Weekly Primer: Genesis Open
The goal with my weekly primer is to provide you with a one-stop guide to equip you with all of the information that you need to make your picks and assemble your lineups. From course previews, to history, stats, and pick suggestions, this guide will provide a concrete base as you conduct your own research and submit your winning picks and lineups.
2018 Genesis Open Recap
Last year, Bubba Watson claimed his third Genesis Open win since 2014. Bubba shot a closing round 69 and outlasted Tony Finau and Kevin Na by two shots. If you remember this tournament last year, a lot of the DFS and sports-betting community faded Bubba after he stated that he considered withdrawing from the Genesis Open if it interfered with his invite to play in the NBA All-Star Game Celebrity game. His performance at Riviera proved to be much more successful than his Celebrity Game appearance. This has proved to be a course that Bubba loves and he will be facing a stacked field in his repeat opportunity.
Dates: February 14-17
Where: Pacific Palisades, California
Course: Riviera Country Club
Architect: George C. Thomas, Jr. and William P. Bell (1926)
Par/Yards: Par 71; 7,322 yards
Greens: Poa Annua
Field: 137 golfers; Top 70 and ties make the cut
Defending Champion: Bubba Watson
Purse: $7,400,000 ($1,332,000 to the winner)
FedEx Cup Points: 500 points to the winner
Withdrawals: Trey Mullinax, Steve Stricker, and Kenny Perry
Success at the Riviera Country Club has often translated to success at the Masters that is only a few weeks away. This has proved to be true with Bubba Watson. Bubba has a Masters win as well as three victories at this course. The course has no water hazards and only 60 bunkers on the course. However, short game and around-the-green game will both be important this week. You will hear about the Kikuyu grass that lines this course. Native to Africa, Kikuyu is also found in many parts of Australia and makes hitting out of the rough-mown lies very difficult. Hence, the emphasis on short game and scrambling. Bump-and-run shots and putting from the short grass are extremely difficult, while hitting from the fairways is advantageous as the ball sits atop the fluffy surface.
Rain and wind is expected the first two days of the tournament. The rain should clear out by the weekend but we could see some difficult playing conditions. Specifically, on Thursday it looks like most of the rain will be falling during the morning tee times and then taper off into the afternoon. For Friday, the rain looks to be consistent for a majority of the tee times but should also clear up mid-afternoon. If you are looking for a “weather advantage” then you could target golfers with the later tee times on Thursday.
Official World Golf Rankings: OWGR Top 50 in the Field
Key Stats From Past Winners
The stats that stick out from the last three winners of this tournament and that I will be keying on this week are:
- Par 4: 450-500 Yards
- SG: Approach
- SG: Tee-to-Green
A few other important stats that I may factor in are also SG: Short Game, SG: BS, and Driving Distance.
Course History Targets
Course history can be extremely insightful when evaluating how a course fits a particular player and if a player has “an eye” for the course itself. Here is a breakdown of some notable players that have performed well and finished inside the Top-30 at this tournament in the past.
Recent Performance Targets
Just as important, if not more so, when selecting a roster is recent performance. You will see certain golfers go on a tear and post consecutive high-finishing results. This can translate to good form and a mental advantage as they tee it up the next week. Here is breakdown of some notable players that have been performing well as of recent and have at least one Top-20 in their last five starts.
Before I even begin making picks I will break down the field into six tiers A-F. When you have fields of 100+ golfers then it can be overwhelming to scroll back-and-forth and up-and-down when making picks. DraftKings has a useful tool where you can export the entire DK roster with salaries to a CSV and open in Excel which I would highly recommend and then break down the picks from there.
When I am assembling my lineups or placing my bets, I will look at just about every stat that I can while also looking at course history and recent performance. There are certain players that just perform well at certain courses. Webb Simpson at the Wyndham, Zach Johnson at the John Deere, Jordan Spieth at the Master’s, Bubba Watson at any course that he has won, etc. You also have to look at how players are performing leading up to the tournament.
Two other factors that I take into account are the OWGR and the betting odds. Vegas always knows something that you don’t, so when I see a golfer in the sub-8k range and see he has the same odds as golfers in the 9-10k range then he is someone that I have to consider.
My favorite play in the $10k and above range is Justin Thomas. He ranks out highly in every statistical category, except for scrambling, but if he is able to stay on top of his game and putt well then the scrambling numbers do not alarm me. He also ranks out number 1 in my model over the last 24, 36, and 50 rounds. We know JT can drive the ball far enough off the tee and can put the ball close enough to score in bunches.
Also Consider: Jon Rahm—$10,400 (OWGR: 6, 16/1)
From the $9,000 range, I am rolling with one of my favorite golfers in Xander Schauffele. We have seen Xander play well in these stacked fields. He won the Sentry TOC and is coming off a Top 10 in his most recent start at the WMO. He finished T-9 here last year as well. If the weather is difficult on Thursday and Friday then I also like his ability to play through it. He may also be a great contrarian play priced between the always popular Tiger Woods, the course horse Bubba Watson, and other popular and cheaper plays including Jordan Spieth, Hideki Matsuyama, Tony Finau, and Patrick Cantlay.
Also Consider: Tony Finau—$9,100 (OWGR: 12, 28/1)
Admittedly, I had first put Matt Kuchar in this spot as he has been on a tear lately. However, you will usually see some of these golfers regress and not perform as well which eventually happens with anyone that has been this hot. This paired with the news story about stiffing his caddie of a reasonable paycheck in his win at the Sony Open has me now fading Kuchar. This brings me to another golfer I already liked which is Cam Smith. Smith has Top 25s in five of his last 6 events and also a win in December at the Australian Open. Also, the grass at the Australian Open that Smith won on? You guessed it, Kikuyu. His proximity in the statistical model is lacking but he will have plenty of looks from 125-175 yards out where he ranks in the top 10 in proximity.
Also Consider: Adam Scott—$8,700 (OWGR: 33, 33/1)
If you are fading any of the other two Spaniards in the field, whether it be high-salary or recent breakdown and destroying greens in his last tournament, then I would suggest rostering Rafa this week. I like the way he ranks out this week in the Top 10 in my model and he played really well last week before fading over the weekend. His final round consisted of three double-bogeys, two of which came on Par 5s where it could have easily been a three-stroke swing had he played those better. Even with a final round 74, Rafa still managed to salvage a Top 25 performance. I expect him to deliver another Top 25 at least with plenty of upside to finish higher.
Also Consider: Jason Kokrak—$7,600 (OWGR: 114, 70/1)
I targeted Ryan Moore a couple of weeks ago and he burned me but that will not deter me from rostering him this week. I think Moore will go overlooked this week since this is not a course that necessarily screams his name as a course fit. However, he does have two Top 10 finishes the last three years and another Top 25 finish in 2015. He is an elite ball striker and I think his approach and proximity stats will serve him well this week.
Also Consider: Sung Kang—$7,400 (OWGR: 187, 80/1); Kevin Tway—$7,100 (OWGR: 89, 200/1); Charley Hoffman—$7,100 (OWGR: 69, 160/1)
My final play is probably going to be chalk but I don’t think I can stay away from Kyle Stanley at $6,600. He is an elite ball striker and approach player and is ranked 39th in the world. He hasn’t been in the best form lately but if I need to roster someone at sub-7k then Stanley is far-and-away the guy I will go with.
Also Consider: Sam Ryder—$6,400 (OWGR: 152, 250/1); James Hahn—$6,800 (OWGR: 189, 170/1); Peter Uihlein—$6,800 (OWGR: 92, 220/1)
-Steven Quezada, @stevenquezadaTX