After last week’s visit to Scottsdale, the PGA TOUR is back in California for the final event of the west coast swing. This week the pros will be teeing it up at Riviera Country Club just outside Los Angeles for The Genesis Invitational. It’s one of the most prestigious non-major tournaments each year and should set the stage for another great week of golf drama.
This week is another designated event on the PGA TOUR, and with the bigger purse comes all the bigger names in a totally stacked field. Every single one of the top 30 players in the current FedExCup standings is scheduled to tee it up along with 23 of the top 25 in the Official World Golf Rankings, all 23 of the Player Impact Program winners of 2022, and all 13 different winners of the 15 tournaments this season.
After moving back into the top spot in the OWGR with his win last week, Scottie Scheffler leads the field along with Rory McIlroy, Jon Rahm, and Justin Tomas as the four golfers with five-digit salaries. There’s a strong upper echelon of golfers in this event, which also means the middle tier is loaded with more talent than typical. Even with such a strong and robust field top-to-bottom, there’s no doubt that the biggest early-round attraction will be the return of tournament host Tiger Woods to competition, although he’s probably not especially relevant from a fantasy perspective.
Riviera Country Club is widely regarded as one of the top courses in the world. It has been the long-time host of this event, and the 2023 tournament will be the 60th time this event has been at “The Riv.” If you don’t already know it well, get used to the track since it will also be hosting the Olympic Golf competition in 2028.
The par 71 layout is tight but still offers plenty of chances for low scoring in fascinating risk vs. reward setups. The track isn’t especially long but does set up fairly difficult. The cut line has been over par at this event for each of the last 10 years.
While SG: Approach is always critical, this tournament is a week to consider other stats as well. Tight fairways and penalizing Kykuya rough make accuracy off the tee important and tricky green complexes make SG: Around the Green and scrambling worth considering as well.
The greens themselves are Poa Annua, which will be our last look at this kind of surface for a while as the PGA TOUR heads to Florida and greens with Bermuda grass starting next week. The greens at Riviera are always firm and fast, making them difficult to hit with approach shots and challenging to make putts on.
In the past, The Genesis Invitational favors longer hitters but only slightly. Shorter hitters with strong short games and good numbers putting on Poa have also been able to contend in the past. The course is typically a tough but fair test throughout the bag and usually results in some of the best players in the world near the top of the leaderboard on Sunday.
Last season, Joaquin Niemann jumped out to an early lead with a pair of 63s and won wire-to-wire after holding off Collin Morikawa and Cameron Young by two strokes. Niemann won’t be defending his title this year since he’s on the LIV Tour. Viktor Hovland and Adam Scott tied for fourth with Justin Thomas, Scheffler, Rory McIlroy and Max Homa also finishing in the top 10.
Course history is definitely important to consider this week since the top pros know this course well, and this is one of the places on the PGA TOUR where past history most often correlates to future success.
Since this post is focused on GPP plays, we’ll also strongly consider the best places to get some leverage and make lineups unique. Wherever possible in large contests, it makes sense to go against the trend and target options with low ownership and greater chances of success. Since these are GPP picks, we also can accept a little more risk if it raises the ceiling of the lineup. High-risk, high-reward options with low ownerships create the “boom-or-bust” style lineups that usually lead to large-field success.
In this weekly post, the focus is players who are strong plays in GPP contests. These contests usually have lots of entries and pay out big prizes to the top few percent. One example is the DraftKings $1.2M Pitch + Putt, which pays out $200K to first place. In large contests like this one, it is critical to try and target players who have a chance to outperform salary expectations and come with low projected ownership.
The players highlighted will be good options if they deliver in all formats, but they come with risk factors that usually keep them from being the safest plays. Safety and reliability should be the focus of lineups in cash and double-up contests, where finishing in the top spot isn’t quite as important. On the other hand, GPPs call for high-risk, high-reward options with high ceilings and low projected ownership. To find specific guidance for all the different kinds of contests, check out our full Daily Fantasy Golf coverage each week.
No matter what type of format you prefer, be sure to use the FantasyLabs PGA Models to help you make the best choices. These models use stats and simulations to highlight different players’ strengths and weaknesses. A couple of key new stats to specifically use for GPP play are Perfect% and SimLeverage, which are further explained here.
Usually, I rely on the Stroked Gained Model, which is very predictive of results. I also tend to lean into players that gain shots on approach since week-to-week putting performance can be extremely volatile, even for the best players on the PGA TOUR.
As you dig into the numbers, you can enjoy the many tools that FantasyLabs offers, including the Lineup Optimizer, which effortlessly creates up to 300 lineups. Alternatively, you can use the Lineup Builder if you prefer a more hands-on approach.
Check out my top picks in each price range listed below.
High-Priced PGA DFS Picks
Xander Schauffele $9,900
It’s hard to go wrong with any of the trio of Rahm, Rory, and Scheffler, who seem to be in contention every week. If you dip down just under $10K either in combination with one of those superstars or to get a more balanced lineup overall, Schauffele offers a nice spot to gain leverage.
He has the third-highest SimLeverage in the entire field due to his 22.5 Perfect% and under 18% projected ownership. Schauffele also ranks in the top 10 in points per salary in the entire field.
The California kid started 2023 with a mid-tournament withdrawal in Hawaii with a bad back, but he has been rolling since returning to action with a T3 at The American Express, a T13 at the Farmers Insurance Open, and a T10 last week in Phoenix.
Schauffele was on point with his irons last week, hitting 83.33% of GIR, but his flat stick didn’t cooperate. He’s typically a very solid putter, and his best surface is Poa annua. In tournaments on greens of this type, he posted a top-20 finish in seven of his eight most recent events.
He also has a strong history at Riviera, making the cut and finishing in the top 25 in all five appearances, with one top 10 and a tie for 13th last year.
Using our PrizePicks promo code LABS ($100 sign-up bonus), you could bet Xander to finish under 69.0 strokes in Round 1.
Sam Burns $9,100
Burns is projected to have the second-lowest ownership projection of all players, with salaries of over $8K at just 10.2%. With bigger names Viktor Hovland, Patrick Cantlay, and Cameron Young priced just below him and Tiny Finau and Collin Morikawa just above him, Burns may sneak in under the radar and into this tournament with ownership much lower than it should be.
You may remember Burns first burst onto the scene two years ago at this event, opening with a surge into the lead before finishing third just one shot behind Finau and Max Homa. Last year, he missed the cut at this event before a very successful Florida swing that included a top-10 at the Palmer and a win at the Valspar Championship. That was one of his three wins on the PGA TOUR last season, and he has continued that success this season with three top-25 finishes in his last four events.
Last week at TPC Scottsdale, Burns started slowly but fired a 64-68 on the weekend. If he can carry that form into this week, where he’s had hot starts before, he’ll be a great value at low ownership from the cheaper end of the high-priced plays.
Mid-Priced PGA DFS Picks
Patrick Cantlay $9,000
The sims and models love Cantlay this week since he has the kind of consistent game throughout his bag that typically plays well at Riviera. He is coming off a missed cut last week, but prior to that posted a T26 at The American Express.
The recency bias of last week’s missed cut and so many popular options around him could keep his ownership low. He’s projected for under 17% ownership but is in 22.88% of optimal lineups across the sims. As a result, he leads the field in SimLeverage. In addition, he ranks in the top three in the field in points per salary and leads all players over $7K in Projected Plus/Minus.
Cantlay has made the cut each of the past five years at this event with four top-20 finishes, one top-five finish, and a T33 last year.
While his form is less certain, his overall game is strong enough to make him a good contrarian play at only $9K since he’s getting almost no buzz coming into the week.
Justin Rose $8,000
Rose is one of just four players with salaries between $8K and $9K with a positive SimLeverage, and he checks in with a low ownership projected of under 9%. He’s the only player with a salary of at least $8K who has projected ownership under 10%; however, he still shows up in 10% of optimal lineups, according to our sims.
So far this season, Rose has had a bit of a Renaissance. The 42-year-old claimed his 11th career PGA TOUR victory in his most recent start two weeks ago at the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am after posting a T18 at Torrey Pines and a T26 in La Quinta to start 2023. That strong run of form has resulted in five straight tournaments outperforming salary-based expectations.
He should be motivated to continue his strong results as he looks to play his way onto the European Ryder Cup Team this fall. He has only played this event once since 2017 but definitely knows his way around the track. In his career, he has made 11-of-12 cuts at Riviera, including playing the weekend in seven straight appearances. He finished in the top 10 twice during that run as well.
While Adam Scott is also a strong play at this price due to his history here, Rose comes in with stronger form and a much lower ownership projection. Especially if you need to differentiate your lineup, I think Rose is actually the stronger option his week.
Value PGA DFS Picks
Seamus Power $7,700
Of all the players under $8K, Power has the second-highest ceiling projection, and he’s the only player in the top 13 in that category in that price range with a positive SimLeverage. In fact, his 1.5% SimLeverage is more than three percentage points higher than any of those players who all appear to be headed for over-ownership, according to our sims and projected ownership. All that to say, Power offers a great ceiling and huge upside while coming at just 8% projected ownership.
Power won the Butterfield Bermuda Championship last October and followed that with top-five finishes at Maykoba and Sea Island to close 2022. He started 2023 with a T25 at the Sentry, a T20 in AbuDhabi, and a T15 at Pebble Beach. Last week, he made the cut on the number but then had a strong weekend to climb to a T20.
He lacks a great course history here, missing the cut last year and placing T64 in his only other career appearance. However, he showed he can contend in elite fields by finishing in the top 15 at the PGA Championship and the U.S. Open last year. His balanced all-around game should play well here, so look for him to post his best career finish on this track this week.
Taylor Moore $7,200
Moore is a little chalkier than I’d like, but his recent form and fit for this course make him worth adding to GPP lineups in spite of his 6.9% projected ownership. That’s still a nice number, just make sure to mix him in with at least one other contrarian play to help your lineup stand out.
Last week, Moore posted his third straight top-15 finish after piling up 20 birdies in his four rounds in Phoenix. He was also in the top 10 in the strong field on SG: Off-the-Tee and has been accurate enough to make up for his lack of distance. He has gained strokes ball-striking in four straight events and made four of his past five cuts on Poa annua greens, which are his strongest putting surface.
Last year, Moore had a T21 at Riviera to start a strong season that saw him qualify for the FedExCup Playoffs in his rookie year. He specializes in the short game that is needed at Riviera, so look for the 29-year-old from Texas to put together another strong week in L.A.
Sleeper PGA DFS Picks
Patrick Rodgers $7,000
Rodgers is a boom-or-bust play that works well for GPPs and has good course history at Riviera. He had made the cut in five straight years before missing the cut last season due to some issues with driving accuracy. Throughout his career, Rodgers is known to be a long, straight driver and a streaky putter, which is why he’s usually a boom-or-bust play.
He showed signs of getting hot on Sunday of last week, surging to a T14 in Phoenix with a six-under in the final round and leading the field in Shots Gained: Tee-to-Green on Sunday. It was his first made cut of 2023, but he also flashed his upside last fall with six straight top-30 finishes, including top 10s at The RSM Classic and the Butterfield Bermuda Championship.
Sure, Rodgers is a swing for the fences, but if he can build on Sunday’s showing on this track where he has good success, he brings some of the most upside of any player priced at $7K or lower. He has the third-highest ceiling projection of players in that group.
Rodgers is projected for an 8.7% ownership, so if you need a more contrarian option, Hayden Buckley and Adrian Meronk are also solid plays at this price point.
David Lipsky $6,500
Lipsky has missed the cut in each of his three events on the mainland after an impressive top-five in Hawaii to open 2023, but our sims and projections have him as an elite value play this week in what could be a nice bounce-back spot for the 34-year-old who was born in L.A.
Of all the players $7K and under, Lipsky has the highest SimLeverage by a wide margin and shows up in the second-most optimal lineups in our sims behind only Meronk. He has the highest ceiling projection of all players with a salary of $7K or less, along with the highest floor projection in that group as well.
In the entire field, Lipsky has the second-highest Projected Plus/Minus and the highest Leverage, based on his very low projected ownership of under 1.5%.
Despite last week’s missed cut, Lipsky seemed to find something in Round 2, improving by seven strokes after a tough Round 1. In that second round, he made six birdies as he tried to get under the cut line but ended up just one stroke from making the weekend. If he can carry that momentum to this week, he could end up a steal at this salary.
A couple of other bargains worth considering as dart throws are Callum Tarren and Greyson Sigg, who are both extremely affordable as well.
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