No matter its field size or how it's been built over time, The Genesis Invitational serves as a terrific example for newer gamers who don't yet have a handle on its strength, which is determined by numerous factors but not more so than experience in a competition like this one.
Even non-gamers' eyes bugged out when the field at Riviera was released. Now eponymously classified, its unique qualifying criteria all but eliminates the rank and file that was busy on the West Coast Swing. Consider that as of Tuesday afternoon, Joseph Bramlett was the only golfer in the Korn Ferry Tour graduate reshuffle category who is in the field of 120, and he's in as the recipient of the Charlie Sifford Memorial Exemption. Scottie Scheffler, who led the KFT in earnings in 2019, which means that he's not subject to the reshuffle, needed a sponsor exemption to gain entry. He's the only PGA TOUR rookie in play.
Don’t overthink it. Let course history takes the wheel.
Since Adam Scott prevailed unofficially at Riviera in 2005, every champion has needed at least three looks before connecting for the title. When you eliminate James Hahn (2015), who emerged victorious in his fourth appearance, each winner made at least five attempts before winning. Defending champion J.B. Holmes leads the club with 12. On average, the 11 different winners since 2006 made 6.9 appearances ahead of their coronations. (Phil Mickelson has won twice. Bubba Watson is a three-time champ.)
The Genesis Invitational also launches "the rest of the season" in PGA TOUR Fantasy Golf. There still are four events remaining in Segment 2, including this one, but we're now free from the tournaments for which ShotLink technology doesn't contribute to the fantasy scoring. Only the Corales Puntacana Resort & Club Championship (Segment 3), the Masters (Segment 3) and The Open Championship (Segment 4) will not use ShotLink.
The mere mention of this fact is more meaningful than its impact because there shouldn't be any more confusion about how it works what with the multiple-course events behind us. Targetable bonus points are confined to Driving and their aggregate contributions are negligible. Making cuts (i.e. avoiding zeroes) and leaderboard finish will remain the priorities.
PGA TOUR Fantasy Golf
My roster for The Genesis Invitational (in alphabetical order):
You’ll find my starters in Expert Picks
Others to consider for each category (in alphabetical order):
Scoring: Tony Finau; J.B. Holmes; Sungjae Im; Phil Mickelson; J.T. Poston; Patrick Reed; Xander Schauffele; Adam Scott; Cameron Smith
Driving: Keegan Bradley; Bryson DeChambeau; Adam Hadwin; J.B. Holmes; Sungjae Im; Jon Rahm; Xander Schauffele; Nick Taylor
POWER RANKINGS WILD CARD
Brooks Koepka … You knew he'd land here when he was omitted from the Power Rankings proper. The data would flush it out, and this is just his third start since taking three months off after having stem-cell treatment for a partially torn patella tendon in his left leg, but the only reminder you need is anecdotal. He hasn't performed consistently strong enough in non-majors. The safe play is to put him in the lineup as a defensive measure, but as of Tuesday afternoon, he's not inside the top 10 most-owned in PGA TOUR Fantasy Golf. (If you haven’t yet noticed, "% Owned" has been added to the SELECT A GOLFER pop-up on the My Roster page.)
J.B. Holmes … Three straight top 20s upon arrival for the defending champion who was aided by Justin Thomas' fade last year. Still, Holmes' record at Riviera is sublime. He has five top 10s and another pair of top 20s in 13 starts. It's too bad he's defending, otherwise he might be flying under the radar.
Nick Taylor … Gamers watching the telecast on Sunday so badly wanted Jim Nantz to utter the phrase, "Nappy Factor," but we had to settle with his acknowledgment of how often first-time fathers play well so soon after the life experience. Looking ahead, even though Taylor was a machine at Pebble Beach, there's going to be a natural letdown, not to mention that he's facing stiffer competition on the whole at Riviera, but he already was attracting our attention often enough that we weren't that surprised that he put it all together in one week. With a perfect record in every edition of The Genesis Invitational since 2016, he's in good shape to extend it, but expectations must be reset post-victory.
Jordan Spieth … Silly me, I subbed out Phil Mickelson from my PGA TOUR Fantasy Golf lineup after Expert Picks published last week, but at least Spieth delivered with a back-door T9. His 67 was the finale's low round. In his two loops of Pebble Beach, Spieth led the field in both Strokes Gained: Approach-the-Green and Strokes Gained: Tee-to-Green. Maybe it's foolish to expect a continuation of that kind of excellence at Riviera, but he's connected for two top 10s and another two top 25s here before, so he has the requisite experience.
Patrick Reed … Course-history buffs will gloss over his mountain of success dating back to last summer when he committed to relieving pressure by tilting away from the technical. Like for many others, his missed cut at Waialae can be dismissed as a victim of the conditions. Superb, elite contrarian in every format.
Matt Kuchar … Also caught up in the challenge at Waialae and again on Sunday at Pebble Beach, he's performed just fine otherwise in 2020. The classic tracks suit him perfectly, so you can sleep well hanging your visor on his 12-for-13 record at Riviera with top-30 finishes in each of the last four editions.
Sergio Garcia … Wait for it … he's … surging. Top 10s in three of his last five starts worldwide. And as you'd expect from him at Hogan's Alley, he's fared very well with three top 10s among four top 25s in a dozen tries.
Charles Howell III … In Chuck we trust. Despite an early withdrawal from the Farmers Insurance Open (for which an explanation hasn't been publicized), the value is in his commitment to return at a track where he's 5-for-5 with two top 15s since 2015. He doesn't need to play, either. Grab him on the bounce and capitalize on your conservative opposition.
Collin Morikawa … There aren't many first-timers who deserve a share, and you don't need me to confirm that he's one of them. Top 25s in each of his last six starts worldwide.
Corey Conners … Another debutant, but it doesn't matter because of his ball-striking. The Canuck is playing up to his pedigree, and then some. Six top 20s in eight starts this season.
Bryson DeChambeau … Only because he's been a little too inconsistent relative to the other pieces on the board. Yet, I wouldn't talk you out of him in PGA TOUR Fantasy Golf because of it.
Lanto Griffin … Merely out of respect for the quality of the field and his first look at Riviera.
Francesco Molinari … Even if he strode in on a heater, which he isn't, he's endured a surprisingly uninspiring record at Riviera. After a T40 in his debut in 2014, he's just 1-for-4 with a T52 in 2016.
Scott Piercy … No matter his form in advance of seven prior trips, Riviera hasn't been kind. He's broken par just twice in 19 rounds and has only one top-60 finish (T45, 2011).
Matthew Fitzpatrick … Regressed on Sunday at Pebble Beach to finish T60. Now tackling Riviera for the first time. My early plan is to give him a start in Mexico next week.
Jimmy Walker … What a story it'd be if he could reunite with the winner's circle and on the course that he loves most, but the narrative has only oscillated over time. His struggles of late haven't abated and he scuffled in the last two editions of the Genesis.
Joaquin Niemann … He's been a quick study, but this is just his second appearance (T44, 2019), so keep one eye on and both hands off.
Harold Varner III … Now 0-for-4 in 2020. Since 2017 at Riviera, he's 1-for-3 with a T60 (2018).
Erik van Rooyen … We'll be seeing a fair amount of the South African in 2020, probably more than the six starts he logged in 2018-19, but allow him to navigate Riviera alone in his first try. He'll appear in Mexico next week and he's already exempt into every major but the U.S. Open (so far). In short, he's a timely reminder that the value of non-members is poised to rise. If you haven't already, bookmark Qualifiers.
Si Woo Kim
RETURNING TO COMPETITION
Nate Lashley … Bracketed a T3 at TPC Scottsdale with mid-tournament withdrawals, the latter before his third round at the AT&T Pebble Pro-Am. An explanation wasn't released, but he battled a sore wrist at PGA WEST. He's fought through and up-and-down season that's included three WDs, but at 35th in the FedExCup, he can tiptoe into every start without forcing it. That leaves him best suited for long-term formats that can absorb it.
Chesson Hadley … He's 0-for-2 at Riviera and hasn't appeared since 2015, so we weren't going to miss him if he didn't commit in the first place. Currently 100th in the FedExCup with three top 25s in 10 starts.
Brice Garnett … Opened the season with a pair of top 25s in five starts, but he's hit the skids since missing the cut at Sea Island in November. Just one cut made in five starts since.
POWER RANKINGS RECAP – AT&T PEBBLE BEACH PRO-AM
Power Ranking Golfer Result
1 Dustin Johnson T32
2 Jason Day 4th
3 Graeme McDowell MC
4 Phil Mickelson 3rd
5 Brandt Snedeker MC
6 Paul Casey T64
7 Branden Grace MC
8 Patrick Cantlay T11
9 Max Homa T14
10 Scott Piercy T18
11 Russell Knox MC
12 Matthew Fitzpatrick T60
13 J.B. Holmes T14
14 Scott Stallings MC
15 Kevin Streelman 2nd
Wild Card Jordan Spieth T9
SLEEPERS RECAP – AT&T PEBBLE BEACH PRO-AM
Sung Kang MC
Maverick McNealy T5
Patrick Rodgers MC
D.J. Trahan MC
Brandon Wu T38
BIRTHDAYS AMONG ACTIVE GOLFERS ON THE PGA TOUR
February 11 … none
February 12 … none
February 13 … none
February 14 … Mark Anderson (34)
February 15 … Cameron Beckman (50); Kevin Kisner (36)
February 16 … none
February 17 … none