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Spieth is back! Well, he never left, but the media likes to create stories. Spieth has been consistently finishing the top-10 for months now, but they gave him a bad reputation because he hadn't won. His iron play was stellar, his putting was stellar, and he pulled away from the field all week. He's back in the field this week at Riviera.
This week, the Tour heads to Riviera CC for its annual stop. It's a fantastic and traditional golf course, and always attracts the world's best players. Because of this, there's plenty of course history to draw upon, and that's a big indicator for me this week. The field is absolutely stacked, so I suggest spreading out your exposure this week. Riviera is a par-71 that plays around 7,300 yards, which should show you the benefit bombers will have here. Players will contend with the same poa annua greens we saw last week, so keep riding guys who putted well last week. Driving accuracy is not so important here, because the fairways are tough to hit and the rough isn't too penal. We've seen this in the past, with inaccurate bombers like Dustin Johnson and Bubba Watson playing extremely well here. It's more of a tactician's golf course on the approach shots, so find some elite ball-strikers as well. SG:Approach will be one of my key statistics this week. One last thing to note is that on a par-71, there's an extra par-4. Many of those par-4s are longer than 450 yards, which gives us a key metric to look at. Par-4 scoring overall, and efficiency on long par-4s could be great indicators this week.
In terms of stats I feel are important, SG:Approach, driving distance, and long par-4 scoring. Correlating courses that I'll take a small look at this week are Firestone Country Club and Augusta National.
This week's field is headlined by Jordan Spieth, Hideki Matsuyama, Dustin Johnson, Jason Day, Adam Scott, Sergio Garcia, Justin Thomas, and Phil Mickelson. STACKED! If I had to pick one of these guys to win this week, it would be Dustin Johnson.
Birdie or Better % (BoB%): There are really not many weeks where we aren't going to target birdie or better percentage, because that's what fantasy golf scoring is all about. Guys like Jordan Spieth, Dustin Johnson, Patrick Reed, Phil Mickelson, and J.B. Holmes. come to mind in this week's field when targeting birdie makers. Bombers, you see. It's possible to have a player finish top-10 in fantasy points while not finishing anywhere close to the top-10 in the actual event.
Strokes Gained Approach (SG:App): Riviera is a ball-striker's course, so I'm targeting elite iron players this week. I'm going to target SG:App because players who find the most greens and give themselves the most birdie opportunities will capitalize most. The poa greens this week are challenging, as are some of the Kikuya chipping and pitching areas around the greens. If you have a player who sticks approach shots inside 10' consistently, he's going to shoot up the leaderboard and contend on Sunday. Some names that stand out in the field are Roberto Castro, Kevin Chappell, Matt Kuchar, Phil Mickelson, and Jimmy Walker.
Par 4 Scoring (P4): Since we have a par-71, players will contend with an extra par-4 this week. Because of that, P4 scoring will be key. Guys like Jordan Spieth, Dustin Johnson, Roberto Castro, William McGirt, and Webb Simpson pop out as names to target this week. We can also put some added emphasis on long par 4s – those over 450 yards. You'll see a lot of similar names, but also one of my favorite GPP punts: Ollie Schneiderjans.
Proximity 200 – 225 yards: I don't often look at proximity stats because they're often skewed by small sample size, but this one popped for me when going through course research. Rivera is a longer course, and players will often find themselves at this range on par-4s and par-3s. I'm going to look at 2016 stats due to sample size, but some of the names that pop are Adam Scott, Hideki Matsuyama, Justin Thomas, Charl Schwartzel, Marc Leishman, and Jason Kokrak.
1. DUSTIN JOHNSON [YAHOO CLASS A] - WORLD RANKING: #4
DJ is 32-under par the past three years at this track, posting finishes of fourth, second, and second. He has three other top-10s as well, so this is DJ's house. He's due for a win on Tour and due for a win at Riviera, and I think it's coming this week. He's been hot recently, posting four top-10s, including a 3rd place finish last week at Pebble Beach. Fire him up in all formats.
2. JORDAN SPIETH [YAHOO CLASS B] - WORLD RANKING: #6
Win last week, with five straight top-10's prior to that. Spieth's ball striking has been solid, even when his driver fails him. But as usual, it's his wedge play and putting that propelled him to a victory at Pebble Beach. Even though Spieth MC at Riviera last year, he posted 4th and 12th place finishes previously. Although this is DJ's house, watch out for a red-hot Jordan Spieth.
3. JASON DAY [YAHOO CLASS A] - WORLD RANKING: #1
A strong Sunday propelled Day to a top-5 finish at Pebble Beach, which should give him plenty of confidence heading to Riviera. Although he has a very poor record at Riviera, Day has the game to win anywhere on Tour. On a course that favors bombers, ball-striking, and putting, he's exactly the guy we want to target. Day will be much less popular than DJ and Spieth, so he could be an elite pivot.
4. ADAM SCOTT [YAHOO CLASS A] - WORLD RANKING: #7
Scott hasn't played on Tour yet this season, but posted a 3rd in Australia and a 9th in Japan during the silly season. If you remember last season, Scott came out of nowhere to finish 2nd here, and followed that up with back-to-back wins in Florida. We could see something similar this season. He's an elite ball-striker, bombs it off the tee, and dominates par-4s. His price is high enough to scare some people off, but I love Scott this week.
5. HIDEKI MATSUYAMA [YAHOO CLASS B] - WORLD RANKING: #5
Hideki has finished 11th, 4th, and 23rd here in three appearances, so needless to say he loves this track. He's been on fire to start the season, and is coming off a win in Phoenix. Matsuyama has a chance to reach #1 in the world this week, so he should be motivated. With Hideki, it's all about the putter, since he's one of the best ball-strikers in the world. He's a notch below DJ on my list, but I could easily see him hoisting another trophy this Sunday.