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US PGA Tour 2020: Genesis Invitational Preview

The Man to Beat  Tony Finau

Damien Kayat takes a look at the US PGA Tour 2020 taking place at the Riviera Country Club, Los Angeles, California

Image Copyright – Steve Haag Sports

US PGA Tour 2020 | Genesis Invitational 
Riviera Country Club, Los Angeles, California
Thursday 13 February – Sunday 16 February

What better way to wrap up the West Coast Swing than the newly revamped Genesis Invitational. A weekend after the Academy Awards dominated the LA landscape, the world’s top golfers head to Tinseltown, with an event hosted by their biggest A-lister: Tiger Woods. Formerly known as the Northern Trust Open, this event dates all the way back to 1926. It is now an invitational event, raising it alongside events as prestigious as the Memorial and Arnold Palmer Invitational.  Riviera is a jewel of the West Coast and has been the near-continuous host of this event since 1973. It is a classical tree-lined test that is amongst the most famed courses in America.

Riviera is in many ways a time capsule, with very little renovation since its opening. The course was designed by George C Thomas Jr and hosted the 1948 US Open. It also hosted both the 1983 and 1995 US PGA Championship. It is an exacting test of golf that demands accuracy from the tee.  he Kikuyu fairways are exquisite, though the rough tends to grab balls and is extremely penal. Players not only need to pierce the tree-lined fairways, in many cases, but they will also need to be in the right part of the fairways. This is a second shot course that requires surgical iron-play. Just like Augusta, Riviera is a course that tests every aspect of your game.

Rory McIlroy has just recaptured the World Number One slot and will be looking to make a major statement this week.  Tiger Woods actually made his PGA debut here in 1992 at the age of 16, playing off of a sponsor’s exemption. Strangely enough, this is one of the few courses where he is yet to taste victory. Jon Rahm and Justin Thomas linger just behind McIlroy in the markets while Dustin Johnson needs to find some traction with that errant putter. Nine of the world’s top 10 players will be in attendance this week, making this a wonderful precursor to both the Player Championship and Masters. 

Past Winners
2019:  J.B Holmes (-14)
2018:  Bubba Watson (-12)
2017:  Dustin Johnson (-17)
2016:  Bubba Watson (-15)
2015: James Hahn (-6)*playoff

Betting Favourites (To Win)
Rory McIlroy (15/2)
Justin Thomas (9/1)
Jon Rahm (9/1)
Dustin Johnson (14/1)
Tiger Woods (18/1)

Value Bets

Sergio Garcia
To Win (50/1), To Place (11/1)
Sergio Garcia is currently tinkering with his clubs, which always makes backing a player slightly precarious. But the evergreen Spaniard has been playing some really consistent golf since tasting victory at last year’s KLM Open. His recent desert swing saw finishes of T23 in Dubai, T8 in Abu Dhabi and sixth in Saudi Arabia.  His tee-to-green game has been splendid: he finished second in shots gained approach last time out in Saudi Arabia. This is a crucial stat to success around the classical Riviera. Garcia has shown amazing consistency around this course. He has top 4 finishes in 2012 and 2015. He also finished sixth way back in 2007. Perhaps more importantly, he has seven top 25 finishes in his twelve visits here. Sergio will be looking to join fellow European veterans Graeme McDowell and Lee Westwood in this year’s winners circle.

Joaquin Niemann
To Win (90/1), To Place (19/1)
It’s easy to forget that young Chilean Joaquin Niemann is half a decade younger than the likes of Jon Rahm and Justin Thomas. He will be making his second trip to Riviera.  Last year he never really shone, though a second round 66 indicating a potential affinity for the course. Niemann won his first event at Old White TPC, which is a similar classical test to Riviera.  The youngest international PGA Tour winner since 1923, Niemann has played well this season without getting the rewards. He did complete a top five at the Tournament of Champions. I think Niemann may be a strong sleeper this week.  Strong from tee-to-green, Niemann also currently sits 64th in the World Rankings. That puts him directly on the cut line for the WGC Match-play, which should motivate him to perform well this week.

The Man to Beat

Tony Finau
To Win (28/1), To Place (6/1)
There will be many who will be rooting for the affable Tony Finau this week. He is far too good a player to still be stranded on one PGA Tour win. His recent runner-up finish at TPC Scottsdale could be viewed as yet another choke by Finau. But in my opinion, it was Webb Simpson who won that event. Finau now has three top 10 finishes in his last four starts. Finau is a fairly accurate bomber who can leave himself with lots of wedges into these greens. Finau finished runner-up at Riviera in 2018, following that up with a tie for 15th last year. Finau looks very attractive at 28/1 considering his recent runner-up finish in Phoenix.  

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