This article is part of our DraftKings PGA series.
THE GENESIS INVITATIONAL
Winner's Share: $1.674M
FedEx Cup Points: 550 to the Winner
Location: Pacific Palisades, Calif.
Course: Riviera Country Club
2020 champion: Adam Scott
We have come the final – and signature – event on the West Coast Swing. It's the 95th edition of the old Los Angeles Open, and the 58th at vaunted Riviera. There will be no fans in attendance, and tournament host Tiger Woods had to bow out after another back surgery. But at least the field is loaded like usual. Eight of the top 10 golfers in the world are on hand, along with 16 of the top 25. The strength-of-field rating is just a tad lower than last year.
Excluding majors and both WGC and playoff events, this event always features one of three best "regular" fields of the season, joining Bay Hill and the Memorial, which is befitting tournaments attached to the three biggest names in the history of U.S. golf: the late Arnold Palmer, Jack Nicklaus and Tiger. All three tournaments are invitationals, with limited 120-man fields, elevated purses and three-year exemptions for winning instead of the usual two.
Even more good news: The weather should be spectacular, which is not always the case and definitely can affect lineup construction.
Headlining the field is World No. 1 Dustin Johnson, who is coming off a win in Saudi Arabia and is the overwhelming betting favorite. Only Tyrrell Hatton and Webb Simpson are missing from the top 10. Many eyes will be on two big names in various stages of being "back": No. 12-ranked Brooks Koepka, who won his last time out in Phoenix, and No. 62 Jordan Spieth, riding a pair of top-5s into LA. Adam Scott is the defending champion. Interestingly, No. 11 Patrick Reed and No. 17 Sungjae Im, who probably take the fewest weeks off among the top guys, will not tee it up.
Riviera can be a brutally-tough track – it's not uncommon to see the winning score in single digits. Scott won at 11-under last year, when Riviera played as the 10th hardest course on Tour. It's one of the few stops on Tour with no water. Instead, tight fairways, penal rough, some very long holes and medium-size poa annua greens, which average 7,500 square feet, force the golfers to use all the clubs in their bag. Getting on the green in regulation is paramount. But of course, that's no easy task. Riviera annually is among the toughest fairways to hit, not far from 50 percent. Every year at this time we hear about kikuyu grass, a gnarly, club-twisting beast that's a rarity on Tour. Kikuyu is tough to navigate without familiarity, and that's why course knowledge takes on added importance this week. Hint, hint: kikuyu is prominent in Australia and South Africa.
Riviera, one of two tracks – Colonial being the other – nicknamed "Hogan's Alley" in honor of Ben Hogan, features six par-4s in excess of 450 yards, while two of the three par-5s surpass 575 and there's a par-3 over 230. Two of those par-4s, the 487-yard 15th and the 479-yard 12th, were among the hardest holes on Tour last year. But a pair of shorter holes are what Riviera is known for. There's the par-3 sixth with the bunker in the middle of the green and the risk/reward 315-yard 10th, a hole that some call the best drivable par-4 in golf. The round comes to a close at the brutish, uphill par-4, 475-yard 18th with the pint-size green.
Okay, let's talk lineups: It's been a fairly dry winter in LA, which could let some of the shorter hitters into the mix – maybe not win, but record a high finish. Look how many low-priced options finished top-10 last year:
Also, some big names should have attractive prices. But with more than half the field making the cut, there's a strong argument to get one or two top guys into your lineup, which of course lends to a stars-and-scrubs approach. There's a lot of incentive for the golfers this week. The top 50 in the OWGR and the top 10 in both the FedEx Cup and Race to Dubai standings get into the relocated WGC event in Florida next week.
The Genesis was one of the last tournaments in 2020 that was not affected by the pandemic. Beginning next week with what officially is the World Golf Championships at The Concession in Bradenton, Fla., the next six tournaments will be played in Florida or Texas, where fan limitations should be relaxed.
Weather-wise, temperatures are forecast to be near 70 all four days, around 50 in the early morning, with almost zero chance of rain and moderate wind.
Historical L.A. Open factoids: The tournament began in 1926 at Los Angeles Country Club and has been played every year but 1943. The names who have won it read like a wing in the Golf Hall of Fame: Hogan, Snead, Nelson, Palmer, Casper, Miller, Watson, Couples, Faldo, Els, Mickelson. Interestingly, two names aren't there: Nicklaus and Woods.
Key Stats to Winning at Riviera
The most important indicators every week are current form and course history. "Key Stats" follow in importance.
• Strokes Gained: Off-the-Tee/Driving Distance
• Strokes Gained: Approach/Greens in Regulation
• Strokes Gained: Around-the-Green/Scrambling
• Strokes Gained: Putting/Putting Inside 10 Feet
• Par-4 Efficiency 450-500 Yards
You don't have look any further back than seven years to see how it helps to be long here. Three Watsons, a DJ, a Holmes and a Scott paint a pretty definitive picture. However, in 2018 Scott, Holmes and Watson took a little off the gas – they still averaged 300 yards-plus off the tee – to get better accuracy numbers, which improved their greens in regulation. Scott was third, Holmes was first and Watson was seventh in GIR. None of them is a star putter, but they were better this week. Scott ranked 27th overall and gained more than two strokes on Sunday. Holmes actually led the field in putting. It's important to get into the fairway to avoid the dastardly kikuyu grass. Every champion for more than two decades has played the tournament at least twice previously, indicating the importance of course knowledge, and all but two of the past 36 winners were at least 29 years old. Ernie Els had played Riviera only once before winning in 1999. Charles Howell III was 27 when he won in 2007 and Scott was 24 in 2005, a victory awarded after 36 holes when the rain simply wouldn't stop.
DRAFTKINGS VALUE PICKS
Based on Standard $50K Salary Cap
Tier 1 Values
Dustin Johnson - $11,300 (Winning odds at golfodds.com: 11-2)
Let's see if we can fit all the reasons in one little blurb. Johnson is now No. 1 in the world by a wide margin. He's coming off a win at Saudi Arabia, giving him three wins and six podium finishes in his past eight starts. He won here in 2017, he has four other top-5s here and nine top-10s in the past 12 years. He's the overwhelming favorite in a stacked field – AND he's only $11,300.
Rory McIlroy - $10,500 (14-1)
We're at 17 months and counting since McIlroy last won. But he has nine straight tournaments of T21 or better, including four top-10s, two of which were the U.S. Open and Masters. Yes, he's been doing everything but win, and that includes at Riviera, where he's finished in the top-5 the past two years.
Xander Schauffele - $9,900 (14-1)
Here's another guy who hasn't won in forever, and it's a longer forever than McIlroy. All Schauffele does is almost win, with three runners-up and six top-5s in his past eight starts. He's been only so-so for him at Riviera, 23-15-9 the past three years. But that's a whole lot better than he'd been at Torrey Pines, where he just finished second. Schauffele is first on Tour in putting from inside 10 feet.
Patrick Cantlay - $9,600 (14-1)
Cantlay is a whopping $1,700 cheaper than Johnson. The UCLA product has played Riviera many times, including 17th last year, 15th the year before and fourth in 2018. He's coming off a T3 last week at Pebble and a runner-up the time before that at the Amex. Cantlay is a a pretty-good 35th in greens in regulation but an elite scrambler, ranking fourth on Tour.
Tier 2 Values
Adam Scott - $9,000 (35-1)
Scott won the Genesis last year for the second time at this very same $9,000 price he's at today. He's almost always played well here, with five top-11s in the past six visits. He's coming off a top-10 at the Farmers, which also features kikuyu grass.
Joaquin Niemann - $8,800 (40-1)
Since the BMW Championship, Niemann has been on a big-time heater. In 10 events, he has two runners-up, a third, a sixth and four other top-25s. He hasn't missed a cut. Both second-place finishes came on the Hawaii Swing, and he's curiously been idle ever since then. Niemann ranks 11th in SG: Off-the-Tee, 12th in GIR and 36th in SG: Putting. He's putting even better inside 10 feet.
Viktor Hovland - $8,700 (35-1)
Hovland has not played Riviera before, and he's not a good putter. But the rest of his game can carry him pretty high up leaderboards. He's finished sixth or better in four of his past five starts, beginning with a win at Mayakoba in the fall and continuing with a co-runner-up at the Farmers and a tie for sixth at Saudi Arabia. Hovland is ranked top-10 on Tour in both SG: Off-the-Tee and GIR.
Scottie Scheffler - $8,500 (50-1)
Scheffler's game starts out great and gets progressively worse closer to the hole. He's a pretty long and very accurate driver, ranked 12th on Tour in SG: Off-the-Tee. He's also 47th in GIR but 112th in SG: Putting. He improves a bit inside 10 feet to 85th. Scheffler tied for seventh last time out at Phoenix and was foiled by bad putting. He finished 30th last year in his Riviera debut.
Tier 3 Values
Carlos Ortiz - $7,800 (60-1)
Ortiz has just recently put himself on the PGA Tour map, but he's actually been playing this tournament well for years. He was 26th last year, which matches his worst finish in four tries. He was ninth in 2019. After winning at Houston in the fall, he's opened 2021 with a top-15 at the Sony and a top-5 last time out at Phoenix. Ortiz is a better-than-average putter, ranked 62nd, but inside of 10 feet he's tied for 11th.
James Hahn - $7,500 (125-1)
This very well could be Hahn's best track on Tour. One of his two career wins came here, in 2015, and he has top-15s in his past two visits. He's also coming off a successful-yet-agonizing 10th-place showing at Phoenix, where he led for a good chunk of Sunday. Hahn's strokes-gained numbers are decent or better across the board, and he's 23rd on Tour in GIR.
Sam Burns - $7,400 (100-1)
Burns is a real conundrum. He does a lot of things well and has had some good tournaments. But he's still stuck at 149th in the world rankings and has never been inside the top-100. He's had a couple of top-25s so far in 2021, and he was top-25 at Riviera last year. Burns is ranked 14th in SG: Off-the-Tee, 15th in greens in regulation and 32nd in SG: Putting. How is he not doing better?
J.T. Poston - $7,300 (150-1)
Poston had four straight missed cuts bridging 2020 and '21, though he's put them in the past with top-20s his past two starts at Torrey Pines and Phoenix. He's played Riviera three times with a finish no worse than 30th. Poston is ranked ninth on Tour in SG: Putting.
Matthew NeSmith - $6,900 (150-1)
We've ridden NeSmith the past two weeks, first at $6,500 at Phoenix and then at $8,000 at Pebble Beach, and he's delivered both times with a tie for 16th and then seventh. But this will be his first foray into Riviera, which presents some real challenges for newcomers. Now back to a sub-$7,000 price, we don't need a top-20 out of him. NeSmith is ranked second on Tour in greens in regulation and, while he's 135th in SG: Putting, he's far better from inside 10 feet with a ranking of 87th.
Charles Howell III - $6,800 (150-1)
Howell doesn't miss many cuts – no more than six in each of the eight previous years – but he already has missed two in January. Before those MCs, he was top-20 at the Sony. Howell has also run off six made cuts in a row at Riviera, where he's been playing forever and won way back in 2007. Again, at this price, just reaching the weekend should pay off.
Vaughn Taylor - $6,700 (200-1)
Taylor has finished top-20 here the past three years, including 13th a year ago. In fact, he's has six top-25s in his past 11 visits. He also has a had a good jump-start in 2021, making three of four cuts with a pair of top-25s. Despite some wince-inducing stats, safe to say that the 44-year-old knows his way around Hogan's Alley.
Sung Kang - $6,500 (250-1)
Kang doesn't play well at many tracks, but he does here. He was co-runner-up last year, his best finish among a bunch of good Riviera finishes: another top-10, two other top-25s and cashes in all six visits. Kang has been in a brutal slump pretty much since he left Riviera a year ago, so he will be acceptable to only the staunchest believers in course history.