Update: Daniel Berger has pulled out the field at Riviera after dramatically winning at Pebble Beach.
An Eagle to win on the 18th hole of Pebble Beach is high drama on nearly sense of the term for Daniel Berger. We paired Jordan Spieth and Patrick Cantlay who both did very well at Pebble Beach and Spyglass in many of our winning lineups. For this week it is important to note that Jordan Spieth loves Riviera dating all the way back to his days at the 2012 NCAA Championship as he seems to be increasingly thirsty for a win on the PGA Tour. Cantlay also knows the course very well to from having played it a number of times while at UCLA as well as since his college days (Riviera is played more by USC players as they bought actual memberships for some of the players). And don’t worry, there are others who secretly have an inside track at Riviera this week that we will get to below.
This Week’s PGA Tour Event
The Genesis Invitational is a somewhat reduced field that is simply packed with star power. The players and their significant others love coming to Pacific Palisades even if COVID is a major factor in Los Angeles county these days. Riviera is one of the absolute best golf courses that the players see every year with a field of players that more resembles The Masters or The U.S. Open than a standard Tour stop. The Genesis is Tiger’s charity event now as Jack and Arnie had their own charity events however Tiger isn’t going to be in the field this week. That’s perfectly fine for many DFS players as he tends to be a fan favorite (thus a high price at DraftKings or FanDuel) yet is prone to missing the cut at Riviera which would be a lineup disaster for anyone who took Eldrick. Simply stated, Tiger historically doesn’t always play well at Riviera despite growing up in the area and his amazing history at the club.
The Golf Course at Riviera
The George Thomas and William Bell design at Riviera Country Club is one of the architect’s best and most timeless designs along with nearby Los Angeles Country Club and the recently renovated Bel Air Country Club. Considering the fact that Riviera is nearing its 100 birthday in 2026, the idea that it can present a real challenge to the super-fit bombers on the PGA Tour is a testament to the compact yet timeless design. Riviera has hosed notable events including a U.S. Open (won by Ben Hogan), a PGA and more recently the U.S. Amateur as well as an NCAA Championship while nearly every year hosting the Nissan Open, The Northern Trust Open or now The Genesis Invitational PGA Tour stop.
Most George Thomas courses get off to a disarmingly “easy start” and Riviera’s iconic tee on the first hole makes for a Par-5 that nearly every player on Tour can easily reach in two shots with some longer hitters actually needing to layup from the tee perched high above the “grabby” Kikuyu grass fairway a good 50 feet below. And while the pros eat up the first hole, the second hole at Riviera is where the games begin as it is an into-the-wind, sometimes-over 500 yard dogleg right, uphill, Par-4 with a complex multi-tier green that isn’t all that big. Amazingly, many players end up with a higher scoring average on the Par-4 second hole than the downhill-down-wind Par-5 first hole.
Iconic holes aren’t ever too far away at Riviera. Number six is a Par-3 with a bunker placed right in the middle of the green thus creating three distinctive vignettes on the hole which is seen on Allister Mackenzie courses like Augusta National, Cypress Point and specifically Crystal Downs in Michigan. The back left pin position allows for dramatic shots to roll back to the pin even if the players go a little long off the tee.
Number 10 at Riviera is considered to be one of, if not the best short Par-4s in all of golf. Today’s players can reach this roughly 300-yard hole with driver but the front to back tilted, hourglass shaped green isn’t terribly receptive to incoming shots and nor should it be. Many of today’s longer players blast a 300-plus-yard driver beyond the green and then pitch back to the normally very firm, very small Poa Annua surfaced green. This is especially the case on Sundays when the pin will almost certainly be located all the way to the right and all the way to the back of the green. Even the best wedge players on the planet have a hard time getting close to No. 10 at Riviera with firm greens and a Sunday pin. The hole is a true risk-reward opportunity and other than on the last day – they can yield a birdie. Rarely, do you ever see an eagle at 10 at Riviera unless the pin is positioned way to the left thus more exposed and away from the treacherous bunkers – both the ones you can see and the ones that are hidden behind and beside the hole.
Number 18 at Pebble might be the most gorgeous finishing hole in golf but Number. 18 at Riviera is one of the challenging in the world. What is hard to see from the CBS cameras on from The Goodyear Blimp from above is just how uphill 18 at Riviera is. It is just a shade under 490 yards long but you’ve gotta hit a driver up a cliff that is covered with three foot tall, folded-over (no hope to find it let alone hit it) rough that is easily 70 plus feet tall. The fairway banks significantly from left to right thus accuracy is needed along with distance. The green is one of the original “stadium” designs although Jim Nantz and Nick Faldo are likely to be somewhat lonely at the very small and very back-to-front tilted green. We’ve seen birdies on the 72nd hole of this event and they are perhaps even more dramatic than the action that we were blessed to see last week 300 miles to the north.
The greens at Riviera are Poa Annua and might be the best examples of the surface that you can find in the country. Unless there is a lot of recent rain (which there hasn’t been), expect the putting surfaces at Riviera to be well rolled, fast and firm. Players complain about Poa greens “flowering” later in the afternoon which can make them stereotypically, a little more bumpy at the end of the day. While some Tour players complain about Poa surfaces, it is rare to hear that from the guys when at Riviera especially after a Coore-Crenshaw update to said greens many years ago improved the surfaces significantly.
The Weather in Pacific Palisades, California is expected to be close to perfect this coming week with temperatures in the high 60s and a mild to moderate breeze. It is important to remember that while Riviera is a parkland designed golf course that it isn’t more than two miles from the Pacific Ocean thus the normal wind is from the ocean east towards the course thus making the Thomas design seem to play more into-the-wind than down winds, somehow. The greens, if you can detect any grain, will roll out a bit towards the ocean but under these amazing conditions – they will be so fast that there won’t be much if any discernable grain on the surfaces.
Past Champions at Riviera
Past champions date back historically to the club’s opening in 1926 and Harry Cooper. The course is known as “Hogan’s Alley” for his success at Riviera. Tiger and Nicklaus didn’t win at Riviera in their careers but nearly every other big name on the PGA Tour has.
Long players and players who can shape their shots left-to-right tend to do very well at Riviera. Phil Mickelson didn’t play very well at Pebble Beach (especially on his 36th hole – ouch) but he’s a two-time winner at Riviera with a few close calls that could have been wins. Bubba Watson is another lefty that can work it around Riviera for 72 holes better than anybody else in the world. It should be no shock that Dustin Johnson is a past winner at Riv who likely isn’t done winning in his current home town. Adam Scott, last year’s champion, is a multiple champion. Don’t forget that Jordan Spieth did pretty damn well here at the NCAAs not that long ago and he’s trending up to the glee of many DFS players.
Here’s an entirely free lineup for you this week with more for subscribers (free month if you sign up today) (DraftKings Prices)
|Player #1||Dustin Johnson||$11,300|
|Player #2||Tony Finau||$9,300|
|Player #4||F. Molinari||$7,600|
|Player #5||M. McNealy||$7,300|
|Player #6||Jim Furyk||$6,400|
Remaining cash $200
There is nothing not to like about Dustin Johnson ($11,300) at Riviera this week. He won in the Middle East two weeks ago, he lives in Southern California thus isn’t shy around Poa greens, he kills the ball, he’s a past champion and he took a week off to rest. Everyone is picking him to win and so are we.
If I hear one more time about Tony Finau ($9,300) not winning every week on TV, I am going to throw up. The guy is a Top-10 and cut-making machine. Could he win a Riv? Sure. Will he come in with another Top-10? If so, we will take it.
Abraham Ancer ($7,900) is a bit of a sleeper all of a sudden but I love this guy this week with two Top 10s and 9/10 cuts made so far this year. His FPS isn’t that high but I think that could change this week despite the very tough field.
Francesco Molinari ($7,600) didn’t light up Pebble Beach as I was hoping for but he’s been playing more Riviera than anybody else on Tour this year and that could be a factor when it comes time to cash in your ticket on Sunday. He knows the Poa greens very well all of a sudden and his short game will be dialed in for the sticky rough and tricky chipping. And don’t forget that he’s a relatively recent major champion in a field that looks like a major every year.
Maverick McNealy ($7,300) came so close to winning at Pebble Beach that you could see the disappointment in the young man’s eyes on the 72nd green. Again, you have a kid that knows George Thomas designed courses as he played at Stanford who has one for their players. He’s coming off a red-hot finish at Pebble. He’s young, hungry and priced right.
Jim Furyk ($6,400) is my age discrimination pick of the week. He has a perfect cut track record on the PGA Tour and at this price, that is what we are hoping for here. With so much high end talent in the field this week, it makes your eyes bigger than your belly but at some point you have to make your picks and find your values. I am going with Furyk with my deep value pick.
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Here’s A Top Heavy Lineup For The Genesis
|Player #1||Patrick Cantlay||$9,600|
|Player #2||Jordan Spieth||$9,200|
|Player #3||James Hahn||$7,500|
|Player #4||H. Norlander||$7,400|
|Player #5||Brandon Steele||$7,100|
|Player #6||H. Matsuyama||$9,100|
Patrick Cantlay ($9,600) could have won at Pebble Beach. He knows Riviera like the back of his hand and he is ready for the spotlight. Where better than in Hollywood? He’s got the Poa greens. He’s got the experience. Its time.
Jordan Spieth ($9,200) couldn’t close it out at Pebble or in Phoenix but he looks like a new man. My concern is his driving accuracy right now. You aren’t going to win hitting the ball from the “gum trees” or the brutally clumpy Riviera rough. With that said, the man knows the course. The man LOVES the course and boy is he over-due for a PGA Tour victory. There’s no way that I am going without a lineup with Jordan in it this week.
James Hahn ($7,500) is well priced for a past champion at Riviera who kinda blew it out of nowhere on Sunday in Phoenix. James knows how to win on the PGA Tour and specifically at Riviera. I like the value this week here with James Hahn. I am sure he’s dying to get back on the horse again after Phoenix as he almost look shocked to see himself with a two-shot lead on the back nine on a Sunday. That won’t happen again any time soon.
Brandon Steele ($7,100) is my DFS horse and has been for more than a year. He lives in Southern California, knows Riv, knows the greens and makes most of his cuts. At $7,100, you gotta love him. He’s also got high end upside as we saw at The Sony this year and in years past.
Hidecki Matsuyama ($9,100) is the Tour player that I see the most playing Riviera on random days during the year. He is beloved at the club and is at the top of his game when in Pacific Palisades. I could see him win the whole event but he’s a safe bet for a cut and possibly a Top-10 or Top-20.
Alternative Moves …
We in a field this loaded with talent, there is so many other ways that you could go with your picks. The Genesis Invitational is almost harder to pick than The U.S. Open, The Masters or The PGA. The small but concentrated field makes for an all-star team of options out there. I know that you know the stars and can build core lineups around them. Here are some guys that you might sprinkle in for value to make the money work.
• Doug Ghim ($6,900) is one of the up-and-coming stars on Tour but don’t forget he got shell-shocked at Riviera in 2017 in the U.S. amateur when Doc Redman (also in the field this week) made possibly the longest putt in course history on the 35th hole of the day on 17 for eagle and then birdied (read my comments about 18 at Riv again) 18 to force a playoff when Ghim had Redman “dormie”. Ghim hit his tee shot in the tall rough to the left of the green (not there for the PGA Tour btw) and lost at Riv as an amateur. He is likely to do better as a pro and he’s got a score to settle.
• Victor Hovland ($8,700) is a new-school PGA Tour beast and could easily pop off at Riv this week. He’s not a stunning value but you get what you pay for and you get a lot with Victor Hovland these days in DFS.
• Jason Kokrak ($8,000) is a little expensive for my tastes this week but he does play well at Riviera and is has on on Tour. With his length off the tee, Jason might be a quiet killer but I am putting him in for and alternate play as he is a good bet on making the cut in a normal week but this is no normal week on Tour.
• Gary Woodland ($7,600) was a better DFS pick last year but with this much talent, it is hard not to look at his price and be tempted as a DFS play at Riviera.
• Cameron Tringale ($7,600) is a good pairing with Gary Woodland if you wanted to go “bell shaped curve” with a DFS lineup – especially for a 50-50 play. He’s playing very well and is 8/10 on cuts. I could see him making the cut at Riviera this week despite the very strong field.
• Henrik Norlander ($7,400) is somebody we liked last week at Pebble Beach and who played very well in Phoenix too. He’s young. He’s Euro. He’s cheap. Not the worst DFS pick that I’ve seen for the price.
• Bo Hoag ($6,400) is a bargain basement pick but he’s being devalued because of the quality of the field and some recent, dicey play (he missed the cut for me last week, damn it). Hoag’s price allows you some indulgences at the top of your lineup if you think he will make you a cut. If you don’t believe he will bounce back for a cut made, forget him as the pick is just too risky. You do have to love the low price.
Here’s A Bonus Lineup From Someone Who Wins a Lot of DFS PGA
|Player #1||Dustin Johnson||$11,300|
|Player #2||Jon Rahm||$10,400|
|Player #3||Matt Jones||$7,000|
|Player #4||Maverick McNealy||$7,300|
|Player #6||Jim Furyk||$6,400|
COVID-19 is as real as a heart attack, and players in all sports are being pulled from action. Keep an eye out for anything fishy, and make changes as needed. This is why we have alternative picks for you offered here.
• Here is some of the rich, Hollywood history of Riviera Country Club.
• Here is a complete list of The Genesis Invitational past champions.
• Here are some odds on for winning at The Genesis Invitational this week.
Go win your lineups and then tell us how you did. Twitter (@FantasyDFSX) is a good place for that.
Best of luck and have fun!
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