Riviera is tight.
Tight like the kids mean it.
Tight like hard to navigate fairways.
The Riviera Country Club
Pacific Palisades, California
Yards: 7,332 per the official scorecard
Par: 71 (35-36)
Greens: Poa annua, Creeping Bentgrass; only 5,000 square feet on average.
Rough: Kikuyu grass at 1.5″
Water Hazards: 0
Course Architect(s): George C. Thomas and William P. Bell (1928); Tom Fazio (2008)
Purse: $7.2 million; $1.296 million (winner); 500 FedExCup Points
Defending Champion: Dustin Johnson won by five shots over Thomas Pieters and Scott Brown.
- 144 players; Stroke play; top 70 professionals and ties play the weekend
- This is the 92nd edition of a TOUR event in the Los Angeles, the fourth-longest running, non-major, event.
Frys.com: Brendan Steele
CIMB: Pat Perez
WGC-HSBC: Justin Rose
Sanderson Farms: Ryan Armour*
Shriners: Patrick Cantlay*
OHL Mayakoba: Patton Kizzire*
RSM Classic: Austin Cook*
Sentry TOC: Dustin Johnson
Sony Open: Patton Kizzire
CB Challenge: Jon Rahm
Farmers: Jason Day
WMPO: Gary Woodland
AT&T Pebble Beach: Ted Potter, Jr.
**First-time winner AND rookie winner
Previous Champions (since 2000)
2017: Dustin Johnson, 267
2016: Bubba Watson, 268
2015: James Hahn, 276*
2014: Bubba Watson, 269
2013: John Merrick, 273*
2012: #- Bill Haas, 277*
2011: Aaron Baddeley, 272
2010: #- Steve Stricker, 268
2009: Phil Mickelson, 269
2008: Phil Mickelson, 272
# Not playing this week
Facts and Figures:
- Tournament Record: 264, Lanny Wadkins (1985).
- Course Record: 61, Ted Tryba (1991).
- Defending Champion (last): Phil Mickelson (2008-09).
- Recent multiple winners: Mike Weir (2004-05), Phil Mickelson (2008-09) and Bubba Watson (2014, 2016). All lefties.
- Last TOUR maiden winners: James Hahn (2015) and John Merrick (2013).
- First-time event winners: None besides Adam Scott in a rain-shortened, unofficially victory in 2004.
- Rookie winners: None.
- Rookie factors: Wesley Bryan (T4) and Ollie Schniederjans (T9) last year.
- Highest winning score this century: James Hahn, 278.
- Lowest winning score this century: 267 last year.
- Bogey-free rounds: 18 in 2017; 11 in 2016.
- Birdies: 21 (Johnson) in 2017; 22 (Watson) in 2016.
Course Ratings since 2010
2017: 23rd-most difficult out of 50 used.
2016: 21st-most difficult of 50 used.
2015: hardest par-71 on TOUR (poor weather).
In order of preference for this week and this tournament
Dustin Johnson: With seven top 10’s in 10 tries, this isn’t difficult. I have no concerns about anything last week following him to Los Angeles. He’s like a closer in a baseball; no memory.
Jordan Spieth: He has his own set of rules in fantasy golf so I’m not “waiting” for him. His ball-striking hasn’t been the issue and this is a ball-striking course. His short game is wonderful as well and if he fixes HALF of his putting, he’ll be just fine this week. He’s in the top two in three of the four categories that stood out this week. He’s also not playing with Woods in the first two days which I believe is an advantage.
Tommy Fleetwood: I’ve probably stretched a bit here but maybe not. He’s not finished outside the top six in four events in 2018 and has a win during that run. He hits more GIR than most and that counts plenty this week.
Phil Mickelson: He’s hot but history is NOT on his side this week as he hasn’t posted three consecutive top-10 finishes since 2009. I burned him last week in OAD so my mission was accomplished!
Rory McIlroy: Like Spieth, ball-striking wasn’t the issue last week. He was two shots out of the lead here after 54 holes in 2016 before a final round 75 blew him out to T20. He’ll be just fine.
Chez Reavie: His streak has been up-and-running for a while so if you’re late to the party, welcome aboard. The last two weeks he’s finished T2 and P2 on a pair of courses where he’s never played well. His solo seventh here in 2016 should catch your eye but he’s only made two cuts in seven tries at Riviera.
Paul Casey: He’s made 24 cuts in a row on TOUR and cashed for top-10 money his last two starts worldwide. He lost in a playoff here with James Hahn and Dustin Johnson in 2015.
Justin Thomas: Big slump here as he hasn’t cashed a top-10 check in four starts running! Too many good things in the scoring and ball-striking department to leave out any week. If you’re going to fade him, this might be the week as he’s paired with Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy in the first two rounds. #Circus.
Marc Leishman: He rattled off five rounds in a row of 69 or better before a second round 76 blew him out last year. Since that MC last year, he’s added exactly two more to his total, matching also his number of wins in that span.
Daniel Berger: T11, T14 and T11 to start 2018 suggests I’m not reaching much here. I’d PREFER experience this week but some of those younger fellas don’t seemed to be bothered by much of anything. I’ll keep referring you to his two wins the last two years on a TPC Southwind track that is ANYTHING but easy.
Thomas Pieters: The 2012 NCAA individual champion on this track didn’t disappoint those who rode that angle last year. He closed with bogey-free 63 to share second with Scott Brown. I was more impressed that the other three rounds were all par or better.
Alex Noren: The Swede proved to gamers that he wasn’t a one-week-flash-in-the-pan as he backed up his playoff loss to Jason Day with T21 at Pebble Beach. Before you scoff at T21, remember he had never seen those three courses before either and actually made the cut!
Matt Kuchar: I don’t like Kuchar on Poa but I’m not thick enough to notice that he might have figured it out at Riviera the last two years. He’s 17-under during his last eight rounds and that includes 73 (+2) in that mix. This will be his 12th time here so he doesn’t hate it. Hmmmmmmmmmmmmm…
Ollie Schniederjans: T8 as a rookie last year and his worst round was 69? He sucked gamers in at Torrey Pines with the same sweet melody and proceeded to MC. He torched TPC Scottsdale (T3) his last time out and that joint isn’t a pushover. I’ll lean on the side of caution here but he keeps pulling me closer rather than farther away.
Form plays, eye-catchers who make great support staff, not in order
Pat Perez: If you’re needing a cut-maker this week, here’s your nominee. He should be rested after a three-tournament swing that involved three different continents to start 2018.
Kevin Chappell: With top-10 finishes in two of his last three, the Californian and UCLA grad makes perfect sense this week. His win last year came at TPC San Antonio which doesn’t qualify any year as “easy”.
Brendan Steele: This Californian has rattle off six in a row at Riviera and is the hyper-conservative play. I love him on a course where he’s not required to hole every putt he looks at as well.
Charles Schwartzel: His last MC anywhere in the world was the U.S. Open last June. The first two times he teed it up here he hit the top five. The last three times he’s claimed T41, T45 and MC last year.
James Hahn: He’s made 10 cuts in a row and is a former champion. I had Dustin Johnson that year in so many formats the pain WILL NEVER GO AWAY.
Keegan Bradley: T34 or better in five of the last six years includes a pair of top-four finishes.
Jimmy Walker: Big gamble this week as gamers will be interested to see if he can do the business in two consecutive weeks. His journey with Lyme disease doesn’t come with a manual but there was nothing phony about T8 at Pebble Beach. He’s made no secret that this is one of his favorite stops on TOUR.
Ted Potter, Jr.: Respect.
Rafael Cabrera Bello: Consummate class player that might be left behind this week because it’s his first go at Riviera. He played enough courses last year for the first time to prove to me that shouldn’t be an issue this week. Acclimated to California last week with T26 at Pebble Beach.
Off the Beaten Path
Course horses, long shots, cheeky picks, DFS last call, red herrings
Bubba Watson: He was in Hollywood yesterday on the set of Big Bang Theory. He’s playing in the NBA All-Star Weekend Celebrity Game. Oh, and he’s a two-time champ here. Sounds like a busy weekend and I’m not sure where golf fits in.
K.J. Choi: Simple. 17 of 17 career.
Cameron Tringale: SoCal native that has never missed in seven tries over the last seven years. Fired a career-best round of 64 in round two last year on his way to T8.
Martin Laird: Hot form annually on the West Coast has found its way to Riviera the last two years with T11 and T8 last year.
Beau Hossler: Ctrl-C, Ctrl-V. He’s the best 54-hole player on TOUR currently.
Adam Scott: The Aussie is going to test a bunch of theories this week. He usually tears up Riviera but he usually has a bit of form before arriving. His MC last week included 42/54 GIR so I’m on board taking a flier on his this week.
Ryan Moore: Another West Coast player, Moore has finished T27 in five of the last six years. This will be his 12th start.
Brian Gay: Back-to-back top 10’s for another mid-40-something. Gay does it just a bit differently (fairways) than Mickelson but both are playing well.
Jason Kokrak: He’s 20-under the last two years and was one behind Watson for T2 in 2016.
Kevin Na: All-or-nothing here so you better guess correctly!
Scott Stallings: He had it going at WMPO (T23) and went even better with 66 on Sunday at Pebble Beach for solo seventh. He’ll break the trend this week as he only has one round in 10 tries in the 60’s at Riviera.
Tony Finau: This will be the fourth year in a row he gives it a try. MC, MC and T56 should keep the wolves at bay this week.
Brandon Harkins: Wash. Rinse. Top 25.
Aaron Wise: Liked what I saw last week as he collected his second top 17 in three events.
Adam Hadwin: In 12 rounds, 11 have gone for par or better and every check T34 or better.
William McGirt: He’s getting worse! His T6 in 2014 was backed up by T14 in ’15 and T20 in ’16.
Injured, rusty or not the track this week
J.B. Holmes: Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me. Back that course form all you like, folks. You’ll get it right one of these weeks!
Patrick Rodgers: The next step in his career is backing up big finishes the next week. I don’t have any evidence to this point.
Lucas Glover: Stat-pack dream this week but never fires here with five MC from eight tries.
Charley Hoffman: I never like playing guys the week after they WD regardless. You do you.
Wesley Bryan: As it was reported in Hawaii, he’s not using a driver until he returns to Florida. This ain’t Florida. Watch out, course historians!
True, funny story: Last year, I had five guys in the fade column and ALL OF THEM finished in the top 15. Hahahahahahaha. Look it up!