PGA About the Cut: Genesis Open February 16th-19th
We are staying in California this week with the Genesis Open on the schedule, which was formerly called the Northern Trust Open. The tournament is held each year at Riviera Country Club which is in Pacific Palisades, California. Being an east coast guy I have no idea where that exactly is, but it sounds really nice.
Riviera C.C plays a par 71 and is just over 7,300 yards long. The course is not a pushover, and this should be a decent test for the players. Fairways here are difficult to hit, but the rough is not too punishing so I will be favoring the bombers over accurate drivers this week. The penalty for errant tee shots is not severe and the ability to shorten some of these longer holes is going to be important. As usual, I am going to be looking for golfers with a strong tee to green game and who can hit a lot of GIR, but I also will be looking at scrambling statistics as even the best will not be able to land it on these smaller greens every time. Being able to get up and down from off the green is going to be key this week.
The field for this tournament is solid with a lot of top players teeing it up which should make things interesting. We are also back to the normal format of the top 70 players with ties making it thru the Friday cut instead of last week’s three course 54-hole cut craziness. Last year’s winner at Riviera was Bubba Watson at -15 to par, and Bubba also won in 2014 so he certainly is the course horse of this week. As I say every week as Thursday gets closer keep an eye on the weather as it can certainly be a factor. Unlike last week where we had to try and figure out which course may play easier on a given day the tee times this week will be the place to look for a possible advantage. Unless its drastic weather forecasted I usually just use it as a tiebreaker amongst golfers I have basically even and do not use it as one of my top factors in my lineup construction.
I have never been so happy to grind out a small profit and move on from a week. Between playing weather roulette on Thursday to watching Bill Murrays antics seemingly ruin JB Holmes golfing abilities it was one of those weeks that just seemed destined to be a disaster. Somehow even with Jason Day’s Saturday meltdown, I made it to Sunday with some teams that were in prime striking position in the giant GPP tourneys. Unfortunately, Chappell and Mickelson made sure there would not be any top 10 finishes, but Gary Woodland and some others made it an overall success. I said this last week and will say it again: anytime you can get to Sunday still alive to take down GPPs I consider that a success and hope that this is the week I can finish one off on Sunday.
Dustin Johnson $11,400 – DJ has pretty much everything trending in the right direction and I am going to be starting many of my lineups with him. He had a strong Sunday to give him a nice finish to last week, has great course history here, and obviously has the raw talent to handle this golf course. He also likes putting on Poa Annua greens which this course has, and with his length should be able to get to shorten the long par 4s and get to the par 5s in two giving himself those eagle chances that we want. I expect DJ to be in contention come Sunday and consider him the favorite to get a W this week.
Full disclosure, I had just finished writing that Dustin Johnson blurb when pricing was released so this article is going to take a turn to me referencing and ripping the pricing a lot with most of the golfers to follow. (Ed.Note: Buckle up for an exhilarating ride!)
Sergio Garcia $9,300 – I used Phil Mickelson at this price last week and much like Mickelson I am not a Sergio fan. Having said that he is a nice discount from the top end players and sets up well for this week. He has had two top five finishes in his last four appearances at this tourney and is fresh off a win two weeks ago, over in Europe, so his current form is very solid. DraftKings completely messed up their pricing again which sadly is becoming the norm, but it could lead to Sergio being a little under the radar with so many other players being underpriced.
Paul Casey $8,600 – This is more of a game theory play as I really think the pricing is going to have a lot of people going for one or maybe even two of the top end guys and then filling out their roster with the quality golfers who are mispriced down to super cheap levels. Casey may get lost in the shuffle as he has not played the last few weeks and does not stand out when you scan over the salaries. He was second here in 2015, and has a great tee-to-green game thus leading to a lot of greens hit and birdie chances. I like this spot for him as a GPP play that I am hopeful I can get reduced ownership on.
Bubba Watson $8,300 – Lots of quality plays in this range, and a case could certainly be made for Justin Rose sitting right above Bubba who I also like. As I mentioned earlier Bubba absolutely loves this course posting two victories here in the past three years. He burned me and many others a few weeks back, but last year he was cut the week before this event and then posted the W so we know he can bounce back from a poor showing. There is more risk with Bubba than most in this range because when Bubba is struggling he has a hard time grinding it out, but the upside is just too good to pass up on.
Phil Mickelson $7,900 – Last week Phil showed you how good he can be when he is on and how god awful he can be when he is making a mess out there. He is one of the players who you can make a case for almost every week because he scores a ton of raw points due to his playing style of going for everything. He has always had the ability to work himself out of trouble, mostly because he has so much practice at being in trouble, but that will serve him well at a course like this with difficult greens to hit and scrambling a key factor.
Jason Kokrak $7,800 – One of the few plays this week I was hoping might be a little cheaper than their actual price tag. Kokrak looked dead and buried with a 77 in the first-round last week, but rebounded to make the cut and shoot 67 on Sunday for a top 25 finish. He clearly was getting better and better as the tournament went on and that is a great sign for him coming to a place he finished second at last year. He bombs it off the tee and I do not think the masses will gravitate to him with so many other mid-range options to choose from.
J.B Holmes $7,100 – Holmes rallied on Sunday to sneak into the top 25, but I was hoping for an even better result. As always, I love to see a player finish strong as I think it really gives them momentum going into next week. JB was 11th here last year and has strong course history at Riviera, which makes sense because the layout fits his bomber style approach. His putting is always a concern, but I am not placing too much emphasis on the flat stick this week. I expect Holmes to be popular as his price is cheaper than expected, but he makes a very solid play who always racks up the points as he is a scoring machine when he gets going.
Brendan Steele $7,100 – Yes you read that correctly, he is $7,100. I hope you did not think I forgot about my boy. Once salaries were released I scrolled down from most expensive to cheapest on DK, and when I got to around $7,500 I figured Steele must have withdrew. I did not think there was any chance he would be this low given his great early season play and very solid course history. Great tee-to-green, hits it plenty far, and has everything clicking early in the year. This great play of his is not going to last forever, but I am not hoping off when he is this underpriced at a spot he has made five straight cuts.
Thomas Pieters $6,700 – Deep GPP that I had to mention. Pieters has not played much on the PGA tour, but over in Europe he is quickly becoming a top player. He is a 25-year-old Belgium who crushes the ball and is going to be a name you see more and more in the next few years. Playing over here is a different animal, but if you want a low owned dark horse you can do a lot worse than Pieters this week.
Below are a few guys that I will be either all out fading or plan to have less exposure than the field will in GPPs.
Jimmy Walker $8,500 – Do not expect him to be super popular, but I will most likely have ZERO exposure. His form has not been the best and there is not much to love when scanning over his price, course history or key stats. He is not the best scrambler so if he is not hitting a lot of greens which is difficult to do at Riviera he may find himself struggling to save par at a lot of these holes.
The Pricing – This is more of a general thought about the pricing. It is a mess, and it is going to create a lot of interesting situations for GPP lineup construction. I could write a whole separate article just on this topic, but to summarize when there are glaring misprices like this week it causes ownership to be funneled to certain players. We saw this two weeks ago, with Kuchar and Oosthuizen being way underpriced and sucking up a ton of ownership at those price points. Since golf has a cut there is always merit to explore taking a stand in a GPP against someone who you think may be 35+% owned even if they are glaringly underpriced.
Good luck everyone!