Ah, Riviera week – one of the best weeks of the year.
The classic George Thomas design is one of the best annual stops on the PGA Tour, and this week it will again play host to the Genesis Open.
Riviera Country Club, a par-71 that measures 7,322 yards, is considered by many to be a second-shot golf course. Its biggest defenses are its greens, made of Poa annua and lightning fast. The kikuyu rough will also make things tricky around those greens.
With that said, consider strokes gained: approach-the-green (SGAPTG), strokes gained: around-the-green (SGARTG) and guys who typically putt well on Poa.
Among the favorites in the field: World No. 1 and defending champion Dustin Johnson, two-time Riviera winner Phil Mickelson and Jordan Spieth, who helped Texas win a national title here back in 2012.
Here are my top-25 fantasy-golf options for this week’s Genesis Open:
1. Dustin Johnson: Couldn’t close the deal last week at Pebble Beach, but his T-2 finish continues a run of 11 top-17 finishes in his last 12 starts. Defending champ also has five other top-4s here, including two runner-up showings. Ranks fourth on Tour in strokes gained: tee-to-green, and is one of best Poa putters on Tour.
2. Paul Casey: Five straight made cuts at Riviera, a span that includes a T-2 in 2015. T-8 at Pebble last week was his third straight finish of T-11 or better and 18th top-26 finish in his last 19 worldwide starts. Ranks first in SGAPTG and putts well on Poa.
3. Jordan Spieth: T-22 last time out at Riviera, where he also has a T-4 (2015) and T-12 (2014). Got back on track with putter at Pebble, tying for 20th after an opening-round 72. Ranks 24th in SGAPTG and 11th in SGARTG.
4. Phil Mickelson: Playing great golf right now, coming off two straight top-5s on Tour. Back-to-back wins here, in 2008 and ’09, to go along with runner-up showings in 2007, ’12. No MCs in last eight trips to Riviera. Ranks 12th in SGAPTG.
5. Justin Thomas: Nothing better than T-39 in three trips here, but has been super consistent this season with six finishes of T-22 or better in as many starts, including a win last fall in South Korea. Strong Poa putter.
6. Rory McIlroy: T-20 in only Riviera start, in 2016, and coming off MC at Pebble. Still has three top-3 finishes in last five worldwide starts.
7. Rafa Cabrera-Bello: Making Genesis debut. T-26 finish at Pebble was his worst finish this Tour season as he has three top-11s. Ranks third in SGAPTG and first in SGARTG.
8. Tommy Fleetwood: Making Genesis debut, but has finished T-6 or better in four straight worldwide starts, including a win in Abu Dhabi.
9. Chez Reavie: Five MCs in seven trips to Riviera, but was seventh in 2016 and enters this year having finish second in back-to-back weeks. Also has nine top-25s in last 10 starts. Ranks eighth in SGAPTG and 10th in SGARTG. Known to make a bunch of putts on Poa.
10. Alex Noren: First-timer at Genesis, but has gone T-2, T-21 in first two Tour starts of new year. Ranks fifth in SGAPTG.
11. Kevin Chappell: Has two top-10s in last three worldwide starts. At Riviera, he has been hot and cold, with three top-26 finishes and four MCs in seven trips. Ranks 17th in SGAPTG.
12. Brendan Steele: Has made six straight cuts at Riviera, but has just one top-10 (2014). Coming off T-3 in Phoenix and has been inside top 30 in last six starts. Good Poa putter.
13. Ollie Schniederjans: T-8 in Genesis debut last year, and has two top-7s in last three starts on Tour. Ranks 15th in SGAPTG.
14. Marc Leishman: Mixed bag at Riviera with three MCs, including last year, to go along with a T-5 in 2016 and two other top-17s. Has four top-10s worldwide since start of new Tour season.
15. Thomas Pieters: Not only was he T-2 last year at Riviera, but he won the 2012 NCAA Championship here, too. T-5 earlier this year in Abu Dhabi, but that was his first top-10 since Firestone last summer.
16. Keegan Bradley: Nice track record at Riviera with two top-4s and two other top-20s in seven trips. Was fifth three weeks ago at Torrey and also runner-up last fall in Malaysia. Ranks ninth in SGAPTG.
17. Branden Grace: Began new year with runner-up in South Africa. T-20 at Pebble was his third top-20 on PGA Tour this season. T-22 in Riviera debut last year.
18. Daniel Berger: MC in only trip here, in 2016, but T-14 or better in last four worldwide starts.
19. Matt Kuchar: Missed just one cut in 11 trips to Riviera, but just one top-10 (T-8, 2016). Coming off T-62 at Pebble, but was T-5 in Phoenix the week prior.
20. Charles Howell III: Most of his success here came before 2008, as he won in 2007 and was runner-up in 2003. Four MCs in last eight starts here. T-15 last year. T-6 in last start, at the Farmers, and has five top-20s already this season. Ranks third in SGARTG.
21. Pat Perez: Has missed just three cuts in 16 starts here, but also has just one top-10. Started year with win and two other top-5s in five starts, but has finished outside top 20 in last three starts, including at Pebble (T-35).
22. Bubba Watson: Starting to rediscover game with pair of top-40s at Phoenix, Pebble. Twice a winner at Riviera (2014, ’16) with six total top-20s here. Strong on Poa in recent years.
23. Charl Schwartzel: Two top-5s in five trips to Riviera. Top-15s in two of his last three starts on the European Tour.
24. Kevin Na: Three top-10s at Riviera include a T-4 last year, and he’s coming off his best finish on Tour (T-20, Pebble Beach) since the Dell Technologies Championship last season. Ranks fifth in SGARTG.
T-25. J.B. Holmes: Just one MC in 11 start at Riviera, where he has six top-12 finishes. Has three MCs in his last four Tour starts, but the outlier was a fourth-place finish at Torrey. Good Poa putter who led field in SGP at Torrey.
T-25. Bill Haas: Aside from win here in 2012, he has five top-25s, including a T-11 last year. Recent form not great, but did show signs in Phoenix before sliding back to a T-26 finish. Ranks 12th in SGARTG.
What about Tiger?
Tiger Woods: Hasn’t played Riviera since 2006, but does have a pair of runner-up finishes and six other top-20s here. T-23 three weeks ago in Tour return, at Torrey. I’d rank him somewhere between 30-40 this week.