind. But it hasn't.
Last time out at the WMPO, he finished fourth just two shots behind winner Koepka whilst he still finished inside the top-30 at Torrey Pines even being off his usually strong ironplay.
Ortiz's form over the years here is also solid, and perhaps he is another like Bubba who regularly performs well at the same tracks. He's gone 20th (2015), 26th (2016), 9th (2019) and 26th (2020), so there's a good chance he'll give us a run for our money at these odds and his win at Houston only shows he can mix it – and beat – the big guns.
I won't tip up any longshots as ‘official' bets from me this week, but you're welcome to follow me in on some dart-throws, which include Matthew NeSmith (150/1) and Cameron Champ (170/1).
Genesis Invitational – Patrick Cantlay (18/1 each-way Ladbrokes)
Genesis Invitational – Tony Finau (25/1 each-way SkyBet)
Genesis Invitational – Bubba Watson (45/1 each-way William Hill)
Genesis Invitational – Marc Leishman (60/1 each-way SkyBet)
Genesis Invitational – Carlos Ortiz (70/1 each-way William Hill)