This article is part of our FanDuel PGA series.
Course: Riviera Country Club (7,322 yards, par 71)
Winner: $1,674,000 and 550 FedExCup points
Just about all the big dogs are in the field this week at what many players consider their favorite venue on Tour. Tiger Woods' foundation will play host once again to 120-man field at the Genesis Invitational.
This event really feels like the start of the run-up to the Masters in early April. Eight of the top-10 players in the OWGR will be teeing it up this week, led by 2017 winner Dustin Johnson who is coming off a win two weeks ago in Saudi Arabia. Rory McIlroy will be looking for his fist win at Riviera after finishing top-five each of the last two years. Jordan Spieth will be looking for his third top-five in as many weeks after failing to convert his second straight 54-hole lead at Pebble Beach last week. Adam Scott, Bubba Watson, and J.B. Holmes have all won this event multiple times and will look to do so again in 2021.
The players should get a real firm test this week with no precipitation expected. Riviera becomes the ultimate ball-striking course when it gets dried out. Temperatures are expected to be consistently high-60's to low-70's with winds to average 10+ miles per hour all four rounds. Lanny Wadkins record score of 20-under-par in 1985 should be fairly safe this week. With this being an elevated-status event, the winner will receive a three-year membership exemption and 550 FedExCup points.
2020 – Adam Scott
2019 – J.B. Holmes
2018 – Bubba Watson
2017 – Dustin Johnson
2016 – Bubba Watson
2015 – James Hahn
2014 – Bubba Watson
2013 – John Merrick
2012 – Bill Haas
2011 – Aaron Baddeley
2010 – Steve Stricker
Key Stats to Victory
- SG: Tee-to-Green
- GIR Percentage
- SG: Approach
There are no tricks at Riviera Country Club. Typically whichever player is hitting it the best from tee to green that week is the one that will prevail in the end. These fairways are normally some of the hardest to find, and the expected firm conditions won't make that any easier. That same lack of moisture will make it harder to keep balls close to the hole as well when approaching the green. This is the type of week where distance will make a big difference, because the longer hitters will have a better chance to control their shots into the greens due to having shorter clubs. The kikuyu grass around the greens will make things very difficult for players to consistently get up and down if they are missing a lot of targets. Putting stats can be put mostly on the back burner because the poa annua will make all players struggle to convert from close range this week. Bottom line is you can't fake it around Riviera if it plays firm. If you don't strike the ball well, you aren't going to be in contention on Sunday.
FanDuel Value Picks
Dustin Johnson ($12,100)
This is about as chalky as it gets, but in a field this good Johnson still stands head and shoulders above the rest this week. He ran away from the field at Riviera back in 2017 and owns a total of six top-four finishes in his career at this event. Johnson is coming off a win in Saudi Arabia two weeks ago and his T11 in Maui was his worst finish in his last 10 starts. The World No. 1 leads the PGA Tour this season in SG: Approach and is second in SG: Tee-to-Green.
Xander Schauffele ($11,500)
Schauffele just does everything well. So far this season his worst strokes gained category is approaching the green where he ranks 33rd. Add them all up and he is second on Tour in SG: Total. The San Diego State product has to be motivated after another runner-up finish last time out in Phoenix, as he continues to search for his first win since early 2019. Schauffele is coming in riding a 15-event top-25 streak, and he finished top-25 in each of his three career attempts at Riviera.
Bryson DeChambeau ($11,400)
DeChambeau is at a nice number this week, and the conditions should play into his favor. A dried-out Riviera should mean fewer fairways for the field, and his massive distance should help him control shots into the firm greens. DeChambeau is leading the Tour in both SG: Off-the-Tee and SG: Tee-to-Green. He has gone T7 in Maui and T18 in Saudi Arabia so far in 2021. DeChambeau posted a T15 and a T5 the last two years at Riviera.
Tony Finau ($10,900)
It just feels like once Finau is able to get that long-awaited second victory, the floodgates are going to open. He has been so close for so long, I mean, just look at his last three starts: 4-T2-T2. Finau ranks 10th in SG: Tee-to-Green and 19th in SG: Approach this season. The Utah native finished runner-up here back in 2018 and had another top-15 the following season.
Longer Shots with Value
Will Zalatoris ($9,700)
Zalatoris let me down a little last week with a T55, but I think the way Riviera will play this week will suit his great ball-striking even more. The 24-year-old ranks ninth in SG: Approach and sixth in SG: Tee-to-Green this season. Zalatoris' putting and short game are not the strength of his game even though both are above average on Tour, but everyone should struggled to some degree in those areas because of the tricky kikuyu and poa annua grasses.
Russell Henley ($9,500)
Continuing the stellar ball-striking theme, enter Henley. The Georgia product ranks fourth in SG: Approach, 12th in SG: Tee-to-Green, seventh in GIR percentage, and 16th in proximity to the hole. Henley has struggled to get the putter woken up at times, but if he strikes the ball the way he has all year, it will be hard to not see him in the mix on Sunday. The 31-year-old finished T17 here last season.
Cameron Davis ($9,300)
Davis is coming off a very strong showing at Pebble Beach where he ranked fifth in SG: Putting and eighth in SG: Tee-to-Green in three measured rounds. I also think his length will pay dividends this week with the expected firm conditions. Davis ranks 13th in SG: Off-the-Tee, 14th in driving distance, and 10th in birdie average this season. He has a pair of top-15's in his last three starts as well.
Henrik Norlander ($8,900)
Norlander is at a great price this week. The Swede is coming in off finishes of T12-T2-T22-T26 the last four weeks. Norlander's ball-striking has carried him this season, as he ranks 19th in SG: Off-the-Tee, 29th in SG: Approach, 26th in driving accuracy, and 15th in GIR percentage. As I've mentioned with a lot of other players on this list, Norlander's putting has not been great, but the overall conversion rates on these bumpy surfaces should nullify most of his deficiencies with the flat stick.
Strategy Tips This Week
Based on a Standard $60K Salary Cap
This was an extremely hard list to make because there are so many terrific players in this field that have both had success at Riviera and are playing well right now. There are so many good options among the top 25-30 options that I think the play is to try to get as many of those players in your lineup as possible, even if you have to throw a dart at under $8,000 to do it. Kyle Stanley ($7,900) and Doc Redman ($7,800) would be two guys in that bottom tier that stand out. This is the week to focus on all the ball striking stats at a venue that's tailored made for those players.