Genesis Invitational First Round Leader Picks and Predictions: Back Patrick Cantlay to Start Fast

After another close call in this article last week, where both Billy Horschel (who doubled the driveable 17th) and Justin Thomas finished within two strokes of the opening day lead. Tom Jacobs continues to go close in this article, and wants to finally nail this week's first round leader, after a collection of close calls.
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Genesis Invitational First Round Leader Picks and Predictions: Back Patrick Cantlay to start fast

Genesis Invitational First Round Leader Strategy

This is another event where both waves are in play when it comes to tee times in round 1. You have a chance of contending each day no matter what time you tee off at Riviera, such is the calm weather typically in this part of the world.

There has been a slight edge to the AM wave over the past decade, so I would always target early starters, especially on Poa greens which grow rapidly and affect the afternoon wave, but as we have seen, some later starters have overcome that. I would split your selections in favour of the early starters, but have at least one from each wave.

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Here are the last ten first-round leaders at the Genesis Invitational:

2021 - Sam Burns (11:10 am) - 64

2020 - Matt Kuchar (7:48 am) - 64

2019 - J.B. Holmes (9:24 am) - 63

2018 - Patrick Cantlay (12:02 pm) & Tony Finau (12:02 pm) - 66

2017 - Sam Saunders (8:35 am) - 64

2016 - Camilo Villegas (12:12 pm) - 63

2015 - Daniel Summerhays (8:25 am), Derek Fathauer (1:05 pm), James Hahn (8:04 am), Nick Watney (7:43 am), Retief Goosen (7:11 am) & Vijay Singh (7:11 am) - 66

2014 - Dustin Johnson (7:22 am) - 66

2013 - Matt Kuchar (7:22 am) - 64

2012 - Phil Mickelson (12:12 pm) - 66

Who In This Field Started Fastest On Tour Last Season?

Here are the 10 fastest starters in the field based on Round 1 Scoring Average in the 2020/21 PGA Tour seasonAs we get further into the season I think we can start to look into this season's Round 1 Scoring Average, but there are still too many players with limited starts to give accurate results.

  • Cameron Smith (1st overall in 2020/21 - Scoring Average 68.91) - Low Opening Round - 62 (RBC Heritage)
  • Jon Rahm (2nd overall in 2020/21 – Scoring Average 68.95) – Low Opening Round – 63 (The Northern Trust)
  • Cameron Tringale (3rd overall in 2020/21 – Scoring Average 69.23) – Low Opening Round – 66 (Shriners and Valero Texas Open)
  • Jason Kokrak (4th overall in 2020/21 - Scoring Average 69.28) - Low Opening Round - 62 (Sony Open)
  • Scottie Scheffler (T5 overall in 2020/21 – Scoring Average 69.37) – Low Opening Round – 65 (Farmers Insurance Open and FedEx St Jude)
  • Brian Harman (T5 overall in 2020/21 - Scoring Average 69.37) - Low Opening Round - 65 (Open Championship)
  • Patrick Cantlay (T7 overall in 2020/21 - Scoring Average 69.5) - Low Opening Round - 63 (Shriners Open)
  • Xander Schauffele (T7 overall in 2020/21 - Scoring Average 69.50) - Low Opening Round - 66 (CJ Cup and Phoenix Open)
  • Patrick Reed (9th overall in 2020/21 - Scoring Average 69.55) - Low Opening Round - 64 (Farmers Insurance Open)
  • Seamus Power (10th overall in 2020/21 - Scoring Average 69.59) - Low Opening Round - 65 (Barbasol and Byron Nelson)

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What Score Is Required To Lead After Round 1?

Over the past ten years here a Riviera, the average round 1 leading score has been 64.6, and I would lean to rounding that down to 64 given the quality in the field and recent renewals here. The leading round 1 score has been 64 in 4 of the last 10 renewals, and twice it has been 63. The other four times it has been 66, but I think that will be eclipsed again this week. The last three leading scores after round 1 have been 63-64-64, so I think 64 is more than a fair target.

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The Favorites

Jon Rahm +1800

Like the outright market, Jon Rahm is always going to sit atop this one as well, until his form tails off, and someone else dethrones him as World No.1 (we are looking at you Collin Morikawa!).

Rahm has played here three times and always done well, with three top-17 finishes, and a best of 5th in 2021. In those three starts however he has broken 70 just once on Thursday, opening with a 67 on debut in 2019.

The Spaniard has led or co-led 8 times after round 1, 8 times in his career and on 4 of those occasions he's held the outright lead. On a further 24 occasions, Jon Rahm has been within two of the first round lead, including last week in Phoenix.

Justin Thomas +2500

Thomas was our headline selection in this market last week, and he sat two behind after day one. That takes it to 33 times he's been within two of the lead, so far in his career, and he's led or co-led on 11 of those occasions.

He's up and down here overall at Riviera, and we never quite know what Thomas to expect in this event, but he's had some fast starts here in the past.

Thomas sat two back after an opening 68 on debut in 2015, and also opened with a 66 to sit three back in 2019, so he can start fast at Riviera, even if it hasn't been a common occurrence for him.

Taking him in this market made a lot more sense at Phoenix, and he couldn't quite do it there, so I will pass reluctantly on this occasion.

Patrick Cantlay +2500

Patrick Cantlay has failed to close out a couple of events this past fortnight, but something he is not struggling with, is putting himself in the mix.

Cantlay has not been outside the top-9 in four starts in 2022, and these are no small part down to the fast starts he is making.

He leads the Round 1 Scoring Average this season, averaging 65.00 on Thursday so far, and I think he's someone to keep in mind.

More on him later.

Rory McIlroy +3000

Rory McIlroy is well known for starting fast, and twice he has opened here with rounds of 68 or better and he will be hoping for similar this time around.

McIlroy has led or co-led 30 times in his career, dating back to 2008 and he cashed in this market four times in 2021 alone.

The Northern Irishman should have won on his last start, so he's clearly playing nicely, and he posted a second-round 63 here back in 2019, so he's capable of going low enough on this golf course to lead on Thursday.

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First Round Leader Picks

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Patrick Cantlay +2700 (FanDuel)

I love Cantlay in this market this week, and while question marks remain over his weekend performances so far in 2022, there is no denying his Thursday play.

So far in 2022, Cantlay has opened with a 66 at the Sentry, a 62 at the AMEX, a 65 in the Pebble Beach Pro-Am, and a 67 last week in Phoenix.

It is no surprise then that Cantlay leads the Tour in Round 1 Scoring Average, and he's got a stellar record at Riviera over the past four years as well.

He opened with a 66 here in 2018 to share the first-round lead with Tony Finau, and came back a year later and opened with a 68. It was another opening round of 68 in 2019 and 12 months ago it was a 67 as well, so he's comfortably breaking 70 each time he starts here.

Cantlay will need to go a couple lower than he ever has here on day one, to cash in this market, but given his current form and knack for starting fast of late, I am more than happy to chance it happens this time around.

Since 2011, Cantlay has finished within two of the lead 23 times on Thursday, and on 4 of those occasions, he has led or co-led at the end of the day. Three of those first-round leads came in California, so he clearly loves to start fast in the state he was born and educated in.

Cantlay will tee off #1 tee at 12:21 pm with Brooks Koepka and Patrick Reed.

Sahith Theegala +9000 (UniBet)

This may seem like recency bias, given his effort last week, but he's been consistently going low all season, and I suspect that could continue here.

He opened 66-64 last week, he shot a 62 in round two at the AMEX and also opened with a 65 at the Sony Open, so in 2022 he's been very good on the opening day.

Even when finishing 74th in Bermuda before the new year, he posted a second-round 66, so even on a bad week he's at least flashing in one round.

Dating back to the start of the season, he opened with a round of 64 at the Sanderson Farms, and was leading after the first three rounds there, so his single-round scoring is fairly elite, even if he doesn't keep it going for four rounds every week.

He was hugely disappointed on Sunday, but he seems the type that can put that behind him quickly, and a low round on Thursday is the best way to do so.

Theegala will tee off #10 tee at 8:08 am with Harold Varner III and J.J. Spaun.

Matt Kuchar +10000 (DraftKings)

This looks like one of those trap bets, where the stars align all too well, but I will chance there is substance to Matt Kuchar's chances of leading on Thursday.

Looking at the best round 1 scores at Riviera over the past decade, Kuchar has twice led after day one, shooting 64 both times (2013 & 2020) and given he contended here for the win in 2020, I think we can expect him to play well for one round at least.

On top of his course history, and knack for shooting low rounds here, Matt Kuchar has started fast multiple times this current season, currently sitting 9th in Round 1 Scoring Average.

Kuchar opened with a 64 at the Sony Open, in his first start since opening with a 65 at the RSM Classic. His 66 at the Shriners is further evidence of his current run of fast starts, and while he missed the cut last week, he did open with a 68 in Phoenix, so I like his chances of starting well this week.

On 58 occasions in his career, Matt Kuchar has been within two of the opening-day lead and on 13 occasions he led or co-led, so he does return bettors money in this market.

Kuchar will tee off #10 tee at 11:48 am with Corey Conners and Tom Hoge.

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Sebastian Munoz +13000 (DraftKings)

Sebastian Munoz ranked 4th in Strokes Gained Tee-to-Green last week, and we know he is more than capable of going low on the opening day - his Thursday 60 at the RSM Classic the latest evidence of that.

Munoz also shot a second-round 65 around the North Course at Torrey Pines two starts ago, and he's had multiple other sub-66 rounds on Tour this season.

At this course in particular he's finished 26th and 43rd, and he's opened with rounds of 68 and 69 respectively, so while he will need to go lower to contend in this market, we know he's likely to spike at any time on a Thursday, and his game, as evidenced last week is in good shape tee-to-green.

He's been within two of the first-round lead 23 times since 2016 and on 12 of those occasions were leads or co-leads, so he is clearly a master of starting fast.

The big discrepancy in his price (+13000 at DraftKings v +7000 at FanDuel) is a big reason for this bet, and at the lower price I wouldn't be as interested.

Munoz will tee off #1 tee at 11:48 am with Abraham Ancer and Francesco Molinari.

Wyndham Clark +13000 (DraftKings)

Fortunately I wasn't punished for leaving Clark out of these selections last week in Phoenix, as he struggled to get going on day one, but in two opening-rounds here at Riviera he's shot 67 both times, and I think he can go low on Thursday again.

Clark opened with a 65 on Poa surfaces at the AMEX, and started with a 66 at both the RSM Classic and the Houston Open earlier this season, so he's got recent form on day one.

He will need to post his lowest ever round here to cash in this market, so he may well be better suited to an each way, with another 67 likely to cash that part of the bet.

Clark will tee off #1 tee at 12:43 pm with Brandon Hagy and Brendan Steele.

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Tom Jacobs is the host of the Lost Fore Words golf podcast and has been writing betting articles on golf for the past decade. Tom also co-host the DP World Tour Picks & Bets show on the Mayo Media Network, so has his finger on the pulse on the tours on both sides of the pond. A long-suffering Nottingham Forest fan, Tom also enjoys watching Soccer at the weekend, but his main passion remains golf, and every year he holds onto the hope of Lee Westwood winning his first major championship.

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