The wizardry of a Potter was back on display at Pebble over the weekend; the unheralded Ted Potter Jr – taking down the likes of DJ and Phil to capture his second PGA Tour title

This week, to keep the Potter analogy going, the Dark Lord hath returned and He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named (okay enough with the Harry Potter)… I’m trying to say TIGER is back in the field this week! Yayy (Insert some sort of wand pun)

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Tiger returns to the site of not only his PGA Tour debut in 1992 as a 16-year-old, but also one of the only tracks he has NOT dominated in his professional career despite competing there 10 times. His runner-up in 1999 to Ernie Els was his closest call, but the bumpy poa greens, narrow fairways and long rough never added up to success for El Tigre.

For Tiger, that’s the most starts he’s had at a course without a win. Crazy, right? He has Six Top-20 finishes in those 10 starts, but in the words of Tiger, all that matters is “getting the W.”

As much as I’m all in on Tiger’s return, don’t expect that win drought to end on Sunday. The course may set up better now than it has in the past for Tiger, but with the way he drove the ball in his 1st appearance of 2018, he will struggle to make the cut. If he can get that under control though, and maintain the short game prowess he displayed at Torrey, he should be able to add to his list of Top-20 finishes at the Riv. Take this quote for example into Tiger’s goals this week,

  “I’d eventually like to win tournaments,” he said. “I’m trying to get through that process, go through that process, get to that point. … The more tournaments I play in, the more I’ll be able to get a better understanding of that. But also, I don’t want to play too much. This is still all new to me and I just want to be real smart about it.”

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There are OTHER golfers in the field this week too. Four of the top Eight in the OWGR and 14 of the top 25 will tee it up, including five International standouts making their PGA Tour season debut.

You want big names? Here: Patrick Cantlay, Paul Casey, Dustin Johnson, Matt Kuchar, Rory McIlroy, Phil Mickelson, Thomas Pieters, Jordan Spieth, Justin Thomas, Bubba Watson and Tiger Woods.

If that doesn’t do it for ya, I don’t know how you found this article. But keep reading please.

Making things even BETTER; some of them are paired together for the first two rounds. Justin Thomas, Rory McIlroy and Tiger will all be in the same group, as will Matt Kuchar, Phil Mickelson and Tommy Fleetwood, Patrick Cantlay, Jordan Spieth and Kevin Chappell, and Dustin Johnson with Adam Scott and Bubba Watson.

As for the Course, Riviera Country Club opened in 1927 and now sits as a 7,322 yard, Par-71 track in the heart of Hollywood; Los Angeles, California.

Its a very traditional, tree-lined course with narrow fairways and long, thick rough. Course Superintendent Matt Morton, one of the best in the country, has done extensive work on the Poa greens and making the course more “playable,” with the famous short Par-4 10th for example being practically a par-3 to a PGA Tour field now. The two back-nine par 5s, once long and hard-to-reach, are both reachable in two shots by nearly all the players in this week’s field, and the thick, lush rough of the early 2000’s is a thing of the past. On the other hand though, the difficulty of greens running 13 on the Stimpmeter allows the course to still pose problems for today’s players.

Last year Dustin Johnson continued his dominance of the Tour here, arriving with the opportunity to knock Jason Day from the #1 spot in the World Golf Rankings, and doing just that, cruising to a five stroke victory that at one time was as large as NINE stroke lead in the final round. In the last Four years at the Riv, DJ has a win, two Runner-ups, and a Fourth. Not too shabby.

PICKS

Alright let get into it. With so many studs in the field this week, recent form and course history will be leaned upon heavily. Beyond that, I have one category for Relevant Stats Ranking, which is just the Average of all stats I deem most relevant for that weeks course (ie Birdies, Strokes Gained Approach, DK Pts etc).

As usual, I’ve broken the field into Three Categories: Top-Tier guys who should contend to win, Middle-of-the-pack guys that COULD contend if a few things go their way, and then Long-shots; guys that have no business winning the tournament, but have shown enough recently that they’re worthy of filling out your DK lineup or placing a long-shot bet on.

Top Tier

Dustin Johnson – Odds to Win +500, DK Price $11,900

  • Absolute no-brainer. He has a 2nd and a 1st in his 2018 Starts, and in his last 4 Starts at Riviera boasts a 1st, 2nd, 2nd and 4th. He also sits 4th in the Stats Rankings. We rarely get a guy having everything going in their direction, but that appears to be the case for DJ this week

Phil Mickelson – +2200 to win, $9900 DK Price

  • On a heater currently. 2nd and 5th in his last two starts, to go along with top 35 finishes his last two outings at Riviera and a 12th Place Stats ranking, puts Phil in my Top-3 this week

Daniel Berger – +4000 to win, $9200 DK Price

  • Hasnt finished worse than 14th in Three starts this year. MC in only start at the Riv, but 8th in Stats Ranking and should compete this week

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Middle-of-the-Pack

Chez Reavie – +3500 to win, $8000 DK Price

  •  This guy is always in the mix. 2nd, 2nd, 36th and 18th place finishes so far in 2018. At Riviera he has a MC and a 7th place finish, showing he can compete if he gets going, and he sits FIRST in the Stats rankings for the Field

Brendan Steele – +5000 to win, $7900 DK Price

  • Consistency is key with Brendan. In 2018 he has finishes of 3rd, 29th, 20th and 29th, and at Riviera his numbers have been similar; 39th, 39th, 14th, 10th and 46th in his last Five appearances. He sits 17th in the Field in Stats Rankings

Bubba Watson/Thomas Pieters-Bubba +5000 win $7800 DK,Pieters +4000 win, $7700 DK

  • Both are lacking the current form needed to really ride them this week, but each have the Course history and talent to compete. Bubba’s best finish this year was a 35th, but aside from a W/D last year he has TWO WINS and a 14th in his last Three showings at this event. Thomas Pieters has fared a little better this year, albeit on the European Tour. He has a 32nd and a 5th across the pond, but finished Runner-up to Dustin Johnson last year here and has the type of game built for this place.

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Longshots

James Hahn – +8000 to win, $7100 DK Price

  • 5 for 5 on Cuts this season, including a 2nd place and 11th place finishes. Won this event in 2015 and has played the weekend in 4 of the past 5 events at Riviera. Hahn sits 2nd in this weeks Stats Rankings.

Brian Gay – +12,500 to win, $7200 DK Price

  • Brian has not fared well at Riviera in the past, with MC in his last two starts, but he arrives in good form. He has top 10 finishes in both the last two weeks, and is 4 of 4 on Made Cuts since the turn of the calendar to 2018. Brian sits 6th in Stats Rankings for the week as well.

Adam Hadwin – +8000 to win, $7100 DK Price

  • Gotta take a Canadian when I have the chance. Adam hasn’t really been close to the winners circle yet this year aside from 3rd at the Career Builders, but he’s coming into form and making cuts. He is 4 of 4 in that category, finishing 45th, 35th, 3rd and 32nd in the process. His history is pretty good at Riviera as well, going 34th, 16th and 22nd in his Three appearances.
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Tiger Woods Prediction: If he hits over half his fairways, he will make the cut and finish around T-30th. Struggling off the tee is a definite missed cut, but if he somehow gets that under control and his short game is still sharp, well, a Top-15 may be in the cards. It’s too early to be thinking Win, but making the Cut is a real obstacle this week and something that, if done, is worthy of praise.

Twitter: @RJMcCullough, @RJTeeingOff

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