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BlogGenesis Open Preview and Picks

Genesis Open

February 14th – 17th, 2019

Riviera C.C.

Pacific Palisades, CA

Par: 71 / Yardage:

Purse: $7.6 million

with $1,368,000 to the winner

Defending Champion:
Bubba Watson

by Sal Johnson

Founder, Chief Data Officer, GOLFstats

E-mail me at:
sal@golfstats.com

This week’s field includes:

The field includes 51 of the top 100 and 29 of the top 50 in the latest Official World Rankings, with six players #3 Dustin Johnson, #4 Justin Thomas, #5 Bryson DeChambeau, #6 Jon Rahm, #7 Xander Schauffele and #9 Rory McIlroy from the top-ten. The other top 50 players are #12 Tony Finau, #13 Tiger Woods, #14 Tommy Fleetwood, #16 Bubba Watson, #17 Phil Mickelson, #18 Marc Leishman, #19 Paul Casey, #20 Patrick Cantlay, #22 Matt Kuchar, #23 Jordan Spieth, #26 Louis Oosthuizen, #27 Cameron Smith, #28 Hideki Matsuyama, #29 Sergio Garcia, #30 Tyrrell Hatton, #31 Rafa Cabrera Bello, #32 Keegan Bradley, #33 Adam Scott, #39 Kyle Stanley, #40 Branden Grace, #43 Kiradech Aphibarnrat, #47 Andrew Putnam and #48 Chez Reavie.

Last year there were 27 top-50 players in the field.

The field includes 18 of the top 25 on the FedEx point standings for 2019.  Those players are #1 Matt Kuchar, #2 Xander Schauffele, #4 Marc Leishman, #5 Charles Howell III, #6 Phil Mickelson, #9 Bryson DeChambeau, #10 Kevin Tway, #11 Cameron Champ, #13 Andrew Putnam, #14 Justin Thomas, #15 Paul Casey, #16 Patrick Cantlay, #17 Adam Long, #18 Adam Hadwin, #20 Chez Reavie, #22 Tony Finau, #23 Adam Scott and #24 Danny Lee.

The field includes 10 past champions: Bubba Watson (2018, ’16 &’14), Dustin Johnson (2017), James Hahn (2015), Bill Haas (2012), Aaron Baddeley (2011), Phil Mickelson (2009 & ’08), Charles Howell III (2007), Adam Scott (2005), Ernie Els (1999) and Fred Couples (1992 & ’90).

A perfect way for fantasy golfers to check on the past performance of all the players in the Genesis field is our performance chart listed by the average finish.  Another way to check who is the best is through a special formula worked out in Golfstats that gives us the best average performances at the Genesis in the last five years or check out our sortable 8-year glance at the Genesis.

A good cheat sheet is this list of odds from the top bookmakers in England.

Another cheat sheet is this list of odds from the top bookmaker in Las Vegas.

 

Time to look at our who’s hot and who isn’t:

Who’s Hot in the field for the Genesis Open

Player AT&T Pebble Phoenix Open Saudi Intern. Farmers Insurance Dubai Classic Desert Classic Abu Dhabi Sony Open Sentry T of C Australian PGA RSM Classic Mayakoba Shriners Hospitals
Bryson DeChambeau
(299.33 pts)
DNP DNP T6
(60)
DNP Win
(132)
DNP DNP T10
(26.67)
7
(36.67)
DNP DNP DNP Win
(44)
Matt Kuchar
(260.67 pts)
T22
(28)
T4
(80)
DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP Win
(88)
T19
(20.67)
DNP DNP Win
(44)
T57
(0)
Dustin Johnson
(213 pts)
T45
(5)
DNP Win
(132)
DNP DNP DNP T16
(22.67)
DNP T4
(53.33)
DNP DNP DNP DNP
Phil Mickelson
(188.67 pts)
Win
(132)
CUT
(-10)
DNP DNP DNP T2
(66.67)
DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP
Jon Rahm
(183.33 pts)
DNP T10
(40)
DNP T5
(70)
DNP 6
(40)
DNP DNP T8
(33.33)
DNP DNP DNP DNP
Chez Reavie
(174.67 pts)
T38
(12)
T4
(80)
DNP DNP DNP T28
(14.67)
DNP T3
(60)
DNP DNP DNP T26
(8)
DNP
Justin Thomas
(172.67 pts)
DNP 3
(90)
DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP T16
(22.67)
3
(60)
DNP DNP DNP DNP
Marc Leishman
(153.67 pts)
DNP DNP DNP T43
(7)
DNP DNP DNP T3
(60)
T4
(53.33)
2
(33.33)
DNP DNP DNP
Xander Schauffele
(153 pts)
DNP T10
(40)
DNP T25
(25)
DNP DNP DNP DNP Win
(88)
DNP DNP DNP DNP
Cameron Smith
(142.67 pts)
DNP T15
(35)
DNP T9
(45)
DNP DNP DNP T22
(18.67)
DNP Win
(44)
DNP DNP DNP
Charles Howell III
(138.67 pts)
DNP DNP DNP T20
(30)
DNP T34
(10.67)
DNP T8
(33.33)
T14
(24)
DNP Win
(44)
CUT
(-3.33)
DNP
Branden Grace
(127.33 pts)
T28
(22)
2
(100)
DNP CUT
(-10)
DNP DNP T27
(15.33)
DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP
Hideki Matsuyama
(125 pts)
DNP T15
(35)
DNP T3
(90)
DNP DNP DNP T51
(0)
DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP
Rory McIlroy
(123.33 pts)
DNP DNP DNP T5
(70)
DNP DNP DNP DNP T4
(53.33)
DNP DNP DNP DNP
Adam Hadwin
(118 pts)
T18
(32)
T44
(6)
DNP DNP DNP T2
(66.67)
DNP T57
(0)
DNP DNP DNP T10
(13.33)
DNP
Paul Casey
(116 pts)
2
(100)
DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP CUT
(-6.67)
T16
(22.67)
DNP DNP DNP DNP
Si Woo Kim
(110.67 pts)
T4
(80)
CUT
(-10)
DNP T29
(21)
DNP T40
(6.67)
DNP CUT
(-6.67)
DNP DNP DNP T26
(8)
T15
(11.67)
Sungjae Im
(105.67 pts)
CUT
(-10)
T7
(55)
DNP T52
(0)
DNP T12
(25.33)
DNP T16
(22.67)
DNP DNP T37
(4.33)
CUT
(-3.33)
T15
(11.67)
Michael Thompson
(103.67 pts)
T10
(40)
DNP DNP T13
(37)
DNP T9
(30)
DNP T69
(0)
DNP DNP CUT
(-3.33)
DNP DNP
Andrew Putnam
(103.33 pts)
T38
(12)
CUT
(-10)
DNP DNP DNP T34
(10.67)
DNP 2
(66.67)
T14
(24)
DNP DNP DNP DNP
Harold Varner III
(103.33 pts)
DNP T10
(40)
DNP CUT
(-10)
DNP T18
(21.33)
DNP DNP DNP T16
(11.33)
T23
(9)
T6
(20)
T15
(11.67)
J.T. Poston
(93.67 pts)
DNP T26
(24)
DNP T40
(10)
DNP T7
(36.67)
DNP T20
(20)
DNP DNP CUT
(-3.33)
T21
(9.67)
CUT
(-3.33)
Adam Scott
(93.33 pts)
T61
(0)
DNP DNP 2
(100)
DNP DNP DNP CUT
(-6.67)
DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP
Scott Langley
(92.67 pts)
6
(60)
DNP DNP CUT
(-10)
DNP T12
(25.33)
DNP T43
(4.67)
DNP DNP T23
(9)
T29
(7)
CUT
(-3.33)
Chris Stroud
(86.67 pts)
T10
(40)
T7
(55)
DNP T52
(0)
DNP CUT
(-6.67)
DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP WD
(-1.67)
T55
(0)
Bubba Watson
(86 pts)
DNP T4
(80)
DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP CUT
(-6.67)
31
(12.67)
DNP DNP DNP DNP
Sergio Garcia
(85 pts)
DNP DNP DQ
(-5)
DNP T3
(90)
DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP
Sung Kang
(83 pts)
T14
(36)
CUT
(-10)
DNP T20
(30)
DNP DNP DNP T10
(26.67)
DNP DNP CUT
(-3.33)
T29
(7)
CUT
(-3.33)
Jason Kokrak
(81.33 pts)
DNP T20
(30)
DNP T20
(30)
DNP T18
(21.33)
DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP T66
(0)
Brian Gay
(79 pts)
T7
(55)
T55
(0)
DNP DNP DNP CUT
(-6.67)
DNP T22
(18.67)
DNP DNP T23
(9)
T41
(3)
T51
(0)
Cameron Champ
(78.67 pts)
T28
(22)
T67
(0)
DNP CUT
(-10)
DNP DNP DNP T73
(0)
T11
(26)
DNP 6
(20)
T10
(13.33)
T28
(7.33)
Scott Stallings
(77 pts)
3
(90)
CUT
(-10)
DNP T43
(7)
DNP CUT
(-6.67)
DNP DNP DNP DNP CUT
(-3.33)
DNP T69
(0)
Bud Cauley
(71.33 pts)
DNP T26
(24)
DNP T13
(37)
DNP CUT
(-6.67)
DNP DNP DNP DNP CUT
(-3.33)
T29
(7)
T10
(13.33)
Joel Dahmen
(61 pts)
DNP CUT
(-10)
DNP T9
(45)
DNP DNP DNP T22
(18.67)
DNP DNP T37
(4.33)
T41
(3)
T69
(0)
Hudson Swafford
(57.33 pts)
DNP DNP DNP CUT
(-10)
DNP T65
(0)
DNP T3
(60)
DNP DNP T76
(0)
T55
(0)
T28
(7.33)

How Player Rankings are Computed

Who’s Not Hot in the field for the Genesis Open

Player AT&T Pebble Phoenix Open Saudi Intern. Farmers Insurance Dubai Classic Desert Classic Abu Dhabi Sony Open Sentry T of C Australian PGA RSM Classic Mayakoba Shriners Hospitals
Seamus Power
(-43.33 pts)
DNP CUT
(-10)
DNP CUT
(-10)
DNP CUT
(-6.67)
DNP CUT
(-6.67)
DNP DNP CUT
(-3.33)
CUT
(-3.33)
CUT
(-3.33)
Kelly Kraft
(-36 pts)
CUT
(-10)
CUT
(-10)
DNP CUT
(-10)
DNP DNP DNP CUT
(-6.67)
DNP DNP CUT
(-3.33)
T38
(4)
T66
(0)
Bronson Burgoon
(-33.33 pts)
DNP CUT
(-10)
DNP CUT
(-10)
DNP CUT
(-6.67)
DNP DNP DNP DNP CUT
(-3.33)
DNP CUT
(-3.33)
Alex Cejka
(-33.33 pts)
CUT
(-10)
CUT
(-10)
DNP CUT
(-10)
DNP T40
(6.67)
DNP DNP DNP DNP CUT
(-3.33)
CUT
(-3.33)
CUT
(-3.33)
Michael Kim
(-31.33 pts)
CUT
(-10)
CUT
(-10)
DNP CUT
(-10)
DNP DNP DNP CUT
(-6.67)
T32
(12)
DNP CUT
(-3.33)
DNP CUT
(-3.33)
Whee Kim
(-30.33 pts)
CUT
(-10)
CUT
(-10)
DNP CUT
(-10)
DNP CUT
(-6.67)
DNP CUT
(-6.67)
DNP DNP CUT
(-3.33)
T10
(13.33)
T41
(3)
D.A. Points
(-30 pts)
CUT
(-10)
DNP DNP CUT
(-10)
DNP CUT
(-6.67)
DNP DNP DNP DNP T71
(0)
CUT
(-3.33)
DNP
Tom Hoge
(-29.67 pts)
CUT
(-10)
T44
(6)
DNP CUT
(-10)
DNP CUT
(-6.67)
DNP CUT
(-6.67)
DNP DNP T37
(4.33)
CUT
(-3.33)
CUT
(-3.33)
Kyle Jones
(-27.67 pts)
CUT
(-10)
DNP DNP CUT
(-10)
DNP CUT
(-6.67)
DNP CUT
(-6.67)
DNP DNP T23
(9)
CUT
(-3.33)
71
(0)
Charl Schwartzel
(-26.67 pts)
DNP CUT
(-10)
DNP CUT
(-10)
DNP CUT
(-6.67)
DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP

How Player Rankings are Computed

The Buzz:

So the seven-week west coast swing comes to an end, and with that, the tour moves south of the border and then east to spend time on courses in Mexico, Florida, and Texas as players get ready for the Masters.  In the next seven weeks, there will be the Players Championship, two World Golf Championship events and all of the courses will be in great shape, some of the players will love to say goodbye to Poa Annua greens and new challenges.  So as we bid farewell to the west coast, we will see if players that have done well like Xander Schaufele, Matt Kuchar, Adam Long, Justin Rose, Rickie Fowler, and Phil Mickelson can keep it up.  One thing we can say is that Adam Long could be the biggest freak winner of all time.  I can say that because he won the Desert Classic in just his six career PGA Tour start.  In most cases, players who win find a way to show some of that grit in events afterward Long played in the Farmers, Phoenix, and Pebble missing the cut.  So in his short career, he has missed seven cuts and in the other two finished T-63rd and a victory.

Other than Long’s victory we have to say that this could be the most marquee winning West Coast swing since 2005 when Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson, Adam Scott, Vijay Singh, Adam Scott, David Toms, Justin Leonard, Geoff Ogilvy, and Stuart Appleby won (8 of the 9 has won a major).  Now the champions of 2019 Phil Mickelson, Rickie Fowler, Justin Rose, Adam Long, Matt Kuchar, and Xander Schauffele has only seen two major winners, but five of the six has won either a major or a Players or a FedEx Cup playoff event.

In 2005, four of the 8 winners (Woods, Singh, Leonard, Mickelson) had another victory that year while Woods and Mickelson won three of the four majors (Michael Campbell won U.S. Open).

So I have to say that the West Coast swing could be an omen for what to expect the rest of the year.  Other than Long, I could see the other five back in the winner’s circle, and yes we may see some of them winning either the Masters, PGA Championship, U.S. Open or British Open

As for Phil… 

Of course, the first question he got when he won was from CBS Peter Kostis on if this victory bodes well for him at the U.S. Open.  I thought this was a fair question, but Phil quickly dismissed this, in a way I can understand the way he snapped at Kostis.  I honestly feel that Phil has a special place in his heart for Pebble, the association between him and his grandfather being one of the first caddies at Pebble is a beautiful story and wouldn’t it be a great way of putting the final touches of a great career by completing the grand slam at Pebble.  For both Tom Watson and Tom Kite, winning U.S. Opens at Pebble was unique and if you look at the five winners of the U.S. Open at Pebble (Nicklaus, Watson, Kite, Woods & Graeme McDowell) all but McDowell won the AT&T.

But one of the reasons I think that Mickelson was short on Kostis is that Phil has a love/hate relationship with the USGA.  Last year was a perfect example of this coming to a head in the third round when he hit a moving putt on the 13th green.  For years Mickelson has been frustrated at the U.S. Open, first with him being runner-up six times and now that he is in the sunset of his career needing to win a U.S. Open to complete his career.  Phil has been very frustrated in some of the setups of courses of the U.S. Open, in some ways Phil could be spot on in his frustration towards the USGA.  Have to say this, the USGA sometimes goes too far in setting up a course making it way too hard.  Now the last couple of years I thought that courses from Merion on have been set up very fair, but last year the USGA went too far at Shinnecock to make some parts of it impossible.  Maybe it’s been with low scores the last couple of years, but if we learned anything this year with the Super Bowl seeing a score of 13 to 3 with many people saying how boring it was the lack of offense, the same with golf.  The U.S. Open with a lack of birdies sometimes gets annoying and hard to watch.  We love the offensive of the back nine at Augusta, in which players could find disaster on holes 11 and 12, but eagles can be made at 13 and 15.  The PGA Championship has always set up their courses fairly and yes have seen low scores like last year at Bellerive.  But the answer that I love the most is every year from the R&A.  When they are asked if they are afraid of low scores at the British Open, they laugh and say that they set up a championship course to play hard and if players shot low scores they graduate them and say well done instead of trying to save on their ego of having a low score.

Phil is right on one fact in answering Kostis; yes Pebble will play entirely different in June as it did last week.  In June the course will be hard and fast, the green will be hard to hold, and the greens will be faster than they are in February.  But most of all the fairways will be tighter than they were last week and the USGA will have more rough off the fairways, thus bringing on higher scores.  But the most significant factor that has seemed to show up every weekend the U.S. Open is played is wind, each of the Opens has had its share of wind making things hard.  So can Phil win at Pebble, yes.  But if the course is set up too hard it may be too much for Phil.

One thing that was mentioned by the Golf Channel folks was the addition of clubhead speed by Phil this year.  Yes, he has seen an uptick in clubhead speed, just look at the chart below, and you can see that Phil’s clubhead speed of 120.9 this year is his highest since 2007.

Year – Clubhead speed

  • 2019 – 120.9
  • 2018 – 116.5
  • 2017 – 114.2
  • 2016 – 115.4
  • 2015 – 118.1
  • 2014 – 115.6
  • 2013 – 116.3
  • 2012 – 116.8
  • 2011 – 118.5
  • 2010 – 119.6
  • 2009 – 120 1
  • 2008 – 117.3
  • 2007 – 122.0

So the next question, has Phil done something to create this?  Yes, he has, about nine months ago he started to look at biometric swing studies of his swing and was able to determine his weaknesses and strengths and has been working on his shortcomings in his time in the gym.  He has worked hard at this, and he may have seen this pay off at Pebble Beach.  One of the things that Phil has always been good at his finding ways of getting better, whether it’s through equipment or working out.  Now Phil is not the fitness guy like Tiger or Dustin is, but if you work with experts on certain aspects, you can figure it out, and if you look at his clubhead speed increases this year, you can see that even though Phil will be 49 in just a couple of months.  One last thing about Phil and winning, look at the Champions Tour and how the best is 61-year-old Bernhard Langer.  If Langer can win so much in his 60s, yes Phil can win not only more PGA Tour victories but some majors.

So will Phil win again?  Probably yes and maybe another win can happen again at Pebble Beach in June.

What about Jordan, Rory, and Dustin?
First Dustin…

Both Jordan and Johnson struggled at Pebble Beach.  For Dustin Johnson, after opening at Monterey Peninsula with a 66 if looked like Johnson was going to contend.  But he fought to a 73 at Spyglass Hill and had to birdie his final hole to make the cut.  He went on to finish T-45th.  I always wonder when players make long journeys in between events.  Johnson won the Suadi Internation and then traveled to Pebble, flying over 8,000 miles and going through  11 time zones.  The flight from Riyadh to San Francisco is about 20 hours, so it’s easy to say that Johnson was probably a bit jet-lag.

Another thing that Johnson experienced, playing in beautiful, sunny, warm days in Saudi Arabia to playing in cold, damp conditions of Pebble.  Jet lag is something that doesn’t hit you the first day; it usually takes a day or two to happen so I can see Jet-lag as being one of the reason for him finishing 73-73-71 for a T-45th finish.  But Johnson has struggled since winning the Canadian Open in July.  Yes, he was 3rd at Firestone and the Tour Championship, but he struggled at the Ryder Cup and other than a T–4th at Kapalua and the win it hasn’t been pretty.  But look at Dustin’s schedule this year, if we didn’t know that he flew private jets, you would think he was looking for frequent flyer points.  He started the year flying from Florida to California and then to Maui, that is 4,767 miles.  Then it was back to Florida, another 4,767 miles.  Then he traveled from Florida to Abu Dhabi, 7,770 miles and then another 7,770 back home to Florida.  A week after it was back on the long haul flight from Florida to Saudi Arabia around 7,400 miles.  Then it was the long  8,000 miles flight to Pebble.  On Sunday it was a short hop of only 300 miles to L.A.  So in the last six weeks Johnson has logged just over 40,000 miles which is a few thousand miles short of flying around the world twice.

So with all of this flying and having to endure three, 11 hour time changes you have to wonder how Dustin is doing it.  Still, it’s not like he is flying the back of the bus on United’s 777, Johnson is flying in a private plane, is able to fly when he can sleep on these flight in a bed, so it makes thing tolerable.

But for Johnson, you can see that possibly the time zone changes caught up with him.  The last time he finished worst than T-45th at the AT&T was in 2013 when he missed the cut.  Now he comes to another tournament and course that he has done well on.  In 11 starts at Riviera, he has one win, two runner-up and seven top-ten finishes.  Last year Johnson struggled and finished T-16th so how do we judge his chances this week?  When he won in 2017, he was playing the best golf of his life and won three in a row.

But in 2019 Johnson is struggling.  He is 69th in driving distance and 180th in driving accuracy.  In greens hit, which usually is a strong suit for Johnson he is 62nd.  In strokes gained-putting he is 99th and the always strong par breaker stat, Johnson is 85th as he is 65th in birdie average for the year.

So maybe all of the flying has caught up with him, but with stats like this, you can’t call him a favorite this week.

Rory

Since McIlroy won the Palmer 11 months ago, his game hasn’t been that bad, but his putting has been his major problem.  Rory contended in both the Sentry T of C (finished T-4th) and the Farmers (finished T-5th), but his putting was the primary area of concern.  Now he only has played in three events on the PGA Tour, so his stats are a bit misleading, especially putting.  He is 96th in strokes gained-putting despite being 1st in putts made from 4 to 8 feet and is T-6th in putting made inside 10 feet (has made 121 of 132 attempts).  So what is McIlroy’s putting problems?  That’s easy, of the 45 putts between 10 and 25 feet he has only made 4 of them.  Of the 34 putts over 25 feet, he has missed all of them.  It may be hard to believe, but of the 64 putts over 15 feet he has made just one, an 18 footer in the 3rd round on the 14th hole at Torrey Pines.  So it looks like putting is a problem, but it’s making putts over ten feet.  McIlroy also has struggled around the greens; he is 60th in Strokes Gained Around the Green.  So that means one thing, McIlroy has been having offensive problems.  In past years McIlroy has been explosive in making birdies and eagles.  In 2014 McIlroy was 1st in Par Breakers and Birdie Average.  In 2016 he was 2nd in Par Breakers and Birdie Average.  But this year he is 113th in Par Breakers and 142nd in Birdie Average so that we can see McIlroy’s problems.

Now, this is the 3rd time McIlroy is playing at Riviera and offense has been a problem for Rory.  He finished T-20th in both events and in 2016 was T-16th in Par Breakers and T-21st making 16 birdies.  In his second start in 2018, he was T-31st in Par Breakers and T-50th making 12 birdies.  So if you put all of that together, you have to wonder if Rory will play well this week.  Yes, he’s had a couple of weeks to work out the kinks, but I find it doubtful for Rory to win this week.

Jordan

For Jordan, the last nine months has been a struggle.  Since finishing 3rd back to back at Houston and the Masters, Jordan has only finished once in the top ten in 17 starts, T-9th at the British Open.  Last week at Pebble Spieth’s game looked like it was getting better when he opened up 66-68.  But over the weekend he shot 74-75 at Pebble and finished T-45th.  Now Spieth’s problems had a lot to do with the weather which caught up with him.  After 12 holes on Saturday, he was 11 under par and just a shot back of the lead.  But with double bogeys at 13 and 18, he shot 40 on the back nine, and the rest was a struggle.  On Sunday in poor weather, Spieth only made two birdies and five bogeys in shooting 75.

Spieth has played in five events on the PGA Tour in 2019, and in looking at his stats, they are terrible.  He is 183rd in Strokes Gained Tee to Green; he is 124th in Strokes Gained Approach the Green, so his game is in total disarray.  His putting hasn’t been very good this year as he is 78th in Strokes Gained-Putting, and is 132nd in putts inside ten feet.  So we can see why he has missed two cuts this year along with being T-55th, T-35th at Torrey and T-45th at Pebble.

But let’s go back to last week at Pebble.  We don’t have exact stats for his first two rounds at Monterey Peninsula and Spyglass Hill, but if you look at his Pebble stats were he shot 74-75 his putting wasn’t that bad.  He was T-26th in putting inside ten feet and did make three putts (out of ten) from 10 to 25 feet.  In looking at his greens hit for the first two rounds, he hit 30 of 36 which makes me think that maybe, just maybe he is playing better.  Remember this; you can’t blame him for playing poorly in lousy weather, so I have to think that perhaps he will play well this week.  He played well in 2015 finishing T-4th and was T-9th last year.  In his last nine rounds at Riviera, he has been over par just once and been under par in seven of them.  For some odd reason those that play well at Riviera, Colonial and TPC River Highlands (Connecticut) usually play well at the Augusta National and we all know Spieth is excellent at the Masters.  His putting has gotten better, and if the weather is better who knows, possibly Spieth could be a perfect pick for this week.

But before we say “adios” to California… 

we have one more stop and some unusual items this week.

First off is the return of Tiger Woods, he showed us a lot with his win at the Tour Championship.  But since then he was a flop at the Ryder Cup, was 17 out of 18 players at the Hero World Challenge and T-20th at the Farmers.

This week he returns to Riviera, the site of his first PGA Tour starts in 1992 as a 16-year-old.  But if you look at Tiger’s career at Riviera you can see that this is about the only place that Tiger hasn’t won.

He has played in the Genesis 12 times (Riviera 11 time), and in those 11 starts at Riviera, his best finish was T-2nd in 1999 (2 shots back of winner Ernie Els). Other than the runner-up Woods has only been in the top ten two different times, in 2003 was T-5th and in 2004 was T-7th.  But in his other starts, they have been out of the, and in his last two starts he shot 69-74 and withdrew in 2006 (Was sick with the flu), and last year he missed the cut shooting 72-76.  So what are realistic goals for Tiger this week?  Probably to find a way to do well in the first two rounds, in 22 1st and 2nd round scores for Tiger at Riviera, he has only broken 70 nine times and has never done it in both the 1st and 2nd rounds.  The course may not be his cup of tea, but we thought about that when he struggled the first couple of times he played the Memorial and look what happened, he won five Memorials.  In looking at history and going to Jack Nicklaus, he has won every place except for the Canadian Open (Played in 25 of them, was runner-up seven times) and at Riviera.  He played at Riviera 11 times, 9 of them Genesis Opens and two PGA Championships.  He was runner-up in the 1978 Genesis and the 1983 PGA Championship.  But he was a bit better than Tiger, Nicklaus was in the top-ten five times and was third twice.  But Nicklaus wasn’t able to win both the Canadian Open or at Riviera, so maybe the reality is that Tiger may never win the Genesis.  I think that honestly, the only reason he is playing is that his foundation is part of the tournament, but to clear up a historical blemish on his career is to win the Genesis Open.

Things you need to know about Riviera and the Genesis Open
  • Riviera C.C. has held a U.S. Open, two PGA Championships. a Senior Open and the U.S. Amateur.  No other stop on the PGA Tour can claim the distinction of holding those three majors and the highest Amateur championship in golf. Of the 52 courses that will hold a PGA Tour event this year, Riviera, Pebble Beach and Bethpage are the only ones that have hosted both the U.S. Open and the PGA Championship.
  • In the history of this tournament, 50 of the 91 winners have also won a major championship.  Going a step further, 34 of the 55 winners at Riviera have also won a major championship  Of those 34, 21 have also won the Masters, so there is a link between winners at both Augusta National and Riviera.
  • Taking a step further, more Hall of Fame members have won at the Genesis than any other tournament since 1925.  The Genesis has been won 39 times by 25 different Hall of Fame members, the closet to it is the BMW Open which has been won 37 times by 22 different Hall of Fame players.  So you can see this event has an excellent track record for producing first-class champions.
  • One last thing to look for is the close finish.  There have been 19 playoffs at the tournament, with eight coming since 1998, including wins by Billy Mayfair (1998), Robert Allenby (2001), Mike Weir (2003), Adam Scott (2005) and Charles Howell III (2007), Bill Haas (2012), John Merrick (2013) and James Hahn (2015). Dating back to 1989, the tournament has ended either in a playoff (9 times) or with a one-stroke win (9 times).  So out of 30 times – 18 have been won by a playoff or a shot. The last two years has been a rarity in 2017 Dustin Johnson lapped the field winning by five shots.  Last year Bubba Watson beat Tony Finau and Kevin Na by two shots.
Course information:
  • Riviera Country Club
  • Pacific Palisades, Calif.
  • 7,322 yards     Par 35-36–71
  • The course has a 74.3 rating and slope rating of 139 from the championship tees. Riviera is a private club.
  • Last year Riviera was the 9th hardest course on the PGA Tour with a 71.76 average.  In 2017 it was the 23rd hardest course with a 71.01 average. In 2016 Riviera was the 21st hardest course on the PGA Tour with a 71.02 average. In 2015 Riviera was the 5th hardest course on the PGA Tour playing to a 72.59 average while in 2014 Riviera was the 24th hardest course playing to a 71.209 average while in 2013 Riviera was the 13th hardest course on the PGA Tour playing to a 71.85 average.
  • Riviera was designed by George Thomas, with some help from William Bell, and was opened in 1927.  In 2001, Riviera brought in architect Tom Fazio with the goal of improving the course for a bid to host the 2008 U.S. Open, which ended up going to Torrey Pines.  What Fazio did was lengthen several holes, enlarge some of the greens and restore five of the holes to their original design before a flood forced them to be changed.  Riviera also saw a significant renovation in 1993 when Ben Crenshaw and Bill Coore renovated all of the greens. Four years ago the course had all of its bunkers restored.
  • In the summer of 2009, Riviera Country Club completed phase II of the restoration of hole #8 directed by Fazio Golf Course Designers. The modifications intended to restore the 1926 original design intent of George Thomas’ “Double Fairway built around a dry wash.” In 1939, the original design intent was lost to a strong flood which scoured the “dry wash” along with the right fairway. Phase I of the restoration, in 2000, involved restoring the right fairway. Phase II included restoring the dry wash barranca, thus cutting the fairway into two parts.
  • The average green size at the Riviera is 5,000 square feet, which is a little under the average on the PGA Tour.  The course has 57 bunkers and no water hazards, but there is a dry barranca that comes into play for the pros on six holes.
History of Riviera:

Riviera Country Club is one of golf’s most intriguing clubs.

In 1922, Frank Garbutt, who was the vice president of the downtown Los Angeles Athletic Club, was looking for a golf course site for the club. He found a piece of property in the Santa Monica Canyon,  about two miles from the Pacific Ocean.  As he stood on an 80-foot bluff overlooking the canyon, where  Riviera’s clubhouse stands today,  Garbutt knew he had found the perfect site.

Garbutt hired George Thomas to design the course, but when the noted architect made his first site inspection, he didn’t share Garbutt’s opinion.  Thomas wasn’t impressed with the property, and he told Garbutt that any course built on the site would cost the club a bundle. Garbutt told Thomas to create the best course in the world, at any cost.

Thomas brought in 200 men to clear the canyon. He installed a state-of-the-art irrigation system and hauled 19,000 pounds of grass seed and topsoil from the San Fernando Valley.  When the course was finished in 1927, it had cost $ 675,000, giving it the distinction of being the most expensive course ever built.  That didn’t include the architect’s fee, because Thomas, a wealthy man who dabbled in course architecture, never charged a dime for his work.

Bottom line, Thomas built what many considered the best course in the West.  In 1939, when the National Golf Foundation named the ten best courses in America, Riviera placed third behind Pine Valley and Pinehurst No. 2.  Seventy years later, it still ranks among the best in various course ratings and opinion polls.

Riviera gained fame as the club of choice for movie stars.  Among them were Douglas Fairbanks (who put up $1,000 of the $10,000 prize fund for the first Los Angeles Open), W.C. Fields, Basil Rathbone, Dean  Martin, Burt Lancaster and Sammy Davis Jr.  More recently the membership has included Glen Campbell, Peter Falk, James Garner and Robert Wagner.  Scenes from several movies were shot at Riviera, including “Pat and Mike,” “The Caddy,” and “Follow the Sun.”

Today, those familiar with Riviera as a PGA Tour stop also recognize it as the course with the Kikuyu grass and a bunker in the middle of the green.

Kikuyu is a robust and sturdy strain of grass that was imported from Africa more than70 years ago for use on polo grounds.  When Riviera opened, polo was popular in L.A., and there were several polo grounds in the neighborhood.  There are many stories about how Kikuyu appeared at Riviera, but the tale most often told is that one night after a local polo field was seeded, a windstorm carried the Kikuyu seed onto Riviera.  Since Kikuyu grass is essentially a weed, it proliferated. The course superintendent ignored its encroachment, and before he knew it, Riviera had been taken over by Kikuyu.

Instead of resisting its growth, Riviera learned how to perfect Kikuyu. Today it blankets the course, making pitch and run shots nearly impossible because the thick grass grabs the club head.  Many believe Kikuyu is the finest form of grass to play off fairways because the ball sits up, regardless of the lie.

Riviera’s other unique feature is the sixth hole, a 170-yard par 3 that features a bunker in the middle of the green, making the putting surface into a doughnut shape. If a player’s tee shot lands on the wrong side of the bunker, he must chip over the sand or take several putts around it. For the average player, option No. 1 means taking a divot out of the green.

Riviera has held several major championships.  The 1948 U.S. Open was the first and won by Ben Hogan, who shot 8-under-par  276, an Open scoring record that stood until Jack Nicklaus posted a 5-under-par 275 in 1967 at Baltusrol.

In 1983, the PGA Championship was held at Riviera and won by Hal Sutton. The PGA returned in 1995, with Steve Elkington beating Colin Montgomerie in a playoff. Both shot 267, which remains the record for any major championship.

Riviera hosted a Senior Tour major in 1998 when Hale Irwin rebounded from a first-round 77 and claimed the title.

Unfortunately, the odds on Riviera holding another major are slim, even though it did hold the U.S. Amateur championship in 2017. The course is regarded as one of the gems on the PGA Tour, but traffic is a mess, and the congested neighborhood offers limited options for parking, hospitality and merchandise tents.  Still, for the pros, it’s a special treat for most of them once a year.

Major Championships held at Riviera:
  • 1948 U.S. Open won by Ben Hogan
  • 1983 PGA Championship won by Hal Sutton
  • 1995 PGA Championship won by Steve Elkington
  • 1998 U.S. Senior Open won by Hale Irwin
  • 2017 U.S. Amateur won by Doc Redman

Let’s take a look at vital stats that are important for those playing on the Riviera:

This is based on the most important stats for Riviera, based on data from last years Genesis Open, and using data from all the players in the field with stats from 2019.
The scoring average of the field at Riviera in 2018 was 71.76, so with par being 71, that means the average score was just a shade above three-quarters of a shot to par, making Riviera the 9th hardest course to score on in 2018. Last year wasn’t as nice as 2017 and in 2016, due to higher winds last year. Also, the course was dry, it was wet in 2017 & ’16 the weather was perfect for scoring with a combination of wet weather. In 2015 the course played much harder and had an average of 72.59 (which ranked 5th). So it’s important to see how the weather is because it does play a factor, in 2015 it played tough with dry, fast course conditions with the wind. That won’t be the case this year, just like at Pebble Beach which saw 6 inches of rain during the week, Riviera has also seen a lot of rain over the course of the last two weeks, close to six inches so Riviera will be very lush and the rough will be tougher than normal (Kikuyu doesn’t get high but gets stronger). Now to make matters even harder, heavy rain is in the forecast for Wednesday and Thursday. It will clear up for Friday and Saturday, but rains return on Sunday.

So for the players, don’t lose your raingear from Pebble.

In looking at the stats for Riviera last year Greens hit and driving accuracy are very important and a key to playing the course well. The course ranked 1st in greens hit, even though it ranked 5th last year, 17th in 2016 but was 1st in 2015. In driving accuracy, the course was the 5th hardest last year, 10th hardest on tour in 2017, the 9th hardest in 2016 and 6th hardest in 2015. One thing that is important for Riviera is getting the ball close from the fairway; Riviera was 4th in Proximity to Hole last year. In ranked T-6th in 2017 and 5th in both 2016 and 2015. So we see that players must be good from tee to green have a distinctive advantage.

Putting also showed that you have to putt well. Reason for this, Riviera has probably the hardest greens for players to putt on. With Poa Annua and close to the ocean, the greens are probably some of the bumpiest on tour. That is the reason that last year the course ranked 4th in putting inside ten feet. In 2017 it was 7th, while it was 2nd in 2016, 3rd in 2015. Last year it ranked 6th in putting from 4 to 8 feet, 4th in 2017, 2nd in 2016 and 2014 while it was 1st in 2015. So it makes sense that putting is probably the 2nd most important stat for the players. Just look at the last seven winners, not the best of putters but players that are great from tee-to-green.

So how did the winner Bubba Watson do last year? He was two shots better than Kevin Na and Tony Finau. So how did Watson win? He was good from off the fairway, he was T-7th hitting 46 of 72 greens and was 9th in Proximity to hole. He ranked T-27th in fairways hit. In Par Breakers he was 1st making an eagle and 20 birdies. Talking about birdies on the three par 5s, he played them in 8 under par, since 1997 only five champions played the par 5s better.

So here are our four choices for the most critical stats from players to do well at Riviera:

*Strokes Gained Tee-to-Green: A way to gauge how players save shots from tee to green. Important because Riviera is a “shot-makers” course and those that are good from tee to green tend to do well at Riviera. Now the rough isn’t harsh at Riviera, but hitting the 5,000 square foot greens is tough.

*Proximity to hole: Important to see who gets the ball close from off the fairway. In a way, this is even more important than greens hit, because the greens at Riviera are big enough that hitting them don’t make as much sense as getting the ball close.

*Putting inside 10 feet: In 2012 & ’15 Riviera had the laborious greens to putt. In 2013, ’14 and ’16 they were the 2nd hardest on tour while last year they were the 4th toughest. Players are sometimes puzzled by the greens which in the afternoon get bumpy and very hard to read. So making those putts are crucial in winning.

*Par 5 scoring average: Two of Riviera’s three par 5s are easy to get home in two and score well on. The longest of them is 17th and most of the time is played downwind, thus making that hole a birdie hole. The winner will do good on the par 5s.

130 of the 144 players from this year’s field with stats from this year:

Click any column title in the table header to sort columns.

 

Here is a link to the other 120 players listed for this week’s Genesis Open

Of the 144 in the field, 117 have played at least once in the Genesis.  Here are the players with the most under par totals at the Genesis since 2010:
  • Dustin Johnson is 62 under in 32 rounds playing 9 years
  • K.J. Choi is 33 under in 34 rounds playing 9 years
  • Bubba Watson is 28 under in 26 rounds playing 9 years
  • J.B. Holmes is 27 under in 34 rounds playing 9 years
  • Jimmy Walker is 27 under in 32 rounds playing 9 years
  • Phil Mickelson is 25 under in 24 rounds playing 6 years
  • Adam Scott is 24 under in 22 rounds playing 6 years
  • Bill Haas is 21 under in 26 rounds playing 8 years
  • Jim Furyk is 21 under in 30 rounds playing 8 years
  • Sung Kang is 20 under in 12 rounds playing 3 years
  • Adam Hadwin is 19 under in 16 rounds playing 4 years
  • Aaron Baddeley is 18 under in 30 rounds playing 9 years
  • Keegan Bradley is 18 under in 26 rounds playing 8 years
  • Matt Kuchar is 18 under in 30 rounds playing 8 years
  • Jordan Spieth is 16 under in 20 rounds playing 6 years
  • Paul Casey is 16 under in 20 rounds playing 5 years
  • Ryan Moore is 16 under in 31 rounds playing 9 years
  • Martin Laird is 15 under in 28 rounds playing 8 years
  • Sergio Garcia is 13 under in 18 rounds playing 5 years
  • Hideki Matsuyama is 12 under in 14 rounds playing 4 years
  • Cameron Smith is 11 under in 12 rounds playing 3 years
  • James Hahn is 11 under in 22 rounds playing 6 years
  • Sangmoon Bae is 10 under in 16 rounds playing 4 years
  • Rory McIlroy is 9 under in 8 rounds playing 2 years

*Here are the ones with the best under par totals averaging it per years played (2 or more starts)

  • Dustin Johnson is 62 under playing 9 years (-1.94)
  • Sung Kang is 20 under playing 3 years (-1.67)
  • Adam Hadwin is 19 under playing 4 years (-1.19)
  • Ollie Schniederjans is 7 under playing 2 years (-1.17)
  • Rory McIlroy is 9 under playing 2 years (-1.13)
  • Adam Scott is 24 under playing 6 years (-1.09)
  • Bubba Watson is 28 under playing 9 years (-1.08)
  • Phil Mickelson is 25 under playing 6 years (-1.04)
  • K.J. Choi is 33 under playing 9 years (-0.97)
  • Cameron Smith is 11 under playing 3 years (-0.92)
  • Branden Grace is 7 under playing 2 years (-0.88)
  • Hideki Matsuyama is 12 under playing 4 years (-0.86)
  • Jimmy Walker is 27 under playing 9 years (-0.84)
  • Bill Haas is 21 under playing 8 years (-0.81)
  • Jordan Spieth is 16 under playing 6 years (-0.80)
  • Paul Casey is 16 under playing 5 years (-0.80)
  • J.B. Holmes is 27 under playing 9 years (-0.79)
  • Carlos Ortiz is 6 under playing 2 years (-0.75)
  • Sergio Garcia is 13 under playing 5 years (-0.72)

Historical ParBreakers

Here is a look at those playing this week and who has made the most eagles and birdies:

So it makes sense that the top players on this list are guys that will make lot’s of points this week

DraftKings Picks

*Here are the guys that are very costly:
  • Dustin Johnson – $11,400
  • Justin Thomas – $11,000
  • Rory McIlroy – $10,700
  • Jon Rahm – $10,400
  • Bryson DeChambeau – $10,200
  • Phil Mickelson – $9,900
  • Bubba Watson – $9,700
  • Tiger Woods – $9,500
  • Xander Schauffele – $9,400
  • Hideki Matsuyama $9,300
  • Jordan Spieth – $9,200
  • Tony Finau – $9,100
  • Patrick Cantlay – $9,000

Lot’s of tough choices in the top-13 players for this week.  The big number one question is Dustin Johnson really worth the $11,400 especially after struggling last week.  Two ways of thinking of it, yes he is playing well he won two weeks ago in Saudi Arabia.  Last week had a lot to do with weather and jetlag, yes he would be a good pick this week.  Another thing to look at, he is a birdie machine at Riviera, he has made 142 of them in 32 rounds and is a total of 62 under on the course since 2010.  I also think that Justin Thomas is worth the $11,000, he played better at Riviera last year and I think he will improve on that.  He has played at Riviera four times and is 26 under on the par 5s so he will make a lot of birdies this week.  Rory McIlroy is $10,700 and I worry about him.  He isn’t playing that great and hasn’t shown a liking to Riviera, I say no for him.  Jon Rahm is $10,400 and a lot of money for someone that has never played at Riviera.  So it’s hard to judge if the course will suit his game.  I say yes, he plays well at Colonial and Augusta so he will play well this week.  As for Bryson DeChambeau at $10,200, I say no even though he has won at the Shriners and Dubai.  I say no because he hasn’t shown that he can play well at either Riviera or Colonial or Augusta National, I could be wrong but we have so many other better choices.  Phil Mickelson at $9,900 seems on the surface as a great choice, he won last week at Pebble, has played well at Riviera and won at Colonial and Augusta.  The only thing that I worry about, he may be tired and to win twice in a row in poor weather is hard.  So I will take a pass on Phil.  As for Bubba Watson at $9,700 he is a great choice this week, he always plays well at Riviera and was T-4th in his last start at Phoenix.  This week is like his little annuity so ride him at Riviera.  Tiger Woods at $9,500 is an easy choice, he has struggled on the course, is a bit rusty and I say save him for next week in Mexico.  Xander Schauffele at $9,400 is a good choice, was T-9th last year at Riviera and has been steady this year.  Hideki Matsuyama at $9,300 is a hard choice, the course should be good for him and he has played well this year, he could be a big surprise so don’t forget about him on this course.  Now Jordan Spieth is at $9,200 and many will take a pass on him.  He hasn’t shown anything in his results for the year, but I saw some promise in his play the first two rounds at Pebble, yes he faltered in the rain but I think he made the progress that he will surprise us this week.  Tony Finau at $9,100 is another hard choice, yes he was T-2nd last year but has struggled since finishing runner-up in China back in November, so I say take a pass on him.  Last we have Patrick Cantlay at $9,000, he was good last year finishing T-4th but I just don’t think he will be good in the cold wet conditions this week.

*Players in that $7,500 to $8,900 price range, which ones are worth the money?:

First player that shocks me in this price range is Paul Casey at $8,800.  What a bargain he is, yes he hasn’t played well at Riviera since his runner-up finish in 2016.  But he played well last week and seems like his game has really improved and he will continue the good play.  Tommy Fleetwood at $8,600 is also a great choice, he worried me last week with his opening round 73 at Pebble, but fought back to make the cut and finish T-45th, think it will be better this week.  Cameron Smith at $8,400 is also a good choice, played well last year and has played decent this year.  Just have to wonder if Branden Grace at $8,100 can keep up the good play, he is worth the price.  Now Charles Howell III at $7,900 is a bargain worth snapping up on, he has played steady this year and is ok at Riviera.  Rafael Cabrera-Bello at $7,800 is another great bargain, played great last week at Pebble and finished T-22nd with a 74 in the rain, think he will be better in good weather.

What are the “Bargains” out there?

I can honestly say yes there are some bargains in the sub $7,600 price range.  Right off the bat is Martin Laird at $7,600 he was T-9th last year, T-8th in 2017 and T-11th in 2016.  He has been steady the last three weeks so yes I would take him, especially since he has made 105 birdies and eagles in 8 Riviera starts.  Another great pick is Scott Stallings at $7,500 he was T-4th last year at Riviera and was T-3rd last week at Pebble.  Now we have Kevin Na at $7,500, he was runner-up last year and T-4th in 2017.  Normally I would say yes, but he is getting over a fractured bone in his right pinky so he is playing again, he was T-60th at Phoenix so he could be a good pick.  Sung Kang at $7,400 is another good pick, has played well at Riviera the last three years including a T-8th in 2016.  This year has been solid, was T-14th last week at Pebble.  J.T. Poston is also a bargain at $7,100, he was T-17th at Riviera in 2017 but I like his solid play on the PGA Tour in his four west coast starts including a best of T-7th at the Desert Classic.  Last I leave you with Davis Love III, now at $6,400 he has been good this year and has great memories at Riviera in his 12 Genesis starts including a pair of runner-up finishes two decades ago.

Here are some of the secrets of what it takes to play well at the Genesis:

Key stat for the winner:

What I find very interesting is that of all the courses on the PGA Tour year in and year out, Riviera has been in the top ten every year since they have kept track in 2003 of making the least amount of putts from 10 feet and in.  The reason for that, the poa annua greens are very tricky to putt and late in the afternoon get bumpy which creates more challenges ever.  So look for a player that has lot’s of patient with the putter and can overcome these obstacles.

So the stat shows that you have to make those pesky putts if you want to win, look at how it’s been done since 2003.

  • In 2018 players made 85.79%, which ranked 4th on tour.  Winner Bubba Watson made 87.67% ranking T-32nd.
  • In 2017 players made 86.20%, which ranked 7th on tour.  Winner Dustin Johnson made 92.54% ranking 6th.
  • In 2016 players made 84.69%, which ranked 1st on tour.  Winner Bubba Watson made 91.67% ranking T-5th.
  • In 2015 players made 85.15%, which ranked 1st on tour.  Winner James Hahn made 82.05% ranking 65th.
  • In 2014 players made 84.87%, which ranked 2nd on tour.  Winner Bubba Watson made 88.57% ranking 18th
  • In 2013 players made 83.37%, which ranked 2nd on tour.  Winner John Merrick made 85.53% ranking T33rd
  • In 2012 players made 84.39%, which ranked 1st on tour.  Winner Bill Haas made 87.14% ranking 22nd
  • In 2011 players made 84.84%, which ranked 1st on tour.  Winner Aaron Baddeley made 91.18% ranking 6th
  • In 2010 players made 86.48%, which ranked 8th on tour.  Winner Steve Stricker made 84.51% ranking 61st
  • In 2009 players made 85.67%, which ranked 7th on tour.  Winner Phil Mickelson made 87.84% ranking T29th
  • In 2008 players made 85.08%, which ranked 5th on tour.  Winner Phil Mickelson made 91.55% ranking 4th
  • In 2007 players made 85.35%, which ranked 6th on tour.  Winner Charles Howell made 91.78% ranking 2nd
  • In 2006 players made 85.30%, which ranked 3rd on tour.  Winner Rory Sabbatini made 82.89% ranking T63rd
  • In 2005 players made 86.53%, which ranked 8th on tour.  Winner Adam Scott made 85.71% ranking T57th
  • In 2004 players made 85.04%, which ranked 4th on tour.  Winner Mike Weir made 93.75% ranking 4th
  • In 2003 players made 84.90%, which ranked 1st on tour.  Winner Mike Weir made 85.71% ranking T38th
Here are some more key stats to look for this week:

Unbelievable and bizarre stat:

  • Riviera is a classic layout and a different breed than most courses on the PGA Tour. So you would think to place drives in the right spot is essential.  Consider some of the champions over the last 23 years:  Dustin Johnson, Bill Haas, Steve Stricker, Charles Howell III, Rory Sabbatini, Mike Weir, Len Mattiace, Nick Faldo, Kirk Triplett, Craig Stadler, Corey Pavin, Tom Kite and Ted Schultz have the reputation of being the best in placing drives in the right spot.  So that means only one thing, driving is significant at Riviera?  Sorry but that isn’t the case.  The last winner to finish in the top-ten in driving stats was 2014 winner Bubba Watson who was T8th, but before that, it was Nick Faldo in 1997.  Of the 22 since 1997, only six have finished in the top-25, so that means that 14 of them were out of the top-25, amazing.  Last year Bubba Watson was T-27th in driving accuracy. So being a straight driver is not an advantage at Riviera.
  • Experience is key. The list of champions in the last 24 years includes Dustin Johnson, Bubba Watson, Phil Mickelson Fred Couples, Tom Kite, Corey Pavin, Craig Stadler, Nick Faldo, Ernie Els and Mike Weir, all major championship winners.  There have been 25 different Hall of Fame members that have won 39 championships, so the cream seems to always come to the top.
  • Not many shotmaking courses left on the PGA Tour.  Outside of Riviera can only name about a half dozen, from Pebble to PGA National to Hilton Head to Colonial.  So for most of the pros, hitting lot’s of greens and shaping the ball into the proper position is essential. So it only makes sense that players who hit lots of greens always do well at Riviera, right?  Not really, in the last 21 years, only six winners have been in the top-five for the week in greens hit while ten have been out of the top-ten.  Bill Haas was the worst in 2012; he was ranked T58th hitting only 36 of 72 greens, in 2011 Aaron Baddeley was 3rd while in 2010 Steve Stricker was T10th while in 2009 Phil Mickelson was T9th in greens hit at Riviera.  In 2013 John Merrick ranked T23rd hitting 46 of 72 greens while in 2014 Bubba Watson ranked T3rd hitting 51 of 72 greens and in 2015 James Hahn hit 40 of 72 which ranked T-28th. In 2016 Bubba hit 51 of 72 greens which ranked T-7th, while Dustin Johnson in 2017 led the stat hitting 56 of the 72 greens.  Last year Bubba won hitting 46 of 72 greens and ranked T-7th.
  • Putting has become more important the last couple of years.  You have to make a lot of putts, especially in the under ten feet range to do well.  In 2012 Bill Haas had the least amount of putts with 103, while in 2010 Steve Stricker had the least amount of putts with just 104.  In 2014 Bubba Watson ranked T15th taking just 108 putts while James Hahn took 107 putts and ranked T-10th in 2015.  Bubba Watson took 113 putts in 2016 which ranked T-25th, while in 2017 Dustin Johnson took 114 putts which ranked T-48th.  Last year Bubba Watson had 108 putts which ranked T-16th.
  • Players who are good scramblers do well at Riviera, especially those who can play the delicate shots around the green from the Kikuyu grass.  In 2011 Aaron Baddeley led the scrambling stat for the week getting it up and down 18 of 20 times.

So how have the past winners done scrambling in their winning year?  Of the 16 winners since 2002, nine of them have been in the top-10.

  • In 2018 Bubba Watson was T-20th (worst winner performance since 2008) getting it up and down 18 of 26 tries (69.23%)
  • In 2017 Dustin Johnson was T-5th getting it up and down 13 of 16 tries (81.25%)
  • In 2016 Bubba Watson was 4th getting it up and down 16 of 21 tries (76.19%)
  • in 2015 James Hahn was 13th getting it up and down 22 out of 32 tries (68.75%).
  • In 2014 Bubba Watson was T16th getting it up and down 15 out of 21 tries (71.43%).
  • In 2013 John Merrick was 19th getting it up and down 17 out of 26 tries (65.38%).
  • In 2012 Bill Haas was 7th getting it up and down 26 out of 36 tries (72.22%).
  • In 2011 Aaron Baddeley was 1st getting it up and down 18 out of 20 tries (90.00%).
  • In 2010 Steve Stricker was T8th getting it up and down 19 out of 24 tries (79.17%).
  • In 2009 Phil Mickelson was T29th getting it up and down 14 out of 21 tries (66.67%).
  • In 2008 Phil Mickelson was 4th getting it up and down 20 out of 26 tries (76.92%).
  • In 2007 Charles Howell III was T6th getting it up and down 16 out of 21 tries (76.19%).
  • In 2006 Rory Sabbatini was T62nd getting it up and down 14 out of 24 tries (58.33%).
  • In 2005 Adam Scott was T14th getting it up and down 8 out of 10 tries (80.00%).
  • In 2004 Mike Weir was T7th getting it up and down 20 out of 26 tries (76.92%).
  • In 2003 Mike Weir was 6th getting it up and down 19 out of 26 tries.
  • In 2002 Len Mattiace was T11th getting it up and down 22 out of 28 tries (78.57%).
  • In 2001 Robert Allenby was 69th getting it up and down 11 out of 20 tries (55.00%).
  • In 2000 Kirk Triplett was 71st (dead last) getting it up and down 5 out of 14 tries (38.46%).

Last but not least, the weather was terrible last week at Pebble and unfortunately, it’s going to rain each day except for Saturday.

Who to watch for at the Genesis Open

Best Bets:

Dustin Johnson

2019 ’18 ’17 ’16 ’15 ’14 ’13 ’12 ’11 ’10 ’09 ’08 ’07
T16 Win 4 T2 2 CUT T4 CUT T3 T10 T59

Feel that he will be over his Jet-lag of last week at Pebble. The guy is a Riviera birdie machine making 142 since 2010. He has played the most consisted of anybody at Riviera.

Justin Thomas

2019 ’18 ’17 ’16 ’15 ’14 ’13 ’12 ’11 ’10 ’09 ’08 ’07
T9 T39 T54 T41

The guy has been really good of late, like the fact that he is a good ball striker and could win this week.

Jordan Spieth

2019 ’18 ’17 ’16 ’15 ’14 ’13 ’12 ’11 ’10 ’09 ’08 ’07
T9 T22 CUT T4 T12 CUT

Going out on a limb on him, yes he has played terrible and very inconsistent for months but I saw part of his game coming around at Pebble and think it will show this week.

Best of the rest:

Bubba Watson

2019 ’18 ’17 ’16 ’15 ’14 ’13 ’12 ’11 ’10 ’09 ’08 ’07
Win WD Win T14 Win CUT T13 WD CUT T17 T14 CUT

Knows how to win on this course, he will play well and contend.

Jon Rahm

2019 ’18 ’17 ’16 ’15 ’14 ’13 ’12 ’11 ’10 ’09 ’08 ’07
First time playing in this event

Yes he hasn’t played here before but I see how well he plays at Colonial and Augusta, if he plays well on those courses he will play well at Riviera.

Xander Schauffele

2019 ’18 ’17 ’16 ’15 ’14 ’13 ’12 ’11 ’10 ’09 ’08 ’07
T9

A guy that gets lost a lot on predictions, I see him doing very well this week.

Paul Casey

2019 ’18 ’17 ’16 ’15 ’14 ’13 ’12 ’11 ’10 ’09 ’08 ’07
T49 T39 T39 T2 T12 T22

He played great at Pebble, yes he lost a three-shot lead to Mickelson on Sunday, but Phil played great and beat Casey, I don’t think Paul beat himself.

Cameron Smith

2019 ’18 ’17 ’16 ’15 ’14 ’13 ’12 ’11 ’10 ’09 ’08 ’07
T6 T28 T63

Has played well this year.

Solid contenders

Phil Mickelson

2019 ’18 ’17 ’16 ’15 ’14 ’13 ’12 ’11 ’10 ’09 ’08 ’07
T6 T34 T21 T2 T35 T45 Win Win 2

Has a great record at Riviera, knows how to win here. Just have to wonder how serious he takes this. He was great at Pebble but if we hear him flying in from his San Diego home for his rounds like he has done the last couple of years, especially in bad weather will hurt him.

Tommy Fleetwood

2019 ’18 ’17 ’16 ’15 ’14 ’13 ’12 ’11 ’10 ’09 ’08 ’07
T37

This guy could do well if the weather gets really wet.

Rafael Cabrera-Bello

2019 ’18 ’17 ’16 ’15 ’14 ’13 ’12 ’11 ’10 ’09 ’08 ’07
T26

Another good muddier, he has won in muddy conditions like the 2017 Scottish Open so don’t discount him.

Branden Grace

2019 ’18 ’17 ’16 ’15 ’14 ’13 ’12 ’11 ’10 ’09 ’08 ’07
T37 T22

Another player who knows how to play in poor conditions.

Long shots that could come through:

Martin Laird

2019 ’18 ’17 ’16 ’15 ’14 ’13 ’12 ’11 ’10 ’09 ’08 ’07
T9 T8 T11 T65 CUT CUT T25 T54 CUT

Great record at Riviera the last couple of years.

Scott Stallings

2019 ’18 ’17 ’16 ’15 ’14 ’13 ’12 ’11 ’10 ’09 ’08 ’07
T4 CUT 66 T45

Played great in the final round at Pebble.

Kevin Na

2019 ’18 ’17 ’16 ’15 ’14 ’13 ’12 ’11 ’10 ’09 ’08 ’07
T2 T4 CUT T61 CUT CUT 76 3 T10 T25 T55 T33

Has been hampered with a finger injury, he has played well at Riviera including a runner-up last year.

J.T. Poston

2019 ’18 ’17 ’16 ’15 ’14 ’13 ’12 ’11 ’10 ’09 ’08 ’07
T17

Has had a solid year on the PGA Tour.

Don’t like them this week:

Tiger Woods

2019 ’18 ’17 ’16 ’15 ’14 ’13 ’12 ’11 ’10 ’09 ’08 ’07
CUT

Sorry I just think he can play good enough to win at Riviera, it’s about the only place he hasn’t won on.

Bryson DeChambeau

2019 ’18 ’17 ’16 ’15 ’14 ’13 ’12 ’11 ’10 ’09 ’08 ’07
T41 WD

Yes the guy has played great the last couple of months, but I just don’t think Riviera fits his eye.

Rory McIlroy

2019 ’18 ’17 ’16 ’15 ’14 ’13 ’12 ’11 ’10 ’09 ’08 ’07
T20 T20

Don’t think the course suits him, he has struggled for a bit and it will continue this week.

Tony Finau

2019 ’18 ’17 ’16 ’15 ’14 ’13 ’12 ’11 ’10 ’09 ’08 ’07
T2 CUT CUT T56

Lot’s of people like him but I still think his game is a bit rusty now.

Comments

  1. joebadalucco@gmail.com says:

    Hi Sal, great stuff as always. You mentioned saving Tiger for next week. If he plays, are you liking him in Mexico?

  2. Joe,
    A lot more than I like him this week.
    Riviera has got Tiger’s number and I just don’t think he can play well on the course, too much baggage.

    But again we don’t know if Tiger will play, I bet he will.

  3. The “Great Competitor” tag gets thrown around a lot on tour. This week, J Thomas getting it as the “revenge” factor for having a bad 4th rd…is Thomas that type of guy? Seems really easy going

  4. Has never been in that position before, I say no but the best players want to prove that a bad round is nothing but a fluke, the only way to do that is to win the next week.

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