The Cheat Sheet provides fantasy golf players with course info, player history and the most noteworthy trends of the week to help them with their roster selections.
Jordan Spieth finally got his win. It was a little bittersweet since I predicted that would happen a week earlier at the Phoenix Open, but impressive to watch nonetheless. Spieth has started out 2017 extremely well and looks headed for another huge showing at the year’s first major. The tournament last week was hampered a bit by bad weather, and the heavy rains that California has been getting might hamper this week’s tournament too. A lot of the top players had solid showings at Pebble, including Dustin Johnson (T3), Brandt Snedeker (4th) and Jason Day (T5). This week’s event should once again feature a classy Sunday leaderboard.
The field this week is around 140 or so players, so the field is still large but it isn’t quite as big as many regular Tour events which host 150 + players. This week also doesn’t have a Pro-Am feature (Pebble Beach was the last one), so players will only play on one course this week and the cut will go back to being completed after Friday’s round. The top 70 players and ties will get to play the weekend, and with a slightly smaller field there should be a few more teams with 5 or 6 players making it through on DraftKings this week. As far as the competition goes, this is a very elite field and has an almost World Golf Championship quality feel. Top European Tour players Anirban Lahari, Charl Schwartzel and Sergio Garcia are all in the field this week along with U.S. stars Jordan Spieth, Bubba Watson and Dustin Johnson. Like almost every year, this is setting up as one of the best early non-major events of the season.
Riviera CC, Pacific Palisades, California
Par 71, 7,300-7,350 yards
Riviera is one of the older courses on Tour and has hosted this event pretty much every year since 1973. As an older style course it has a lot more mature trees that line the fairway and it also features a lot of doglegs and a few quirky hole designs — like a sand-trap in the middle of a green on the par three sixth, and an impossibly small green on the short par four 10th. The strains of grass at Riviera are also fairly unique as the fairways and rough are Kikuyu which tends to be quite difficult to play out of when left to grow. As such, players with distance and the strength to get the ball up and out of the thick grass quickly will have an advantage, and that may be even more of a factor this week as rain is in the forecast which will only make the rough more difficult.
In general, the course plays quite long and is one of the tougher tests on Tour. Last year it ranked as the 21st toughest course, but the year before (when it rained a lot) it was the fifth hardest. The course is a true par 71 with three par fives, but only one (the short first hole) is a real birdie opportunity as the other two traditionally play tough. The par fours are where the real test of the course lies, as eight of the 11 play at over 430 yards or more in length and have tricky tee shots that challenge the player’s length and accuracy. Many of these holes will be difficult to score on, and while we have seen winners here in the mid-teens, don’t be shocked if the winner is in single digits this week.
LAST 5 WINNERS
- 2016 — Bubba Watson -15 (over Adam Scott -14)
- 2015 — James Hahn -6 (in playoff over Dustin Johnson and Paul Casey)
- 2014 — Bubba Watson -15 (over Dustin Johnson -13)
- 2013 — John Merrick -11 (in playoff over Charlie Beljan)
- 2012 — Bill Haas -7 (in playoff over Phil Mickelson and Keegan Bradley)
- Recent form is important this week: each of the last six winners at Riviera had placed 29th or better in the week preceding their victory at Riviera
Par Four Scoring
Strokes Gained: Tee to Green
Driving Distance (DD) isn’t the be all and end all this week. Bill Haas ranked 66th in DD here in 2012 and won, and James Hahn was 30th for the week in DD in 2015 when he won. That being said, seven of the top 10 golfers from 2015 ranked in the top 25 for Driving Distance for the week, and in 2016, five of the top 10 were in the top 20 for the week. Bombers have traditionally held many of the top finishing spots here over the past two or three years, so emphasizing these players should mean better upside for your salary dollars on DraftKings.
With the way the course is set up to challenge players — with many tough approach shots and longer par fours — Par Four Scoring is definitely a stat to pay attention to this week. Four of the last seven winners of this event have ranked inside the top 10 in Par Four Scoring for the year they won at Riviera, and the last five winners haven’t ranked worse than 11th in Par Four Scoring during the week of their victories here.
As far as Strokes Gained stats go, emphasizing tee to green play is definitely important on this course. Of the past four winners, their finishing position in Strokes Gained: Tee to Green for the week have been fifth, second, first and first.
Odds to win are one factor to think about when picking players (but not the only thing, so be careful putting too much weight on them). This section is going to detail a few of the players who have the best fantasy value comparative to their odds of winning this week.
|Player||Vegas Odds||DraftKings Price||Comparables|
|Brooks Koepka||40-1||$7,100||Ryo Ishikawa $7,300 and 250-1
Nick Watney $7,300 and 150-1
Morgan Hoffman $7,200 and 300-1
|J.B. Holmes||40-1||$7,100||Ryo Ishikawa $7,300 and 250-1
Nick Watney $7,300 and 150-1
Morgan Hoffman $7,200 and 300-1
|Brandt Snedeker||33-1||$7,600||Ricky Barnes $7,600 and 200-1
Graham DeLaet $7,700 and 150-1
Patrick Rodgers $7,700 and 150-1
HORSES FOR COURSES
- K.J. Choi has an amazingly consistent record at this event as he’s now made the cut every year he’s played since 2001 and also finished fifth here last season. Choi has really started slow in 2017, but he’s a hard fade this week for me given the history.
- Keegan Bradley has made four of his last five cuts at this event, a streak which includes finishes of fourth and second place (loss in a playoff). He’s coming off a bad missed cut in Phoenix but was in the mix at the Farmers the week prior to that. He’s set up for a bounce back at one of his favorite venues.
- J.B. Holmes has a great record at this course, although he’s never won here. Holmes has now made nine of 10 cuts at this event and has finished 12th or better in six of those appearances. His game might be rounding into form at the right time for a big week.
- Dustin Johnson once again makes this list as he’s put together two second places, a third, two fourths and a 10th place finish here, all since 2009. He’ll once again be looking to break through for his first win at Riviera, a course which definitely suits his game.
Cash Games: Starting with a combo of Dustin Johnson and one or two of the studs from the $9k to $10.5k region makes the most sense to me this week. While Jordan Spieth is a hard fade given form, Dustin’s record of four top fives here in the past five years makes him a great cornerstone. Using one of Jason Day or Adam Scott makes sense, but you can also squeeze in multiple players from the $8k range if you bypass them both, a list which includes Justin Rose, Bubba Watson, Paul Casey and Charl Schwartzel.
Tournaments: There are a lot of value plays that will likely be popular this week, so the good news is that differentiating shouldn’t be difficult. Jason Day was the lowest owned of the top tier last week and could be so again. He has GPP winning upside whenever and wherever he tees it up. Other good potentially overlooked plays this week include Justin Thomas ($9,600), Marc Leishman ($7,600), Kyle Stanley ($6,800), Brian Harman ($6,900) and Charl Schwartzel ($8,100).
Top Strokes Gained: Tee to Green from Last Week
1. Kelly Kraft
2. J.B. Holmes
3. John Rahm
Top Strokes Gained: Putting from Last Week
1. Gary Woodland
2. Derek Fathauer
3. Nick Watney
MY PICK: Jason Day ($10,000)
Jason Day is in a really interesting spot this week. He’s seen a $1,600 price drop and is only the fifth most expensive golfer, despite finishing T5 last week and still being the number one golfer in the world. Day doesn’t have the strongest history here (two MCs and a 64th), but the last time he played this event was way back in 2012 and given the layoff I wouldn’t put too much stock in his shaky course history. While he hasn’t shown dominant form yet in 2017, Day put in three great rounds at Pebble and this could easily be the week he puts the hammer down and distances himself from the field. As a pure points per dollar play, he makes far too much sense and has to be respected here based on his last two years of play.
MY SLEEPER: Ollie Schniederjans ($6,900)
Through four starts this year, Schniederjans has made the cut in all four events and registered three finishes of T27 or better, including a T9 at the Farmers Open a few weeks back. The course this week does call for some rain, and that should favor longer hitters like Schniederjans who ranks 28th in Driving Distance for the season. A couple years ago Ollie was one of the most talked about amateur players in the world but has gone a bit under the radar in 2017, due to the heroics of guys like Justin Thomas and John Rahm. If he continues his solid play, another big performance could be coming soon, and at under $7k, I think he’s a great tournament option this week when several big names will likely be popular.
I am a promoter at DraftKings and am also an avid fan and user (my username is wavegoodbye) and may sometimes play on my personal account in the games that I offer advice on. Although I have expressed my personal view on the games and strategies above, they do not necessarily reflect the view(s) of DraftKings and I may also deploy different players and strategies than what I recommend above.