Recap of the day
Tee-off: False start! On a soaked course with preferred lies in play, the action got underway as scheduled at 6:40am local time (PT) but 50 minutes later the horn sounded. Jason Kokrak was one of eight players on one-under while freshly-crowned Pebble Beach champ Phil Mickelson had started with a routine Phil par, holing a bunker a shot from 31 feet for his four at the 10th. It initially seemed a standard suspension until, to raised eyebrows, the PGA TOUR announced that all the early scores would be scrapped and the leaderboard reset to zero (last happened at 2013 Dell Technologies in R3). With the weather deteriorating, players were told to go and relax until the next scheduled announcement at 1:00pm PT. A big reason for the reset was to revise some of the pin positions to account for the soaked greens.
Take two: Exactly seven hours on from their original tee-times, the opening groups hit off (from 1st and 10th tees) again at 1.40pm PT. PGA Tour meteorologist Wade Stettner reported that in excess of 1.75 inches of rain had fallen. After the delay, the field had soft conditions but that didn't make their task any easier as they played for nearly four hours. At play's end the field was averaging just 71.44 which is right in line with the 10-year average of 71.33 strokes. When the horn sounded there were two players at the top, Sung Kang (-5 thru 14 holes) and Jordan Spieth (-5 thru 12 holes). The latter holed out twice from off the green. Spieth arrived in search of form and he may have found it on a course that has yielded three top 15s in his last five visits. At the same time, he's been lurking over his last two starts before big numbers have ruined his week. Can he keep it going for all four rounds this week?
Plan of Attack: The TOUR has released their plan for the next two days. The Thursday "AM" wave will finish their rounds on Friday morning but won't get back on the course until Saturday. As the Thursday "PM" wave? They have yet to start their weeks but they will get a double dose of Riviera Country Club tomorrow. If there are no more delays then it's possible to squeeze in all 72 holes by Sunday night. It will be a tight fit, but possible. It will require cooperation from Mother Nature, though.
Pre-tournament betting: 8/1 Dustin Johnson, 12/1 Justin Thomas, 14/1 Rory McIlroy, 16/1 Bryson DeChambeau, Jon Rahm, 20/1 Bubba Watson, 22/1 Xander Schauffele, 25/1 Hideki Matsuyama, Jordan Spieth, Phil Mickelson, Tiger Woods, 28/1 Patrick Cantlay.
Friday weather forecast
Rain is a big part of the forecast again for Friday (60 to 90% chance), and it’s cool and windy too. If we get lucky, that rain will come late in the afternooon when play settles down for the day. Saturday should be mostly sunny although the flags may flap at around 15mph. Sunday has a chance of rain and temps, as they are all week, struggle to get out of the 50s. We could be looking at a Monday finish so it may be of comfort to organizers that the current prediction is for sunshine on what would be Day 5.
Road to victory at Riviera Country Club
2018 Bubba Watson – R1: 6th, R2: 6th, R3: 1st
2017 Dustin Johnson – R1: 2nd, R2: 1st, R3: 1st
2016 Bubba Watson – R1: 2nd, R2: 3rd, R3: 1st
2015 James Hahn – R1: 1st, R2: 11th, R3: 7th
2014 Bubba Watson – R1: 35th, R2: 40th, R3: 6th
Notes: Bubba made a modest start when winning here for the first time while Bill Haas was also outside the top 30 in 2012. But they’re the exceptions. Winding back to 2004 and 12 of the other 13 winners were in the top seven after day one. Par is 71 at Riviera and 16 of the last 20 winners shot in the 60s on day one. Biggest comeback in modern memory? Robert Allenby in 2001. A 73 left him T107 after 18 holes; a second-round 64 lifted him back to T8 at the midpoint.
Fate of the 18-hole leaders at Riviera CC – where did they finish?
2017 Sam Saunders – 49th
2016 Camilo Villegas – 37th
2015 Dustin Johnson – 2nd
Notes: Since 1997 we’ve had just three R1 leaders go on to take victory - Phil Mickelson (2009), Aaron Baddeley (2011) and James Hahn (2015). A total of 22 players have had a piece of the lead starting from 2011 and 14 of those failed to finish in the top ten.
Focus on – Performance in the Rain
Given the rain-delay at Riviera, it seems a good time to look at how the leading names perform in the wet stuff. Below, are the top 12 players in the betting and their performances in rounds on all Tours when the official weather was classed as containing extensive rain. Rather than list them in terms of average scores, the more relevant stat is the Up/Down as it shows, on average, how much they improved their position following a lap in the rain. Obviously, there are no other filters and performance in wind and rain may differ from results in calm and rain. It’s also worth listing how many rounds were recorded as more laps offer a fairer reflection.
Bryson DeChambeau – 3 rounds since 2016. Average Score: 68. Up 38 places
Xander Schauffele – 4 rounds since 2017. Average score: 66.5. Up 15 places
Tony Finau – 13 rounds since 2015. Average score: 70.1. Up 8 places
Jordan Spieth – 19 rounds since 2013. Average score: 69.6. Up 5 places
Phil Mickelson – 58 rounds since 2001. Average score: 70.8. Up 3 places
Dustin Johnson – 34 rounds since 2008. Average Score: 70.8. Up 3 places
Tiger Woods – 45 rounds since 2001. Average score: 70.5. Up 1 place
Bubba Watson – 42 rounds since 2006. Average Score: 71.1. Down 1 place
Rory McIlroy – 52 rounds since 2005. Average Score: 70.4. Down 2 places
Justin Thomas – 11 rounds since 2009. Average Score: 70.4. Down 9 places
Hideki Matsuyama – 16 rounds since 2013. Average score: 71.4. Down 9 places
Jon Rahm – 6 rounds since 2015. Actual Score: 70.5. Down 10 places
Notes: DJ is known as a ‘mudder’ so no surprise he improves his average position by three spots although perhaps we might have thought it would be more. Rahm’s figures are skewed by a second-round 78 in the 2018 Open at Carnoustie and it’s worth noting that it was raining when he fired a closing 65 to win the 2017 Irish Open. But perhaps we should be a little wary about including JT and Matsuyama if rain is in the forecast. That may seem counter-intuitive in that rain often alerts us to big hitters with length being considered an asset due to the lack of run out on the fairways. The explanation could be that some power players simply prefer playing on the softened course rather than while it’s actually coming down. It’s all a bit of an inexact science but weather is an important part of fantasy strategy – if we trust the forecast!