February 14, 2023, 8:25 pm
The PGA Tour returns this week after Scottie Scheffler was able to go back-to-back and take home the 3.6 million top prize at TPC Scottsdale. Some weird weather to start the week made playing conditions a little tougher than normal, but the best of the best rose to the top as the top ten of the leaderboard was peppered with top guns in Rahm, Thomas, Spieth, Im, Day, Fowler, Shauffele, and Burns.
We are treated to a second consecutive designated event this week for the Genesis Invitational located at The Riviera Country Club in Los Angeles California. This tournament is usually one of the most prestigious on tour as it is hosted by Tiger Woods, but over the weekend we learned that the host would be participating in the tournament as well. This marks the first time Tiger will be playing since The Open last July and his participation in a non-major PGA Tour event since the 2020 ZOZO Championship.
The Riviera Country Club plays as a 7,322-yard par-71 and is one of the toughest tests of golf throughout the year. The dry desert air makes the greens fast and firm and not as receptive as typical greens. The fairways are narrow and have shape to them as there are a lot of doglegs to contend with. This event produces one of the lowest driving accuracy numbers that we will see all year. The putting greens are not any easier, as the Poa surfaces see a higher than average 3-putt percentage as well as one of the lowest make percentages from under 5 feet.
The opening hole is a soft greeting for the players as it is the easiest par 5 on tour and sees a birdie or better 65% of the time. There is also the drivable par 5 10th hole playing at only 315 yards but only yields a birdie 26.7% of the time. The meat of the course is within the six Par 4s that play between 450-500 yards and all traditionally sport an average score above par. Speaking of above par, the cut line at this even has never dipped below par as a score of E has been the lowest recorded cut line come Friday evening.
As mentioned at the beginning, some golfer named Tiger Woods will be playing this week and making his triumphant return to the PGA Tour.
This event is an invitational and has a somewhat reduced field compared to the average PGA event. Given that this is one of the tour’s designated events, a few more sports were added, so we currently sit at 131 entrants with the top-65 and ties advancing to the weekend. With the reduced field, this will give us more leeway to be more aggressive in our lineups builds. This is because a higher percentage of the field will be making the cut, so we can take more chances at the bottom of the lineup.
All but four of the eligible (non-LIV players) golfers in the Top-100 of the OWGR will be teeing it up this week. This will more than likely be the strongest field we get in a non-major this year except for possibly The Players Championship next month. Everyone wants the opportunity to win a tournament that Tiger is hosting and the $20 million prize pool with $3.6 million going to the winner doesn’t hurt.
With a winning score typically between 12-14 under par (last year Joaquin Niemann obliterated the course to a tune of 19 under, but that is certainly more of an outlier) we are going to worry less about scoring opportunities and focus more on an all-around game. The typical winner at this event has distance off the tee (think Bubba Watson, Dustin Johnson, J.B. Holmes) and while it is not essential, it is highly important. With so few fairways being hit off the tee, we will be looking to target great iron play and the ability to not make a mess of things on the greens.
Here are the key stats I am considering when building my lineups this week.
- SG: Approach– A staple stat that translates to any course. It is the stat that has been proven to be heavily correlated with long term success. With fast and firm greens, golfers second shots this week will need to be dialed in to contend. We will also be looking at some key proximity ranges as well where long irons need to be on point this week.
- Dr Dist– As mentioned above, we are going to target golfers who mash it off the tee. With a lot of doglegs and narrow fairways, even the most accurate drivers of the ball will be put to the test this week. If most second shots are going to be coming from the rough, we want those shots to be coming from as close to the hole as possible.
- SG: Par 4 (450-500 YDS) – There are 6 holes on the course that fall into this bucket. These are 6 of the toughest holes on the course and while this is not an end all be all stat because every course is different, it will give us a general idea of who does well in this range.
- Proximity (150-200+): I am grouping three ranges together here (150-175, 175-200, and 200+) because approximately 73% of approach shots will fall in this range. This is not the wedge-fest that we have seen in recent weeks. Strong long iron play will be required to contend here.
- 3-Putt Avoidance- I mentioned previously how this event year-in and year-out produces one of the highest 3-putt percentages every year. The undulations have been compared to Augusta National and the greens are of the Poa variety, which brings a hint of unpredictably to them, especially compared to other green surfaces.
Follow me on Twitter @mlafem10 for additional thoughts as the week goes on and I’d be happy to help out with any lineup questions you have. Let’s make some money!
Round 1 Props
Thrive Contest Plays for Thursday’s Round 1 Action
Viktor Hovland 2.5 Birdies MORE (75 PTS) – Viktor is going to be a popular play this week and with good reason. He is awesome off the tee and exceptional with his long irons. Around the green play can get Hovland into trouble sometimes, but he seems to have this place figured out with a 4th- and a 5th-place finish in his two career appearances here. He has gone over this number in 7 of 8 career rounds here and is a great anchor to starting your Thrive card this week.
Tiger Woods 67.5 Strokes MORE (90 PTS) – I, like mostly everyone else, am very excited about Tiger returning this week. Having him back just amplifies everything to a new degree, however I am not bullish on his prospects this week. This is not a place that Tiger thrived at (see what I did there?) even in his prime, so expecting this version of Tiger to come out of the gates with a 4-under or better start? I just don’t see it.
Rory McIlroy 3.5 Birdies MORE (80 PTS) – As you will read a little later in the article, I am going right back to Rory this week. This is a much better course fit than last week and I expect to see Rory come out of the gates hot. Plus, he hit this number in 3 of 4 rounds here last year.
Props Record YTD
DFS Top Tier Play
I am going back to the well with Rory this week after his disappointing T32 result. I made the mistake of trying to force it at Phoenix with him. He even admitted that that course wasn’t a great fit for him and I overlooked better options. Scottie Scheffler winning propelled him ahead of Rory price-wise this week, so we get a bit of a discount. Rory is one of the best (and longest) drivers of the ball off the tee, ranks top-10 in long iron play and 4th in the key par 4 range we are focused on. He also has tremendous success at two comp courses in Augusta and Quail Hollow.
Others Considered: Jon Rahm ($11,100), Max Homa ($9,700)
DFS Mid Tier Play
Willy Z is not someone I play all that much, but this is the type of event I like to deploy him at. The winning score of 12-14 under par range helps neutralize the weak putting Zalatoris often flashes and his world class iron play can set him apart from the field. Also for as poor of a putter he has shown to be at times, he often does well with avoiding 3-putts (ranks 17th in the field over the last 50 rounds). I do think Zalatoris will get overlooked as there are sexier options in his price range (Viktor Hovland $8,900 and Cameron Young $8,800), but that is based on past results here. Will doesn’t have a bad record here either going 15th and 26th.
Others Considered: Viktor Hovland ($8,900), Adam Scott ($8,000)
DFS Value Play
Lowry absolutely stunk up the joint last week. I expect a bounce-back performance from Lowry here for a few reasons. Digging into the numbers more, Lowry hasn’t lost stokes on approach for two consecutive weeks since the 2021 WGC Mexico and Arnold Palmer Invitational. He is normally excellent with his irons, ranking 11th in the field on overall SG: APP and within the top-20 for the long iron ranges we are zeroing in on this week. Lowry is another type of golfer that is a grinder I like to target on difficult courses where the scoring isn’t going to get out of hand. He is 0-1 with a MC in his only appearance ath this event, but that came back in 2018. Lowry is a different class of player compared to those priced around him.
Others Considered: Trey Mullinax ($6,700), Joel Dahmen ($7,000)
Outright Betting Picks
*All odds are curtesy of DraftKings Sportsbook
Viktor Hovland (+2500)
Will Zalatoris (+2500)
Keegan Bradley (+7500)
Si Woo Kim (+10000)
Position Player Name DK Salary G Rory McIlroy $10,500 G Will Zalatoris $8,700 G Shane Lowry $7,400 G Trey Mullinax $6,700 G Max Homa $9,700 G REMAINING BUDGET $7,000 for 1 play