USATSI

How do you follow last week's completely insane WM Phoenix Open at TPC Scottsdale? With the best field of the year at the best golf course on the PGA Tour, of course. The PGA Tour heads to Los Angeles this week as Max Homa defends his title at Riviera Country Club, and he'll have to knock off most of the best players in the world to do it at the 2022 Genesis Invitational. 

Tiger Woods will also be in attendance as his foundation hosts the week. He will speak on Wednesday from L.A., though he will not be a participant in the tournament just one year after his near-fatal car crash in this area. This week is always one of the most celebratory (and fun) of the year with the 2022 edition sure to be a blast as the West Coast swing wraps up and a Riviera champion is crowned.

Let's take a closer look at this week's contest with odds provided via Caesars Sportsbook.

Event information

Event: Genesis Invitational | Dates: Feb. 17-20
Location: Riviera Country Club – Pacific Palisades, California
Par: 71 | Purse: $12 million

Three things to know

1. West Coast climax: After nearly two months of PGA Tour golf on the left coast, we get a 1-2 hammer to finish with the WM Phoenix Open last week followed by the Genesis Invitational this week. They include the two best fields of the year to date, and this week's champion could (perhaps should) be the Masters favorite. This likely won't be the case on paper -- Jon Rahm will maintain his hold on the favorite for Augusta National -- but given the ties Riviera has to Augusta and the crossover success golfers like Phil Mickelson and Bubba Watson have had at both places, it's not crazy to think that a winner this week who also ranks in the top 15 in the world should be considered among the top 2-3 favorites to win the first major of the season.

2. Spicy conditions: In Round 3 last year, players had to be pulled off the course because conditions were too fast, firm and windy. Given that this year is "off to a record-dry start", I'm dubious that this year's tournament is going to be much different. That's a great thing if you're a fan of tremendous golf shots and the top players in the world because you're going to get plenty of both this week at The Riv. Here's a reminder of last year's stacked leaderboard.

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3. Cashing Cantlay (or Rahm): Since Jan. 1, nobody who has played at least 10 rounds of golf has better numbers than Patrick Cantlay (2.81 strokes gained per round) and Rahm (2.79). Interestingly, neither player has won in that stretch (they have each played four tournaments), and this represents the last (and most coveted) chance to do so on the West Coast before we get into a very different portion of the schedule. Their collective performance so far has been a clinic in how to finish top 10 in every event (they're 7 of 8 thus far), but how that doesn't always translate into victories.

Grading the field

The strength of field at this week's Genesis Invitational (696) is slightly higher than that of the 2020 Masters (690), which is pretty incredible. It includes the top 10 players in the world and 16 of the top 20. The only golfers ranked in the top 20 of the OWGR not playing this week are Bryson DeChambeau, Louis Oosthuizen, Harris English and Daniel Berger, and at least three of them have struggled with injuries over the last three weeks. As far as non-majors and non-Players Championships go, this is about as good as it gets. Grade: A

Rick Gehman is joined by Kyle Porter, Jonathan Coachman and Mark Immelman to preview the 2022 Genesis Invitational. Follow & listen to The First Cut on Apple Podcasts and Spotify.

2022 Genesis Invitational picks

Winner (12-1): Only Rahm has been on Cantlay's planet this year (as outlined above). He has seven straight top-11 finishes, so it would be an outlier if he's not at least in contention this weekend, which is all you're going for with this pick -- somebody who's in it with nine holes to go. Additionally, Cantlay has four consecutive top 20s on this course and is playing better coming in than he was in any of those appearances. It's easy to envision this West Coast swing finishing with its best player putting his name on the most highly-regarded trophy of the last two months.
Top 10 (13/5): Of golfers in this field who have played at least 10 rounds on this golf course, Schauffele is fifth in strokes gained. He crushes here (as he does most places), and he's coming in with a bit of momentum after nearly getting into a playoff in Phoenix. Two things are mildly concerning. The first is that his caddie went down with COVID-19 last week, and there's always the possibility that could pop up for Schauffele. The second is that this is the tail end of a hearty three-week stretch for him in which he played in Saudi Arabia, Phoenix and now Los Angeles. He's extremely durable, but I do wonder if that's what has made this number a bit longer. Regardless, I'm in on it. He finished T15 here last year after a T2 at Phoenix. Last week was a T3 at Phoenix, and I think he gets in the mix for another top 10 at Riv.
Sleeper (50-1): Gooch is one of the four golfers who have been better than Schauffele on this golf course historically (Dustin Johnson, Jon Rahm and Adam Scott are the other three). Gooch has been playing solid golf to start 2022 with four top 30s and a missed cut at the American Express. In the last two years, he has a T12 and a T10 on this golf course, and his strokes-gained number over his last 50 rounds is situated right between Viktor Hovland and Hideki Matsuyama. That's good company, which is what Gooch will be in this weekend at Riviera.  

Who will win the Genesis Invitational, and which long shots will stun the golfing world? Visit SportsLine now to see the projected leaderboard and best bets, all from the model that's nailed seven golf majors and is up almost $10,000 since the restart.