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BlogNorthern Trust Open Preview and Picks

Northern Trust Open

February 13 – 16, 2014

Riviera C.C.

Pacific Palisades, Ca.

Par: 71 / Yardage: 7,349

Purse: $6.7 Million

with $1,206,000 to the winner

Defending Champion:
John Merrick

by Sal Johnson

Founder, Chief Data Officer, GOLFstats

E-mail me at:
sal@golfstats.com

This week’s field includes:

The field includes 25 of the top 50 in the latest Official World Rankings, with only two players #5 Justin Rose and #9 Matt Kuchar from the top-ten. The other top 50 players are #11 Dustin Johnson, #13 Jordan Spieth, #14 Ian Poulter, $16 Jason Dufner, #18 Charl Schwartzel, #19 Webb Simpson, #21 Hideki Matsuyama, #22 Jim Furyk, #24 Jimmy Walker, #26 Bubba Watson, #27 Graham DeLaet, #29 Victor Dubuisson, #30 Ryan Moore, #31 Hunter Mahan, #32 Bill Haas, #33 Lee Westwood, #34 Louis Oosthuizen, #35 Ernie Els, #38 Gonzalo Fdez-Castano, #40 Kevin Streelman, #41 Joost Luiten, #43 Harris English and #45 Francesco Molinari.

The field includes 19 of the top 25 on the FedEx point standings for 2014.  Those players are #1 Jimmy Walker, #2 Harris English, #4 Dustin Johnson, #5 Webb Simpson, #7 Ryan Moore  #8 Kevin Stadler,  #10 Brian Stuard, #11 Graham DeLaet, #12 Charles Howell III, #13 Scott Stallings, #14 Jordan Spieth, #17 Pat Perez, #19 Ryo Ishikawa, #20 Kevin Na, #21 Bubba Watson, #23 Charley Hoffman, #24 Will MacKenzie and #25 Brendon Todd.

The field includes 18 players in the top 25 on this year’s PGA Tour money list.  Those players are #1 Jimmy Walker, #2 Dustin Johnson, #3 Harris English, #4 Ryan Moore, #5 Webb Simpson, #7 Kevin Stadler,  #9 Graham DeLaet, #11 Brian Stuard, #12 Scott Stallings, #13 Jordan Spieth, #15 Charles Howell III, #16 Pat Perez, #18 Ian Poulter, #19 Ryo Ishikawa, #22 Bubba Watson, #23 Will MacKenzie, #24 Kevin Na, and #25 Charley Hoffman.

The field includes 7 past champions: John Merrick (2013), Bill Haas (2012), Charles Howell III (2007), Mike Weir (2004 & ’03), Robert Allenby (2001), Ernie Els (1999) and Fred Couples (1992 & ’90)

A perfect way for fantasy golfers to check on the past performance of all the players in the Northern Trust field is our performance chart listed by average finish.  Another way to check who is the best is through a special formula worked out in Golfstats that gives us the best average performances at the Northern Trust in the last five years or check out our sortable 8-year glance at the Northern Trust.

A good cheat sheet is this list of odds from the top bookmakers in England.

Another cheat sheet is this list of odds from the top bookmaker in Las Vegas.

 

Be sure to join us on Saturday evening for our new feature, Who should win on Sunday.  We will look at the first three rounds and see why the leaders are playing well and what it will take to win on Sunday.  That’s Saturday night a couple of hours after play is completed.

Here is a look at Jimmy Walker’s win at Pebble and how hot he is, then we have a preview of the Northern Trust at Riviera along with who is hot and who to pick this week in our video preview:

 

Time to look at our who’s hot and who isn’t:

Who’s Hot in the field for the Northern Trust Open

Player AT&T Pebble Beach Phoenix Open Dubai Desert Classic Farmers Insurance Qatar Masters Humana Challenge Abu Dhabi Sony Open Volvo Champions Hyundai T of C
Jimmy Walker
(229.33 pts)
Win
(132)
DNP DNP CUT
(-10)
DNP DNP DNP Win
(88)
DNP T21
(19.33)
Pat Perez
(227.33 pts)
T7
(55)
11
(39)
DNP T2
(100)
DNP T58
(0)
DNP T8
(33.33)
DNP DNP
Graham Delaet
(200 pts)
DNP T2
(100)
DNP T2
(100)
DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP
Jordan Spieth
(171 pts)
T4
(80)
DNP DNP T19
(31)
DNP DNP DNP CUT
(-6.67)
DNP 2
(66.67)
Thorbjorn Olesen
(160 pts)
DNP DNP T5
(70)
DNP T3
(90)
DNP T56
(0)
DNP DNP DNP
Kevin Na
(145.67 pts)
T4
(80)
T19
(31)
DNP DNP DNP T48
(1.33)
DNP T8
(33.33)
DNP DNP
Hunter Mahan
(143 pts)
6
(60)
T4
(80)
DNP T47
(3)
DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP
Dustin Johnson
(140 pts)
T2
(100)
DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP T6
(40)
Kevin Stadler
(137 pts)
T45
(5)
Win
(132)
DNP DNP DNP T78
(0)
DNP DNP DNP DNP
Marc Leishman
(136.67 pts)
DNP CUT
(-10)
DNP T2
(100)
DNP DNP DNP 5
(46.67)
DNP DNP
Harris English
(135.67 pts)
DNP 9
(45)
DNP DNP DNP T33
(11.33)
DNP 4
(53.33)
DNP T11
(26)
Joost Luiten
(127 pts)
DNP DNP T23
(27)
DNP DNP DNP 6
(40)
DNP T3
(60)
DNP
Bubba Watson
(127 pts)
DNP T2
(100)
DNP T23
(27)
DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP
Scott Stallings
(122 pts)
DNP CUT
(-10)
DNP Win
(132)
DNP T58
(0)
DNP DNP DNP DNP
Webb Simpson
(118 pts)
DNP 10
(40)
DNP DNP DNP T23
(18)
DNP DNP DNP T3
(60)
K.J. Choi
(118 pts)
CUT
(-10)
T42
(8)
DNP T2
(100)
DNP DNP DNP T20
(20)
DNP DNP
Hideki Matsuyama
(114 pts)
DNP T4
(80)
DNP T16
(34)
DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP
Will MacKenzie
(110 pts)
T13
(37)
DNP DNP T7
(55)
DNP T13
(24.67)
DNP CUT
(-6.67)
DNP DNP
Brian Stuard
(108.67 pts)
DNP T53
(0)
DNP T28
(22)
DNP 5
(46.67)
DNP 6
(40)
DNP DNP
Charles Howell III
(106.33 pts)
DNP T6
(60)
DNP T37
(13)
DNP T58
(0)
DNP T8
(33.33)
DNP DNP
Louis Oosthuizen
(88 pts)
DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP Win
(88)
DNP
Ryan Moore
(86.67 pts)
DNP T6
(60)
DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP 10
(26.67)
Justin Leonard
(84 pts)
DNP CUT
(-10)
DNP T28
(22)
DNP T3
(60)
DNP T32
(12)
DNP DNP
Victor Dubuisson
(83.67 pts)
T13
(37)
DNP DNP T59
(0)
DNP DNP DNP DNP T5
(46.67)
DNP
Jim Renner
(83.33 pts)
T2
(100)
DNP DNP CUT
(-10)
DNP DNP DNP CUT
(-6.67)
DNP DNP

How Player Rankings are Computed

Who’s Not Hot in the field for the Northern Trust Open

Player AT&T Pebble Beach Phoenix Open Dubai Desert Classic Farmers Insurance Qatar Masters Humana Challenge Abu Dhabi Sony Open Volvo Champions Hyundai T of C
Mike Weir
(-38.33 pts)
CUT
(-10)
CUT
(-10)
DNP WD
(-5)
DNP CUT
(-6.67)
DNP CUT
(-6.67)
DNP DNP
Paul Goydos
(-36.67 pts)
CUT
(-10)
CUT
(-10)
DNP CUT
(-10)
DNP CUT
(-6.67)
DNP T61
(0)
DNP DNP
Lucas Glover
(-36.67 pts)
CUT
(-10)
CUT
(-10)
DNP CUT
(-10)
DNP CUT
(-6.67)
DNP DNP DNP DNP
Tommy Gainey
(-36.67 pts)
CUT
(-10)
CUT
(-10)
DNP CUT
(-10)
DNP CUT
(-6.67)
DNP T70
(0)
DNP DNP
Troy Matteson
(-33.33 pts)
CUT
(-10)
DNP DNP CUT
(-10)
DNP CUT
(-6.67)
DNP CUT
(-6.67)
DNP DNP
Jeff Maggert
(-33.33 pts)
CUT
(-10)
CUT
(-10)
DNP DNP DNP CUT
(-6.67)
DNP CUT
(-6.67)
DNP DNP
Ted Potter, Jr.
(-33.33 pts)
CUT
(-10)
CUT
(-10)
DNP DNP DNP CUT
(-6.67)
DNP CUT
(-6.67)
DNP DNP
J.J. Henry
(-30 pts)
CUT
(-10)
CUT
(-10)
DNP CUT
(-10)
DNP T82
(0)
DNP DNP DNP DNP
John Huh
(-30 pts)
CUT
(-10)
CUT
(-10)
DNP CUT
(-10)
DNP DNP DNP T72
(0)
DNP DNP
Vijay Singh
(-26.67 pts)
CUT
(-10)
77
(0)
DNP CUT
(-10)
DNP DNP DNP CUT
(-6.67)
DNP DNP

How Player Rankings are Computed

The Buzz:

Have a funny feeling the topic of discussion this week is going to be next week’s Accenture Match Play Championship.  You have to think that the folks of Ponte Vedra aren’t very happy about Tiger Woods, Adam Scott and Phil Mickelson not showing up but that could be just the beginning, rumor has it that #5 ranked Justin Rose and #12 Steve Stricker may also not play.  So the question begs the answer, how important is a tournament that is missing five of the top-12 players in the world?

  • So this week we will look at this issue, why players don’t want to show up.  Now since Steve Stricker may not play because of a health issue with his brother, we won’t count him.
  • Now players won’t tell us the real reason, are they scared of getting knocked out in the first round, do they hate the golf course, do they not care anymore???  The answer is yes, yes and maybe.
  • The PGA Tour and the rest of golf should just realize one fact and that is they have done too good of a job in making these guys very rich, so rich that there is no need to show up to an event in which you can win $1.5 million for a week’s work, also the added bonus of 550 Fedex points that will get you closure to that great FedEx bonus.
  • I will bet you that players like Jimmy Walker, Harris English and even famous ones like Dustin Johnson will run over their wife, kids and dogs to get out the door to play in this event.  I went to the Accenture Match Play that was in Australia back in 2001 and most of the field said they would go just about anywhere for the chance at winning this.  It’s funny Tiger Woods will get on a airplane and fly halfway around the world to Dubai in a event that will be forgotten a week later (of course for a $2.5 million plus fee) but he won’t bother to fly out to Arizona for an event he has won three times and collected close to $5 million.  So what’s the problem Tiger?  In looking for some real excuse other than the one he has given needing some more rest let’s look at two of the biggest problems with this event.
  • First is the course.  Now Tiger did win at Dove Mountain but that was when the tournament was played on the Gallery course.  That course was dropped right after Woods win in 2008 and has been played across the street at the Golf Club at Dove Mountain.  I have to think that Tiger isn’t very happy with this club, but I don’t want to put words in his mouth.  Another thing is the fact that you can’t get all to like a course, I am pointing towards a couple of players that probably don’t like this course, but there are probably a lot of players that like the course, just ask Ian Poulter and Matt Kuchar.  While were on the topic, I really think that the Match Play tournament is so special that you can’t play it on one course, it should move around and be played not more than two years on the same venue.

Let’s play a little devil’s advocate and look at the records of Mr. Woods, Mr. Micklson, Mr. Scott and Mr. Rose.

  • First Tiger.  He has played in four events at the Golf Club and has gone home early in all four, getting beat in the first round in 2011 and 2013.  Things weren’t much better in 2009 and 2012 when he went home after the second round, whoops Ponte Vedra we have a problem.
  • Let’s look at Adam Scott.  He got to the Semi-finals in 2003 and to the quarter-finals in 2005, both times at La Costa.  Since the tournament moved to Arizona in 2007, things got very frosty for him.  He has played every year and only got as far as the second round, losing in the first round five times and in the second round twice, whoops Ponte Vedra I see another problem.
  • Phil Mickelson is more of the same, in the last four years played at La Costa Mickelson finished in the top-ten all four years, the best was in 2004 when he was beaten by Davis Love III in the quarter finals.  But when the event moved to Arizona he lost in the second round in 2007 and ’08, finished T9th in 2009, took a year off and returned in 2011 just to lose again in the second round.  He hasn’t been seen since, so we can see a pattern with this.
  • Lastly Justin Rose.  He hasn’t done very well in this event, in eight starts he has made it past the second round just once, he lost in the quarter-finals to Trevor Immelman in 2007.  In 2008, ’09 and 2012 he went home in the first round and in 2011 and last year was gone in the second round.  So how many memos does Ponte Vedra need to see that their marquee players just don’t do well at Dove Mountain?  It’s a bit like there problem at Kapalua, there is a reason a lot of players don’t go there, it’s the course but they can’t seem to solve the problem by going someplace else.

We have bored you enough on this, we will be back next week with some thoughts  courses that they can go to plus any news on a new sponsor.  The bottom line, the contract with Dove Mountain ends this year, Accenture who has been the tournaments only sponsor since 1999 is gone and Ponte Vedra needs to fix some things.

What is with Jimmy Walker, is he really a golf superstar?

Talk about a player on a tear, it’s Jimmy Walker.  In a span of three months Walker went from a PGA Tour journeyman to superstar.  A lot can be said, first that he sought out Butch Harmon last April and Harmon has done some magic on him.  But as the Tour plays for the last time in California under the 2014 season, Walker will be looking to increase his already awesome record in the Golden State.  He has made 34 starts in California and has made a cool $4,304,153 in those starts about 39% of his $10.9 million in career earnings .  That works out to about $126,593 per start, guess he is paying a good chuck of change to Governor Jerry Brown.  Since finishing T9th in the 2011 AT&T Pebble Beach, Walker has finished in the top-ten, 10 times and you have to think that he could be looking for some California beach property real soon.  In seven starts in the Northern Trust he has two top-fours both in 2011 and 2012 so look for him to play well again.

Here is another neat little stat to ponder.

Walker won for the third time in his 8th start of the 2013/14 season.  So how does his record stand up to others that won three times early in a season?  Fastest first starts on the PGA Tour (since 1970):

  • 1974      Johnny Miller          won 3 in his first 3 starts
  • 2008      Tiger Woods            won 3 in his first 3 starts
  • 1975      Johnny Miller           won 3 in his first 4 starts
  • 2003      Tiger Woods            won 3 in his first 4 starts
  • 2013       Tiger Woods            won 3 in his first 5 starts
  • 2007       Tiger Woods            won 3 in his first 6 starts
  • 2000       Tiger Woods            won 3 in his first 6 starts
  • 1999       David Duval            won 3 in his first 7starts
  • 2013/14 Jimmy Walker        won 3 in his first 8 starts
  • 2005      Tiger Woods             won 3 in his first 8 starts
  • 2005       Phil Mickelson         won 3 in his first 8 starts
  • 2001       Tiger Woods            won 3 in his first 8 starts
  • 1997       Tiger Woods            won 3 in his first 8 starts

Since 2004, nine different players have three or more wins in a season – Jimmy Walker, Vijay Singh, Ernie Els, Kenny Perry, Rory McIlroy, Tiger Woods, Jim Furyk, Steve Stricker and Phil Mickelson

Things you need to know about Riviera and the Northern Trust:

  • Riviera C.C. has held a U.S. Open, two PGA Championships and a Senior Open.  No other stop on the PGA Tour can claim the distinction of holding those three majors. Of the 45 courses that will hold a PGA Tour event this year, Riviera, Pebble Beach, Congressional and Oak Hill are the only ones that have hosted both the U.S. Open and the PGA Championship.
  • In the history of this tournament, 29 of the 51 winners at Riviera have also won a major championship.
  • Taking a step further, I did a chart for Golf Magazines newsletter which shows that of any non-major event on the PGA Tour, more hall of fame members have won at the Northern Trust that any other tournament since 1925.  The Northern Trust has been won 39 times by 25 different hall of fame members, the closet to it is the BMW Open which has been won 37 times by 22 different hall of fame winners.  So you can see this event has a great track record for producing first class champions.
  • One last thing to look for is the close finish.  There have been 18 playoffs at the tournament, with seven coming since 1998, including wins by Billy Mayfair (1998), Robert Allenby (2001), Mike Weir (2003), Adam Scott (2005) and Charles Howell III (2007), Bill Haas (2012) and John Merrick (2013). Dating back to 1989, the tournament has ended in a playoff (7 times) or with a one-stroke win 13 times – the last being Phil Mickelson’s one-stroke win in 2009.

Course information:

  • Riviera Country Club
  • Pacific Palisades, Calif.
  • 7,349 yards     Par 35-36–71
  • Course has a 74.3 rating and slope rating of 139 fron the championship tees. Riviera is a private club.
  • In 2013 the Riviera was the 13th hardest course on the PGA Tour playing to a 71.850 average.

Riviera was designed by George Thomas, with some help from William Bell, and was opened in 1927.  In 2001, Riviera brought in architect Tom Fazio with the goal of improving the course for a bid to host the 2008 U.S. Open, which ended up going to Torrey Pines.  What Fazio did was lengthen several holes, enlarge some of the greens and restore five of the holes to their original design before a flood forced them to be changed.  Riviera also saw a major renovation in 1993 when Ben Crenshaw and Bill Coore renovated all of the greens. Three years ago the course had all of its bunkers renovated.

In the summer of 2009, Riviera Country Club completed phase II of the restoration of hole #8 directed by Fazio Golf Course Designers. The intent of the modifications was to restore the 1926 original design intent of George Thomas’ “Double Fairway built around a dry wash”. In 1939, the original design intent was lost to a strong flood which scoured the “dry wash” along with the right fairway. Phase I of the restoration, in 2000, involved restoring the right fairway. Phase II involved restoring the dry wash barranca, thus cutting the fairway into two parts.

The average green size at the Riviera is 5,000 square feet, which is a little over the average on the PGA Tour.  Course has 57 bunkers and no water hazards, but there is a dry barranca that comes in play for the pros on six holes.

History of Riviera:

Riviera Country Club is one of golf’s most intriguing clubs.

In 1922, Frank Garbutt, who was the vice president of the downtown Los Angeles Athletic Club, was looking for a golf course site for the club. He found a piece of property in the Santa Monica Canyon,  about two miles from the Pacific Ocean.  As he stood on an 80-foot bluff overlooking the canyon, where  Riviera’s clubhouse stands  today,  he knew  he had found the perfect site.

Garbutt hired George Thomas to design the course, but when the noted architect made his first site inspection he didn’t share Garbutt’s opinion.  Thomas wasn’t impressed with the property and he told Garbutt that any course built on the site would cost the club a bundle. Garbutt told Thomas to build the best course in the world, at any cost.

Thomas brought in 200 men to clear the canyon. He installed a state-of-the-art irrigation system and hauled 19,000 pounds of grass seed and topsoil from the San Fernando Valley.  When the course was finished in 1927, it had cost $675,000 , giving it the distinction of being the most expensive course ever built.  That didn’t include the architect’s fee, because Thomas, a wealthy man who dabbled in course architecture, never charged a dime for his work.

Bottom line, Thomas built what many considered the best course in the West.  In 1939, when the National Golf Foundation named the 10 best courses in America, Riviera placed third behind Pine Valley and Pinehurst No. 2.  Seventy years later, it still ranks among the best in various course ratings and opinion polls.

Riviera gained fame as the club of choice for movie stars.  Among them were Douglas Fairbanks (who put up $1,000 of the $10,000 prize fund for the first Los Angeles Open), W.C. Fields, Basil Rathbone, Dean  Martin, Burt Lancaster and Sammy Davis Jr.  More recently the membership has included Glen Campbell, Peter Falk, James Garner and Robert Wagner.  Scenes from several movies were shot at Riviera, including “Pat and Mike”, “The Caddy”, and “Follow the Sun.”

Today, those familiar with Riviera as a PGA Tour stop also recognize it as the course with the Kikuyu grass and a bunker in the middle of a green.

Kikuyu is a strong, tough strain of grass that was imported from Africa more than 70 years ago for use on polo grounds.  When Riviera opened, polo was popular in L.A. and there were several polo grounds in the neighborhood.  Their are many stories about how Kikuyu appeared at Riviera, but the tale most often told is that one night after a local polo field was seeded, a windstorm carried the Kikuyu seed onto Riviera.  Since Kikuyu grass is essentially a weed, it grew quickly. The course superintendent ignored its encroachment, and before he knew it Riviera had been taken over by Kikuyu.

Instead of resisting its growth, Riviera learned how to perfect Kikuyu. Today it blankets the course, making pitch and run shots nearly impossible because the thick grass grabs the club head.  Many believe Kikuyu is the finest form of grass to play off fairways because  the ball sits up, regardless of the lie.

Riviera’s other unique feature is the sixth hole, a 170-yard par 3 that features a bunker in the middle of the green, making the putting surface into a doughnut shape. If a player’s tee shot lands on the wrong side of the bunker, he must chip over the sand or take several putts around it. For the average player, option No. 1 means taking a divot out of the green.

Riviera has held several major championships.  The 1948 U.S. Open was the first and won by Ben Hogan, who shot 8-under-par  276, an Open scoring record that stood until Jack Nicklaus posted a 5-under-par 275 in 1967 at Baltusrol.

In 1983, the PGA Championship was held at Riviera and won by Hal Sutton. The PGA returned in 1995, with Steve Elkington beating Colin Montgomerie in a playoff. Both shot 267, which remains the record for any major championship.

Riviera hosted a Senior Tour major in 1998 when Hale Irwin rebounded from a first-round 77 and claimed the title.

Unfortunately, the odds on Riviera holding another major are slim, even though it will hold the U.S. Amateur championship in 2017. The course is regarded as one of the gems on the PGA Tour, but traffic is a mess and the congested neighborhood offers limited options for parking, hospitality and merchandise tents.  Still for the pros it’s a special treat for most of them once a year.

Major Championships held at Riviera:

  • 1948 U.S. Open won by Ben Hogan
  • 1983 PGA Championship won by Hal Sutton
  • 1995 PGA Championship won by Steve Elkington
  • 1998 U.S. Senior Open won by Hale Irwin

Here are some of the secrets of what it takes to play well at the Northern Trust:

Key stat for the winner:

What I find very interesting is that of all the courses on the PGA Tour year in and year out, Riviera is in the top ten every year in making the most putts from 10 feet and in.  Now the first thing that many will say, the greens at Riviera aren’t very challenging.  But there is also the case that they are in great shape, but mostly putt true with no hidden breaks. If you were to give a PGA Tour player a straight in 10 footer with no break, no spike marks to throw it off, I would say he’d make ten out of ten most of the time.  So the stat shows that you have to make those pesky putts if you want to win.  Show what is Riviera’s Rankings

  • In 2013 players made 83.37% of putts inside 10 feet, which ranked 2nd on tour.
  • In 2012 players made 84.39% of putts inside 10 feet, which ranked 1st on tour.
  • In 2011 players made 84.84% of putts inside 10 feet, which ranked 1st on tour.
  • In 2010 players made 86.48% of putts inside 10 feet, which ranked 8th on tour.
  • In 2009 players made 85.67% of putts inside 10 feet, which ranked 7th on tour.
  • In 2008 players made 85.08% of putts inside 10 feet, which ranked 5th on tour.

Here are some more key stats to look to for this week:

Unbelievable and really weird stat:

  • Riviera is a classic layout and a different breed than most courses on the PGA Tour. Placing drives in the right spot is important.  Consider some of the champions over the last 22 years:  Bill Haas, Steve Stricker, Phil Mickelson, Charles Howell III, Rory Sabbatini, Mike Weir, Len Mattiace, Nick Faldo, Kirk Triplett, Craig Stadler, Corey Pavin, Tom Kite and Ted Schultz.  So that means only one thing, driving is very important at Riviera?  Sorry but that isn’t the case.  The last winner to finish in the top-ten in driving stats was Nick Faldo in 1997.  Of the 16 since, only four have finished in the top-25 so that means that 12 of them were out of the top-25, amazing.

Experience is key.

  • The list of champions in the last 20 years includes Phil Mickelson Fred Couples, Tom Kite, Corey Pavin, Craig Stadler, Nick Faldo, Ernie Els and Mike Weir, all major championship winners.  There have been 25 different hall of fame members that have won 39 championships so the cream seems to always come to the top

Other cool nuggets for this week:

  • Not many shotmaking courses left on the PGA Tour.  Outside of Riviera can only name about a half dozen, from Pebble to PGA National to Hilton Head to Colonial.  So for most of the pros, hitting lot’s of greens and shaping the ball into the proper position is important. So it only makes sense that players who hit lots of greens always do well at Riviera.  In the last 14 years only four winners have not been in the top-ten for the week in greens hit.  Bill Haas was the worst in 2012 ranked T58th hitting only 36 of 72 greens, in 2011 Aaron Baddeley was 3rd while in 2010 Steve Stricker was T10th while in 2009 Phil Mickelson was T9th in greens hit at Riviera.  Last year John Merrick ranked T23rd hitting 46 of 72 greens.
  • Putting has become  more important  the last couple of years.  You have to make a lot of putts, especially in the under ten feet range to do well.  In 2012 Bill Haas had the least amount of putts with 103, while in 2010 Steve Stricker had the least amount of putts with just 104.  Last year Merrick ranked T10th taking just 110 putts.
  • Players who are good scramblers do well at Riviera, especially those who can play the delicate shots around the green from the Kikuyu grass.  In 2011 Aaron Baddeley led the scrambling stat for the week getting it up and down 18 of 20 times, in 2012 Haas was 7th in scrambling while last year Merrick was 19th.
  • Last but not least the weather.  Despite Riviera being in Southern California were it’s suppose to be great every day of the year, this event has had it’s share of really bad weather.  Many say that if there is drought, the way to stop it is to hold the Northern Trust, rain will find it’s way.  Now last week we said how the weather was suppose to be perfect and no bad weather, the tournament had four days of terrible weather.  Great for the area badly in need of rain but tough on the tournament, players and fans.  So you can take it with a grain of salt what we are saying this week.  We are going with what Weather.Com is telling us, not a trace of rain until at least next Tuesday, nine days from today.  So we have to think that the course will play fast and firm since there has been hardly any rain in a year.

 

Who to watch for at the Northern Trust Open

Best Bets:

Charl Schwartzel

2013 ’12 ’11 ’10 ’09 ’08 ’07 ’06 ’05 ’04 ’03 ’02
T3

Did you know that 10 Masters champions have won 17 Northern Trust at Riviera, an awesome stat. I think that Schwartzel could be the 11th, course is perfect for his game and he grew up on Kikuyu.

Dustin Johnson

2013 ’12 ’11 ’10 ’09 ’08 ’07 ’06 ’05 ’04 ’03 ’02
CUT T4 CUT T3 T10 T59

Almost caught Walker at Pebble, playing well and on a course that he has done good on, look for him to shine this week.

Jimmy Walker

2013 ’12 ’11 ’10 ’09 ’08 ’07 ’06 ’05 ’04 ’03 ’02
T16 T4 T4 T37 70 T39 CUT

This guy is hot and comes to a course in which he has been in the 60s on in seven of his last 17 rounds played.

2013 ’12 ’11 ’10 ’09 ’08 ’07 ’06 ’05 ’04 ’03 ’02
First time playing in this event

Best of the rest:

Hunter Mahan

2013 ’12 ’11 ’10 ’09 ’08 ’07 ’06 ’05 ’04 ’03 ’02
T8 T24 T55 CUT T17 T31 CUT CUT

6th at Pebble, T4th at Phoenix he can do some good things this week at Riviera. Last year put together four subpar rounds at Riviera which is hard to do.

Webb Simpson

2013 ’12 ’11 ’10 ’09 ’08 ’07 ’06 ’05 ’04 ’03 ’02
T6 T15

Will be high up on everyone’s top-picks, there is reason for that, playing well and coming to a course that is perfect for him.

Charles Howell III

2013 ’12 ’11 ’10 ’09 ’08 ’07 ’06 ’05 ’04 ’03 ’02
CUT CUT T66 CUT T59 T55 Win T51 T47 73 2 T6

Not to bother you again, but he has won at Riviera and could do it again this week. He has had a solid west coast swing with two top-tens.

Pat Perez

2013 ’12 ’11 ’10 ’09 ’08 ’07 ’06 ’05 ’04 ’03 ’02
T51 T13 CUT CUT T30 T36 8 T77 T58 T74 T32 T23

Again we talk about him, in the last three weeks has finished T7th, T11th and T2nd. Another person that could win anytime.

Solid contenders

Bill Haas

2013 ’12 ’11 ’10 ’09 ’08 ’07 ’06 ’05 ’04 ’03 ’02
T3 Win T12 CUT CUT T36 T22 T51

Knows how to play Riviera, is 22 under in last 12 rounds and been in contention the last three years.

Graham Delaet

2013 ’12 ’11 ’10 ’09 ’08 ’07 ’06 ’05 ’04 ’03 ’02
T21 T44

Is playing well and been knocking on the door of victory for a bit, only a matter of time before he does win.

Jordan Spieth

2013 ’12 ’11 ’10 ’09 ’08 ’07 ’06 ’05 ’04 ’03 ’02
CUT

Another good finish last week, Spieth should play this course well with his good ball striking and putting.

Kevin Na

2013 ’12 ’11 ’10 ’09 ’08 ’07 ’06 ’05 ’04 ’03 ’02
CUT 76 3 T10 T25 T55 T33 CUT CUT CUT

Watch him because he is playing great right now and has a couple of top-tens at Riviera including a 3rd in 2011.

Long shots that could come through:

Fred Couples

2013 ’12 ’11 ’10 ’09 ’08 ’07 ’06 ’05 ’04 ’03 ’02
T46 CUT T7 T37 T3 T31 4 T37 T59 7 T9

You may laugh but he thinks that he can contend and he is serious about it. Yes he may lack some touch with the putter but is a great ball striker and knows how to win at Riviera.

Ryan Moore

2013 ’12 ’11 ’10 ’09 ’08 ’07 ’06 ’05 ’04 ’03 ’02
T27 T17 T4 T76 71 T62 CUT

This course is right up his alley, did finish T4th in 2011.

J.B. Holmes

2013 ’12 ’11 ’10 ’09 ’08 ’07 ’06 ’05 ’04 ’03 ’02
CUT T8 T12 T3 T6 T7 T51

Has played ok since coming back on tour three weeks ago from surgery. Look at his Riviera record, it’s one of the best and he could get it going.

Just not this week:

Justin Rose

2013 ’12 ’11 ’10 ’09 ’08 ’07 ’06 ’05 ’04 ’03 ’02
T13 T9 T37 CUT T62 T39 T58 T59

Making his first start of the year, has been hurt I tend to think that he will just be getting some of the cobwebs off of his game.

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