The First Tee – Genesis Open

Adam Daly
By Adam Daly February 11, 2019 22:09

The First Tee – Genesis Open

This Week

THE COURSE

Riviera C.C. is a long par-71 at 7,322 yards, and has typically seen slightly-above-average scores (the high teens) and rewards long hitters with good wedge play. The cut is usually above par though, as this can definitely be a tough course; in the last five years, the cut has been +1 twice, +2, +3 and +4, with some golfers that made the cut finishing in the +10-or-worse range.

Part of what makes Riviera so tough is the narrow fairways – ranking 5th-toughest last year in terms of fairways hit (52.16%) – and the areas surrounding the fairways. There are a number of trees and fairway bunkers which will cause obvious problems, and although the rough is almost non-existent it still causes a problem because it’s made of kikuyu. Kikuyu grass in the fairways is great because it holds the ball up very well and clean give some very clean lies, but if it’s long enough it really grabs the ball and makes shots out of the rough extremely hard.

Last year Riviera had the hardest greens to hit in regulation (53.49%) and that was in mostly fine weather – when it rains it makes it much easier, especially for long hitters – but golfers really struggle when the approach shots come below 200 yards. One of the stats I usually recommend here is proximity to the hole from the rough, as so many fairways are missed and the rough at some courses can be comparable to hitting off kikuyu; beyond that, golfers that consistently do well out of the rough show a good level of iron control, which is so important here.

The poa annua greens here are very small, very comparable to Pebble. They’ve got lots of undulation and because they’re poa can get pretty bumpy, and most birdie putts will be coming outside 20’ because they’re tough greens to navigate with irons; last year the average proximity to the hole was a brutal 41’8” which was the 4th-toughest on Tour. Missing the greens here usually means hitting out of the beach, so scrambling/proximity to the hole from the sand are both good things to consider here as well, as the bunkers can be very punitive.

 

STATS

The Strokes Gained stats to focus on in order (not including Tee to Green):

  • Approach
  • Off-the-Tee
  • Around the Green
  • Putting

Counting stats to focus on in order:

  • Approach Shots: 175+ Yards
  • Birdie or Better %
  • Driving Distance
  • Proximity to the Hole from the Rough
  • Bogey Avoidance
  • Proximity to the Hole from the Sand

Top-Tier Golfers

Modifying this part going forward to more closely resemble the Weekend Warriors article; feedback always welcomed, but this condenses the info a bit and gives a couple more options to look at.

Jon Rahm ($10,400): He’s never played this course which is always a concern, but he’s shown great form at a comp. event – winning at Torrey Pines and adding a T29 and T5 is a good sign, since both Torrey courses feature kikuyu grass with poa greens. Since 2019 turned over he’s gone a perfect 4-for-4 in top-10 finishes, and has the length off the tee (16th in 2018) to succeed here. Could see low ownership since he’s got no course history.

Tommy Fleetwood ($8,600): Fleetwood finished T45 last week at Pebble Beach, but was the best in the field in SG: Approach and was done in by bad play OTT and a bad putter. Given he ranked 9th in SG: T2G last year and was second in the PGA on shots outside 200 yards, he should continue to play well this week. The concern will be his putter, as the poa is similar to last week where he struggled. In Fleetwood’s sole attempt here, he finished T37.

Cameron Smith ($8,400): Smith is a severe underprice here at only $8,400, as he’s coming in with great form – T22, 9th, T15 in his last three events – and had a T6 here in 2018 (as well as T28 and T63.) Through his 11 measured rounds this year Smith has ranked 29th in SG: T2G but a massive 5th in SG: Approach with great numbers outside 200. He’s very strong on par-4s and -5s and has the 19th-best birdie average, a strong putter, and good proximity numbers when he finds sand.

 

Value Golfer (below $8000)

Luke List ($7,400): He’s finished T26, MC, T20 here although his form is bad – cut, T40, cut are his last three events played in 2019 – he’s still very much worth a look. In 2019 he ranks 3rd in SG: OTT and is T28 in greens in regulation, he’s 11th relative to par from the rough, and he’s one of the best mid-to-long iron players on Tour. His putter will probably sink him, but on poa greens at this price tag, he deserves consideration.

Danny Willett ($7,300): He missed the cut at the Desert Classic but has famously won at Augusta (a comp. course) and finished T25 at Torrey Pines a few weeks ago which are both great signs. Willett tends to perform his best at tougher courses, and Riviera would certainly qualify. Statistically there’s not enough to go on for Willet as he’s only got six measured rounds on the PGA this year (and only seven last year), but he’s good with his irons and is an above-average player when he misses the green. His putter can hurt as can his accuracy off the tee, but he should go under-owned with the lack of history, and the comp. course performances speak volumes.

Keith Mitchell ($6,400): Finished 9th here in the NCAA tournament in 2012. He’s a well you have to go back to every week as the numbers he puts up fantasy-wise make him worth the risk; he’s 65th this year in BoB% but was 12th last year and has so much distance off the tee that even when his drives get whacky he’ll be in strong positions to score. His putter will typically sink him. He’s never played here as a pro.

 

Absolute Darts (below 5%)

Nick Taylor ($6,700):  Through 23 measured rounds this year, Taylor has lost strokes from tee to green but has a very efficient drive – he ranks 11th in Carry Efficiency (a better metric than just “distance” as it’s relative to the courses/field) and 48th in Total Distance Efficiency. He’s -15 relative to par on approach shots outside 200 yards and has the 15th-best prox. to the hole from the rough. Finished T43 at Farmers and is coming off a T28 last week, and has finishes here of T41, T55, T26 and a missed cut.

Hudson Swafford ($6,800): He’s never made the cut here in four tries, so he’ll see closer to 1-2% ownership as people chase course history; while that’s concerning – as is his miss at the Farmers earlier this year – he’s been very good hitting out of the rough (21st relative to par) and with longer irons (47th RTP on approach shots outside 200 yards.) He’s a little short off the tee but has been putting well and performs better on par-5s, which are crucial to putting up a good score here.

You can follow me on Twitter @adalyfrey and good luck this week!

 

Adam Daly
By Adam Daly February 11, 2019 22:09

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