This week is another PGA signature event that will see an elite field of around 70 golfers tee it up at Riviera and compete for a 20M prize purse (4M to the winner). As of writing, World No.1 Scottie Scheffler, Rory McIlroy, Viktor Hovland, Xander Schauffele, Patrick Cantlay, and Max Homa will be in the field. Last week’s runner-up, Charley Hoffman, was also able to secure a spot for this week thanks to his big week in Phoenix. Of course, the really big news, and the reason why this is the biggest event of the year thus far, is that Tiger Woods (who is also the official host of this event) is playing.
Woods is playing his first PGA event since the 2023 Masters, where he made the cut but had to pull out due to leg pain and poor weather. He did participate in the father/son PNC Championship with his son back in December 2023. While he is the GOAT for a reason, it’s impossible to expect much if anything out of Woods in terms of competing or finishing position. If you’re tempted, he’s currently listed at $6,500 on DraftKings for daily fantasy and at +13000 in the outright odds on DraftKings Sportsbook.
As mentioned above, the field this week is limited to around 70 players so there will be no Friday cut and all entrants will get in four rounds of play barring injury or disqualification.
Riviera CC, Pacific Palisades, Calif.
Par 71, 7,300-7,350 yards
Riviera is one of the oldest courses on the PGA TOUR and has hosted this event every season since 1999. Riviera’s age means that it has a lot of mature trees that line the fairway, but it also features a lot of doglegs and a few quirky hole designs — like a sand trap in the middle of the green on the par 3 sixth and an impossibly small green on the driveable par 4 10th. The course was re-designed by Tom Fazio in 2008 and has played longer and tended to favor the best tee-to-green players in the world ever since.
The strains of grass at Riviera are also unique as the fairways and rough are Kikuyu, which tends to be quite difficult to play out of when left to grow. Wet weather can also cause the course to play longer than its yardage and with the wet weather that just came through it could be gnarly rough on tap for this year’s version. The Poa greens at Riviera are also some of the most difficult on the PGA TOUR, and like Torrey Pines, we see a very high rate of 3-putts and a low rate of long birdie putts made at this event every season.
Players with distance and the strength to get the ball up and out of the thick grass quickly have an advantage. Green in regulation percentages at Riviera tend to run 5-10% lower than the PGA TOUR average. 2017 winner Dustin Johnson led the field in greens in regulation by a wide margin that season, and in 2020 winner Adam Scott hit 72% GIR and finished second in GIR for the week, as did 2023 winner Jon Rahm (71% GIR in 2023).
Riviera is also a true par 71 with three par 5s, but only one (the short first hole) is a real birdie opportunity, as the other two traditionally play quite tough. The par 4s offer no relief either, as eight of the 11 play at over 430 yards or more in length, and many have tricky tee shots or doglegs built in, that challenge a player’s length and accuracy.
This is a true championship venue with few birdie holes. Winners rarely venture past 12-under par, and with slightly cooler temperatures could play longer this season than usual. In terms of course comparables, Copperhead (host of the Valspar) is another longer par 71 and good comparable, as is Augusta National (a long winding par 72) where several recent winners of this event have also found success (Adam Scott, Bubba Watson, Dustin Johnson and, of course, 2023 Masters winner Jon Rahm).
Key Stats: Proximity 150-175, 175-200, >200 yards / Strokes Gained: Ball Striking (APP + OTT) / Three-Putt percentage.
2024 outlook: There doesn’t appear to be much wind to note for this event and we’ll get a reprieve from the rains that have hammered the last two west coast tournaments. The one constant for this week will be cooler weather with temperatures topping out at 60-62 F most days. Both of the first two starting days have wind creeping up in the afternoon with Friday looking like the slightly calmer (and warmer) day. It’s likely the conditions for the Thursday a.m. / Friday p.m. wave could be slightly better but don’t expect a huge split in scores. It may be useful as a tiebreaker or something to keep in mind for showdown lineups as well.
LAST 5 WINNERS
2023 - Jon Rahm -17 (over Max Homa -15)
2022 - Joaquin Niemann -19 (over Collin Morikawa and Cameron Young -17)
2021 - Max Homa -12 (over Tony Finau playoff)
2020 – Adam Scott -11 (over three players at -9)
2019 – J.B. Holmes -14 (over Justin Thomas -13)
Recent West Coast form is important this week
- 11 of the last 13 winners here had played at Pebble Beach or Phoenix as their final start before winning at Riviera. Of those, eight had played Pebble as their last start, and three had played Phoenix as their last start.
- Only two of the last 12 winners had missed the cut in their final start before winning at Riviera (Holmes in 2019, Watson in 2016).
- 7 of the last 10 winners of this event had posted a finish of T15 or better in one of their previous two starts (before winning at Riviera)
- 8 of the last 10 winners had recorded a top 15 finish at Riviera in a previous season before their win. (Hahn ‘15 and Niemann ‘22 were the exceptions and both had made the cut at Riviera at least once in a previous season)
Winners Stats and Course Highlights
2023 Winner: Jon Rahm at 19-under par
2023 lead-in form (3-7-win-win-4)
- Driving Distance (DD) is beneficial but it isn’t the be-all, end-all this week. Bill Haas ranked 66th in DD here in 2012 and won, James Hahn was 30th for the week in DD in 2015 when he won, and J.B. Holmes was 41st in 2019.
- Niemann was solid off the tee in 2022 but did most of his damage with approaches and had a career week around the greens — Rahm gained 11.9 strokes on approach and was barely positive off the tee.
- Seven of the past eight winners have ranked inside the top five in SG: Tee to Green stats for the week of their win at Riviera.
- Greens here are typically very hard to hit as the field average tends to hover around 5-10% lower than the PGA TOUR average. Strong proximity stats from 150 yards to 200 yards will be of vital importance.
- With players missing lots of greens, a sharp around-the-green game is also necessary — Niemann’s career week around the greens helped him hold off two very solid players in the year of his win.
Finding Values (DraftKings Sportsbook)
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 compared to their DraftKings Sportsbook odds of winning this week.
- Matthew Fitzpatrick +3500 and $8,400
- Wyndham Clark +3500 and $8,300
- Sahith Theegala +3500 and $8,600
All odds provided by DraftKings Sportsbook and all odds subject to change.
HORSES FOR COURSES
1. Max Homa ($9,800; best finishes: win-2021, T10-2022): Homa won this event in 2021 and has become somewhat of a West Coast specialist over the past three seasons, grabbing wins at Silverado, Torrey Pines, and Riviera over that span. He’s made the cut at Riviera five years in a row now and finished inside the top 10 each of the past three seasons.
2. Adam Scott ($8,200; best finishes: win-2020, win-2005—36-hole event): Scott has a long record of playing well at Riviera and is now a two-time winner of the event. The Aussie finished T2 back in 2016 to Bubba Watson, was T8 here in 2019, and, of course, broke through for a win at Riviera in 2020 as well.
3. Tony Finau ($8,900; best finishes: 2nd-2021, T2-2018): Finau was an unlucky playoff loser at this event in 2021. It was a tough loss for Finau, who led the field in strokes gained tee to green stats for the week but was outputted by Max Homa down the stretch. Finau’s posted multiple runner-up finishes at Riviera, which sets up perfectly for this longer technical test.
4. Collin Morikawa ($9,500; best finishes: T6-2023, T2-2022): Morikawa has often saved his best golf for the west coast. He won his first major at TPC Harding Park and has played excellent at Riviera, as he’s 4/4 in made cuts with two top 6 finishes. He’s fourth in strokes gained total stats for this event (over the past five seasons) despite only playing in four of the past five years.
5. Matt Kuchar ($6,400; best finishes: T2-2020, T8-2023): Despite being disadvantaged off the tee at this longer layout Kuchar has found success at Riviera. He finished T8 at this venue last season and nearly won back in 2020. The veteran hasn’t shown much form of late but at $6,400 makes sense as a boom-or-bust punt play for GPPs.
DRAFTKINGS DFS STRATEGY
Cash Games: Burns and Scott good value
It’s likely better to take a balanced approach this week. There is a ton of win equity in some of the lower 9k and 8k names with good value showing on names like Adam Scott ($8,200) and Sam Burns ($8,700). Scott struck the ball extremely well last week at a venue where he rarely plays, and has a great history at Riviera. Burns has been less consistent at this venue but he’s been playing his best golf to start 2024. Further down, both Si Woo Kim ($7,600) and Hideki Matsuyama ($7,400) look like good names to target in the 7k range. Matsuyama hasn’t been overly consistent but he’s scoring well and if his ball-striking returns to higher levels he’ll contend soon.
Tournaments: Max out Morikawa
With so many big names in this event, many DFS players may opt to spray their tournament exposure over a big range of the top players. The one player I like being overweight on is Collin Morikawa ($9,500) who was 5th in Maui to start the year and T14 at Pebble Beach. He didn’t play last week, which will likely help keep his ownership down, but his iron play remains world-class and the last two winners at Riviera have each won almost solely based on insane weeks with their irons. I like the chances of Cameron Young ($8,500 - see below) this week and Jason Day ($8,000), fresh off a week of rest, also remains a solid GPP pivot after he landed a T9 at this event last season. Other potential GPP targets further down the list include Beay Hossler ($7,000), Harris English ($7,000), Christiaan Bezuidenhout ($6,700) and Kevin Yu ($6,300).
Top Recent Form
1. Scottie Scheffler ($10,700, Recent finishes: T3-T6-T17): Scheffler posted his second straight top-six last week in Phoenix. He gained 13.8 strokes ball striking in the effort.
2. Sam Burns ($8,700, Recent finishes: T3-T10-T6): Burns’s hot streak continued in Phoenix as well. He’s landed three straight top 10 finishes now and gained 9.0 strokes tee to green in Phoenix.
3. Justin Thomas ($9,100, Recent finishes: T12-T6-T3): Thomas has shown solid form to start the year. He was T12 last week and has gained over a stroke off the tee and on approach in two straight starts.
4. Sahith Theegala ($8,600, Recent finishes: T5-T20): Theegala has looked great for most of the year. He started with a runner-up in Maui and posted a T5 last week in Phoenix, gaining 8.2 strokes ball-striking for the week.
5. Si Woo Kim ($7,600, Recent finishes: T12-T14): Kim has been playing well, although he doesn’t have a lot of top finishes yet to show for it. He does have back-to-back top 15 finishes and gained strokes OTT and on Approach in his last two starts.
MY PICK: Cameron Young ($8,500)
If you’re frustrated with Cameron Young and his inability to close a golf tournament, you're not alone. He’s teased DFS players and bettors alike numerous times over the last couple of seasons and last week added another close call to his list in Phoenix where he finished T8. Young hadn’t looked great before that start so if you’re still skeptical it’s understandable. But the fact remains, the American is one of the best drivers of the ball when he’s in form and now comes to a place in Riviera that has tended to reward excellence in that specific area.
Adam Scott, Bubba Watson, and Dustin Johnson (6 wins at Riviera between them) were all preeminent drivers on TOUR when they won here and Young has seemingly taken up that mantle in their absence (or in Scott’s case, his age). The American has gained strokes off the tee in eight straight starts, ranks 8th in long-term SG: OTT stats, and gained 4.0 strokes OTT last week in Phoenix. His confidence with the driver also seemed to ignite the rest of his game last week as he had his best-putting week of the season and gained 1.5 strokes on approach.
Young has shown a penchant for both Riviera (2nd in 2022) and Augusta National (7th last year), which is often used as a solid comparable for this week thanks to its longer, winding setup and the fact it stresses solid off-the-tee play. With his confidence on the rise and a great setup, he makes for a nice core play in GPPs and in the outright market on DraftKings Sportsbook — where he sits with solid +3500 odds.
MY SLEEPER: Kurt Kitayama ($6,900)
It’s a short field again this week with only about 70 or so players. That means we have a lot of quality names under $7,000 in price for DFS purposes. In terms of who I’d be comfortable chasing for value in this range, it’s Kitayama who would top my list. The American is a West Coast native who is familiar with the Poa greens found on this side of the USA, and a player who has shown some real form to begin 2024. He shot a 62 in the second round of the Sony Open (T24) to kick start his season and since then has posted a T39 at Pebble and a T8 last week in Phoenix.
Kitayama’s only go-around Riviera resulted in a missed cut but he’s excelling off the tee right now, an area he was struggling with around this time last season. On top of gaining 3.9 strokes OTT at TPC Scottsdale Kitayama has now gained strokes OTT in four straight starts and comes in off his best putting week (+4.5 strokes putting) in nearly a year. While he didn’t strike it well at Riviera last season he did gain 2.3 strokes on the greens and, logically, his improved ball-striking should give him the confidence he needs to potentially contend this time around this famously tough track.
Whatever the case, Kitayama has already proven the biggest stages aren’t too big for him. He won a signature event against a similar field last season (Arnold Palmer Invitational) and finished T4 a couple of months later at the PGA Championship. With his DraftKings price yet to move upwards off his nice start, he makes sense as a value target for DFS lineups, and for betting makes for a good top-20 option on the DraftKings Sportsbook.
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All odds provided by DraftKings Sportsbook, lines and odds subject to change.
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 do not constitute a representation that any particular strategy will guarantee success. All customers should use their own skill and judgment in building lineups. I may also deploy different players and strategies than what I recommend above. I am not an employee of DraftKings and do not have access to any non-public information.