Rory McIlroy, the new No. 1 player in the world, is the favorite at this week’s Genesis Invitational, held at famed Riviera Country Club in Pacific Palisades, California.
McIlroy’s game is in pristine form. His last 11 worldwide starts feature nine top-9 finishes, to go along with victories at the Tour Championship and WGC-HSBC Champions in China.
The Northern Irishman has also benefited from former No. 1 Brooks Koepka being sidelined with a knee injury. Koepka hasn’t played since October, but is back inside the ropes this week.
Las Vegas oddsmakers have McIlroy the favorite at 8/1, a $100 bet winning $800. He’s followed by Jon Rahm and Justin Thomas at 10/1. Dustin Johnson is at 12/1, and a handful of players are at 20/1, including Koepka, Tiger Woods, Patrick Cantlay, Xander Schauffele, and three-time Riviera winner Bubba Watson.
Despite some recent solid play, defending champion J.B. Holmes is at 60/1. He’s played in each of the past three weeks, finishing T16 or better at the Farmers, Waste Management, and AT&T.
Make no mistake about it, the No. 1 ranking position means much to golf’s best players. Koepka has dominated golf for much of the past two years, and was named PGA Player of the Year in 2018 and 2019.
He isn’t short on confidence, and when compared to McIlroy last fall, Koepka’s comments made for good headlines.
Rory hasn’t won a major since I’ve been on the PGA Tour,” Koepka stated. “So, I don’t view it as a rivalry. I’m not looking at anybody behind me.”
“I’m No. 1 in the world. I’ve got open road in front of me and I’m not looking in the rear-view mirror, so I don’t see it as a rivalry,” he added.
Koepka lost considerable world ranking points because of his injury, and McIlroy’s strong play allowed him to retake the top spot, which he first obtained in 2012.
McIlroy explained this week, “I’ve played well and I’ve played consistently well. The mathematics add up that I’m the top of the list right now, and obviously I have a chance to stay there this week.”
He could also lose it. Both Koepka and Rahm grab the No. 1 spot with a win this week.
This is the first year the Genesis has been given the prestigious honor of being an invitational. Hosted by Woods, the event’s elevated status joins Jack Nicklaus’ Memorial Tournament and the Arnold Palmer Invitational.
It’s more than simply a name change. The purse increases nearly $2 million to $9.3 million, with the winner taking home $1.67 million. Winners are given a three-year PGA Tour exemption, while normal tournament winners are handed two-year exemptions. The field size also shrinks from 144 players to 120.
“In recognition of Tiger’s place alongside Jack and Arnold as a modern-day golf icon who hosts a home-based PGA Tour tournament, plus the common thread of doing exceptional philanthropic work through his TGR Foundation, elevating the Genesis Open is an important and deserved step toward further cementing Tiger’s legacy in our sport,” PGA Tour Commissioner Jay Monahan said.