Genesis Invitational 3-Ball Picks and Predictions: Who Should You Be Backing to Start Hot?

Genesis Invitational Round 1 matchups, 3-Ball picks and analysis from Andy Lack. Find out who to target in the matchup markets this Thursday. The PGA Tour returns to Scottsdale and Andy is here to kick off the tournament with some early winners.
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Genesis Invitational 3-Ball Picks and Predictions: Who Should You Be Backing to Start Hot?

We have officially reached the meat and potatoes of the PGA Tour schedule, and this week's festivities will provide for a nice litmus test for the world's best players with the Masters right around the corner. I am, of course, talking about the Genesis Invitational, which will be held at the iconic Riviera Country Club in Pacific Palisades, California. Every single one of the world's top 10 players will be in attendance this week. This largely has to do with the fact that this tournament is now put on by the Tiger Woods Foundation, and also the fact that Riviera is one of the finest golf courses in the world. Everyone from Rory McIlroy to Adam Scott to Patrick Cantlay have called the George Thomas Golden Age design one of the best courses on the PGA Tour schedule.

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My theory on what makes Riviera so great is simple. It's a complete test of golf in its purest form. So often do we travel to courses that favor one specific skillset, whether that be driving distance, wedge play, or the ability to catch fire with the flat-stick. Riviera tests every part of a player's game. The best off the tee players will struggle to hit fairways. The best iron players will struggle to hit greens. The best short game players will struggle to get up and down on these challenging green complexes out of the troublesome Kikuyu rough. The best putters will also be challenged on these firm and fast Poa greens. Riviera doesn't necessarily favor a draw or a fade. It's not a course that you can bomb and gauge, but driving accuracy specialists don't possess a distinct advantage here either. There are many different roadmaps to success at Riviera, but not one in particular that has been predictive over a large sample sample size. For this reason, I will be primarily targeting players with a well-rounded skill-set, solid course history, and solid in-coming form.

Let's dig into my Round 1 3-ball selections.

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Round 1 3-Ball: Kevin Na (+140) vs. Joel Dahmen (+205) vs. Matt Jones (+205)

Selection: Kevin Na (+140) (Bet $100 to Win $140)

I often tend to lean underdogs in these Round 1 3-Balls on the basis that 18 holes of golf is extremely variable, and we often find value in taking players at longer numbers. With that being said, Kevin Na is one of my favorite plays on the board this week, and I am looking to gain all the exposure to him I can find this week.

The reason I am so high in Kevin Na is two-fold. Firstly, I am all in on short game this week as an important stat to look at, and Na is the number one player in this field in strokes gained around the green over his last 36 rounds. Riviera also features some of the deepest bunkers on the PGA Tour, and Na is the fifth best player in this field in sand save percentage. Secondly, Na is starting to show some form from a ball-striking perspective as well. In both of his starts this year, the four-time PGA Tour winner has gained over 2.5 strokes on approach, including 5.4 at the Sony Open. He possesses a far superior short game to his opponents, and he is currently striking it better than them as well.

I have no strong opinion on either Joel Dahmen or Matt Jones. Both Dahmen and Jones have played well at Riviera before, but there's a little smoke and mirrors to that as well. Dahmen has one fifth-place finish and three missed cuts, and the only reason he was able to finish so highly that year is because he caught absolute fire with the flat-stick. While Dahmen's antics in Phoenix were certainly entertaining, his ball-striking took a major hit.

Matt Jones is in a similar boat. In his two top-15 finishes at Riviera, he has gained a combined 14.3 strokes putting. Outside of two spike putting weeks, he has never hit the ball well here, which has resulted in two missed cuts, a 59th, and a 70th. Contrarily, Kevin Na's success at Riviera hasn't been limited to putting, as he has had some great iron weeks here as well. This certainly makes sense, as 27% of Riviera's approach shot's come from 150-175 yards, and Na ranks third in this entire field in proximity from 150-175 over a large sample size. This is an easy one.

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Round 1 3-Ball: Rory McIlroy (+175) vs. Hideki Matsuyama (+180) vs. Viktor Hovland (+185)

Selection: Rory McIlroy (+175) (Best $100 to Win $175)

I often tend to find more value in betting the 3-balls featuring lesser-known players, but I am always excited to include a 3-ball from a featured group when I feel like I have an edge. Let's start with Hideki Matsuyama, who has become an extremely difficult player to fade over the last couple of months. With that being said, one thing I've noticed with Matsuyama is that he tends to follow up spike putting with very poor putting weeks. Matsuyama has gained strokes putting nine times in the last calendar year. In his following start, he has lost an average of 2.7 strokes putting in his following start. It's hard to differentiate between the elite players at the top this week, but I feel comfortable continuing to ride that angle as it has paid off over a year long sample size.

Hovland is another one of the hottest players on the PGA Tour right now, but he finally cooled down with a missed cut last week in Phoenix where he lost strokes off the tee and on approach for the first time since the PGA Championship in 2020. While I have no reason to believe that Hovland can't bounce back, I have serious concerns about his short game at this course. In a 120 man field, Hovland ranks 117th in strokes gained around the green and sand saves. I understand he played well at Riviera in his one appearance, but it took a ceiling ball-striking performance out of the young Norwegian to mask his struggles on and around the greens. I'd rather turn my attention to more well-rounded players, as Riviera has a tendency to expose a player's glaring weakness.

This brings us to Rory McIlroy, who I expect to get off to a hot start this week at a course he is on the record about loving, and his results back that up. We haven't seen McIlroy on the PGA Tour since he won the CJ Cup, but since then, he has contended twice on the European and simply struggled to close the door on Sunday. When all three of these players are at their best, I still give the edge to McIlroy, and I currently trust all aspects of his game more than his playing partners.

Round 1 3-Ball: Abraham Ancer (+150) vs. Sebastian Munoz (+190) vs. Francesco Molinari (+200)

Selection: Sebastian Munoz (+190) (Bet $100 to Win $190)

Sebastian Munoz has become a popular selection in the first round leader market, and for good reason. The former Sanderson Farms winner is prone to making birdies in bunches, and he ranked inside the top 30 last season in round 1 scoring average. Yet what's most appealing to me about Munoz is his incoming form. The streaky Colombian gained a whopping 7.3 strokes ball-striking last week in Phoenix, and he would have been a real factor in that tournament had he not lost 3.8 strokes putting. I expect him to carry over the ball-striking form and come out of the gates firing in Los Angeles.

As far as his competitors, I very much understand the case for Francesco Molinari. Yes, I am aware that he is a member at Riviera. I'm simply not at a place where I'm willing to look past his recent play because he plays this course often. Something I really noticed about Riviera is that it does not matter if you have played well here in the past. If you are not in good form, this course will expose you. Bubba Watson has won three times here. He's also missed his last two cuts here. Rory McIlroy and Justin Thomas, who both possess excellent course history, showed up in poor form last year and missed the cut badly. Even Dustin Johnson's had a few stinkers here as well. I'm more comfortable trusting an in-form Munoz.

Abraham Ancer presents a somewhat different dilemma. He is certainly the best player of this trio, but he has failed to finish inside the top-40 in four appearances here. Ancer has mostly been plagued by a horrific short game, losing over two strokes around the green in all four appearances here. Unfortunately, his short game hasn't gotten much better since his last visit to Riviera, and he is actually coming off a week in Phoenix where he lost three strokes around the green, the ninth time he's lost strokes around the green in his last ten starts. I'll gladly take my chances on Thursday with Munoz.

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Andy Lack is a PGA Tour writer and podcaster from Manhattan, New York. Andy came to OddsChecker in January 2022 after previously writing for Golf Digest, GolfWRX, Rotoballer, and the Score. Andy is also the host of a golf betting and daily fantasy podcast, Inside Golf Podcast, as well as "The Scramble” with Rick Gehman, and a recurring guest on the Pat Mayo Experience. In his free time, Andy is still grinding away at his lifelong dream of qualifying for the U.S. Amateur, and if not writing, can likely be found somewhere on a golf course.

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