2020 Genesis Invitational picks: The case for and against Tiger Woods

Stephen Hennessey and Christopher Powers
Golf Digest

When it comes to regular PGA Tour events, few tournaments have the masses excited this year quite like the 2020 Genesis Invitational at Riviera Country Club. It has something for everybody: A legendary course design for the architecture lovers, an elite field to bet on for the degenerates and an appearance from Tiger Woods for the casual fan. Make no mistake, Riviera is can't-miss, must-see TV material.

The field at the Genesis has been quite strong of late, but this year it's gone to a different, major-like level. Nine of the top 10 players in the world will tee it up, making it the most top-heavy PGA Tour event in more than a decade. A quick glance at the odds gets the juices flowing right away. Rory. JT. Rahm. DJ. Tiger. Cantlay. Xander. Oh, by the way, there's some guy named Brooks Koepka checking in at 20-1 odds this week (read below). So yeah, the field's OK.

And we've still yet to mention Phil Mickelson and Jordan Spieth, who are at 40-1 and 45-1, respectively. Both are coming off strong results at Pebble Beach and will look to keep the positive momentum going in Cali.

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New this week, in addition to our robust expert picks column, which includes a caddie offering insight from the range and putting green at the 2020 Genesis Invitational (the rough is a little lighter this year, according to our guy on the grounds), an expert from The Action Network and many others (see below), Golf Digest has launched a gambling podcast devoted to providing best bets for the week's tournament. This week, Stephen Hennessey, Christopher Powers and Alex Myers explained why there's probably value on Tiger Woods and Brooks Koepka; in addition to highlighting our most degenerate move of the week (it's an embarrassing one). Please have a listen.

Here are our full picks for this week's Genesis Invitational.

RELATED: 2020 Genesis Invitational tee times, viewer's guide

2020 Genesis Invitational Picks To Win (Odds from MGM Sportsbook)

Anonymous Caddie Picker of the Week: Rory McIlroy (7-1) — It's tough to go with chalk in such a stacked field. But Rory's playing so well; he's a step above even the most elite golfers in the field. Two wins and two third-place finishes in his past four starts. And he's gained putting now in his past five Shotlink-measured rounds. Another slightly above average putting week, and this could be another Rory win.

Pat Mayo, DraftKings/Fantasy National analyst: Bubba Watson (22-1) — Bubba comes in hot with consecutive top 10s, and returns to a venue he wins at every other year. He faltered on his approaches a year ago (-1 SG: APP), but outside of that blip, he’s gained in every strokes gainwwwwed metric at Riviera each of the past five years. That’s resulted in three wins and no finish worse than T-15.

Brandon Gdula, FanDuel/numberFire editor: Bubba Watson (22-1) — I never like hopping onto the bandwagon like this, and Watson has won here three times over the past six years. However, he enters with some of the best form he’s had at any Riviera event in recent years and has consecutive top-six finishes. Watson just bucks the stat trends unlike most golfers. And he has my backing.

Dr. Lou Riccio, Columbia University: Dustin Johnson (12-1) — I can see the reluctance to back Dustin Johnson at this number given his struggles on Sunday at Pebble. But those were tough conditions. And I'm even more reluctant to fade him here. My model says his 12-to-1 odds represent value, and I'm willing to rely on some course history in this case. DJ's wedge play make him the favorite in my eyes.

Jason Sobel, Action Network senior golf writer: Tiger Woods (16-1) — It’s time. Scratch that–it’s past time. Other than the four major championships, there’s often not a whole lot of motivation for Woods at regular-season events, other than to just continue racking up Ws on his ledger. This one, though, is different. The fact that he’s never won this tourney has to eat at him.

Most players refer to their hometown event as a personal “fifth major” and while Tiger has stopped short of that, it might only be to hide his internal disappointment from continually coming up short. I mean, Bubba Watson has won here three times. Phil has won twice. Hell, even James Hahn and John Merrick have won in the past decade. It’s time for Tiger to change that–and doing so with a purple shirt instead of his Sunday red would be the ultimate scenario.

Stephen Hennessey, Golf Digest associate editor: Tiger Woods (16-1) — This is more than just a narrative play. Tiger Woods' off-the-tee game his past couple of starts is as good as we can remember him hitting it. He has almost total control of his golf ball right now. That's key to winning at Riviera. We know, he's never won in 12 starts at Riv. But what better way to get the record-breaking 83rd tour win at the iconic Southern California venue where he made his tour debut at age 16? Especially now that his TGR Foundation hosts the event. This will be a fun ticket to cash.

Christopher Powers, Golf Digest assistant editor: Brooks Koepka (20-1) — I'm betting Brooksy solely based on his number here, which you're not likely to see again for a very long time. He has little course history to speak of at Riviera (MC in 2017) and hasn't played well of late (MC-WD-T34-T17 last four worldwide starts), but 20-1 for the four-time major winner is too good to pass up. The most attractive part of the bet is the motivation factor, as Koepka lost his No. 1 ranking to Rory McIlroy last week despite neither of them playing in an event. Give Koepka something to play for in an elite, major-like field, mind you, and I'll come running.

Lee Alldrick, FanShare Sports golf expert: Bubba Watson (22-1) — Watson has an awful lot going for him this week. He is a multiple winner here, loves the course and is playing very well at the minute. He ranks third in the field this week for Shots Gained Tee 2 Green over the last two months.

Results from this season: We correctly predicted seven of the first 16 winners to start the season. FanDuel's Brandon Gdula has predicted four outright victories on his own, netting +128 units this season alone (the equivalent of being up $1,280 on $10 bets), after predicting Justin Thomas' win at Kapalua. Our tour caddie, and DraftKings' Pat Mayo, also had JT as their pick to win. FanShare Sports' Lee Alldrick picked Rory McIlroy at the WGC-HSBC Champions, giving him three winning predictions early in the season. Three members of our expert panel correctly picked the favorite in the fall at the CJ Cup, Justin Thomas (8-1), so we have a lot of positive momentum. Check out everyone's records in the betting card above.

RELATED: Everything you need to know about betting on golf—legally

Sleepers/Dark Horses That Could Win at the 2020 Genesis Invitational (odds from MGM Sportsbook)

Caddie: Wyndham Clark (175-1) — Having walked the course the past couple days, the rough is down. Which means there'll be more of an advantage to length than finding the fairways. At such a high number, Wyndham Clark is worth a look. We saw him play well early at Waste Management where driving the ball is imperative, so I think there's a parallel here.

Mayo: Joaquin Niemann (90-1) — Just scan the type of players who’ve had the most success at Riviera: Elite ball strikers with distance to spare. Niemann gained over six strokes tee-to-green a year ago but dropped an incredible 4.4 strokes on the greens. Smooth that out in year two and he’s live.

Gdula: Scottie Scheffler (90-1) — I’ll be keeping my betting card pretty tight in the mid-range, but Scheffler is a huge discount because of two straight missed cuts. He ranks 15th in the field in strokes gained/tee to green, a vital stat every week—but especially at a tough test like Riviera.

Riccio: Jordan Spieth (45-1) — It feels weird to call Spieth a "longshot." And while you can still get these type of odds on Spieth, it's worth taking a shot. He had his week tee-to-green since the 2018 Byron Nelson, gaining 7.8 strokes on the field en route to a top-10 finish. He also picked up 5.2 strokes on approaches in this field. Sure, he had a couple chip-ins and short-game shots that made TV. But it was really his ball-striking gains that led to the strong finish. Those are positive vibes to take to Riviera, where he won the 2012 NCAAs as a team with Texas. Great vibes.

Sobel, Action Network: Abraham Ancer (60-1) — What, you think this is too much of a reach in such a star-studded field? Here’s some breaking news for you: In his last six worldwide starts, Ancer owns four finishes of eighth-or-better, including a T-4 at a WGC and a T-6 in a loaded Saudi Arabia field. It’s a smart move to back Ancer now, because it’s only a matter of time until the markets react appropriately to his torrid play. His breakthrough PGA Tour win is coming very, very soon.

Hennessey, Golf Digest: Francesco Molinari (125-1) — This is just a preposterous number—you kind of have to sprinkle on this value. Molinari has started the year with two missed cuts. But at the chance that the rust is gone and one of the best players of the past two years figures it out, I want to cash in on extreme value.

Powers, Golf Digest: Sergio Garcia (55-1) — There's much better odds elsewhere for Sergio, but 55-1 still ain't bad. The former Masters winner is on a sneaky good run right now, having won the KLM Open in September and backing it up with four top 10s in his last nine worldwide starts, though all four came on the European Tour. Over his last 50 rounds, per Fantasy National, he ranks 25th in this field in strokes-gained: tee-to-green and 26th in strokes-gained: approach, two stats that should play well at Riv, where he's finished in the top 13 five times in his career.

Alldrick, FanShare Sports: Collin Morikawa (45-1) — Morikawa ranks 15th in our course-suitability ranking this week due in large part to his great approach play on long par 4s. He also comes into this event with some cracking form. As per fantasynational.com he ranks third in the field this week for both Shots Gained Tee 2 Green and Opportunities Gained over the last two months.

RELATED: 2020 Genesis Invitational tee times, viewer's guide

Players to Fade This Week (who will disappoint)

Caddie: Hideki Matsuyama (25-1) — With such a strong top half of the field, I'd have trouble being confident with Hideki, based on his struggles on really undulating greens. Sure, he's one of the best ball-strikers on tour. But scrambling isn't his strong suit, which is why I don't think Riviera necessarily fits his balky short game right now.

Mayo: Tony Finau (25-1) — Finau: Elite DraftKings play. Finau: Poor outright winner bet.

Gdula: Tiger Woods (16-1) — Woods doesn’t have quite the distance of other betting favorites, and that’s a key differentiator for me this week. The iron play has been amazing, but I’d rather either stick with one of the top three (Rory, Thomas, and Rahm) or bump down to the Bubba/Xander/Hideki/Scott tier.

Riccio: Bryson DeChambeau (45-1) — Stats-wise, there's really nothing pointing to having confidence in Bryson at this price point. My model pegs him as being middle of the road in this field. Everyone else around him are better plays, according to my model.

Sobel, Action Network: Justin Rose (40-1) — In 10 career starts at Riviera, from 2004 through 2016, he posted just a single top-10 finish and a whole bunch of mediocre results. Then in 2017, he shot 65-68 on the weekend to post a T-4, easily his best finish at this tournament. Curiously, however, he proceeded to celebrate by skipping the following two editions of the event.

He’s back this year and while it’s certainly possible that a player of his magnitude can build on that result of three years ago, it’s more likely there’s a reason why he decided to scratch this one from his schedule. Fresh off a missed cut as the defending champion at Torrey Pines, I don’t necessarily hate Rose for this one, but I don’t like him nearly as much as any of his fellow top-10 peers in attendance.

Hennessey, Golf Digest: Dustin Johnson (12-1) — It's so tough to make a stand on any of the top players in this field. Maybe you could poke a hole at Jon Rahm and him ranking 49th in this field in strokes gained/around the game in the past 50 rounds. But Rahm's ball-striking has made up for any of those short-game shortcomings, I'd be reluctant to fully fade him. That's how you land on Dustin Johnson. It's difficult to stomach fading DJ at Riviera where he's had great success. But I just think Rory, JT and Rahm are safer plays than DJ ... who after coming back from Saudi Arabia really faded on Sunday at Pebble Beach (shooting 6-over on Sunday to finish T-38, making my fade in this spot last week look good). I'd rather the other guys coming in with more confidence than DJ in this spot, so this is my fade.

Powers, Golf Digest: Jason Day (33-1) — I faded J-Day last week and almost ended up looking like a fool. Well, I still look like a fool considering he finished fourth. He's obviously getting closer but I'll risk looking like a dope again this week by fading Day at 33-1. He's only played once at Riviera in the last five years and finished T-64, and that was coming off a T-5 at Pebble in 2017. His other two starts in the event? A missed cut and a T-62. Meh.

Alldrick, FanShare Sports: Rory McIlroy (7-1) — Sure, if this was just an event about getting the ball on the greens, Rory would be warranted as a heavy favorite this week. However, it will be the putting that will prevent him lifting the trophy come the end of the week. The Irishman loses 0.3 shots to this field per round when putting on fast, Poa greens. That just will not hold up this weeks against nine of the top 10 players in the world, all of whom have collective form that is super hot right now.

2020 Genesis Open: Matchups

Caddie: Brooks Koepka (+110) over Hideki Matsuyama (DraftKings) — Along with my fade of Hideki, I'll gladly take plus-odds on Koepka. Sure, this isn't a major. But the field looks like one. With the rough down, again, I think that favors the bombers; and if Koepka's off-the-tee game is somewhat consistent, he should be in contention, and his putting is superior to Hideki's.

Mayo: Bubba Watson (+100) over Tiger Woods (Bet 365) — I got Bubba winning, so even money against anyone, even Tiger, looks good to me.

Gdula: Xander Schauffele (-122) over Tony Finau (FanDuel) — Finau is hot, but so is Xander, and his off-the-tee play is off the charts. Schauffele has two straight top-15s in his first two appearances at Riviera, and when simulating out the matchup, X has some value to his name even with the odds.

Riccio: Collin Morikawa (-110) over Bryson DeChambeau (DraftKings) — This is a continuation of my fade on Bryson, and a play on Morikawa, who, based on the stats, merits these strong odds. At nearly even odds, Morikawa is worth a play for his elite iron play and strong stats on long par 4s.

Sobel, Action Network: Keegan Bradley (+105) over J.T. Poston (might have dig for this matchup) — For whatever reason, Bradley hasn’t been receiving his due respect amongst bookmakers this year. He owns top-25 finishes in four of his last six starts, but remains consistently undervalued – and that includes DFS, as well. Bradley owns a T-2 and a T-4 in nine career starts at Riv, so he should hold value against most similarly priced players.

Hennessey, Golf Digest: Rory Sabbatini (-110) over Emiliano Grillo (DraftKings) — Don't sleep on Sabb's history at Riv. He won here in 2006 and has four top 10s; most of which came at the height of his game. But he's rediscovered some of that. This is also partly a fade on Grillo's shortcomings as a putter on these undulating George Thomas greens. Give me Sabbatini's success on these greens over Grillo.

Powers, Golf Digest: Dustin Johnson (+138) over Justin Thomas (DraftKings) — You give me the No. 5 player in the world to beat ONE other guy (even if that other guy is ranked No. 4) at plus odds like this and I simply must take it. And that's before even mentioning that Dustin's record at Riviera, which includes a win in 2017, a T-9 last year and five finishes inside the top 5 since 2010.

Alldrick, FanShare Sports: Dustin Johnson (-124) over Tiger Woods (FanDuel) — DJ has six top-five finishes here, Tiger has just one. We have DJ ranked 6th in our Course Suitability Ranking and Woods 57th. DJ ranks seventh for strokes gained/putting on fast, Poa, Woods ranks 62nd.

Matchup results last week: Hennessey: 1 for 1 (Max Homa (+105) over Alex Noren); Mayo: 1 for 1 (Kevin Kisner (+100) over Russell Knox); Powers: 1 for 1 (Daniel Berger (+100) over Viktor Hovland); Sobel: 1 for 1 (Harry Higgs (-110) over Adam Long); Gdula: one push (Hovland over Kuchar); Tour Caddie: 0 for 1; Riccio: 0 for 1; Alldrick: 0 for 1.

Matchup results this season (assuming each matchup is a one-unit wager): Alldrick, FanShare Sports: 11 wins, 3 losses, 1 push (up 6.43 units); Mayo: 9 for 15 (up 3.37 units); Riccio: 8 wins, 6 losses, 2 pushes (up 1.75 units); Tour Caddie: 7 wins, 4 losses, 1 push (up 2.58 units); Sobel/Action Network: 9 for 15 (up 2.32 units); Hennessey: 3 for 5 (up 0.95 units); Powers: 2 wins, 2 losses, 1 push (up 0.15 units); Gdula: 5 for 13 and two pushes (down 2.61 units).

Top 10 (odds from FanDuel Sportsbook)

Caddie: Dylan Frittelli (+1900) — For a great ball-striker with a strong short game, these are really strong odds. Consider that Frittelli, the former standout at Texas, has good vibes around here, having hit the clinching putt at NCAAs in 2012, and finished T-18 here last year before winning John Deere. I think sportsbooks aren't accounting for those intangibles, providing significant value here.

Mayo: Jon Rahm (+125) — Rahm generated a T-9 in his debut at Riviera a year ago, and comes to LA with three wins and just a pair of finishes outside the top 10 since last year’s US Open — A span of 16 events. Anytime you get Rahm in California pencilling in a top 10 is just a given at this point.

Gdula: Carlos Ortiz (+1100) — Ortiz has promising poa putting splits over 51 measured rounds, via Fantasy National, and he has finished 20th, 26th, and 9th at Riviera in three tries. He’s golfing his best ever, and for the price, I like the top-10 bet.

Riccio: Jordan Spieth (+380) — Spieth is clearly starting to figure out his full swing, evidenced by his elite stats last week at Pebble (see my longshot picks to win). The top-10 bet is equally attractive for those reasons.

Sobel, Action Network: Dylan Frittelli (+1900) — There will be plenty of talk this week – as there is every year – about Jordan Spieth’s return to Riviera, where in 2012 he dusted Justin Thomas in the team competition to help Texas to a national title over Alabama.

Without as much fanfare, Frittelli will also return, having holed a 30-foot birdie putt on the final hole that year to clinch it for the Longhorns. He finished a solid T-28 in his Genesis debut last year – a pair of 68 bookending a pair of 72s – and returning now as a PGA Tour champion, we should expect even bigger things this time around.

Hennessey, Golf Digest: J.T. Poston (+900) — I gave out a CH3 top-10 bet (+850, FanDuel) on the podcast. I like this one even more. J.T. Poston has quietly become an elite player who might be underpriced. He's ranked 27th in this field in strokes gained/overall over the past 50 rounds. That tells me his odds should be much lower than that 9-to-1 number, and I'm willing to give it a try.

Powers, Golf Digest: Kevin Na (+650) — Na's record at Riv isn't Dustin-like, but it's still pretty darn good (three top 4s since 2011). If Na can keep it in the fairway and plod his way around, his putter should at least have him knocking on the backdoor on Sunday. On Poa greens, Na ranks second only to Cameron Smith in this field in strokes-gained/putting.

Alldrick, FanShare Sports: Jordan Spieth (+380) — Spieth ranks fifth in FanShare's course-suitability ranking this week, largely due to his superior play on long courses and courses with fast, Poa greens. He comes into this event off of his third top-10 finish in his past nine events, so forget the narrative that he's struggling and take the nearly 4-to-1 odds here.

Top 10 results last week: Mayo: 1 for 1 (Jason Day (+240); Everyone else: 0 for 1.

Top-10 results for the year (assuming a one-unit wager): Mayo: 3 for 15 (up 6.5 units); Sobel/Action Network: 3 for 15 (up 4.3 units); Alldrick/FanShare: 3 for 16 (up 2.9 units); Gdula 2 for 16 (down 5.7 units); Powers: 1 for 5 (down 2.35 units); Riccio: 1 for 16 (down 12.5 units); Hennessey: 0 for 5 (down 5 units); Tour Caddie: 0 for 14 (down 14 units)

RELATED: 2020 Genesis Invitational tee times, viewer's guide

About our experts

Dr. Lou Riccio, a PhD senior lecturer, teaches rational decision making at Columbia's Graduate School of Business and has served on the USGA's handicap research team for three decades. His predictive analysis and modeling helps him make expert picks for our column.

Pat Mayo is an award-winning video host and producer of long and short-form content, and the host of The Pat Mayo Experience daily talk show. (Subscribe for video or audio). Mayo (@ThePME) won the 2020 Fantasy Sports Writing Association Daily Fantasy Writer of the Year and Golf Writer of the Year awards, along with the Fantasy Sports Trade Association Best Sports Betting Analyst award, and was finalist for four FSWA Awards in 2020 (Best Podcast, Best Video, Daily Fantasy Writer of the Year, Golf Writer of the Year). His 21 FSWA nominations lead all writers this decade and are third-most all-time. Mayo is on the board of governors at www.fantasynational.com.

Brandon Gdula, a senior editor and analyst for NumberFire, a FanDuel daily-fantasy analysis company, recently won the 2018 fantasy sports-writers association Golf Writer of the Year (congrats, Brandon!). Gdula also co-hosts the DFS Heat Check podcast.

Jason Sobel is a senior writer for The Action Network. For more analysis from The Action Network, click here.

Lee Alldrick of FanShare Sports started out writing an article highlighting the best bargain plays for fantasy golf under his twitter handle @DKGolfBargains. His success at this prompted FanShare Sports to enlist him as a guest writer, which evolved into him writing the weekly Under The Radar article. As a U.K.-based expert, Alldrick’s insight into European Tour regulars and low priced, low owned plays has provided an invaluable edge for readers when it comes to DFS GPPs.

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Originally Appeared on Golf Digest

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