The Genesis Invitational at Riviera Country Club kicks off an exciting stretch for PGA Tour fans. After this week, we have a WGC, Bay Hill, The Players, and the Honda—all big-time tournaments with stacked fields.
This week at the Genesis, we’ll see Dustin Johnson, Rory McIlroy, Justin Thomas, Jon Rahm, Bryson DeChambeau, Brooks Koepka, Xander Schauffele, Patrick Cantlay, and others take on Riviera, a historic course that rewards only those whose games are sharp. You can’t luck your way around Riv. In predicting who might play well this week, focus on long- and mid-iron approach shots, around-the-green game, and driving distance.
Here are a few players who fit that description:
Xander Schauffele $9,900
Schauffele is one of the most consistent players in the world, having finished 25th or better in all of his past 15 starts (and 24 of 26 starts if you want to go back even further). He has played at Riviera three times, placing 23rd, 15th, and ninth. Lately, Schauffele has had some close calls, with runner-ups at the Farmers and the Waste Management. In this week’s field, he ranks third in putting, fourth in birdies, eighth around the green, and 10th off the tee.
Doug Ghim $6,900
Ghim returns to the launching pad of his golf career this week. At the 2017 U.S. Amateur, he finished made it to the championship match at Riviera before falling to Doc Redman in a thriller. Not surprisingly, Ghim’s game fits this course perfectly. He is top 30 in mid-iron proximity, long-iron proximity, birdies, and around-the-green play. In all other metrics, he is at or above field average, which makes him consistent. He has made seven of his past eight cuts on the PGA Tour, including finishes of 21st (Pebble), 37th (Farmers), and fifth (Amex) in his past three starts.
If you don’t plan on using DJ for any of the majors this year, this is probably the week to trot him out. He has finished 10th or better in nine of the past 12 years at the Genesis Invitational, and he arrives at Riviera firing on all cylinders. In spite of a lackluster putting performance, he won two weeks ago in Saudi Arabia because his long game was so dialed in. If he brings that level of ball-striking this week, expect him to contend. Johnson has finished third or better in seven of his past nine worldwide starts, and he is the No. 1 ranked player in my model at Riviera: first in birdies, third on approach, sixth in driving distance, ninth off the tee, and 28th around the green.
Cantlay is due for a win. He could have won the American Express last month if not for Si Woo Kim’s incredible play down the stretch. Last week at Pebble Beach, he finished third after lingering near the top of the leaderboard all four days. In those two events, Cantlay gained 1.6 strokes per round on approach. Continued excellence with his irons could give him a shot at the title this week. A UCLA grad, he’s comfortable at Riviera, and he has finished 17th, 15th, and fourth in his past three appearances at the Genesis.