The field this week will be set at around 120 players. This event has taken on “Invitational” status after it received new sponsorship and is the official tournament of Tiger Woods’ charity foundation and event management. The smaller field means fewer players to choose from, but overall, we’re also going to be treated to more elite fields here over time and this year is no exception. All 10 of the top-10 players in the OWGR are in attendance with Bryson DeChambeau and Louis Oosthuzien being two of the only non-attendees from the world’s top 20.
Last year saw Max Homa outduel Tony Finau in a playoff, and Riviera has often produced plenty of close finishes. Despite the slightly smaller field, the regular cut rules still apply with the top 65 and ties playing the weekend. This course can play tough and we’ve seen several top players blow up here in the past so getting 6/6 through will still be an accomplishment.
Riviera CC, Pacific Palisades, Calif.
Par 71, 7,300-7,350 yards
Riviera is one of the oldest courses on the PGA TOUR and has hosted this event pretty much every year since 1973. Riviera’s age means that it has a lot of mature trees that line the fairway, but it also features a lot of doglegs and a few quirky hole designs — like a sand trap in the middle of the green on the par 3 sixth and an impossibly small green on the driveable par 4 10th. The course was re-designed by Tom Fazio in 2008 and has played longer and tended to favor the best tee-to-green players in the world, ever since.
The strains of grass at Riviera are also fairly unique as the fairways and rough are Kikuyu, which tends to be quite difficult to play out of when left to grow. Wet weather can also cause the course to play longer than its yardage although sunny skies look to be a constant for this year’s version. Still, players with distance and the strength to get the ball up and out of the thick grass quickly have an advantage here and hitting a ton of greens is almost always a must as the rough and green complexes are some of the toughest on the PGA TOUR. Green in regulation percentages at Riviera tend to run 5-10% lower than the PGA TOUR average. 2017 winner Dustin Johnson led the field in greens in regulation by a wide margin that season and 2020 winner Adam Scott hit 72% GIR and finished second in GIR for the week.
Riviera is also a true par 71 with three par 5s, but only one (the short first hole) is a real birdie opportunity as the other two traditionally play quite tough. The par 4s are where the real test of the course lies, as eight of the 11 play at over 430 yards or more in length and have tricky tee shots that challenge a player’s length and accuracy. This is a true championship venue with few birdie holes. Winners rarely venture past 12-under par and slightly cooler temperatures this year should keep scoring slightly down.
2022 outlook: There’s a little early week rain in the forecast for Tuesday, which could lengthen the course a touch, but we should otherwise expect a firm and fast Riviera. That’s typically when this venue plays its toughest, so don’t expect this event to delve into the realm of a birdie-fest. Players who can save par on the regular and are consistent with their ball-striking should be hyper-valued this week. There’s little to mention in terms of wind either as gusts look like they will stay under 10 mph for all four days. Sunny skies should prevail but expect fast greens and low green in regulation percentages on one of the best venues of the season.
LAST 5 WINNERS
2021 - Max Homa -12 (over Tony Finau playoff)
2020 – Adam Scott -11 (over three players at -9)
2019 – J.B. Holmes -14 (over Justin Thomas -13)
2018 – Bubba Watson -12 (over Tony Finau and Kevin Na -10)
2017 – Dustin Johnson -17 (over Thomas Pieters -12)
Recent West Coast form is important this week
- Ten of the last 11 winners here had played at Pebble Beach or Phoenix as their final start before winning at Riviera. Of those, eight had played Pebble as their last start and two had played Phoenix as their last start (the exception was Scott who hadn’t played either before winning here last season).
- Only two of the last 10 winners had missed the cut in their final start prior to winning at Riviera (Holmes in 2019, Watson in 2016).
Winners Stats and Course Highlights
2021 Winner: Max Homa at 12-under par
2021 lead-in form (T7-T42-T18-T21-T12)
· Driving Distance (DD) isn’t the be-all and end-all this week. Bill Haas ranked 66th in DD here in 2012 and won, James Hahn was 30th for the week in DD in 2015 when he won and J.B. Holmes was 41st in 2019.
· That being said, in 2018, five of the top-13 players here ranked inside the top 40 in distance off the tee for the season. Last year, Homa was just 92nd in Distance at Riviera but he was second in SG: Off the Tee and 11th in Accuracy. Runner-up Tony Finau averaged over 300 yards per drive.
· Strokes Gained: Tee to Green is likely the best to emphasize here as Riviera is truly an all-encompassing test. Five of the past six winners have ranked inside the top five in SG: Tee to Green stats for the week of their win at Riviera, with 2018 winner Bubba Watson ranking first in this stat when he last won here. Last year’s champion Homa ranked third in this stat and playoff loser Finau ranked first.
· Greens here are typically very hard to hit as the field average is 5-10% lower than the PGA TOUR average most seasons. Strong GIR percentages often pay off here and the last three winners have ranked T8 or better in GIR hit.
Finding Values (DraftKings Sportsbook)
Odds to win are one factor to think about when picking players (but not the only thing, so be careful putting too much weight on them). This section is going to detail a few of the players who have the best fantasy value comparative to their DraftKings Sportsbook odds of winning this week.
All odds provided by DraftKings Sportsbook and all odds subject to change.
HORSES FOR COURSES
1. Bubba Watson ($8,500; best finishes: win-2018, 2016, 2014): Bubba has won this event in three of the past eight seasons and is a clear lead horse this week. He does have a couple of hiccups on his record here, as he has missed the cut four times (and withdrawn in-play twice) since 2010. He’s shown solid form two weeks in a row now, though, and should be ready to contend.
2. Dustin Johnson ($10,200; best finishes: win-2017, T2-2015): Johnson may only have one win at Riviera but his record remains the most consistent of anyone in the field. Over the past nine seasons, he’s only finished outside the top 10 here once (2018-T16) and has two runner-up finishes to go with his win in 2017. With several challenging tee shots, Riviera sets up perfectly for DJ’s skillset.
3. Adam Scott ($8,200; best finishes: win-2020, win-2005—36-hole event): Scott has a long record of playing well at Riviera and is now a two-time winner here. The Aussie finished T2 back in 2016 to Bubba Watson, was T8 here in 2019 and, of course, broke through for a win at Riviera in 2020 as well. He’s been playing a more regular schedule of late and should benefit from the tougher layout.
4. Tony Finau ($8,400; best finishes: 2nd-2021, T2-2018): Finau was last year’s unlucky playoff loser at this event. It was a tough loss for Finau, who led the field in strokes gained tee to green stats for the week but was outputted by Max Homa down the stretch. Finau’s not looked great recently but this venue sets up perfectly for his overall skillset.
5. Patrick Rodgers ($6,500; best finishes: T12-2021, TT15-2019): If you want a wild card to target from down below then the course history on Patrick Rodgers this week makes him look like a tempting target. The former Stanford Cardinal has finished T30 or better at this event the last five years and ranks sixth in strokes gained total at Riviera since 2016.
DRAFTKINGS DFS STRATEGY
Cash Games: Ride the value with Rory and Hovland
Rory McIlroy ($9,700) comes into this event off a couple of close calls over on the European Tour (he finished T3 in his last start there two weeks ago). Riviera has been very kind to Rory over the years as his steady off-the-tee play trends very well on the longer par 4s. He’s finished T5 or better at Riviera in two of the past three seasons and looks undervalued at under $10,000 this week. Undervalued is certainly the phrase we’d use to describe Viktor Hovland ($9,400) this week as well. The Norwegian has wins in two of his past five starts and finished T5 at Riviera last season. He’s an easy click for any format this week, but especially in DFS formats that favor strong floor potential. Other targets for this format include Adam Scott ($8,200) and Christiaan Bezuidenhout ($7,200).
Tournaments: Fire up Brooks and Spieth
One trend I’ve noted above is that many past winners at the Genesis had already been performing well on the West Coast swing prior to their victory. Both Brooks Koepka ($9,000) and Jordan Spieth ($8,900) have landed top-five finishes on the PGA TOUR over their last two starts and head into this week with some good competitive action under their belts. Spieth, as I mention below, is a nice outright target but I don’t hate targeting Koepka in DFS either. Koepka’s ball-striking took a turn upward last week and his +5.0 strokes gained from off the tee were his most in an event since the 2020 RBC Heritage. He’s not likely to be popular given the weaker course history he has at Riviera. Other potential GPP targets this week include Thomas Pieters ($7,400), Aaron Wise ($6,700) and Doc Redman ($6,300 - see below).
Top Recent Form
1. Patrick Cantlay ($11,000, Recent finishes: 2nd-T4): Has looked very close in all his starts to begin 2022. Top-five finishes in his last two events show that he’s trending well as we approach big event season.
2. Tom Hoge ($7,500, Recent finishes: T14-win): Hoge followed up his win at Pebble Beach with a spirited effort last week. He ranks second in SG: Total stats over the last six events.
3. Scottie Scheffler ($9,200, Recent finishes: win-T20): Scheffler rode some hot putting to the first win of his career last week. He’s got two top-five finishes in his last five starts on the TOUR.
4. Will Zalatoris ($8,800, Recent finishes: 2nd-T6): Zalatoris had to take a two-week hiatus thanks to a COVID-19 diagnosis, but he enters off the back of two great finishes. He led the field in SG: Approach stats his last time out at Torrey Pines.
5. Sungjae Im ($8,600, Recent finishes: T6-T11): Im has started the season strongly and was in contention until late at the Farmers. He’s finished inside the top 12 in three of his past four starts.
MY PICK: Jordan Spieth ($8,900)
I have been targeting Spieth at this week’s venue for a few years now as it’s been where former Masters champions have tended to dominate. Dustin Johnson, Adam Scott and Bubba Watson all fit the Augusta-Riviera double-winner trend and you have to figure that Spieth will eventually have his week at this event too. He’s made the cut at Riviera in five straight seasons and has finished as high as T4 at this event in 2015 when he narrowly missed a playoff.
Spieth’s sometimes wild driving is mitigated by his around the green play and it’s worth noting that he’s gained over +1.0 strokes around the greens at Riviera in four of the past five years. A slow week at Phoenix (T60) shouldn’t put us off the fact that he’s now gained +1.5 strokes or more on Approach in his last two events and more importantly has gained strokes Off the Tee in two straight starts as well. He’s a solid play at +4000 in the outright department on DraftKings Sportsbook and should be lower owned in big GPPs for DFS.
MY SLEEPER: Doc Redman ($6,300)
We have seen some big upset winners at this event over the last decade, as the likes of JB Holmes, James Hahn and even John Merrick have all won while going off at 150-1 or more in the outright odds. Redman is a player who has shown he has what it takes to break through on the PGA TOUR for a win at some point, landing four finishes of T4 or better on TOUR since the beginning of 2020.
Redman’s been mired in a downtrend for much of the last six months (hence his $6.3K price this week) but he’s shown some signs that the fog may be lifting. Two made cuts in a row are encouraging and he flashed with a solid 63 at the Farmers (on his way to a T25), his best round on TOUR in quite some time. Redman’s shown good synergy with West Coast venues, landing a T2 finish at Silverado in 2020 and had one of the biggest moments of his career at Riviera as an amateur when he won the 2017 U.S. Amateur. He’s a wild card but will come in with virtually no ownership in GPPs and could be a difference-maker in the big fields this week if his good run continues.
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