Jordan Spieth

The Cheat Sheet provides fantasy golf players with course info, player history and the most noteworthy trends of the week to help them with their roster selections.

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PLAYS TO CONSIDER


THE FIELD

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. As such, we’ll be seeing a much tighter and more elite field than we did last week with some big names set to return to action. Perhaps the biggest entry here belongs to Brooks Koepka, who will be playing this event for just the second time and will be making his 2020 PGA debut after a couple of mediocre finishes in the Middle East. He’s yet to hit top form after suffering a knee injury last fall. Rory McIlroy will also be in the field after coming close at the Farmers, as will Jon Rahm, Justin Thomas and Dustin Johnson, meaning all of the top five players in the world are in the field this week. Of course, this event would still be missing something if Tiger himself weren’t attending, but luckily he’s in the field too and will be making his second PGA start of the year after recording a T9 at Torrey Pines.


The Course

Riviera CC, Pacific Palisades, California
Par 71, 7,300-7,350 yards

Riviera is one of the oldest courses on 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 a 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 favored bigger hitters 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 edition. 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 Tour. 2017 winner Dustin Johnson led the field in greens in regulation by a wide margin, hitting over 77%, while Bubba Watson has finished T7 or better in Greens hit in each of his three Riviera wins. Last year’s winner J.B. Holmes was third in this stat last year.

Riviera is a true par 71 with three Par 5s, but only one (the short first hole) is a real birdie opportunity. The other two traditionally play quite tough. The Par 4a 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 and while we have seen winners here reach the mid-teens, don’t be shocked if the cooler weather and tough setup keep the winning score close to single digits.

2020 Weather/Outlook: Much like the rest of this year’s West Coast swing, we don’t have a ton of poor weather to worry about, but cooler temperatures could keep things capped as far as scoring goes. Highs for the morning players will likely tap out around 48-52 degrees, while afternoon highs aren’t likely to reach much past the low 60s. The good news, though, is that wind doesn’t appear like it will be a huge factor as gusts aren’t expected to top 10 mph for most of the week. Thursday looks to be slightly calmer in the afternoon compared to Friday, although the difference is negligible and likely not worth using as a decision-maker on who to roster this week. Still, watching the Friday afternoon wind forecast is worthwhile here, as it could lead to a slight bigger wave scoring split if it picks up even a bit from current projections.


Last 5 winners

2019 — JB 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)
2016 — Bubba Watson -15 (over Adam Scott -14)
2015 — James Hahn -6 (in playoff over Dustin Johnson and Paul Casey)


Winning Trends

Recent west coast form is important this week:
– Each of the last nine winners had played in Pebble Beach or Phoenix as their final start before winning at Riviera. Seven had played Pebble as their last start and two had played Phoenix as their last start.
– Only two of the last nine winners had missed the cut in their final start prior to winning at Riviera (Holmes 2019, Watson 2016).


Statistics



2019: JB Holmes

SG: Off the Tee—37th

SG: Approach—6th

SG: Tee to Green—11th

SG: Putting—1st

Driving Distance—41st

Scrambling—17th
2018: Bubba Watson

SG: Off the Tee—17th

SG: Approach—11th

SG: Tee to Green—1st

SG: Putting—21st

Driving Distance—21st

Scrambling—20th
2017: Dustin Johnson

SG: Off the Tee—1st

SG: Approach—20th

SG: Tee to Green—2nd

SG: Putting—3rd

Driving Distance—1st

Scrambling—5th
Driving Distance (DD) isn’t the be all and end all this week. Bill Haas ranked 66th in DD here in 2012 en route to victory and James Hahn was 30th for the week in DD in 2015 when he won, while Holmes was 41st last year. That being said, in 2017 five of the top 10 finishers were in the top 20 for the week in driving distance and in 2018 five of the top 13 players here ranked inside the top 40 in distance off the tee for the season.

In addition to Driving Distance being a factor, Strokes Gained: Off the Tee and Strokes Gained: Tee to Green have also been big indicators for past champions. Winners here have averaged significantly higher in these stats vs. other venues on tour and two of the past five winners here (Dustin Johnson – 2017 and Bubba Watson – 2014) have ranked first in Strokes Gained: OTT for the week of their win.

Additionally, five of the past six winners have ranked inside the top 5 in SG: Tee to Green stats for the week of their win at Riviera, with 2018 winner Bubba Watson ranking first in this stat for the week.


Finding Values

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 odds of winning this week.


Player Odds DraftKings Price Comparables
Xander Schauffele +2000  

$9,200

 
–    Hideki Matsuyama $9,300 and +2600

–    Brooks Koepka $9,400 and +2600

–    Bubba Watson $9,600 and +2500
Matt Kuchar +5000 $7,800 –      Collin Morikawa $8,100 and +5000

–      Sungjae Im $8,000 and +7000

–      Abraham Ancer $8,200 and +7000


Horses for Courses

1. Bubba Watson (best finishes: win-2018, 2016, 2014): Bubba has now won this event in three of the past six seasons and is the clear lead horse this week. He does have a couple of hiccups on his record here, as he has missed the cut twice at this event and has withdrawn in-play twice since 2010, but was solid here last year earning a T15 finish. His upside at Riviera is unmatched and the mercurial lefty is a perfect fit for the challenging, classic venue.

2. Dustin Johnson (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 six seasons, he’s only finished outside the top 10 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 (best finishes: T2-2016, win-2005—36-hole event): Scott has a long record of playing at Riviera and is a past champion here, winning the rain-shortened version back in 2005 which only featured 36 holes (unofficial win). The Aussie has performed well here recently too, as he finished T2 back in 2016 to Bubba Watson and was T8 here last year as well. This will be his first start in eight weeks, but he could easily hit the ground running at one of his favorite venues.

4. Kevin Na (best finishes: T4-2018, T2-2017): Na leads the charge here for shorter hitters who have managed to find success around this challenging track. The four-time Tour winner has now finished inside the top 5 here on three occasions since 2010, including twice in the past three years. He’s had some injury issues of late, but is coming in off a solid T14 at Pebble Beach where he battled back from a disastrous first round.

5. Ryan Moore (best finishes: T4-2011, T9-2018): Moore is another shorter hitter off the tee who has still managed to find good success at Riviera over a large sample. Since 2011, he’s missed the cut here twice but has also recorded three top 10 finishes, including a T4 finish from 2011. He may end up as an interesting contrarian target as many fantasy owners will likely try to emphasize distance off the tee this week.

DFS Strategy

Cash Games: Cantlay, Finau, Rose a serious value trio

With all of the top 5 players in the world in attendance this week, the prices on some of the next tier of players are drastically cheaper than we’re used to seeing. Both Patrick Cantlay ($9,800) and Tony Finau ($9,100) have shown some serious form already this year and both have top 5 finishes to their credit at this week’s venue. Their salaries make them solid anchors for cash gameplay. Justin Rose ($8,500), who is six for six in cuts made here since 2010, is also a great value. Lower down the likes of Paul Casey ($7,900), Matt Kuchar ($7,800), Alex Noren ($7,300) and Keegan Bradley ($7,300) also look like solid values for this format of play.

Tournaments: Tiger Woods a possible pivot target

Woods ($10,400) has had his issues at Riviera as it remains one of the few venues at which he has never won during his illustrious career. Still, he put up a promising T15 finish here last season and has looked in fantastic form in limited action since the Presidents Cup. He’ll likely have lower ownership attached to him in DFS than the other big names just below or above him in price. The $8K range also looks promising, with names like Jordan Spieth ($8,400), Abraham Ancer ($8,200) and Sergio Garcia ($7,800) unlikely to be popular targets this week as DFS players opt for players with cheaper salaries or better length off the tee. Other GPP punt targets here include the likes of Jhonattan Vegas ($6,800), Carlos Ortiz ($6,800), Martin Laird ($6,500) and Aaron Baddeley ($6,300).

Top Recent Form

1. Justin Thomas: Thomas comes into this week off a solid T3 finish in Phoenix where he made a late Sunday charge into the top 5. He’s only finished outside the top 5 once in his past four starts.

2. Jon Rahm: Rahm cooled off a bit in Phoenix, where he finished T9. The Spaniard has been in amazing form over the past four months, though, as he’s only finished outside the top 10 once in his past eight starts.

3. Tony Finau: Finau comes into this week off a heartbreaking playoff loss in Phoenix. He’s now finished T14 or better in his past five starts worldwide and has looked in top form during the West Coast swing.

4. Bubba Watson: Watson has really come alive in his past two starts as he led the field in SG: Tee to Green play at the Farmers where he finished T6 and then went on to record a T3 the next week in Phoenix.

5. Max Homa: Homa has had a fabulous start to the 2020 season and is now four for four in terms of cuts made on the year. The American finished T14 last week and has two top 10 finishes in his past three starts.


MY PICK: Jordan Spieth ($8,400)

Spieth enters this week after a solid start at Pebble Beach where he finished T9 for the week, led the field in two measured rounds in SG: Tee to Green stats and also gained an absurd 4.4 strokes on approaches in his final round. The solid ball-striking stats should be what really makes us sit up and take notice as Spieth was a constant disaster in this area for most of 2019, ending the year 157th in SG: Tee to Green rankings. While some healthy skepticism should remain, Spieth’s play last week is certainly a good omen coming into Riviera, a course that rewards good tee to green play and players with solid form. Despite not possessing extreme length off the tee, the three-time major winner has handled Riviera well in the past, landing three finishes of T12 or better here over his past six starts and barely missed out on a playoff at this event back in 2016. With three starts under his belt in 2020 and coming in off one of his best ball-striking weeks in years, I like getting in on the ground floor here with Spieth who may be ready for a blow-the-top off kind of week soon.


MY SLEEPER: Martin Laird ($6,500)

Laird’s started the 2020 season with little fanfare, coupling a missed cut in Palm Springs with two T55 finishes at the Farmers and Phoenix. While the upside here may look negligible, it’s worth noting that the Scotsman has often come alive at this week’s venue posting T11 or better finishes in three of the past four seasons. A steady West Coast performer over his career, Laird showed some improved ball-striking at TPC Scottsdale, ranking T20 for the week in Greens in Regulation and T17 in Driving Accuracy. While he lost over four strokes with the putter on the Bermuda greens in Phoenix, Laird’s been much more consistent with the putter over his career on Riviera’s Poa complexes and looks like a player who could easily take a bigger leap forward this week in placing given his progression so far this year. At $6,500, he looks like a solid lower-tier value target for those looking to “jam-in” multiple big named players this week.


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