This Week’s Event: 2018 Genesis OpenPat Mayo and Geoff Fienberg debate their 2018 Genesis Open picks and the week in betting at this week’s PGA Tour stop at Riviera CC.
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2018 Genesis Open Picks: Show Index
2018 Genesis Open FieldDefending champion: Dustin Johnson
144 players | Top 70 and ties make the cut
First tee time: 9:40 a.m. ET
Following the 2018 trend of deep fields, the West Coast swing comes to its conclusion with the majority of the world’s top players trekking to Hollywood for the Genesis Open. Riviera Country Club will host 14 of the world’s Top 25 players: Dustin Johnson, Jordan Spieth, Justin Thomas, Rory McIlroy, Marc Leishman, Alex Noren, Paul Casey, Matt Kuchar, Pat Perez, Rafa Cabrera-Bello, Charley Hoffman, Francesco Molinari and Xander Schauffele all plan to be in attendance, along with world No. 12 player Tommy Fleetwood, who is set to make his USA debut. Last year’s runner-up, Thomas Pieters, also is scheduled to tee off for the first time on American soil, as is Dubai champ Haotong Li, Martin Kaymer, Charl Schwartzel and Japanese Tour regular Seung-Hyuk Kim.
Branden Grace, Daniel Berger, Tony Finau, Patrick Cantlay, Kevin Chappell, Phil Mickelson, Si WOOOOO Kim, Adam Scott, Jhonny Vegas, Chez Reavie, Bill Haas, Shane Lowry, Ollie Schniederjans, Ryan Moore, Jimmy Walker, Bud Cauley, Jason Kokrak, Bryson DeChambeau, J.B. Holmes, Austin Cook and two-time Riviera novelty check hoister Bubba Watson comprise a deep second tier of the field. It’s also worth noting that Bubba is scheduled to play in the NBA All-Star Celebrity Game. Not sure whether that will help or hinder Gerry’s chances, but if he’s well behind the cut line Friday, he might get out of Dodge as quickly as possible since the game starts at 7 p.m. ET. J.J. Spaun will return to the links after withdrawing from the Waste Management Open two weeks ago.
Editor’s Note: Bill Haas has withdrawn from the event.
Oh, some guy named Tiger Woods is playing, too. That’s always news. Woods will make his second start of 2018, and this one comes as a surprise. Despite Riviera being his hometown track, Tiger has never won there in 11 tries, and he hasn’t even played in this event since 2006. He looked shockingly solid three weeks ago in San Diego, but Torrey Pines is a course where he has experienced a ton of career success. With a spotty track record in L.A., it’ll be interesting to see if Tiger can stick around for the weekend.
After this, Tiger is expected to lace up the spikes at Bay Hill and the Honda Classic, and that could be the last we see of him before The Masters, since he doesn’t have a lofty-enough world ranking to get into the two WGC fields. It will be interesting to see if Woods makes a surprise start at Valspar or in Texas as an Augusta tune-up.
2018 Genesis Open Key StatsStrokes Gained: Ball Striking
Driving Distance Gained
Strokes Gained: Around The Green
Par 4 450-500 Scoring Gained
Putting: Inside 10 Feet
Mayo’s Custom Stat POWER RANKINGS from FantasyNational.com
2018 Genesis Open CourseRiviera CC | Par 71 | 7,322 Yards
Greens: Poa | 49 Eagles in 2017
While two distinct molds of players have excelled at Riviera in the past, the long-hitting, elite ball strikers are the better options. This is a long course — and much longer than the 7,322 yardage on the scorecard would suggest.
With No. 1 being among the PGA Tour’s shortest (and easiest) Par 5s and No. 10 coming in at a paltry 315 yards, the remaining holes are left to absorb the length. Seven of the 11 Par 4s measure more than 450 yards. That’s not short, hence why you’re better off leaning bomber this week. The entire field, regardless of the length off tee, should be able to challenge all the Par 5s in two, and that short Par 4 is accessible to all. But the difference, in terms of legit scoring opportunities, on those long Par 4s will be who can consistently get their irons close (DUH). And, generating a quality birdie chance will happen more consistently for those hitting 8 irons into the greens as opposed to 5 irons (Double DUH). This, and the majority of iron shots coming from beyond 175 yards, is why DJ and Bubba own three of the past four Genesis titles.
Now, I don’t want to discount the shorter hitters, but their degree of difficulty is just higher. Bill Haas, Aaron Baddeley and Steve Stricker are former champs here, so it can be done. It just takes the perfect skill set of a short hitter. If you’re going to target those players who’d never have a chance in a long-drive competition, they must have an elite short game and a history of smacking their long irons well over the field average.
The short game can lead to scoring as well. While it’s never anything to bank on, Riviera historically has an elevated number of hole-outs. And with the hilarious number of three-putts you’ll see this week, a well-timed chip-in could be a two-shot swing. Since 2012, Riviera ranks sixth among all PGA courses in total hole-outs — TPC Southwind (St. Jude Classic) is tops, in case you were wondering. Another reason for this could be what the field is aiming at. Much like last week, but on a lesser scale, greens will be difficult to hit because of length of approach shots and landing area. While they’re not microscopic putting surfaces, like at Pebble, the greens at Riviera are well below Tour average. Since players who make the cut hit just around 57 percent of GIRs, the opportunity and reliance of short games matter far more.
Obviously, putting will be a giant factor, but that can be tricky to prognosticate for any specific tournament, especially on poa greens. The players have responded well to the firmer poa putting surfaces we’ve seen in recent years, although it really hasn’t lead to easier results. Riviera annually ranks among the most difficult tracks on Tour in putting from inside 10 feet.
For corollary courses, in terms of crossover success, Augusta and Quail Hollow have shared a lot of similar names on the leaderboard over the years. James HAHHHHNNNNNNNNN winning at both Riviera and QH for his only two career victories is pretty strange. And there’s a clear lefty advantage at Riviera, much like at the The Masters. Bubba, Phil and Mike Weir have won at this course multiple times, and all three have green jackets currently being eaten by moths.
In the past, I’ve gone into how golf analytics can be a huge advantage if properly used. Not, “Hey, because of analytics, I shaved eight strokes off my score” huge, but enough to potentially pick up a shot or two over the course of an event. That might not seem like much, but that’s usually the difference between winning and Philling.
The 10th hole at Riviera is a perfect test case. Despite getting no publicity, or ever appearing in anyone’s Top 10 lists, it’s my favorite hole in golf. I love short Par 4s that can generate eagles just as often as double bogeys. That’s exactly what you want in terms of risk-reward. People are enamored with this hole, too. ShotLink has a section dedicated to the results from No. 10 over the years, and this Rich Hunt article from five years ago is what really turned me on to it. Basically, there’s a perfect correlation between going to the green in one when the pin is in the front against laying up when it’s situated in the back. People hear “analytics” and think advanced formulas, with crazy math that less than 0.0000001 percent of the population understand. I’m not talking about what players do off the tee when the wind is blowing at exactly 16.690 MPH on holes measuring 425 to 427 yards. No, analytics are raw data someone has just put into context, even if that data is fairly simple.
The “going for it” or “laying up” at No. 10 case is pretty simple to comprehend. And this is a fairly famous hole. I’d wager there are multiple examples of this scenario at almost every course, which is why it seems crazy to me that so few golfers employ an analytics consultant. I mean, most of the people are doing it for free on the Internet anyway. It’s not like it will cost very much.
Finally, Kikuyu grass. It’s thick, and it’s fun to say. You’ll hear it over 100 times on the TV broadcast this week.
2018 Genesis Open Picks — Targets From Each RangeDustin Johnson
Come on now. Could it be anyone but DJ? Since 2012, the world’s No. 1 has missed only one cut (2013) at the Genesis, and he failed to finish outside the Top 4 in any of his other five starts. Since 2013, he has gained more than 17 more strokes at Riviera than any other player (K.J. Choi is second, somehow). He also has won and finished runner-up in two PGA starts this season, and he even chucked in a T9 in Abu Dhabi just for kicks.
You might talk yourself into one of the other elite options after seeing DJ being outdated by Ted Potter Jr. on Sunday. And, as a member of a free society, that is your right. However, DON’T!!!!!!!
Despite an abysmal course history in L.A. (MC/MC/T56), he has been successful at Quail Hollow in his two turns, and he seemingly meets the player profile you want at Riviera. He’s second in Driving Distance and first in Par 5 Scoring gained over the past 50 rounds against the field, and he also comes inside the Top 15 in P4 450-500 scoring and Strokes Gained: Ball Striking.
And, very sneakily, Finau’s short game has been pretty legit lately. He has been in the positives in Strokes Gained: Around The Green in five of his past six events, and he ranks 20th in this field in ATG over the past 12 rounds. As always, the question will be: Can he putt? And the answer usually is a resounding LOL. But, eventually, he’ll have a hot week, and I’m not missing out at a track that suits him in every other way.
Everyone will likely be all over Tommy Fleetwood’s jock this week (and probably deservingly so), but I’ll side with the more lesser-known, equally higher-ranked Euro who already has been Stateside for a month. Oh, he also has posted a T21/P2 in two starts and gained over 11 strokes through approach shots in those events. Plus, he ranks inside the Top 6 against the field in GIRs gained and scoring on Par 4s 450-500s in his past 12 rounds.
Only one player ranks higher in my short-term form model (12 rounds) than prohibitive favorite Dustin Johnson, and that’s the hatless wonder. A breakthrough victory has been festering for more than a year now, and this is a perfect opportunity for Schniederjans to get people to remember how to spell his last name, instead of just relying on auto-correct.
Ollie posted a T8 in his debut start at Riviera a year ago, and he enters with Top 10s in his past two starts, primarily based on his hot iron play. Schniederjans ranks fourth in the field in SG: APP over his past 12 rounds. I worry that the course is a tad too long for him to hit his upside, but I’ll take the chance on his form at the moment.
Chez is the shorter hitting specialist I talked about earlier. He has posted consecutive second-place finishes the past two weeks, has made 20 consecutive cuts and sits Top 10 in this field in ball striking, around the green, approach and proximity gained on approaches from over 200 yards in the past 12 rounds. His course history isn’t spectacular, but Reavie does have a T7 as the meat of a missed cut sandwich, so it’s possible he can challenge again. It feels like Chez is going to pumpkin, but I’ll go down with the ship riding this heater.
More of a shot in the dark, he missed six cuts in a row following his return to the PGA Tour from Korean military service, but he finally took home a paycheck at Pebble last week, posting a T15. Despite the poor overall results, the two-time PGA winner still rates highly in long-iron proximity and Par 5 Scoring. And, if you sort by “Poa Greens Only” on Fantasy National, it’s basically DJ, Paul Casey, Jason Kokrak and Sang-Moon who stand out. It’s likely why he has generated T8/T12/T8 in three Genesis starts.
Other notable names appearing near the top of stat models and the win simulator at FantasyNational.com: Luke List, Kevin Chappell, Brendan Steele, Jordan Spieth, Phil Mickelson, Brandon Harkins, Rory Mcilroy, Justin Thomas
Pat Mayo is an award-winning video host and producer of long and short-form content, and the host of The Pat Mayo Experience daily talk show. (Subscribe for video or audio). Mayo’s (@ThePME) 13 Fantasy Sports Writing Association nominations lead all writers this decade and are third-most all-time. Mayo has been recognized across multiple sports (Football, Baseball & Golf), mediums (Video, Writing & Podcasting) and genre (Humor). Beyond sports, Mayo covers everything from entertainment to pop culture to politics. If you have a Fantasy question, general inquiry or snarky comment, ship it to Mayo at ThePatMayoExperience@gmail.com and the best will be addressed on the show.
I am a promoter at DraftKings and am also an avid fan and user (my username is ThePME) and may sometimes play on my personal account in the games that I offer advice on. Although I have expressed my personal view on the games and strategies above, they do not necessarily reflect the view(s) of DraftKings and I may also deploy different players and strategies than what I recommend above. I am not an employee of DraftKings and do not have access to any non-public information.