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BlogWho will win at Riviera on Sunday?

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

Things you need to know for Sunday’s final round at Riviera:

Who is William McGirt and does he have a chance of winning?

  • He is a 34 year-old from Boiling Springs, South Carolina.  His name of fame is finishing 2nd in not one, but two RBS Canadian Open’s in 96 starts on the PGA Tour.  He got his Tour card in December of 2010 when he finished 2nd in Q-School and is in his fourth year.  Coming into this week he has just under $2.8 million in earnings but a third of that, $838,588, is in his three starts in Canada.  Other than that he has been in the top-ten just three other times. McGirt has never led or co-led in any round in his career and if you look at the times he has been in contention going into the final round.  Oh one other thing he has missed the cut in his other two Northern Trust starts so you can see that on Sunday he will be ratified air.

So how did McGirt become the leader?

  • With no rough and the ground being firm letting players hit it a long way, Riviera has been pretty defenseless this week.  Through three rounds the scoring average is 71.22 and if you look at the leaderbaord 54 players are under par.  If you look at the top-12 on the leaderboard, there have only been three rounds which are over par, the highest being a 73 by Jason Allred in the first round.  Just look at McGirt’s career, in his 96 starts he has only bettered his Riviera 54 hole score of 201 twice.  That tells the whole story on how easy Riviera is playing when he is lower than his 54 hole rounds scores in much easier events, like those in the desert.
  • In looking at McGirt’s stats for the week, there is one key that pops up, he leads the strokes Gained putting stat and is 2nd in total putts made with 314 feet of putts.  Another key is that on Riviera’s three par 5s he is seven under.

So who is close to him?

  • McGirt is at 12 under par two shots better than George McNeill and Charlie Beljan.  In fourth place at nine under is Jason Allred and Brian Harman while four shots back at 8 under is Jimmy Walker, Jordan Spieth, Bubba Watson and Cameron Tringale.  So of your top-five players McNeill and Beljan are the only ones that have won on the PGA Tour.

Who made the biggest moves on Saturday?

  • Only three scores of 65 and under, Bubba Watson shot 64 while James Hahn, who is T24th at 5 under also shot 65.  Then you have McGirt’s 65 to round out the top-scores of the day.
  • Now we have seen a lot of unusual winners in 2013/14 between Jimmy Walker, Chris Kirk, Harris English, Patrick Reed, Scott Stallings and Kevin Stadler who were in great positions after a good third round and were able to back it up.  Example includes Walker in his Frys.com win, shot a third round 62 and came back with 66.  Patrick Reed at the Humana shot 63 in his first three rounds and shot 71 to win.  Kevin Stadler shot 67 in the third round in Phoenix and backed it up with 68.  Just last week at Pebble, Walker shot 67 and was able to hold on to win.  So we can’t discount McGirt holding on.

Anybody to really watch for on Sunday?

  • He may be four back but honestly with such an inexperience top-five I can see anyone as far back as 4 under having a chance.  If they can shot 63 or a 64 and the top don’t perform, it brings a lot of folks into contention.  If I was to look at one person, I would look at Charl Schwartzel, who is at 8 under, four back with rounds of 69-68-68.  Also look for Bubba Watson because both of them are Masters winners and those that won the Masters seem to do well at Riviera.  But I really like Schwartzel because of the fact that he came over on Monday from South Africa and has had to endure lot’s of jet-lag.  On Thursday and Saturday he played his last seven holes in three over and for the week has played the first 11 holes in 12 under and played the last seven holes in four over.  I can see him improve on that on Sunday.  I also think that Bubba Watson could be very dangerous because this is in his wheelhouse, he won’t be sleeping on the lead like he did in Phoenix and will be able to free-wheel it on Sunday being four shots back.
  • Also look for Jimmy Walker, Dustin Johnson and Jordan Spieth being dangerous and frankly I see the winner being one of these five.

So how far back is too far back?

  • I can’t see anyone worst than 4 under having much of a chance.  That’s because there are 32 players at 4 under and better, that’s a lot of players to step over in the final round.

 

Below is a list of the top-32 players on the leader board going to 4 under showing how they have done of late to see who has played the best:

Of the top-32 on the leaderboard, who’s playing the best?

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
(232.67 pts)
Win
(132)
DNP DNP CUT
(-6.67)
DNP DNP DNP Win
(88)
DNP T21
(19.33)
Jordan Spieth
(160.67 pts)
T4
(80)
DNP DNP T19
(20.67)
DNP DNP DNP CUT
(-6.67)
DNP 2
(66.67)
Dustin Johnson
(140 pts)
T2
(100)
DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP T6
(40)
Harris English
(135.67 pts)
DNP 9
(45)
DNP DNP DNP T33
(11.33)
DNP 4
(53.33)
DNP T11
(26)
Bubba Watson
(118 pts)
DNP T2
(100)
DNP T23
(18)
DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP
Hideki Matsuyama
(102.67 pts)
DNP T4
(80)
DNP T16
(22.67)
DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP
K.J. Choi
(84.67 pts)
CUT
(-10)
T42
(8)
DNP T2
(66.67)
DNP DNP DNP T20
(20)
DNP DNP
Bill Haas
(78 pts)
DNP T34
(16)
DNP T43
(4.67)
DNP T6
(40)
DNP DNP DNP T24
(17.33)
Cameron Tringale
(76.33 pts)
T13
(37)
T12
(38)
DNP T66
(0)
DNP T38
(8)
DNP CUT
(-6.67)
DNP DNP
Bryce Molder
(69 pts)
T10
(40)
T29
(21)
DNP 70
(0)
DNP T38
(8)
DNP DNP DNP DNP
Matt Every
(61 pts)
CUT
(-10)
T37
(13)
DNP DNP DNP T13
(24.67)
DNP T8
(33.33)
DNP DNP
Brendan Steele
(58 pts)
CUT
(-10)
T6
(60)
DNP T28
(14.67)
DNP CUT
(-6.67)
DNP DNP DNP DNP
Charley Hoffman
(56.67 pts)
CUT
(-10)
T61
(0)
DNP T7
(36.67)
DNP T9
(30)
DNP DNP DNP DNP
Ken Duke
(33.67 pts)
CUT
(-10)
T29
(21)
DNP DNP DNP T69
(0)
DNP T72
(0)
DNP T16
(22.67)
Robert Garrigus
(31 pts)
T27
(23)
T53
(0)
DNP T28
(14.67)
DNP CUT
(-6.67)
DNP DNP DNP DNP
Luke Guthrie
(29.33 pts)
DNP CUT
(-10)
DNP T23
(18)
DNP T18
(21.33)
DNP DNP DNP DNP
Sang-Moon Bae
(29.33 pts)
CUT
(-10)
T61
(0)
DNP T28
(14.67)
DNP CUT
(-6.67)
DNP T32
(12)
DNP T21
(19.33)
William McGirt
(23.67 pts)
CUT
(-10)
T19
(31)
DNP DNP DNP T76
(0)
DNP T46
(2.67)
DNP DNP
Daniel Summerhays
(23.67 pts)
T19
(31)
CUT
(-10)
DNP DNP DNP T58
(0)
DNP T46
(2.67)
DNP DNP
Charl Schwartzel
(23.33 pts)
DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP T15
(23.33)
DNP
Jim Furyk
(15 pts)
T35
(15)
DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP
Charlie Beljan
(11.33 pts)
CUT
(-10)
CUT
(-10)
DNP CUT
(-6.67)
DNP T9
(30)
DNP T38
(8)
DNP DNP
Blake Adams
(5 pts)
T45
(5)
DNP DNP T55
(0)
DNP T69
(0)
DNP DNP DNP DNP
David Lingmerth
(3.33 pts)
DNP T42
(8)
DNP T47
(2)
DNP T78
(0)
DNP CUT
(-6.67)
DNP DNP
Ernie Els
(-1.33 pts)
DNP DNP CUT
(-10)
DNP T37
(8.67)
DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP

How Player Rankings are Computed

Who’s not playing good coming into this week?

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
James Hahn
(-16 pts)
CUT
(-10)
CUT
(-10)
DNP CUT
(-6.67)
DNP T38
(8)
DNP T46
(2.67)
DNP DNP
John Senden
(-10 pts)
CUT
(-10)
DNP DNP DNP DNP T69
(0)
DNP T61
(0)
DNP DNP
George McNeill
(-10 pts)
T52
(0)
CUT
(-10)
DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP
Lee Westwood
(-8 pts)
DNP CUT
(-10)
DNP T47
(2)
DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP
Brian Harman
(-8 pts)
CUT
(-10)
CUT
(-10)
DNP DNP DNP T82
(0)
DNP T32
(12)
DNP DNP
Aaron Baddeley
(-4.67 pts)
T56
(0)
T48
(2)
DNP 74
(0)
DNP CUT
(-6.67)
DNP DNP DNP DNP
Ernie Els
(-1.33 pts)
DNP DNP CUT
(-10)
DNP T37
(8.67)
DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP

How Player Rankings are Computed

In Conclusion:

I can’t see William McGirt holding on.  Still there have been these great stories of guys you least expect holding on, look at Russell Henley last year at the Sony, he was playing in only his third PGA Tour event and won.  One thing in McGirt’s favor, look at where the winners of the Northern Trust have come from, pretty impressive that six of the last nine winners led going into the final round.  The Northern Trust has had a marquee list of third round leaders so McGirt will be the first third round leader or co-leader that hasn’t won since David Sutherland in 2000.  Sutherland shot a final round 74 to drop into a T12th, a faith I am afraid could await McGirt on Sunday.  Of those close to McGirt, McNeill, Beljan, Allred and Harman, I feel that McNeill and Beljan are the only one that has the experience to pull it off.  McNeill is playing the most consistent and has won before.  As for Beljan he knows how to play at Riviera getting into a playoff last year and losing to John Merrick.  But here is something to think about, Beljan could become the sixth player in Northern Trust history to win the year after finishing runner-up.  The list is pretty impressive:

  • Byron Nelson, 1945 runner-up, 1946 win
  • Ben Hogan, 1946 runner-up, 1947 win
  • Lloyd Mangrum, 1948 runner-up, 1948 win
  • Phil Mickelson, 2007 runner-up, 2008 win
  • Steve Stricker, 2009 runner-up, 2010 win

Now we said the same thing in this column about Kevin Stadler two weeks ago and he won.  But he backed into the win, was handed it by Bubba Watson.  But the same thing could happen again, someone handing the tournament to a non-winner. But as I have said before the winner will be either Bubba Watson, Charl Swartzel, Jordan Spieth or Dustin Johnson and I really like Swartzel.

Who should win at the Northern Trust on Sunday

Best Bets:

Charl Schwartzel

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

He was by pick of the week and I am going all the way with him. Lots of reasons including playing well this week, he is the perfect winner.

Bubba Watson

2013 ’12 ’11 ’10 ’09 ’08 ’07 ’06 ’05 ’04 ’03 ’02
CUT T13 WD CUT T17 T14 CUT

This is the position and course that he can pounce on. Look for him to be a lot more comfortable than he was leading in Phoenix. Still his weakness is those short putts down the stretch, but he can be like he was at Augusta, I can see him winning.

Guys that have the muscle to win:

George McNeill

2013 ’12 ’11 ’10 ’09 ’08 ’07 ’06 ’05 ’04 ’03 ’02
T33 T49 T5 CUT T36 T44

Has been in this position before and won. Only difference the courses he won on wasn’t like Riviera. I can see him playing solid and sticking around, who knows just like Kevin Stadler being in the right place at the right time the same can be said of McNeill.

Dustin Johnson

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

Has played great this year I can see him winning on Sunday. Is the leader in greens hit for the week, that is a good sign for a Riviera winner.

Jordan Spieth

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

Has been nine under in his last 36 holes. For the week has been 11 under on the front, look for him to again play well on the front and if he gets into contention could be tough to beat

Could hang tough on Sunday

Charlie Beljan

2013 ’12 ’11 ’10 ’09 ’08 ’07 ’06 ’05 ’04 ’03 ’02
2

Almost won last year so he knows all about the final round pressures at Riviera. I think he hangs on down to the final holes and then it becomes a crap shot for him to be in the right place at the right time.

Jimmy Walker

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

Has played really well the last week, the question will be does he have some left in the tank to win on Sunday. It’s been a while since someone won back to back on the PGA Tour, have to go back to 2012 when Rory McIlroy won the Deutsche Bank and the BMW Championship.

Long shots that could come through:

Bill Haas

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

Yes he is five back but he plays well at Riviera. Shot a third round 64 last year when he finished T3rd so he knows how to go low at Riviera.

Aaron Baddeley

2013 ’12 ’11 ’10 ’09 ’08 ’07 ’06 ’05 ’04 ’03 ’02
CUT T11 Win T54 T51 T46 T13 T51 T7 T32 T28

Another past champion that has gone low at Riviera, if he gets hot with a putter 64 is a good target for him on Sunday.

Lee Westwood

2013 ’12 ’11 ’10 ’09 ’08 ’07 ’06 ’05 ’04 ’03 ’02
T21 CUT T5 T47 T44 T15

What a perfect way for him to show that his game is back just after firing his swing coach Sean Foley. He doesn’t usually go low but can if he gets it going.

Just not this week:

Jason Allred

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

Have to think he is looking for a top-five finish, just doesn’t have the experience to pull off a win.

Brian Harman

2013 ’12 ’11 ’10 ’09 ’08 ’07 ’06 ’05 ’04 ’03 ’02
T51

Same as with Allred, not enough final round power to do the trick.

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