The Genesis Invitational at Riviera Country Club continues an exciting stretch for PGA Tour fans. After this week, we have the Honda, Bay Hill, and the Players—all big-time tournaments with stacked fields.
This week at the Genesis, we’ll see the top 11 players in the world take on Riviera Country Club, a historic course that rewards only those whose games are sharp. You can’t luck your way around Riv. The scores are never super low here, and missing greens creates problems. The players who succeed are often in the “Adam Scott” mold of elite ball-strikers. Pay particular attention to those who stick their long- and mid-iron approach shots.
Here are a few players who fit that description:
Collin Morikawa $10,400
Morikawa leads the field in overall approach play and specifically from 150 to 200 yards, which has increased importance this week. He is simply the best ball-striker on the PGA Tour, and that should lead to success at the Genesis Invitational. On the surface, Morikawa appears to have struggled at Riviera, finishing 26th and 43rd two career starts. But if we dig deeper, we see that he putted terribly in those appearances but gained 14 total strokes on approach and gained strokes off the tee both times. If he strikes the ball that well and manages to putt just average, he will have a chance this week. Morikawa has four victories in his past 31 PGA Tour starts including one WGC and two majors (one of which came at Harding Park, which, like Riv, has poa annua greens).
Bubba Watson $8,500
Watson, a three-time champion here, comes into this week in great form. He finished runner-up in Saudi Arabia and 14th at the WM Phoenix Open last week. While his iron game is just slightly above average overall, he is fifth in the field from 150 to 200 yards. The main thing that holds Bubba back is his putting, where he ranks well below average. However, on poa annua greens, he suddenly becomes an above-average putter. Riviera is a demanding course that requires players to move the ball both directions off the tee and on approach. Add all of this together, and you see why Bubba has had success at the Genesis.
Paul Casey $7,600
Casey, No. 27 in the world, is an elite iron player who has had consistent results over the past year and at Riv for his entire career. He has made his last seven cuts at this event, including a runner-up finish in 2015. He gained strokes ball-striking (approach plus off the tee) in all seven of those starts. Over the past 18 months, Casey has missed only three cuts. He ranks second in the field on approach and second from 150-200 yards. So you’re probably wondering the same thing I am: why is he just $7,600?