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Culp's Corner

Genesis Open Preview

by Josh Culp

Weather ripped through the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am to force a Monday finish. While Phil Mickelson and Paul Casey are sticking around in Monterey, others have already traveled 300 miles south to the Los Angeles area. 

It will be a field of 144 golfers that end up pegging it at this week's Genesis Open which is hosted by TGR Live at Riviera Country Club. This event is one of the longest running on TOUR with the inaugural edition taking place in 1926. 

It's a star-packed field and the cut-line rules return to normal this week with the Top 70 and Ties playing the weekend. 

The Course
 

The host course this week is Riviera Country Club in Pacific Palisades. It's hosted off and on since the inaugural 1926 edition but it's been the sole host since 1999. 

Riviera is a classical design that been around since 1926. It's a par 71 that plays to tournament yardage of 7,322 yards. When you look at the hole-by-hole view it becomes a rather long layout. There are six par 4s that play at 455 yards or longers. Also, two of the three par 5s play over 580 yards. That makes driver a key weapon this week. 

When you look at the tight driving corridors it may be tempting to lean on accuracy but even the most accurate of drivers will be missing these fairways so the edge goes back to the longer hitters that can rely on carry distance. You aren't going to get much roll once the ball hits the rough, thanks to the spongy, kikuyu grass that often acts like a magnet, immediately stopping the ball in it's tracks. 

Kikuyu grass often becomes the star of the show here. The commentators like to talk about it and some of the golfers can't get it out of their mind. It's a unique grass that isn't found on most American courses. As golfers get closer to the green, that kikuyu continues to be a factor because it generally eliminates the possibility for the bump-and-run option. If you read quotes from the past editions then you hear golfers from South Africa, Australia, Korea, and Japan all talk about the kikuyu being more common in their home countries. 

There aren't any water hazards to worry about but bunkers are littered around the layout. The field average sand sand percentage generally sits in the 40-to-43% range here at Riviera while the TOUR average is closer to 50% in that department. You want to avoid the bunkers here whenever possible, especially at the infamous par-4 10th where pin placement and green contours can quickly turn a potential birdie look into a double bogey. It should be noted that bunkers have been reconstructed since the 2018 edition but it's not clear how that will impact the play this year. 

Riviera is a very interesting course from a scoring-environment standpoint. Over the last 5 years it ranks inside the Top 15 for Eagle Rate but also ranks in the Bottom 15 for Birdie Rate. It sits inside the Top 20 easiest in terms of avoiding double bogeys or worse but also ranks as the hardest non-major in terms of Bogey Rate. Basically, you need to grind out pars and then capitalize on the eagle chances. The relatively low number of doubles recorded comes from that fact that there are zero water hazards in play. 

When looking for key stats, this was another event (similar to Pebble Beach last week) where strokes gained approach leaped off the page. If a golfer is entering in an iron slump than I'd be hesitant to pick them with confidence in weekly fantasy games. There are obviously exception there, if the golfer has hisotrically been a great iron player. When matching it up with logic, it makes sense that approach would be so crucial at Riviera since the greens typically stimp at 12 to 12.6 on the stimp. If you have leaky iron syndrome then you may find yourself short-sided too many times and that results in a lot of 6-to-10 foot par-saving attempts. No Bueno. 

Course Quotes

Sifting through some past quotes over at the Fantasy Golfanac, let's try to break down the course to see how it will play...

 

Pat Perez: "No, I love the course. I'm not really long enough to play the long holes."

 

Jordan Spieth: "That's the reason I haven't won here yet. The way that I've been playing this golf course, I'll either finish I think third at best and anywhere from third to 25th because I'm just, I'm not quite patient enough to play this golf course. I really need to approach it a lot like I approach Augusta."

Justin Thomas: "Sawgrass comes to mind, for sure. It's a very similar -- obviously not course design, but to me tee to green I guess I could compare it just because if you hit the fairways, you drive it well, you can make a lot of birdies, but if you don't, you're grinding to make pars."

Bubba Watson: "The golf course, you just don't know what you're going to get because of the grass and the way, the little humps and bumps are. Yeah, the imagination is huge around here. It's so much fun. This golf course, they don't change it, they haven't changed it since I've been around, so it's a blast every year we come here and I get to create shots. You know, out of all the times I've been here, I've only been successful a few times, so it's worked out in my favor because I can be creative. Same thing at Augusta, you can be creative and use your imagination."

Adam Scott: "I think generally most people like this golf course. It's presented beautifully at the moment, but it really requires good shots into the greens. These older golf courses generally have more severe green complexes and having that control into the green is very important. Therefore, hitting the fairway becomes very important and you're working back like that. I like that. The bunker complexes are very nice here. They're not dissimilar to what we see down in Melbourne in Australia in some ways in shape and look."

 

Overview: The name of the game here is PATIENCE and CREATIVITY. Those two words get thrown out a lot at this venue. It also seems like a non-American layout based on all the quotes. Primarily due to the Kikuyu-Poa combo we see golfers from Korea, South Africa, and Australia all comparing to courses they grew up playing back in their home countries. Pat Perez brought up length and there is a slight boost to big hitters here but we've also seen some short knockers get themselves in the mix. I wouldn't completely eliminate shorter hitters from the conversation. 

Correlated Courses

Looking at grass types, geography, course attributes, and past performance, here are a few courses/events that I think could prove to be a good pointer this week: 

Augusta National
Firestone CC
East Lake
Quail Hollow
TPC Sawgrass

Augusta National is the one that draws all the correlation love and it easily grades out as the closest link here to Riviera. Both courses put an emphasis on creativity and shot-making with course management being crucial to better navigate the quick greens. 

Sawgrass was one that always confused me here. I didn't understand why the numbers pointed toward it being correlated but last year Justin Thomas backed up that connection with the word PATIENCE. They are both courses were you need to grind out a lot of pars, swallow the occasional bogey and then capitalize on the rare birdie chances when they arise. 

The other three are courses where driver is a key weapon and greens can get slippery on all of these venues. 

 

The Weather

Thursday: Rain likely with a high near 63 degrees. Winds from the South at 6-to-10 MPH. 

Friday: A chance of showers (25%) with some sun peeking through. A high of 63 degrees. Winds from the West at 5-to-8 MPH. 

Weekend: The threat of showers remain constant with temps remaining the low-60s. Winds stay around 6-to-10 MPH with the potential for 15 MPH gusts on Sunday. 

When looking at this forecast a few days ago, the rain looks constant. As we draw nearer though, the chance of rain seems to keep going down. I don't think there is any way to avoid the rain this week but it's also possible that we get lucky and only see a few isolated showers. 
 

Josh Culp
Josh Culp joined Rotoworld in 2014. The DFS enthusiast from Iowa State can be found on Twitter @futureoffantasy.