The PGA TOUR wraps up the California swing this week as Riviera Country Club hosts the Genesis Invitational. The course is a Par 71 measuring at just over 7,300 yards with Poa annua greens. The winning score usually varies between the 11-to-17-under range depending on weather. The early forecast for the week calls for calm conditions so we can likely expect the lower end of that range to be required.
I’ll be highlighting the best cash game/single-entry plays on the DraftKings main slate, but these players are often great options in any contest type.
My analysis will frequently reference Strokes Gained, a set of proprietary metrics generated by the PGA TOUR using millions of data points to calculate how many shots on average it takes a player to get the ball in the hole from every distance and situation. Strokes Gained is now available in the FantasyLabs PGA Models.
There are a variety of Strokes Gained-related metrics, but the six main categories that you need to know include:
- Strokes Gained: Off-the-Tee (SG: Off-the-Tee)
- Strokes Gained: Approach (SG: Approach)
- Strokes Gained: Around-the-Green (SG: Around-the-Green)
- Strokes Gained: Putting (SG: Putting)
- Strokes Gained: Ball-Striking (SG: Ball-Striking), which is SG: Off-the-Tee + SG: Approach
- Strokes Gained: Tee-to-Green (SG: Tee-to-Green), which is SG: Ball-Striking + SG: Around-the-Green
For more information on Strokes Gained data and how to use it, check out this article from Bryan Mears on The Action Network, which unpacks each of the above metrics in detail. I also recommend Chris Murphy’s Strokes Gained column each week, which highlights golfers to buy and fade following each round of play at that week’s PGA TOUR event, and Matthew Vincenzi’s weekly “Stats That Matter” column, which highlights which Strokes Gained sub-metrics matter the most for a given course. The following players listed are based on DraftKings scoring and pricing.
Dustin Johnson ($11,300 DraftKings)
The No. 1 player in the world took last week off after winning in Saudi Arabia, which should have him nice and rested for Riviera. There really isn’t much for me to say about DJ at this point. He ranks No. 1 in this field in SG: Tee-to-Green over his past 16, 24 and 36 rounds. He’s finished either first or second in seven of his past nine tournaments played, with four worldwide wins in that span. Truly an unfathomable stretch of golf.
His history at this event is pristine as well, as since 2011 he’s posted a win, four top-fives and two top 10’s. The two top 10’s were each of the past two years where he played Pebble Beach the week prior, so hopefully the additional week off will help him capture his second career victory at this event. He’s the most expensive player in the field for a reason and is a significantly better play than Rahm, McIlroy or JT this week. Lock him in and figure out the rest after.
Xander Schauffele ($9,900 DraftKings)
Outside of DJ, there’s really not anyone in the world playing better golf than Schauffele at the moment. He’s coming in red-hot with consecutive runner-up finishes at the Waste Management and Farmers, both of which he could have won.
Schauffele in this field ranks ninth in SG: Tee-to-Green, fifth in Ball-Striking, and third in putting, all over his past 12 rounds. He’s in complete control of his game at the moment. If not for one of the nicest eagles you will ever see from Brooks Koepka two weeks back at the WMPO, it’s likely Schauffele would be about $1,000 more expensive on DraftKings.
In three starts at Riviera he’s finished 23rd, 15th and ninth, so he certainly likes this event and should build on that success this week. Starting a roster with DJ and X makes for a really nasty combo in any contest type.
Patrick Cantlay ($9,600 DraftKings)
Cantlay is the 1B to Schauffele’s 1A for me this week. He’s also coming in razor sharp after his second straight top-three finish last week at Pebble Beach, which included a course record 62 on Thursday. The California native has gained three or more strokes tee-to-green in four of his past five recorded rounds and ranks No. 1 in this field in total strokes gained across his past 16 rounds. Obviously an impressive feat when you consider 12 of the top 15 players in the world are in this field.
Cantlay finished fourth at this event in 2017 and is playing too well right now to be ignored, especially at this price discount of $9,600 on DraftKings. He loves putting on Poa and can definitely contend yet again this week. He also makes for a strong outright bet at 16/1.
Carlos Ortiz ($7,800 DraftKings)
Ortiz’s has been a little too reliant on his short game for his recent success, but his course history at Riviera is too strong to ignore at just $7,800. He ranks second in this field in SG: Putting over his past 12 rounds and 17th in total strokes gained in that span. Thankfully we are still on Poa this week because Ortiz gains 0.7 more strokes on Poa compared to any other putting surface. That happens to be the third biggest differential in this field.
In four trips to this event he’s posted a pair of T-26s, a T-20 and a T-9. He’s really come into his own since snagging his first career TOUR victory at the Houston Open back in November, so I’m more than comfortable locking him onto cash game rosters at this price.
Cameron Tringale ($7,600 DraftKings)
Tringale has also been playing some great golf of late, going T-18 at Farmer’s, T-17 at Waste Management and T-7 last week at Pebble. He ranks 36th in this field in SG: Ball-Striking and 13th in SG: Putting across his past 12 rounds. Both very fair numbers for someone in the mid-$7k range on DraftKings.
He’s played this event nine times since 2011 and posted five top-25 finishes, including a T-8 in 2017. Experience definitely matters at Riviera and the veteran Tringale makes for a strong play in all formats this week.
Harold Varner III ($6,700 DraftKings)
Digging a little deeper into the player pool this week in an effort to fit multiple studs up top, Varner stands out quite nicely at his $6,700 price tag on DraftKings. He missed the cut right on the number last week at Pebble on the heels of his 13th-place finish the week prior at the WMPO.
In his six trips to Riviera he’s made the weekend four times with two top 25’s, including a T-13 last year. HV3 has been hitting the ball incredibly of late, ranking eighth in this loaded field over his past 12 rounds in SG: Tee-to-Green. You can do a lot worse for someone below $7k.
Viktor Hovland ($8,700 DraftKings)
Hovland is definitely mispriced this week. There’s no way he should be less expensive than Morikawa, Spieth, Scott, Matsuyama and Watson. He won at Mayakoba in early December and finished second at Farmer’s and then sixth in Saudi two weeks ago. All the rolling numbers check out as well as he ranks 13th in this field in SG: Tee-to-Green over his past 12 rounds.
The young Norwegian has some serious win equity for someone at his price and we should take full advantage of that this week. I recommended starting teams with DJ earlier, but it’s also super viable to start Cantlay/Xander/Hovland and work from there.