Before the PGA Tour heads over to Florida, we have a fitting finale on the West Coast as the world’s best regroup in Los Angeles for the Genesis Invitational, writes Joe Mellor and Nick Haynes at Form Labs – a division of Bettorlogic.
Scoring can often be extremely difficult here with small greens akin to that of Pebble Beach, where Daniel Berger came through on Sunday to win his first title of the year, though the American won’t have the chance to make it two-in-two having withdrawn from this event.
Greens in Regulation, Riviera Pedigree, Strokes Gained: Off the Tee
Tiger Woods has previously spoken about the importance of getting the ball in play here, with the Kikuyu grass proving extremely difficult to scramble on, and the stats certainly back that up. The last five winners have all ranked in the top-seven for Greens-in-Regulation (GIR) for the week, as those who miss the putting surface too often struggle to get up and down on what Adam Scott described as ‘severe’ greens after his win last year. At least three of the top five in each of those editions have ranked in the top-10 for the same statistic, so the strongest iron players on tour are certainly what we’re after.
For how difficult the course is, pedigree at Riviera goes a long way and top debut performances are few and far between. Each of the winners of those last five events here had previously finished in the top three, which makes Dustin Johnson a really strong candidate again here. Coming off the back of a win in Saudi Arabia, he decided against playing at Pebble Beach and instead thought it best to overcome his jet-lag and rest up for this weekend in what is a much stronger field.
He’s a former winner here and has six top 10 finishes in the last seven renewals, so he has all the credentials to go on and win this again, especially seeing as he ranks fourth in GIR on the tour this year. In terms of value though, he’s almost half the price of the second favourites in the market and unless he can maintain this Tiger Woods-esque dominance over the field, there’s better value away from the world number one.
Rahm well poised after a strong start with Callaways; Lee a long price to go well again
Streaking Sam Burns tops the strongest field of the year after Round 1. However, of the market leaders, it’s Jon Rahm (20/1) that looks a strong pick. Only Johnson has a higher GIR percentage this season than the Spaniard from those in the top 10 in the betting, and that’s even more impressive considering Rahm is still getting to grips with his new clubs. He’s achieved top 15 finishes in each of his last five events, including four top-10s and he looks well poised to pounce at some point very soon.
As mentioned, keeping the ball in play here is imperative to going well, with each of the last five winners ranking in the top-11 for Strokes Gained: Off-The-Tee in either of their two warm-up events, and there’s few better than Rahm on tour in that regard. While he just misses that bracket (13th and 14th in his last two events), he ranks fifth in that metric on tour this year and ranked fourth last season, having not failed to gain strokes off the tee in any of his last 23 events in which that statistic is recorded, a run going back to August 2019. He’s hit over three quarters of his greens in three of his last five events, and it’s highly likely he’ll be right amongst it come Sunday afternoon.
An outsider for this one but someone who has shown they’re capable of some incredible performances is Korea’s Kyoung-Hoon Lee (250/1). Consistency has been the main struggle for the 29-year-old throughout his career, though he’s gone well with top-25 finishes in both his starts at this course. He ranked fourth for GIR here on his debut two years ago hitting over 70% of greens, and while that figure dropped off last year, he saved it by scrambling wonderfully, leading the field in that regard with the Kikuyu grass not proving much of an obstacle for him.
He also comes into this off the back of a career best performance in Phoenix where he finished in a tie for second with Xander Schuffele, just one shot off winner Brooks Koepka. He struck the ball beautifully that week and hit nearly 85% of greens, so if he can transfer that form he looks an incredibly long price.
Calvert-Lewin’s return to boost Everton’s chances
There’s not been a better time in recent years for Everton to take on their local rivals in the league, with Liverpool (1/2) looking a shadow of their former selves and a full 30 points worse off than they were at this stage last season.
While we wouldn’t expect them to have maintained those incredible standards, their drop-off has still been staggering in the absence of Virgil van Dijk as they’ve now lost three matches on the bounce although they beat Leipzig on neutral turf midweek to get back to winning ways, they still didn’t look anywhere near their brilliant best in that first leg and the Toffees will sense they can get something here.
Everton (6/1) need a victory too having also gone three games without a win, and three points here would take them level on points with the Reds, as if there wasn’t enough incentive. The visitors’ chances will rest heavily on the availability of Dominic Calvert-Lewin, a point made prior to their match with Man City where the striker was touch-and-go to be fit, and they ended up struggling without him.
Although he’s only missed four matches under Carlo Ancelotti, their points per game more than doubles when he’s in the starting line-up as he provides a focal point for their attack and is prolific when offered up the opportunities. Ancelotti has implied his availability here, so we’ll assume he’ll start from the off.
History is not on the visitors’ side here as although they’ve drawn the last four meetings at Goodison Park, they’ve failed to win at Anfield in any of the 23 matches they’ve played this century across all competitions. Their best chance came last year when Jurgen Klopp effectively fielded a second-string side in the FA Cup, only for Curtis Jones’ stunning effort to take the spoils mid-way through the second half.
However, there’s every reason for Everton fans to be hopeful about this fixture. Liverpool’s 68 match unbeaten run at home has come to an end in spectacular fashion, with three consecutive defeats. The lack of crowd has certainly played it’s part in that, and with it being well documented that away teams have been more successful than ever this season, we’re happy to get behind Everton getting a result.
62% of the Toffees points this season have come on the road as they’ve won four of their five unbeaten away matches against teams currently in the top-12 in the table. While they’ve now lost two on the bounce, the return of their number nine gives us enough incentive to get behind them at an extremely long price.
Battle-hardened Brady to make a final of it?
Jennifer Brady (7/2) overcame Karolina Muchova 2-1 to reach her first-ever Grand Slam final. It comes just over six months after she reached the semis at US Open before her next opponent, Naomi Osaka (1/5), defeated here there.
The Japanese superstar has now won 20 matches on the bounce dating back to her exit here 12 months ago to Cori Gauff. She beat Serena Williams in the last round to makes this years’ final, and with that result alone, she puts a serious marker down heading into the final. It’s hard to envisage her being defeated, seeing as she’s won all three of her Grand Slam finals to date, with her titles coming at US Open in 2018 and 2020, while she also won here at Melbourne Park in 2019.
The only other main tour meeting between the two players came back in 2018 on the Charleston clay courts, with Osaka winning that too, and the current price of 1/5 seems fairly reasonable for her to win her fourth major title. However, seven of the 11 finals here have gone the distance since 2010, with two of the straight set victors requiring a tiebreaker in order to get the job done.
This is the biggest price the American has been in their two main tour meetings, and with that semi-final between the two going the length six months ago at Flushing Meadows, we just can’t be getting behind the favourite to cruise through this one.
Brady won her only main tour final to date in August last year and she should have the ability to at least take it to the world number three. Osaka has gone to a deciding set in three of her four finals since the start of 2019, as the only game she cruised through was when facing world number 39, Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova.
With that said, we still don’t think the 22nd seed quite has the quality to get over the line. She’s lost 11 of her last 13 matches against the current top 10, but nonetheless, she should at least be able to make it an exciting spectacle.
Stat of the day
Only two teams have failed to go on and lift the Premier League when in Man City’s position of leading by more than nine points – Newcastle United in 1995/96 and Manchester United in 1997/98.