Genesis Invitational: Seven players to watch

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This week’s field for the Genesis Invitational is arguably the strongest thus far in 2021, with 12 of the OWGR top 15 playing at Riviera Country Club. World No. 1 Dustin Johnson (11/2) is a former champion at Riviera (2017) in L.A. and a two-time runner up to go along with nine top-10s and six top-fives over his past 12 appearances here. World No. 2 Jon Rahm (12/1) has a top 10 here two years ago. Rory McIlroy has finished in the top five here in back-to-back years and is priced at 14/1 — along with 2019 Genesis runner-up Justin Thomas, Patrick Cantlay and Xander Schauffele. Bryson DeChambeau (16/1) garnered a top-five finish here last year.

Here are some players who could pay off in Pacific Palisades this weekend.

Jon Rahm (12/1): Has done nothing wrong of late except not get into the winner’s circle. His T-13 in Phoenix broke a four-event streak of finishing seventh or better. Perhaps he has needed a few events to get used to his offseason equipment changes as he signed a major endorsement deal with Callaway over the winter.

Over his past 50 rounds, no one has been better than Rahm in terms of SG: Tee-To-Green. He also ranks second in this field for SG: Ball Striking(Off The Tee + Approach). The fairways are difficult to hit here (53 percent driving accuracy average at Riviera vs. 61 percent tour average), so power can prove an advantage. Rahm finished T-7 at Torrey Pines on these Poa Annua greens. Riviera is arguably the toughest course on tour to make putts under 5 feet and Rahm is the second best on tour from that distance.

Patrick Cantlay (14/1): Was a bit slow to get going last summer on the restart but gradually got better toward the end of 2020, which included a victory in the Zozo Championship at Sherwood, where he held off Thomas and Rahm. He has also gone second (American Express) and T-3 (Pebble Beach) in his past two events. Cantlay has logged a lot of rounds at Riviera dating back to both his amateur and collegiate career (UCLA). Cantlay’s short game has been on point and Cantlay’s has been of late as he is tops in this week’s field for SG: Around The Green.

Patrick Cantlay
Patrick Cantlay
EPA

Tony Finau (25/1): Comes in with recent form of 2-2-4. He continues his streak without a win, but has played well here in the past with a runner-up in 2018. Finau ranks 10th in SG: Tee-To-Green and 7th in SG: Total.

Marc Leishman (50/1): Has finished top-five in two of his past five visits to Riviera. He also finished fourth at the Sony and 18th two weeks ago at Torrey Pines, which has been an indicator of success at Riviera over the years. Aussies are used to playing on courses with kikuyu grass, and they have had success here with Adam Scott and Aaron Baddeley both earning titles at Riviera.

Jason Kokrak (80/1): Was the runner-up here in 2016 and has added two subsequent top-25s at Riviera. Always good at gaining off the tee, Kokrak is currently T-16 for SG: Putting and is sixth in the category when you examine just the past 50 tour rounds.

Cameron Smith (100/1): Riviera has had plenty of correlations with Augusta National in terms of winners on both courses. Though not a winner, Smith did finish T-2 last fall at the Masters. He also has a sixth here in 2018. Smith is another Aussie who does not exactly come in with great recent form, but this should be a good course for him.

J.T. Poston (125/1): Enters with two solid finishes of T-18 at Torrey Pines and T-11 at Phoenix. He ranks ninth in SG: Putting and led the field three weeks ago for the category in San Diego.

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