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FanDuel PGA Preview: Genesis Invitational (2020)

Feb 12, 2020

The PGA Tour will stay in California for another tournament, but this week’s event is played on just one course (Riviera CC), and there are no celebrities or amateurs playing. We also have a pretty good gauge on how this course plays since this event has been played here for more than 50 years. This may not be a major, but the field is extremely strong, and you should be able to construct a lineup that you feel good about. Rory McIlroy (7:1), Justin Thomas (8:1), and Jon Rahm (9:1) are the three favorites in the betting markets this week. Dustin Johnson (12:1) and the event’s host, Tiger Woods (18:1), are the only other golfers with odds below 20:1.

There are 11 golfers priced at $11,000 or above on FanDuel this week (by comparison, there were only seven last week). FanDuel provides DFS players with a salary cap of $60,000 to select six golfers for an average roster spot of $10,000. Rory McIlory ($12,200) and Justin Thomas ($12,000) are the only golfers priced in the 12K range. Jon Rahm ($11,900), Dustin Johnson ($11,800), and Tiger Woods ($12,600) round out FanDuel’s top five highest-priced golfers. The contests on FD are smaller than the ones on DK but, on the flip side, you don’t have to go up against the enormous GPP fields. FanDuel’s $9 “PGA Eagle” contest only has 18,518 entries with a first-place prize of $25,000. If you want to live the MME life and max enter 150 lineups, you could play in FanDuel’s $0.25 Pitching Wedge contest.

All of the tips and information that I mention in this article are plays that I will be considering for my own lineups. In fact, most of the plays mentioned are based upon my customized model that includes a variety of statistics and results. However, that doesn’t mean that I will end up with all of the guys that I mention. This article is written early in the week, and additional news, research, and roster construction could lead me to different plays. Remember to check the news and social media reports leading up to the first golfer teeing off. Though golf is more difficult to get injury news, you might be able to pick up a nugget or two that helps with roster construction — especially when dealing with possible withdrawals.

Remember that golf is very difficult to play, but DFS golf is even tougher. The best golfers will perform at a high level throughout the course of a golf season. However, from week-to-week, some major variance can occur. Any golfer on the PGA Tour is capable of winning an event (e.g., Nick Taylor last week after not having a top-five finish since March of 2016). On the flip side, even the best golfers in the world are capable of missing the cut in a given week.

Work at having a solid process week-in and week-out as opposed to getting bogged down by recency bias or the ups-and-downs of the weekly golf grind. Use all the information available to you to make the best decision possible for your lineup. Good luck and, most importantly, have fun! Whether you win or lose, golf is one of the most entertaining fantasy sports to follow because you get four days of action.

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Tournament Notes

  • The Genesis Open is played at the Riviera Country Club in Pacific Palisades, California. The course is a Par-71, and it measures 7,322 yards. The fairways are narrow, and the poa greens are small.
  • This is the first year that the event will be played as an invitational, so the field will be much smaller (120 players). The top 65 (and ties) after the first two days will make the cut and advance to the weekend.
  • Previous winners of the event that are scheduled to play this week include J.B. Holmes (2019), Bubba Watson (2018, 2016, 2014), Dustin Johnson (2017), James Hahn (2015), Aaron Baddeley (2011), Steve Stricker (2010), Phil Mickelson (2009, 2008), Charles Howell (2007), Rory Sabbatini (2006), and Adam Scott (2005).
  • This event has some of the hardest to hit fairways (53 percent compared to the Tour average of 61 percent).
  • Combining the length of the course with the small greens, Genesis typically has some of the lowest GIR rates on the PGA Tour (56 percent compared to the tour average of 66 percent).
  • The first hole (a 503-yard par 5) has the highest birdie or better rate on Tour (60 percent). In the last two years alone, 65 eagles have been made at this hole.
  • The average winning score for the last 15 years has been 12-under par, and the average cut line has been 2-over par. The best score in the last 15 years was DJ’s 17-under par in 2017.
  • The course plays even longer than the yardage indicates, as the two par 5s are some of the shortest on Tour, leaving the par 4s to make up much of the sneaky distance. There are seven par 4s that measure at least 450 yards, leaving the golfers with longer approach shots than normal. However, scoring will be plentiful on the par 5s. Hole No. 1 saw an astounding 73 percent Birdie-or-Better rate last year, and Hole No. 11 had a 35 percent Birdie-or-Better rate.
  • Nine of the top-10 players in the world are teeing it up this week. Webb Simpson is the only player not here, as he rarely plays in this event.

Course Fit & Key Statistics

Overall Statistics
My customized overall stat model measures all key stats (driving, approach, short game, putting, etc…) from both a short-and-long-form standpoint. From a stats perspective, this week’s best golfers (in ranked order) are Rory McIlory, Justin Thomas, Jon Rahm, Tony Finau, Xander Schauffele, Collin Morikawa, Tiger Woods, Patrick Cantlay, Scottie Scheffler, and Corey Conners.

Approach Game
The greens are among the smallest on the PGA Tour, and players who can consistently hit a high number of greens in regulation will have an advantage. Traditionally, the golfers that have the best approach game and are able to stick the ball close — hitting a higher number of greens in regulation — fare better at this tournament. In looking at both short and long-term form, the ten golfers with the best approach game, especially from 150-200 yards (in ranked order) are Hideki Matsuyama, Justin Thomas, Collin Morikawa, Patrick Cantlay, Emiliano Grillo, Rory McIlroy, Tiger Woods, Paul Casey, Adam Scott, and Joaquin Niemann.

Recent Form
The golfers who have gained the most total strokes on the field in the last six PGA Tour events (in ranked order) are Tony Finau, Jon Rahm, Nick Taylor, Max Homa, Collin Morikawa, Sungjae Im, Justin Thomas, Bubba Watson, Jason Day, and Patrick Reed. Among the golfers in this week’s field, Collin Morikawa has the longest streak of PGA Tour made cuts with 18. Matthew Fitzpatrick and Sungjae Im are the next closest with 15 and 14, respectively. Patrick Cantlay (13), Paul Casey (12), and Denny McCarthy (10) are the only other players in the field with double-digit cuts streaks.

Course History
The golfers who have gained the most total strokes at this tournament in the last five years (in ranked order) include Dustin Johnson, Bubba Watson, Adam Scott, Justin Thomas, J.B. Holmes, Jason Kokrak, Rory McIlroy, Paul Casey, Ryan Moore, and Jordan Spieth. Bubba Watson, Dustin Johnson, Mark Leishman, and Kevin Na are the only golfers to have at multiple top-five finishes in the last five years. Additionally, JT, Adam Scott, Hideki Matsuyama, Jordan Spieth, Martin Laird, and Ryan Moore have multiple top-10 finishes.

Official World Golf Ranking
All the statistics and course history are good to know, but sports (in particular, DFS golf) oftentimes comes down to playing the best golfers. Sure, salary is involved, but the more good golfers you can fit in your lineups, the better the chance that you give yourself. According to the OWGR, the best ten golfers in this field (in ranked order) are Rory McIlroy (No. 1), Brooks Koepka (No. 2), Jon Rahm (No. 3), Justin Thomas (No. 4), Dustin Johnson (No. 5), Patrick Cantlay (No. 6), Tiger Woods (No. 8), Xander Schauffele (No. 9), Justin Rose (No. 10), and Tony Finau (No. 12).

Favorite Upper-Tier Plays

Rory McIlroy ($12,200)
In his last 11 starts worldwide, McIlroy has seven finishes inside the top four, including two wins. I am not going out on a limb picking the world’s number one player to win this week, as Rory is playing great golf and has no real flaws in his game at the moment. As my style when mass-multi entering, I will be extremely overweight on him. He will not be a lock-button play, but I will be relying on him for my profit this week. He was T4 here last year but was only T20 in each of his two previous starts before that. I will also have some shares of Jon Rahm ($11,900) and Justin Thomas ($12,000) sprinkled in. Picking a favorite golfer this week is like picking between chocolate or strawberry ice cream. It’s just a personal preference as they are all good. There are no red flags for any of them. They all have great form, strong course history, and skill sets that fit Riviera.

Dustin Johnson ($11,800)
If you took a ride with me last week on the DJ train, it was more of a roller coaster. I hit the lock button on him at the AT&T Pro-Am and felt good about it after he shot a 69 and a 65 to open the event. But then rounds of 72 and 78 on the weekend sunk my lineups. He definitely struggled more with the conditions than I anticipated. His game may not be completely back since his offseason knee surgery, but I have seen enough flashes of the old DJ to still have hope. He did finish T7 at the Sony and runnerup in Saudi Arabia prior to last week’s T32 at Pebble Beach. He seems to like playing here at Riviera as he has made the cut in 10/12 events. He has six top-five finishes, including a win in 2017. I have a good feeling about him, but unlike last week, I will not play a chalky DJ. I will only play him this week if it looks like ownership will be lower on him than most of the other guys around him.

Bubba Watson ($11,200)
I never play Bubba, but I am strongly considering it this week, depending on how ownership looks to shape out. He has won three times in his last six starts. He was also T15 here last year. Overall, he has made 10/13 cuts here with eight top-20 finishes, including those three wins. Course history alone doesn’t make me play a guy that I don’t normally play (though I wish I had with Phil Mickelson last week). His recent form is very good with a T6 at the Farmers and then a T3 at the Waste Management Phoenix Open. If I have to pivot, I will probably gravitate toward Patrick Cantlay ($11,400) or Tony Finau ($11,100). On a side note, if you ever play on Yahoo, he is drastically underpriced on that site as the 21st most-expensive golfer this week.

Favorite Core Plays

Collin Morikawa ($10,100)
He is consistent, as he’s currently riding a cut streak of 18 straight PGA events, including five straight top-25 finishes. As a rookie last summer, he showed his upside with three-straight top-four finishes, including a win at the Barracuda. In the last 36 rounds, he is 13th in the field in fantasy scoring. He is third in my customized approach game model (behind only Hideki Matsuyama and Justin Thomas).

Sungjae Im ($9,900)
In the last 36 rounds played, he is seventh in total strokes gained and 10th in fantasy scoring, but he is only the 21st most expensive golfer. He has made the cut in 20 of his last 21 events, including 14 in a row. Included in his cut streak has been nine top-25 finishes and five top-10 finishes. He led the PGA last year in rounds in the 60s, although he did miss the cut here last year as a rookie.

Abraham Ancer ($9,800)
In the last 12 rounds, he is fifth in this field in fantasy scoring and sixth in total strokes gained. In his last five starts worldwide, he has four top-10 finishes, including a runner-up in his last PGA Tour event (The American Express). His finishes at this event have only been T44 and T68 the last two years but at least he has made the cut. Statistically speaking, he doesn’t excel in any one area but also has no weaknesses. He is a strong option this week.

Favorite Mid-Tier Plays

Alex Noren ($9,300)
He shot in the 60s each of the first two days at the AT&T but then fell back on the weekend to finish T32. He is slowly working himself back into form after being ranked as high as eighth in the world back in 2017. He hasn’t had a big finish lately, but he has put together a nice little stretch of 16/17 made cuts worldwide, including 11 in a row. He has six top-15 finishes in his last 17 starts. In his last 36 rounds on the PGA tour, he is 16th in total strokes gained and 24h in fantasy scoring, making him a strong value considering that he is the 35th most-expensive player on FD. He was T16 here at Riviera in his only appearance back in 2018.

Scottie Scheffler ($9,200)
He has struggled the last two times out, missing the cut at the WMPO and the Farmers. His price is just too good to pass up, however, considering that he has top-10 potential. Prior to his two MC’s, he had top-five finishes in three of four starts. In the last 24 rounds played, he is second in this field in fantasy scoring and fifth in strokes gained. Also, prior to those last two events, he had made the cut in all eight of his starts this season.

Corey Conners ($9,100)
Conners has made seven cuts in a row. He had six straight top-20 finishes before his T45 the last time out at the WMPO. He struggles on the greens but is one of the world’s best ball-strikers and has a strong approach game. In the last 24 rounds, he is 19th in total strokes gained and 20th in fantasy scoring. Not bad for a guy priced as the 39th most-expensive guy on FD.

Favorite Lower-Tier Plays

J.B. Holmes ($8,700)
The defending champion comes into this year’s event with some solid recent form, finishing inside the top 16 in each of his last three PGA starts. During that time, he is second in fantasy scoring and eighth in total strokes gained. In addition to his win here last year, he’s made the cut in 12/13 starts and has five top-10 finishes. Just like Bubba, I don’t play Holmes, but that will change this week. Also, like Bubba, Holmes is grossly underpriced on Yahoo at the near-minimum of $22.

Carlos Ortiz ($8,400)
He might end up being chalky, in which case, you might want to pivot to someone else like J.T. Poston ($8,800), Lanto Griffin ($8,600), or Denny McCarthy ($8,100). Playing a chalky stud is one thing, but you want to stay away from chalky scrubs. Ortiz has good recent form and strong course history. The last three times he has played Riviera, he has top-30 finishes, including last year’s T9. He has made 8/9 PGA cuts, including three top-five finishes. In the last 24 rounds, he is 13th in fantasy scoring and 14th in total strokes gained.

Vaughn Taylor ($8,300)
He has missed two cuts in a row but had made 17/18 cuts prior to that. In the last 24 rounds, Taylor is 15th in both fantasy scoring and total strokes gained. He also finished T9 here last year and t20 in 2018. He didn’t have great recent course history the last two weeks so I expect him to bounce back this week at a value price.

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Jamy Bechler is a regular contributor to FantasyPros for NBA, NFL, and PGA. You can follow him on his DFS twitter @WinningDFS101. When he is not playing DFS, Jamy is an author, host of the “Success is a Choice” podcast, and a leadership consultant, working with businesses and teams across the country (including the NBA). Even though he offers his advice on players and contests, after additional information and consideration, he may end up using different players and strategies than what he recommended in this article.

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