This article is part of our FanDuel PGA series.
Course: Riviera Country Club (7,322 yards, par 71)
This will be the first year in which this event has been moved to Invitational status, meaning the field has been trimmed to 120 players, the winner now receives a three-year exemption, and the overall purse has seen nearly a $2 million increase. It has made a great field into possibly the strongest non-major or WGC field of the season. Nine of the top-10 players in the OWGR will be competing in LA. Rory McIlroy returns to the No. 1 spot for the first time since 2015, holding a slim lead over Brooks Koepka who is making his first start of 2020 on U.S. soil. Tiger Woods will play host this week looking to win this event for the first time and notch that elusive 83rd PGA Tour victory. J.B. Holmes will be defending, but Bubba Watson will be looking to make it four consecutive wins in even years. The last few years of this event has been impacted by heavy rains, but that will not be the case this time around. Temperatures are expected to be in the low-to-mid 60's with moderate winds throughout.
Key Stats to Victory
It's 94 years old and still one of the toughest tests on the PGA Tour. Riviera is a favorite amongst the players as an architectural masterpiece. It will actually be the host course for the 2028 Olympics as well. With the course set to play firm and fast, this will be the ultimate ball-strikers paradise. You will need to shape shots both ways off the tees to be able to hold the fairways and give yourself a chance coming into these greens. The kikuyu grass will make short shots around the greens very difficult to judge as well. Once you are finally on the greens your work is just beginning. Much like other California courses, Riviera has poa annua greens, which are notorious for getting extremely slick and bumpy late in the afternoon. There will be a lot of short misses this week. It all comes back to the ball-striking at Riviera, though. If you consistently hit fairways and greens you are going to separate yourself, and if you don't you will be exposed out here.
FanDuel Value Picks
Justin Thomas, ($12,000)
Since Thomas has rose into a top-tier player in the world, he has been arguably the best iron player on Tour. He has gotten off to another quick start this season, leading the FedExCup standings with his two wins and two other top-four's in six starts. Thomas ranks 17th in SG: Off-the-tee, sixth in SG: Approach, 34th in SG: Around, 14th in GIR's, and second in birdie average. He almost won in Scottsdale a couple weeks ago after just playing average for him. Oh and he has a runner-up and a T9 the last two years at Riviera.
Dustin Johnson, ($11,800)
Johnson has a number of places he's been pretty great at through his career, but maybe none more so than Riviera. He has finished inside the top-four in half his starts here, including a win in 2017. Johnson only has three finishes in LA worse than a T16 in 12 career starts. While he faded outside the top-10 on Sunday at Pebble, those conditions are nothing like what he will see this week. He's gone T7-2nd in his two other events in 2020.
Hideki Matsuyama, ($11,100)
Another guy that has performed well at Riviera thus far in his career, Matsuyama four top-25's in five starts, including a trio of top-11's. It makes perfect sense why Matsuyama would play well here, as he has finished inside the top-10 in SG: Approach each of the last six seasons, which is pretty incredibly quite honestly. This season he is also 11th in in SG: Around-the-green and sixth in scoring average. Matsuyama has finished top-20 in six of his last seven starts on the PGA Tour. There's sStrong value here as only the 11th highest priced player in the field this week.
Marc Leishman, ($10,500)
Speaking of value, Leishman is the 16th highest priced player in the field and is coming off a win just a few weeks ago at Torrey Pines in which he putted the lights out. He has had solid success at Riviera as well, notching top-five finishes in two of the last four years. Leishman ranks third this season in SG: Approach and 14th in SG: Tee-to-green.
Longer Shots with Value
Ryan Moore, ($9,400)
Moore fits the profile nicely for success at Riviera. He ranks eighth in SG: Approach, 25th in proximity, and 11th in driving accuracy. On top of the solid ball striking, Moore is also 14th in putting average this season. He owns top-15 finishes in three of his last five starts on the PGA Tour. Moore has finished inside the top-30 in seven of his last nine starts at Riviera, including three top-10s.
Corey Conners, ($9,100)
Conners stormed onto the scene in 2019 behind great ball striking, ranking first in both GIR percentage and proximity. The Canadian hasn't missed a beat this season, ranking sixth in SG: Off-the-tee and eighth in GIR percentage. Conners has made the cut in each of his last seven starts with six top-20's. He's never been qualified to play this event before, but with the way he controls his ball, Conners will take very well to Riviera.
Russell Knox, ($8,700)
Knox's missed cut last week broke a string of 11 consecutive worldwide starts making the cut. During the stretch, the Scot had five top-25 finishes. What now should be a reoccurring theme, Knox is a terrific iron player. Last season he ranked 18th in SG: Approach and seventh in proximity. This season Knox ranks 15th in SG: Approach and 20th in GIR percentage. He has also improved his short game, currently sitting 18th on Tour in scrambling. Knox has a game you can trust around Riviera at a very generous price.
Francesco Molinari, ($8,700)
If you want to buy low on one of the top ball-strikers of the last decade, here is your chance. If I told you this time a year ago that Molinari would be just $8,700 anywhere, you would have said I was crazy. There is no hiding that the Italian has struggled lately with no finishes inside the top-35 in his last four starts and no top-10s since the Masters. But at this price, Molinari is worth the gamble. When he is on, firm and fast Riviera could not fit his game more. His touch around the greens has also been extremely underrated the last couple years.
Strategy Tips for this week
Based on a Standard $60K Salary Cap
This is the best field we have seen so far this season. What does that mean? You can get a number of players for roughly $500-$1,000 less than you could just a week ago. That means you can find solid options at a cheap price to help fill out your roster. I think giving yourself players with win equity down near the bottom of your lineup is the way to go. That's why all my "Longer Shots with Value" this week are all proven winners on the PGA Tour. At the top of the board, based on talent and previous course record, it's going to be hard to miss. Quite honestly, I'm not sure there is a single player above $10,500 that I wouldn't mind having on my roster this week. The values of Hideki Matsuyama and Marc Leishman particularly stuck out, which is why I think those are two solid choices to complete the first third of your roster.