Riviera Key Fantasy Stats

Genesis Open

February 13th – 16th, 2020

Riviera C.C.

Pacific Palisades, CA

Par: 71 / Yardage: 7,322

Purse: $9.3 million

with $1,674,000 to the winner

Defending Champion:
J.B. Holmes

by Sal Johnson

Founder, Chief Data Officer, GOLFstats

E-mail me at:

This is based on the most important stats for Riviera, based on data from last year’s Genesis Open, and using data from all the players in the field with stats from 2020.
The scoring average of the field at Riviera last year was 71.55, it ranked the 10th hardest on tour. Now, what controls this is the weather, of course when one thinks of a tournament being played in Los Angeles they think of great weather and nothing but sunshine. Many people think that all the pros play in sunglasses to protect their eyes from the glare of the sun, but that’s not the case. Riviera is located in Pacific Palisades which is just outside of Los Angeles and the course is on top of a hill about a mile from the Pacific Ocean. So during the day, it could be 85 degrees 20 miles away in Downtown Los Angeles and 65 at Riviera. Now despite what you may think of Los Angeles in mid-February the weather can be venerable, last year it was rainy the first two days as all for days it never got warmer than 62 and over the weekend the winds blew between 10 and 25 mph. Same with 2018 when the scoring average was 71.76 and the course ranked 9th hardest. Now it doesn’t have to rain to make it play tough, in 2015 the course played hard, the average was 72.59 (ranked 5th hardest course for the year) as the course was dry and fast with high winds during the tournament playing havoc for the players.
The good news is that for this year just like at Pebble Beach, the weather at Riviera is going to be perfect, a bit cold with temperatures in the low 60s and winds in the 10mph range, but sunny skies all four days and no chance of rain. The one thing that this doesn’t help is short hitters as the ball won’t fly as long.

In looking at the stats for Riviera, last year’s Greens hit and driving accuracy are very important and a key to playing the course well. The course ranked 10th in greens hit which is the highest it’s ranked in two years. In 2018 it was first while in 2017 it was 5th hardest on Tour. In driving accuracy, the course was the 12th hardest which was the highest since 2011 when it ranked 11th. In 2018 it was the 5th hardest and in 2017 the 10th hardest on tour. One thing that is important for Riviera is getting the ball close from the fairway; Riviera was 4th in Proximity to Hole last year and in 2018. It ranked T-6th in 2017 and 5th in both 2016 and 2015. So we see that players that are 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 along with Pebble Beach last week are probably some of the bumpiest on tour. That is the reason that last year the course ranked 2nd on the PGA Tour in putting inside ten feet. In 2018 it ranked 4th in putting, while in 2017 it was 7th, it was 2nd in 2016 and 3rd in 2015. Last year it ranked 3rd in putting from 4 to 8 feet on the PGA Tour while it was 6th in 2018, 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 eight winners, not the best of putters but players that are great from tee-to-green.

So how did the winner J.B. Holmes do last year? He was a shot better than Justin Thomas and two shots better than Si Woo Kim. So how did Holmes win? First of all, because of the poor weather, he had to play 33 holes on Sunday so the final day was a test of endurance. He wasn’t as good as others have been off the tee as he hit only 29 of 56 fairways which ranked T-59th but he hit 52 of 72 greens which ranked T-2nd. In proximity to the hole, he was T-30th and was just as good from off the fairway ranking T-33rd. Now Holmes excelled in an area he normally doesn’t do well in, Putting. In 2019 in Strokes Gained Putting he ranked 105th but at Riviera he was 1st. In putts from 4 to 8 feet, he ranked 3rd and was 10th in putts inside 10 feet. In comparison, in 2019 Holmes was T-121st in putting from 4 to 8 feet and 185th in putting inside 10 feet so again he putted lights out at Riviera. Holmes was good in birdies making 19, T-2nd and that translated to T-2nd in Par Breakers.

Now many can say that Holmes was a bit of a fluke due to the weather and the way they had to play so much golf on the final Sunday. So let’s see how Bubba Watson won the Genesis in 2018. 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 doesn’t make as much sense as getting the ball close.

*Putting inside 10 feet: In 2012 & ’15 Riviera had the hardest greens to putt on for the year. In 2013, ’14, ’16 and last year they were the 2nd hardest on tour. 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.

110 of the 120 players from this year’s field with stats from this year (Sergio Garcia, Dustin Johnson, Brooks Koepka, Justin Rose and Tiger Woods haven’t played enough rounds to qualify for stats for 2020):

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