Fantasy Golf Picks — 2019 Genesis Open Picks, Rankings, Sleepers, Preview

2019 Genesis Open Picks, Rankings, Sleepers, Preview

Pat Mayo and Geoff Fienberg preview the course and run through the odds while making their 2019 Genesis Open Picks. The guys give their fantasy golf picks and provide their one and done strategy for the event from Riviera CC.

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2019 Genesis Open — Picks and Preview | Picks/Field/Course | Picks Podcast | Stat Power Rankings | Quick Picks | One and Done | Picks Cheatsheet | Stats/Tools | Favorites | Middle Range | Long Shots | Tiger Woods

2019 Genesis Open DraftKings  Picks & Preview | DK Cheat Sheet | Audio Podcast | $10K+$9K/$8K Range | $7K/$6K Range | Ownership Projections

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2019 Genesis Open Picks: Show Index

0:22 Giveaways
12:55 Pebble Beach Recap
29:43 PGA NEWS
38:31 Pebble Course/Stats
36:37 Golf Broadcasting/RedZone
49:59 Stats/Course
52:49 Favorites
1:01:22 Tiger
1:08:45 Middle Tier
1:23:36 Longshots
1:33:12 Quick Picks
1:37:40 One and Done


2019 Genesis Open Field

144 Players | Top 70 & Ties Make The Cut after 36 Holes
First Tee: 9:40 a.m. ET; Thursday, Feb. 14
Defending Champion: Bubba Watson

Most of Team Bomb and Gouge skipped the short tracks at Pebble Beach, with a few notable exceptions, but the entire squad is piling into their PJ (that’s private jet, to us poors), landing at Bob Hope Airport, heading west on North Hollywood, taking Ventura to Church, and getting on Sunset from the 405. Being notable figures, Dustin Johnson, Justin Thomas, Bryson DeChambeau, Jon Rahm, Xander Schauffele, Rory McIlroy, Tony Finau and Bubba Watson will arrive at Riviera CC, and no one will ask WHAT ARE YOUUUUU DOING HERE??? jokes. With that cavalcade in tow, there’s little doubt they’re in Hollywood to film the world’s least charismatic remake of Ocean’s 11. Or, depending on who’s directing and the financials of the studio, it could be shown like a common YouTube video on a digital projector, I suppose.

The annual trek to Los Angeles always signifies the conclusion of the West Coast Swing. Normally, following the conclusion at Riviera, the TOUR swaps Poa Annua for Bermudagrass, the Pacific for the Atlantic and hops a PJ to Florida. However, with the scheduled realignment this year, WGC-Mexico now falls next week, and the 2019 Genesis Open has turned out to be the big winner. Always one of the year’s premiere events, a lot of players who normally would head to their homes for a week off in Florida now are sticking out west for the week before jetting off to Mexico City.

Don’t believe me? Beyond the aforementioned group, which would be unbeatable as a traveling long drive company, Jordan Spieth, Phil Mickelson, Tommy Fleetwood, Paul Casey, Patrick Cantlay, Hideki Matsuyama, Marc Leishman, Matt Kuchar, Adam Scott, Tyrrell Hatton, Branden Grace, Keegan Bradley, Rafa Cabrera-Bello, Adam Hadwin, Kiradech Aphibarnrat, Charles Howell III and Cameron Smith all have gotten dropped off at the bus stop, just itching for that big break. Adam Scott said he’ll do anything to get his big break. He’ll even try putting.

We’re not done, though. Louis Oosthuizen and Sergio Garcia are making their USA debuts for the season. This will be the first event since Sergio FREAKED OUT in Saudi Arabia, so, if nothing else, he’ll win media week.

Some guy named Tiger’s playing, too. Why? Genesis is a sponsor, because there’s no reason for Tiger Woods to waste one of his limited appearances on Riviera otherwise. Even when he was Unstoppable Tiger, Riviera just didn’t mesh with Woods. The first start of his career, as a 16-year-old, came at this track in 1992. In his 11 starts since, no wins. In fact, before his comeback tour last year, he hadn’t played Riviera since 2006.

This version of Tiger is already a lot further along than anyone expected, but at a course that rewards power drives off the tee, Tiger will need to be about perfect with the irons and putter if he’s going to contend. He’s Tiger, so that’s well within the range of outcomes, but of all the events on his schedule this season, it’s likely the one least suited to his current game. Woods played 19 tournaments in 2018 and only missed two cuts. This was one.

It’s no knock on Tiger, but since he’s priced as a favorite in this field, and, myself included, both want him to win and wager on him to win, there will be better spots to back him, including each of the next two weeks.

Additionally, the field of 144 also sports Luke List, Kyle Stanley, Chez Reavie, Aaron Wise, Abraham Ancer, Kevin Na, Danny Willett, Si WOOOOO Kim, Pat Perez, Sungjae Im, Cameron Champ, Ryan Moore, Kevin Tway, Charley Hoffman, Charl Schwartzel, CT Pan, Russell Henley, Jason Kokrak, Brendan Steele, Harold Varner and the one-time DAS WUNDERKIND, Joaquin Niemann, to give us the strongest collection of golfers we’ve seen assembled in one tournament so far this season.


2019 Genesis Open Key Stats

Strokes Gained: Ball Striking
Driving Distance Gained
Par 4s Gained: 450-500 Yards
Strokes Gained: Around The Green
Par 5s Gained

Mayo’s Custom Stat POWER RANKINGS from FantasyNational.com


2019 Genesis Open Course

Riviera CC
Par: 71
Yardage: 7,322
Difficulty: Ranked 9/51 in 2018
Greens: Poa
Par 5 Eagles: 38


2019 Genesis Open Notes

The TOUR’s premiere short Par 4, the 10th at Riviera CC, presents an excellent opportunity to look at game theory. Among the never-ending barrage of content being produced about a specific golf tournament each week, inevitably, you’re going to start hearing about ownership the closer we get to first tee time. Some will call ownership projections stupid and irrelevant and aren’t afraid of descending from Mount Sinai with 10 (or more!) reasons why factoring in ownership doesn’t matter. The main dispute being: Just play the better players, regardless of their projected DraftKings ownership, and you’ll do better. Thanks tips, hadn’t thought of that.

The issue with that argument is assuming we know who if going to perform better. I run simulations and statistical modeling every week, along with the mighty power of the EYE TEST, and I’m constantly wrong. A lot. Now, once you factor out you being the smartest person in the world, you start to think of things in ranges of outcomes start to consider a slew of different results.

When you open the DraftKings pricing and see two or more players at roughly the same price, unless there’s a glaring pricing error, those players likely all will have around the same chance of performing well in that week’s event. You can feel as confident as you want that one player is going to vastly outperform another; doesn’t mean you’re going to be correct about it, no matter how well you can present a case.

That’s why so many focus on ownership. No one is going to predict every golfer’s ownership exactly; in fact, there are still a lot inconsistencies in the projections every week. But while it’s still wrong, it’s less wrong than predicting the exact outcome of an event. Confusion about why it’s important usually harkens back to the aforementioned statement of taking the better golfers, and just because a player is low owned, doesn’t mean he’ll outperform the higher player. True. This isn’t about finding the six lowest owned players to populate your roster with, though — it’s about finding that one small edge you can exploit, and when you’re correct, you maximize its effects.

Let’s say you have two players at exactly the same price, except one is projected to be 20 percent owned for the week and the other is 2 percent. If you compare the DK pricing to the betting odds, look over how the players rated and the results show it’s a dead heat, by taking the 20 percent player, you’re saying he is 10 times more likely to outperform his counterpart. This is why people pivot onto the projected lower-owned player in that spot. Because they know he’s not 10x more likely to beat the other player, it’s probably a coin flip. Therein lies that small edge. The 2 percent golfer isn’t automatically going to be a better play, but when he is, you’ll benefit more from the decision to roster him. It will be more impactful on your lineups. In the case where the 20 percent player is awesome and your 2 percent isn’t, you’re dead. But you’re dead a lot of weeks when you get that decision correct anyway, as you still need the rest of your lineup to be better than the other 20 percent of DraftKings players who rostered him.

It should be noted that this example is best put into practice with mid-range to cheaper players, because the skill gap and probability to win is far less than the elite players in the world. It’s the difference between Joel Dahmen and Sam Ryder, not Dustin Johnson and Marc Leishman.

By identifying and putting into practice any small edge you can exploit, you have to take it. It’s not always going to work, in fact it rarely will work, but the more you play, the more those low odds could be realized. And it only takes once for it to matter.

The same thing applies to the golfers standing on the 10th tee box at Riviera. It’s a short, risk/reward hole that can generate eagles just as often as double bogeys. People are enamored with this hole as a test case, too. In the past, ShotLink has provided an entire section dedicated to the results from No. 10 over the years. Then, six years ago, Rich Hunt did a numbers-based breakdown of how to hit your drive on No. 10 based on the pin position. Talk about being ahead of your time as it pertains to advantaged statistical research in golf. Essentially, there’s a direct correlation between going to the green in one when the pin is in the front versus smacking an iron into the middle of the fairway and attacking with a wedge when the pin is situated on the back of the putting surface.

When people hear “analytics” they think of advanced formulas with crazy math only those with a PhD can decipher. But we’re not talking about calculating the optimal swing speed in two-inch rough from 176 yards away in 17.43 mph winds (although that would be pretty cool); we’re talking about pretty simple math, based off an observation, that can create an edge for the players in the field. Analytics don’t need to be confusing; they’re just raw data put into context, even if the calculations are fairly simple. When done properly, they help you understand a situation with far greater ease.

The “going for it” or “laying up” at No. 10 case is pretty simple to comprehend and clearly provides that small edge for players on the course like we’re trying to find in the fantasy version of the game. It’s still incumbent on the golfer to actually make the drive and sink the putt, but there’s a clear path to maximizing the result for the hole. Every week we talk about the different strokes gained metrics and end up saying, “if he could only have gained a few more strokes on the greens he would have won.” Based on the research from this hole, players can gain strokes on the field by simply “going for it” or “laying up” on No. 10. Maybe even an entire stroke, a tad more, over the course of a tournament if everything breaks right. That’s meaningful, despite being a small number.

I’d wager there are myriad examples of something similar to this scenario at almost every course, which is why it seems crazy to me so few golfers employ analytics consultants. I mean, most of the people are doing it for free on the internet, anyway. It’s not like it would cost very much. And, if the result is gaining that extra stroke that leads to a one-stroke win, then it will have paid for itself almost in perpetuity.


Riviera CC plays a lot longer than its 7,322 yards would indicate. There’s the miniature Par 4 10th, and the Par 5s are some of the shortest on TOUR. That leaves seven Par 4s measuring more than 450 yards.

Short hitters with excellent long irons are definitely in play, but the path of least resistance is with bombers this week.

Lefties (Bubba x3, Phil x2, Mike Weir x2) have an outstanding track record at this event, and many of the most successful players at Riviera, historically, also have performed well at Augusta National and Quail Hollow.

An examination of the strokes gained influence among the top-five finishers from the past decade shows SG: APP to be around twice as impactful to that group as SG: OTT and SG: ATG. That sounds like a lot, but that gap is far more pronounced at most courses, you’re looking for a modicum of balance this week.

Riviera is one of the lowest driving accuracy courses (53 percent) and sports one of the smallest GIR rates (57 percent) on TOUR. TOUR averages are 61 percent and 66 percent, respectively.

Since 2004, no hole in golf has ceded more eagles than No. 1 at Riviera — 414. Thirty eagles were made on No. 1 in 2018; 35 in 2017.

Over the past five years, Dustin Johnson (60.72) and Bubba Watson (52.31) have gained the most total strokes. Likely why they account for victories in four of those five years. Jordan Spieth (29.24), KJ Choi (27.7) and Adam Hadwin (26.27) round out the top five over that stretch.

DJ, Hadwin, Cam Smith, Party Marty Laird, Justin Thomas, Sung Kang, Anirban Lahiri, Charley Hoffman, Brendan Steele, Adam Scott, Sang Moon Bae, Paul Casey, JB Holmes and Bubba, discounting a 2017 WD, all have at least three starts over the past five season and never missed a cut. Jason Dufner, Rory McIlroy, Carlos Ortiz, Tom Hoge, Branden Grace, Sam Saunders and Phil Mickelson are all 2/2 in that timeframe.


2019 Genesis Open Picks — Targets From Each Range

Rory McIlroy
Can we get four rounds of consistent iron play from Rory? Recent history would indicate, no. We’ll get nine hole stretches where he’s unconscious, followed by me having a Freaky Friday moment with him on his wedge play. It’s really strange. In spite of this, McIlroy has opened the year with a pair of top-five finishes, so he’s incredibly close to putting it all together. At a course where he owns a pair of T20 finishes in two starts, with his game this close, and as a former Quail Hollow winner and frequenter of The Masters leaderboard, this could be Rory’s moment.

Hideki Matsuyama
Many will look at the T15 in Phoenix and claim it’s a bad result. That’s only because expectations were he was going win pretty easily. It’s pretty evident how he faltered, however. Hideki, as he’s want to do, just couldn’t make a putt. The narrative shouldn’t be he played poorly, but that he somehow finished T15 despite spotting the field four strokes on the green. He was third for the week in approach, gaining a ridiculous 6.8 strokes on the field, and gets to bounce back at an event where he owns three top-25 finishes in four career starts, including a T4 in 2015.

Keegan Bradley
We know Bradley is a terrible putter, but his weekend at the Waste Management appeared like he actively was trying to miss the hole. Nine strokes lost in total for the event, 7.7 lost in Rounds 3 and 4. That’s almost impossible. Fortunately, the ball striking was superb, finishing fifth in the field in SG: APP. While the sample is quite small, Keegan’s usually less of a disaster on Poa greens than Bermuda and actually has gained strokes putting at this event in five of his seven starts since 2012.

Sung Kang
A perfect 3/3 the past three years in L.A., all finishes inside the top 25, too, Kang is the sort of trending long shot to back at Riviera. The recent form has been very solid; surrounding a missed cut in Phoenix, the South Korean has finishes of T20/T10/T14 to open the year. And last week at Pebble, the putter did him no favor. In the two measured rounds at Pebble, Kang lost more than three strokes on the greens. His tee-to-green game was so good he still managed a top-15 finish. It is worrisome he’s dropped a combined 10 strokes putting in his past four measured rounds, but it also presents a nice buy-low opportunity. Kang’s longer off the tee than you might think, finishing inside the top 20 of driving distance gained at Riviera last year and has gained strokes with his irons in six straight events. Don’t vote for Kodos, cast your ballot for KANG!!!!

Other notable names appearing near the top of stat models and the win simulator at FantasyNational.com: Justin Thomas, Bryson DeChambeau, Dustin Johnson, Ryan Moore, Joel Dahmen, Jason Kokrak, Sungjae Im, Sam Ryder


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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 (@ThePME) won the 2019 Fantasy Sports Writing Association Daily Fantasy Writer of the Year and Podcast of the Year awards, along with the Fantasy Sports Trade Association Best Video award, and is a finalist for three FSWA Awards in 2019 (Best Podcast, Best Video, Daily Fantasy Writer of the Year). His 17 FSWA 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), genre (Humor), and game formats (Daily Fantasy and Traditions Season Long). 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.