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PGA DFS: Horse For The Course - Genesis Open

Hi RotoBallers and thanks for joining me! Phil Mickelson roared passed Paul Casey to win his FIFTH career AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am title. It was a rain-soaked week on Monterey Peninsula that forced Mickelson and playing partner Casey into a Monday finish. For those of you that were lucky enough to catch the end of the broadcast Sunday evening on the Golf Channel, it was truly riveting TV. I could've watched 'Lefty' and Casey bicker about whether or not to continue play for hours! Mickelson has vowed to play a lighter schedule this year and so far it is paying off for him big time. The 48-year-old will profile as a 'boom-or-bust' option most weeks, but Mickelson is certainly proving that he still has tournament-winning upside.

Thankfully, we are finished with the "rotating courses" events, so we get all 72-holes on the same course this week...and it's an absolute masterpiece! Riviera Country Club is considered one of the great 'classic' courses in the world. Steeped in the lore of "Hogan's Alley", it's a ball striker's paradise that rewards great shot making. Bubba Watson scored his third career victory at Riviera last season and is back to defend his title. Tiger Woods will make just his second start of 2019 and he's also serving as the Genesis tournament host this week. While Woods obviously has an affinity for Riviera, it's interestingly one of the few courses that he's played with regularity and never won on during his illustrious career. Dustin Johnson, Bryson DeChambeau, and Rory McIlroy are some of the heavy hitters in this elite field that will feature 20 of the top-30 players in the current FedEx points standings.

I try to make HFTC more than just a "picks" column (though you can certainly use it that way if you are in a hurry) by digging deep into each highlighted player. Obviously, our weekly jumping off point is a player's course history, but there isn't a firm set of rules when it comes to who is featured in this article. My goal is to help you succeed as a PGA DFS player. Period. I will touch on different GPP and cash-game strategies throughout the column each week and hopefully have some useful info for both beginners and experienced DFS players. Thanks for joining me here at RotoBaller, let's tee it up!

Editor's Note: Our friends at Fantasy National have built some incredible DFS Golf lineup tools including a Lineup Optimizer, Stat Engine, Ownership Projections and Course Breakdowns. They are by far the best daily fantasy Golf tools in the industry. Seriously. You can read all about them here and see screenshots.  Sign Up Now!

You can also find out who the smart money is on by checking out Spencer Aguiar's PGA DFS: Vegas Report every week.

Editor's Note: Our friends at Fantasy National have built some incredible DFS Golf lineup tools including a Lineup Optimizer, Stat Engine, Ownership Projections and Course Breakdowns. They are by far the best daily fantasy Golf tools in the industry. Seriously. You can read all about them here and see screenshots. 

Sign Up Now!


The Course: Riviera Country Club

Par 71 - 7,322 Yards

As I touched on in the intro, Riviera Country Club is a legendary track and one of the classiest courses on the PGA Tour schedule. It's Hollywood history only adds to the club's intrigue. Opened in 1927, Riviera was an instant classic and has long been a favorite of L.A.'s celebrities. It was famously dubbed 'Hogan's Alley' after Ben Hogan logged three wins on the course in 18 months. In addition to all the history, Riviera still stands out as a great golf course in the modern era. The 315 yard, Par-4 10th hole is one of the best on the PGA Tour. It is 'risk/reward' at its finest and offers players a chance to drive the small green for an eagle opportunity. However, a miss on 10 can quickly turn disastrous, as shots from around the green are extremely tricky. Riviera places an emphasis on ball striking and shot making. I will focus on ball strikers that have previous experience at Riviera this week.


The Horse

Bubba Watson (DK - $9,700 & FD - $10,700 )

Notable Course History: Win (2018), W/D ('17), Win ('16), T14 ('15), Win ('14)
Recent Form: T4 (Waste Management), M/C (Sony), 31st (Sentry TOC)

It's been a dominant stretch for Bubba Watson at Riviera Country Club over the last five years, and with apologies to Dustin Johnson and his tremendous course history, I'm giving Watson the edge and Horse honors this week. Bubba has won on this classic layout three times since 2014 and should be right in the thick of things again this year.

Perhaps more than any golfer on the PGA Tour, Watson is a very course-specific player. We've seen him repeatedly perform well at the same courses throughout his career. Of Bubba's 14 professional wins, 8 have came on three courses: this tournament three times all at Riviera, the Travelers Championship three times all at TPC River Highlands, and of course The Masters twice at Augusta National. The point being...if Bubba likes a course, he REALLY likes a course.

Many in the golf world will point to Watson's unique swing as a reason for his inconsistency, but even his biggest critics would probably agree that Bubba is a masterful shot maker. New equipment technology is geared toward hitting the ball long and straight, which has made Bubba one of the last of a dying breed of players that still emphasize curving the ball. This style makes him very reliant on course layout and sight lines. Obviously, Riviera sets up well for Watson and 'fits his eye' perfectly.

Trying to nail Bubba down statistically is somewhat of a fool's errand. He obviously posts some impressive numbers off the tee, but his stats in other categories are generally ho-hum at best. Though he won't pop in many statistical models this week, he's been a beast at Riviera, gaining 52.31 strokes total on the field over his past five appearances. That number is second to only Dustin Johnson in this week's Genesis field.

Course history buffs will definitely be on Bubba this week, but I'm hoping his ownership will be a bit depressed both by his increased price tag and all the other elite options that are available in this field. Though we're betting on a repeat of his past performances here, it's encouraging to see that Watson fared well in his last outing, a T4 at the Waste Management Phoenix Open two weeks ago. He has been experimenting with a new, Matt Kuchar-like putting stroke and though he lost just over a stroke putting on the greens at TPC Scottsdale, it was still a huge improvement over his disastrous outing with the putter at the Sentry Tournament of Champions. You won't catch me recommending Bubba for cash games very often, but his track record here and a fine showing in Scottsdale give me the confidence to use him in all DFS formats this week.


The Ponies

Xander Schauffele (DK - $9,400 & FD - $11,200 )

Notable Course History: T9 ('18)
Recent Form: T10 (WMPO), T25 (Farmers Open), Win (Sentry TOC)

There are players in this field with more extensive history at Riviera than Xander Schauffele, but the X-Man has been playing world-class golf as of late. If we go back to the swing season, Schauffele has two wins, two top-10's, and a top-25 in his last five starts. Pretty impressive stuff from the 25-year-old.

If I do a little self-examination, I have to admit that I probably don't roster Schauffele as much as I should. He always seems to fall in a weird gray area for me...what I mean by that is, he's not quite in the 'elite' category with the D.J.'s and Justin Rose's of the world, but he's also definitely better than just 'really good'. His DFS price tags usually bare that out and he often ends up in a price range that doesn't quite fit with the type of lineup I'm trying to build in any given week. This week is different and I'm viewing Schauffele as a clear DFS bargain for the Genesis Open.

I mentioned earlier that Xander doesn't have an extensive history at Riviera. While that's true, he did record a T9 in his debut last year. Riviera is usually tough on first-timers, so Schauffele's top-10 in his first go around leads me to believe that he will continue to be comfortable on this classic layout. I'm drawn to Schauffele because his game doesn't really appear to have a weakness at the moment. If we examine his stats over his last 24 rounds, Schauffele has been unbelievably solid from tee to green. He leads the Genesis field in strokes gained: total over his last 24 rounds and ranks inside the top-25 in every strokes gained category with the exception of SG: Off the Tee. He's good enough off the tee and an excellent ball striker that should eat on Riviera's Par-5's. His short game is phenomenal and he's excellent on poa.

As we'll continue to discuss in this week's column, there are lots of viable options in the $8-10k price range. Schauffele can be paired with Bubba Watson or those that aren't sold on spending up this week can start their roster builds with him. I think he will offer tons of leverage in GPP's, as I expect him to once again go overlooked and underowned. Schauffele has played some of his best golf in high-profile events with tough fields and I look for that to continue this week.


Matt Kuchar (DK - $8,500 & FD - $10,300)

Notable Course History: T26 (2018), T22 ('17), T8 ('16)
Recent Form: T22 (AT&T), T4 (WMPO), Win (Sony)

If you are a PGA DFS regular, you don't need me to tell you that Matt Kuchar has been riding a MASSIVE HEATER since November. 'Kuch' took down the Mayakoba Classic in the fall and followed that with another victory at the Sony Open in January. He backed up the wins with a solid T4 at the Waste Management and played well last week on a Pebble Beach course where he has historically struggled.'s safe to say that the Skechers (I have a friend that says to never try a pair of their golf shoes on because you will fall in love with the comfort and then be forced to look like Matt Kuchar on the course) poster boy is in the zone and playing some of the best golf of his career.

There's no reason to think that Kuch won't remain comfortable this week. He has a solid, if unspectacular, track record at Riviera that includes two top-25ish outings and a T8 over his last three Genesis starts. Though not quite at Xander Schauffele levels, Kuchar is cut from the same statistical cloth, in that he's a little lacking in SG: Off the Tee, but otherwise super solid across the board over his last 24 rounds.

Kuchar ranks fourth in this Genesis field in SG: Total over his last 24 rounds, but he head-scratchingly has 17 players priced above him on the DK salary scale this week. His $8.5k price is way too cheap for the combination of consistency and upside that Kuchar brings to the table in this tournament. He will be very popular on DK, but don't let that slow you down. Lock him in cash game lineups and spend your research time on the other five roster spots.


Branden Grace (DK - $8,100 & FD - $9,900)

Notable Course History: T37 ('18), T22 ('17)
Recent Form: T28 (AT&T), 2nd (WMPO), M/C (Farmers)

For several years Branden Grace was one of the most consistent golfers in the world, until last season when he most certainly stopped being one of the most consistent golfers in the world. The South African has been mired in a horrible slump for the better part of a year, but Grace seems to have found something with his swing over the winter. He went T7-T34-T27 in three Euro Tour starts over December and January. Grace very nearly stole the Waste Management two weeks ago and eventually logged a solo second. He also looked solid at Pebble Beach and held on for a T28 after an unlucky final round in some nasty weather.

His track record at Riviera doesn't blow you away, but he's been solid in his two starts and has gained over eight strokes total in this tournament. Grace doesn't pop off the page statistically, but it feels like he's trending in the right direction these past couple of weeks, as he's gained strokes on approach in consecutive starts and poa is his best putting surface. He profiles as a nice mid-range option at $8.1k on DK and his salary sets up well for 'solid' lineup builds.


Adam Hadwin (DK - $7,800 & FD - $9,700)

Notable Course History: T6 ('18), T34 ('17), T16 ('16), T22 ('15)
Recent Form: T18 (AT&T), T44 (WMPO), T2 (Desert Classic), T57 (Sony)

After researching these last few tournaments on the west coast, I'm gonna start calling Adam Hadwin 'Charles Howell Lite', because the dude historically crushes this stretch of the season. We loved his course history at the Desert Classic a few weeks ago and he came through with a very strong T2. Hadwin heads to Riviera this week to tackle another course where he has been rock-solid throughout his career. The Canadian is perfect at Hogan's Alley, never missing a cut and recording a top-10 and two top-25's in his last four trips.

We have to love the course history, but we are also catching Hadwin in sharp current form. I mentioned the runner-up finish at the Desert Classic and Hadwin also logged a T18 at Pebble Beach last week. He's eighth in the Genesis field in Strokes Gained: Total over his last 24 rounds. Hadwin is powered by the strength of his short game, he's stands seventh in SG: Putting and ninth in SG: Short Game over the last 24 rounds. Hadwin's ability on and around the greens are a key component of his success at this Riviera course that can be extremely tricky. He's a bargain on DK and is viable in both cash and GPP's.


Jason Kokrak (DK - $7,600 & FD - $9,200 )

Notable Course History: T20 ('18), T22 ('17), T2 ('16), T41 ('15), M/C ('14)
Recent Form: T20 (WMPO), T20 (Farmers), T18 (Desert Classic)

The mid-$7k range on DraftKings has been crazy over the last couple of weeks. It was a dead zone for the AT&T, but there was some great quality there for the Waste Management. The Genesis is similar to the Waste Management in that there's a lot to like in the $7k's this week. Jason Kokrak pops off the page for me at just $7.6k. He has a really solid track record at Riviera, including a runner-up finish in 2016, and he's been playing very well this season.

In three 2019 starts, Kokrak has ripped off three top-20 finishes. I'm hoping that his pre-tournament WD last week will scare some people away, as it was due to rest rather than injury. If we evaluate Kokrak based on his 12 rounds played in 2019, he grades out well and ranks inside the top-20 of the Genesis field in SG: Total, T2G, Ball Striking, Off the Tee, Approach, and DK Points. He has been on people's DFS radars over his last couple of tournament appearances, but I don't expect his ownership to get crazy. He's a nice GPP option.


Sung Kang (DK - $7,400 & FD - $8,900 )

Notable Course History: T16 ('18), T22 ('17), T8 ('16)
Recent Form: T14 (AT&T), M/C (WMPO), T20 (Farmers), T10 (Sony)

We're rounding out this week's list with another player from the fertile mid-$7k price range. Sung Kang isn't a name that often comes to mind when constructing lineups, but his blend of borderline elite course history at Riviera and sharp play in 2019 put him squarely in the GPP conversation this week. He's 3/3 at Riviera with two top-25's and a top-10 and he's gained 21.5 strokes total in those three appearances.

Kang isn't just a random player with nice course history, he's played well recently. In four 2019 starts he's missed just one cut and racked up two top-20's and a top-10. In this elite field, it's kind of shocking that Kang grades out to 11th in SG: T2G and 10th in DK Points over his last 12 rounds. Both his iron play and short game have been tremendous this year. Kang should head into this week with tons of confidence. I love him as an under-the-radar, large-field tournament play.


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