Power Rankings: Genesis Invitational

Dustin Johnson, Justin Thomas, Rory McIlroy
Dustin Johnson, Justin Thomas, and Rory McIlroy walk off the 15th hole at TPC Sawgrass during the 2018 PLAYERS Championship. Credit: Getty Images

The post-football lull was short-lived this year, as the PGA Tour stepped up the excitement with a thrilling AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am last week, where a final-hole eagle made Daniel Berger victorious over a talent-packed leaderboard at arguably the world’s most beautiful golf course.

This week could be even better, as the Genesis Invitational – an historically-significant which has been played since 1926, takes center stage at Riviera Country Club, just outside of Los Angeles.

Tiger Woods is hosting the event, with eight of the top 10 in the current Official World Golf Rankings in attendance. They will be attempting to pass the high bar set in last year’s event where Adam Scott defied his advanced age (seriously, how the heck is that guy 40 now?) for his 14th career PGA Tour win. Scott will be back, as will world No. 1 Dustin Johnson, and several others who are coming off hot recent performances.

There are several dozen players we could legitimately see taking this event, but here are the 20 we like just a little more:

1. Dustin Johnson

Dustin Johnson Wins FedExCup Tour Championship
Dustin Johnson reacts after making birdie at the 13th hole during the final round of the TOUR Championship at East Lake Golf Club on Sep 7, 2020 in Atlanta, GA. (Photo by Ben Jared/PGA TOUR via Getty Images)

Coming off a European Tour victory in Saudi Arabia, the World No. 1 was a late WD from last week’s AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am. According to his management team, the world No. 1 decided to enjoy a week of rest at home before heading to Los Angeles, followed by the World Golf Championships event next week on Florida’s Gulf Coast.

The reigning Master Champion, and Tour MVP, was in contention at Riviera a year ago, before back-nine struggles dropped him from T6 to T10. He was the 2017 champion by five strokes, and despite his recent starts in this event being shockingly volatile round by round, he has been too amazing in this tournament, and in general, to overthink him. He is the safest bet in the field to contend.

World Rank: 1st
Odds to Win: 6-1
Odds Top 5: Even
Odds Top 10: 1-2
Last Six: 1, 11, 1, 2, 6, 3

2. Patrick Cantlay

Patrick Cantlay Wins 2020 ZOZO Championship at Sherwood
Patrick Cantlay walks off the eighth hole green after making a par putt during the final round of the ZOZO CHAMPIONSHIP @ SHERWOOD at Sherwood Country Club on October 25, 2020 in Thousand Oaks, California. (Photo by Keyur Khamar/PGA TOUR via Getty Images)

The current FedExCup points leader has been playing some of his best golf as of late. Cantlay won the ZOZO Championship in late October, shot a second-round 66 at The Masters (finished T17), closed with a final-round 61 at the American Express last month (finishing solo-second), and at last week’s AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am, he rode an opening 62 to a T3 finish.

The UCLA product has been unreal tee-to-green this year and has 20(!) birdies over his last six rounds. It seems unlikely that he runs out of steam this week, as he has finished T17 or better in each of his last four starts in this event, including a T4 in 2018. The Long Beach native is the epitome of “dialed in” right now.

World Rank: 8th
Odds to Win: 16-1
Odds Top 5: 4-1
Odds Top 10: 2-1
Last Six: 3, 2, 13, 17, 1, 38

3. Brooks Koepka

Brooks Koepka WGC-FedEx St. Jude Invitational at TPC Southwind
Brooks Koepka walks up the first fairway with caddie, Ricky Elliott, during the final round of the WGC-FedEx St Jude Invitational at TPC Southwind on Aug 2, 2020 in Memphis, Tennessee. Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images

After his name briefly fell from the lips of those discussing the elites, Brooks bounced back in a big way two weeks ago, pulling off spectacular clutch shots down the stretch, to overcome a final-round five-stroke deficit to two 20-somethings with 15 career combined victories, to triumph at the Waste Management Phoenix Open, his first PGA Tour victory since July of 2019.

Perhaps even more impressively was that Koepka won coming off of three consecutive missed cuts. He claimed to have been in “a dark place” during his struggles amid knee injury recovery, but the man who runs on confidence should now have that in his rear view mirror.

Yes, the Genesis Invitational is not a major, but now that Koepka has as many non-major wins (4) as major wins, perhaps the narrative that he only cares about the biggest events can be put to rest.

World Rank: 12th
Odds to Win: 25-1
Odds Top 5: 6-1
Odds Top 10: 2-1
Last Six: 1, MC, MC, MC, 7, 5

4. Daniel Berger

Daniel Berger Wins Pebble Beach Pro-Am
Daniel Berger celebrates his eagle putt to win on the 18th green during the final round of the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am at Pebble Beach Golf Links on February 14, 2021 in Pebble Beach, CA. (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)

In his post-tournament interview after prevailing in dramatic fashion (two Sunday eagles) at last week’s AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am, the fourth win of his career, Berger twice referred to something he did as “the best of his life.”

Is it fair to expect Berger to contend the week after such an emotional tournament? For many, no, but Berger has recently shown the ability to stay on a heater. When he won last June’s Charles Schwab Challenge, he immediately followed up with a T3 at the RBC Heritage (63-65 weekend), and at one point last season he had four straight top-5s as part of a span where he was 13th or better in 8 of 9 events.

If you were prescient enough to bet on him at Pebble, it would not be reckless to leave the money on the table and let it ride.

World Rank: 13th
Odds to Win: 30-1
Odds Top 5: 6-1
Odds Top 10: 3-1
Last Six: 1, MC, 7, 10, 23, 17

5. Justin Thomas

Justin Thomas Tiger Woods 2020 U.S. Open Practice at Winged Foot U.S. Open Winged Foot
Justin Thomas plays a tee shot as Tiger Woods looks on during a practice round prior to the 120th U.S. Open Championship on September 15, 2020 at Winged Foot Golf Club in Mamaroneck, New York. (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)

In 2021, Justin Thomas has been doing what Justin Thomas does: gets on leaderboards. In seven starts in his season, the world No. 3 has yet to finish worse than 13th, as his four top-10s include a runner-up, a solo-third, and a solo-fourth. This comes off the heels of a 2020 season where the 27-year-old won three times, with two runner-ups among 10 top 10s in 18 starts.

His history at Riviera has been checkered. He has had some tremendous rounds in LA, but missed the cut last year, and in 2019, he squandered a four-stroke Sunday lead, shooting a 4-over 75, and being overtaken (at a snail’s pace) by J.B. Holmes.

Thomas was also surprisingly a no-show in the final round of his most recent start, the Waste Management Phoenix Open, where he got into contention with middle rounds of 65-64 before closing with a 72 and dropping from T5 to T13, and that was with a hole-out eagle on the par-4 17th.

World Rank: 3rd
Odds to Win: 14-1
Odds Top 5: 3-1
Odds Top 10: Even
Last Six: 13, MC, 3, 12, 4, 2

6. Bryson DeChambeau

Bryson DeChambeau Wins 2020 U.S. Open at Winged Foot
Bryson DeChambeau of the United States lines up a putt on the seventh hole during the final round of the 120th U.S. Open Championship on September 19, 2020 at Winged Foot Golf Club in Mamaroneck, New York. (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)

The luster has come off the DeChambeau train since his six-stroke beatdown at the U.S. Open in September, and the discussion of whether he is ruining the game with his otherworldly distance has died down considerably, as he has dropped from 5th to 10th in the world after four consecutive less dominating performances (a T34 at The Masters, and T7, T8, T18 in his other three starts).

That does not mean he should be forgotten, though. The 27-year-old (wow, how many stud 27-year-olds are there on Tour right now?) has already won nine times, and has shown the ability to get hot and stay hot.

With recent winners at Riviera including J.B. Holmes, Bubba Watson, Adam Scott, and Dustin Johnson, it would be wise to conclude that distance is an advantage here. DeChambeau has finished T5, T15 the last two years, respectively, with all eight rounds in the 68-71 range.

World Rank: 10th
Odds to Win: 17-1
Odds Top 5: 4-1
Odds Top 10: 2-1
Last Six: 18, 7, 34, 8, 1, 25

7. Xander Schauffele

Xander Schauffele TOUR Championship
Xander Schauffele plays his shot from the 4th tee during the final round of the TOUR Championship at East Lake Golf Club on Sep 7, 2020 in Atlanta, GA. (Photo by Sam Greenwood/Getty Images)

A native of La Jolla, Schauffele has been a fixture on 2021 season leaderboards, with five top-5 finishes and nothing worse than T17 in seven starts. What is bringing unfortunate attention to the world No. 4, however, is the fact that three of those five top-5s are runner-ups, including his most recent start at the Waste Management Phoenix Open, where he was the 54-hole co-leader, but shot a final round even-par 71.

You would think that having four victories in less than five seasons would preclude somebody from the “can they close?” talk, but with six career major top-6s without a win, and eight runner-ups since his last victory (2019 Sentry Tournament of Champions), his Sunday mentality has come into question. His best finish at Riviera in three tries is a T9 three years ago.

World Rank: 4th
Odds to Win: 16-1
Odds Top 5: 3-1
Odds Top 10: Even
Last Six: 2, 2, 5, 17, 17, 2

8. Joaquin Niemann

Joaquin Niemann
Joaquin Niemann reads the green during the second round of the Wyndham Championship at Sedgefield CC on August 17, 2018 in Greensboro, NC. Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images

The start of the 2021 calendar year has been Joaquin’s World (for those who have not heard his name spoken, that rhymes), as the 22-year-old Chilean took runner-up honors in both the Sentry Tournament of Champions, the first event of the year, and the following week’s Sony Open in Hawaii. He played those events in a combined 45-under, with one round a piece of 62, 63, and 64. He is clearly in the zone.

Should there be concern that he has not played in over a month? Probably not, although it would have been interesting to see how long he could have kept that hot streak going. He has not played particularly well here over the past two years, following a T44 with a missed cut, but he was still getting his feet wet on Tour, and looks much more ready for the big time now. Niemann is currently second on Tour in birdie average and fifth in scoring average.

World Rank: 28th
Odds to Win: 55-1
Odds Top 5: 10-1
Odds Top 10: 5-1
Last Six: 2, 2, 23, 44, 17, 6

9. Jon Rahm

Jon Rahm 2020 Sentry TOC Kapalua
Jon Rahm reacts after chipping in for eagle at the 9th hole during the third round of the Sentry Tournament of Champions on the Plantation Course at Kapalua on Jan 4, 2020 in Lahaina, Hawaii. Photo by Tracy Wilcox/PGA TOUR via Getty Images

It kind of feels like the World No. 2 has been quiet lately, coming off his remarkable two-win 2020 Tour season. But looking at his 2021 results, he’s still going strong, with top 25s in all seven of his starts, including a T2 at the ZOZO Championship @ Sherwood followed by three consecutive T7s.

The 26-year-old Spaniard has no apparent weakness in his game, finishing in the top quarter on Tour in nearly every important statistic, and led the 2020 Tour in strokes gained: total while finishing second in scoring average.

Rahm is so good that he has shot 80-under over his last six tournaments and has still been at least modestly underwhelming. His best finish at Riviera was a T9 in 2019.

World Rank: 2nd
Odds to Win: 12-1
Odds Top 5: 3-1
Odds Top 10: Even
Last Six: 13, 7, 7, 7, 2, 17

10. Rory McIlroy

Rory McIlroy BMW Championship
Rory McIlroy reacts to a shot on the fifth green during the second round of the BMW Championship on the North Course at Olympia Fields CC on Aug 28, 2020 in Olympia Fields, Illinois. Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images

The World No. 7 is the best cut-maker in golf, having made the weekend in every PGA Tour event he has played since the 2019 Open Championship – some 21 starts ago, and he has missed just two over the past three seasons. Still, despite playing so many weekends, Rory is in the longest winless drought worldwide of his career since he first landed in the winner’s circle as a 19-year-old at the 2009 Dubai Desert Classic.

Interestingly, he has been extremely hit-or-miss on Sundays, without much hints coming of what direction he’s going in. Two weeks ago at the Waste Management Phoenix Open, he shot a field-low final-round 7-under 64 to vault from T36 to T13. He has back-to-back top fives at Riviera, but last year’s included a final-round 73, and the year prior he shot a second-round 63, but was underwhelming the rest of the week.

World Rank: 7th
Odds to Win: 13-1
Odds Top 5: 3-1
Odds Top 10: Even
Last Six: 13, 16, 3, 5, 17, 21

11. Jordan Spieth

Jordan Spieth
Jordan Spieth lines up a putt on the third hole during the final round of The Memorial Tournament at Muirfield Village Golf Club on June 02, 2019 in Dublin, Ohio. Photo by Sam Greenwood/Getty Images

Can we say it? Can we finally say that Spieth is ba… probably not yet. The three-time major champion who has been stuck in a winless drought since the 2017 Open Championship has been the talk of the Tour the past two weeks, holding at least a share of the 54-hole lead in both tournaments, but was unable to stay out front either time.

At least at Pebble, he was not horrific on Sunday, but he could not afford to be just average on a day when Daniel Berger and Maverick McNealy were phenomenal, and his struggles on the par-5s was outright puzzling.

The close calls have to sting for someone who made the game look so easy for his entire early-mid 20s, but at least he is getting himself in contention again. His game isn’t gone, he just struggles to have every piece of the machine working great at the same time. We think he gets there soon; he looks much closer than he has in years.

World Rank: 62nd
Odds to Win: 40-1
Odds Top 5: 8-1
Odds Top 10: 4-1
Last Six: 3, 4, MC, 46, MC, 41

12. Adam Scott

Adam Scott plays a shot during a practice round prior to the 120th U.S. Open Championship on September 16, 2020 at Winged Foot Golf Club in Mamaroneck, New York. (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)

What to make of the defending champion? Scott bounced back nicely from a front-nine bogey-double stretch, and did what he always does: hit pristine approaches when he needs them. The 40-year-old, who still looks 30, feels like he’s on a semi-retirement schedule, and has only really gotten into the mix since the COVID-19 layoff: a T10 at the Farmers Insurance Open – his most recent start, where he vaulted to the top of the leaderboard before a disappointing 72-73 weekend.

In spite of just so-so results since his win a year ago, it is hard to sell the world 22 short here. He also won the unofficial 2005 edition, which was shortened due to rain, and he was runner-up in 2006 and 2016.

World Rank: 23rd
Odds to Win: 40-1
Odds Top 5: 8-1
Odds Top 10: 4-1
Last Six: 10, 41, 21, 34, 32, 38

13. Tony Finau

Tony Finau
Tony Finau plays a shot from a bunker on the fifth hole during the first round of the Charles Schwab Challenge at Colonial CC on May 23, 2019 in Fort Worth, TX. Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images

Two Sundays ago, Finau and Xander Schauffele finished runner-up in their respective tournaments while Tom Brady was preparing his team to play in the Super Bowl. It was a weekend right out of 2018; a nice respite from whatever 2020 and 2021 have been.

Finau’s second-place was in Saudi Arabia where he finished two strokes behind Dustin Johnson. His last PGA start was in last month’s Farmers Insurance Classic where he finished… T2. It seems impossible that somebody ranked 15th in the world and hasn’t won since an alternate-field event in Puerto Rico in 2016, but that is the reality of the 31-year-old Finau, who racks up top 10s like they’re nothing, but cannot seem to close the deal.

His best finish at the Genesis was in 2018 where he finished… I probably don’t need to finish this sentence.

World Rank: 15th
Odds to Win: 22-1
Odds Top 5: 5-1
Odds Top 10: 2-1
Last Six: 2, 2, 4, 31, 8, 38

14. Bubba Watson

Bubba Watson Riviera Country Club Wins Genesis Open
Bubba Watson lines up a shot on the 18th green during the final round of the Genesis Open at Riviera CC on Feb 18, 2018 in Pacific Palisades, CA. Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images

Nobody on Tour is more “horses for courses” than Bubba, who has a few venues where he always seems to shine. One of those is Riviera, where Watson has landed in the winner’s circle three times, all in the last seven editions.

With Phil Mickelson sitting out, he is the only player in the field with multiple official wins in this event. But how trusty is the game of the 42-year-old two-time Masters champ now? After that three-win 2018 season, he has now had back-to-back seasons of just three top-10s total. He didn’t fare particularly well at either major in the current season, but did go T7-T4 at back-to-back events in October, and carded a final-round 65 in a T22 effort two weeks ago in Phoenix.

It would help if he could start better: he currently ranks 201st on Tour in round 1 scoring.

World Rank: 50th
Odds to Win: 50-1
Odds Top 5: 9-1
Odds Top 10: 5-1
Last Six: 22, MC, 57, 4, 7, 31

15. Max Homa

Max Homa Wins Wells Fargo Championship
Max Homa fist pumps as he makes a putt on the 10th green during the final round of the Wells Fargo Championship at Quail Hollow Club on May 5, 2019 in Charlotte, NC. Photo by Ben Jared/PGA TOUR via Getty Images

Recent form and course history get Homa the surprising nod as the last player in our rankings, ahead of some bigger names such as Collin Morikawa and Viktor Hovland. The relatively unknown California native was T5 at Riviera a year ago, staying in contention until a final-hole bogey, where he had to take big risks, moved him three strokes behind winner Adam Scott.

The 30-year-old has finished T21 or better in four of his last five starts, including a T7 at last week’s AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am, where he played the weekend 68-68. Being top 10 in strokes gained: putting last week was a great sign, and if he finds more consistency with his driver, he has the game to challenge for his second career title (2019 Wells Fargo Championship).

World Rank: 91st
Odds to Win: 70-1
Odds Top 5: 11-1
Odds Top 10: 5-1
Last Six: 7, 42, 18, 21, 12, MC

Next Five: Collin Morikawa, Viktor Hovland, Abraham Ancer, Maverick McNealy, Sergio Garcia


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