Forelinx Fantasy Golf Preview ⏤ The Genesis Invitational

Fantasy Golf

Riviera2

The PGA TOUR's West Coast Swing will finish up this week with The Genesis Invitational at historic Riviera Country Club in Pacific Palisades, California. The tournament is perhaps the best offering of all the events on the West Coast schedule as it combines the best field we've seen so far in 2021 with a Golden Age golf course design from the Captain George C. Thomas. Riviera is consistently rated by the players as among their favorite host venues on the PGA TOUR, so it's no surprise to see nearly every marquee player in the game signed up to participate this week.

Tiger Woods is still recovering from his recent back surgery, but he is likely to be on hand in a non-competing role as he is considered the host of this week's tournament. It's something of an ironic choice for Woods, as the Genesis Invitational is the only event on the PGA TOUR calendar that he has played more than ten times without recording a victory. It is, however, also the site of his first-ever PGA TOUR appearance as he made his first start as amateur here all the way back in 1992. He's come close to winning here a couple of times since, but has has far more non-competitive starts at Riviera than he's had competitive ones. 

Adam Scott will defend the title that he won here last year by two shots over Scott Brown, Sung Kang and Matt Kuchar. The victory was technically his second at Riviera, but his first title back in 2005 was thanks to a rain-shortened event that was called off after just 36 holes. He is among a number of marquee champions at Riviera, but perhaps none is as famous as Ben Hogan. The Hawk won here an amazing three times in the span of about eighteen months, with a win at the 1948 U.S. Open bookended by a pair of victories in what used to be called the Los Angeles Open.

The Field and the Favorites

As mentioned above, the field this week is perhaps the strongest we've seen so far in 2021. Just two of the top ten players in the world are missing (Tyrrell Hatton and Webb Simpson) and all of the heaviest hitters in the game will be on hand. Dustin Johnson is predictably the betting favorite at +550 coming off a win at the Saudi International and showing no signs of cooling off from the hot streak he's been on since the end of last summer. He's won at this golf course before and there's no reason to believe that the game he has now is any less a fit for Riviera than the one that's won in the past. He loves to fade the golf ball and most of the holes set up well for that shot shape from the tee, so it would be a real surprise if he wasn't a threat to win come the weekend at Riviera.

A pack of six of the world's best are lined up behind DJ and clustered into a similar odds bucket. Jon Rahm, Rory McIlroy, Justin Thomas, Patrick Cantlay, Xander Schauffele and Bryson Dechambeau all fall between +1400 and +1600 to win and it's tough to imagine that one or more of them won't be in contention when the back nine on Sunday comes around. Cantlay in particular is coming off a strong week at Pebble Beach and one would have to think that his workman-like game would suit Riviera well. Thomas wouldn't be a poor selection either as, like Dustin Johnson, he favors the left-to-right action that served Hogan so well here. He finished runner-up at Riviera by just a shot in 2019 and could easily contend again this go around.

The top of the ticket this week has the cream of the crop, but the down-ticket players in the field this week don't lack for quality. Jordan Spieth (+3300) will look to make it a third consecutive top-five finish after resurgent performances in both Phoenix and last week at Pebble Beach. He held or shared the lead going into the final round both weeks, and while disappointing Sundays kept him out of the winner's circle twice he certainly showed a higher gear than we've seen lately.

Three young players to keep your eye on at Riviera include Viktor Hovland (+3000), Scottie Scheffler (+5000) and Maverick McNealy (+10000). The latter put together a hot run on the inward half at Pebble Beach last Sunday to finish in second place while the former seems like a perfect fit of style and golf course. Hovland's best assets are his accurate driving and quality iron play and Riviera tends to reward those two skills.

The Golf Course

It's almost impossible to mention the quality of the field this week without directly correlating it to the quality of the host site it has in Riviera Country Club. Carved out of the basin of a large canyon in Pacific Palisades, this George C. Thomas design challenges the players strategically in a way that most modern PGA TOUR designs do not. Accuracy and shotmaking off the tee are required here far more than your average PGA TOUR venue as well, lending players of all types hope that they can compete even if they lack the distance of some of the TOUR's heavier hitters. It's not a golf course where bomb and gouge is going to get you very far as the course's famous eucalyptus trees stand sentry down either side of most of the fairways. For these (and a great many other) reasons, this course is consistently ranked in the top five when the PGA TOUR professionals are anonymously polled regarding their favorite venues.

The course's most compelling hole is the devilishly reachable par-four tenth that puts all of Riviera's best assets on display. It measures just a shade over 300 yards, but the green is only a few paces wide and both angled and canted away from the player on the tee. It is entirely surrounded by bunkers (see below) and success depends on the player's ability to play from the correct angles required from tee to green.

The Tenth at Riviera CC
A view from behind the green looking back towards the tee and the clubhouse.

Those players who play their second shots from the right side of this picture will find themselves pitching (or maybe even putting) down the length of the green with the maximum margin of error for distance on their second shot. Should a player try to drive the green and miss to the left side of this picture, he will be faced with next to no green to work with from a bunker racing downhill towards another bunker out of frame to the right. When the conditions get crusty, it's not uncommon to see this play as one of the more difficult holes on the golf course as players often find themselves splashing their ball back and forth from bunker to bunker around this green. Twos and threes are absolutely obtainable, but don't be surprised to see one of the contenders shoot himself out of the tournament here on Sunday.

The rest of the golf course presents varying versions of the same types of challenges. Those players who can place the ball in the correct spots both into the fairways and the greens will find that good scores can be shot at Riviera. Find yourself on the wrong side of the hole here, and bogeys can be extremely easy to make. Nearly every hole location on the golf course has one spot you can easily recover from and one spot you likely can't, so the player who can shape the ball in such a way to leave his dispersion patterns in safe areas will save shots over the player who can't. 

It's no surprise that some of the games best tacticians have been winners at Riviera. Ben Hogan, Tom Watson, Nick Faldo, Tom Kite, Corey Pavin have all won here and it's in no small part due to their ability to plot their way around a golf course. None were among the longest players of their era (especially Pavin!), but their ability to both recognize what strategies were required and then navigate their way around the course within that framework yielded winning results.

Our Forelinx DFS Cheat Sheet for the week will be posted on Wednesday after the tee times are revealed.

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