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BlogNorthern Trust Preview and Picks

Northern Trust Open

February 18 – 21, 2015

Riviera C.C.

Pacific Palisades, Ca.

Par: 71 / Yardage: 7,349

Purse: $6.7 million

with $1,206,000 to the winner

Defending Champion:
Bubba Watson

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 four players #3 Bubba Watson, #6 Jim Furyk, #7 Sergio Garcia and #9 MJordan Spieth from the top-ten. The other top 50 players are #13 Jimmy Walker, #14 Hideki Matsuyama, #21 Dustin Johnson, #24 Bill Haas, #26 Hunter Mahan, #28 Kevin Na, #30 Charl Schwartzel, #31 Brandt Snedeker, #33 Ryan Moore, #37 Keegan Bradley, #41 J.B. Holmes, #42 Webb Simpson, #43 Gary Woodland, #46 Luke Donald and #T49 Marc Leishman.

Last year there were 26 top-50 players in the field.

The field includes 18 of the top 25 on the FedEx point standings for 2014.  Those players are #1 Jimmy Walker, #2 Robert Streb, #3 Bubba Watson, #5 Brandt Snedeker, #6 Charley Hoffman, #7 Sang-Moon Bae, #10 Ben Martin, #11 Ryan Moore, #12 Hideki Matsuyama, #13 Bill Haas, #14 Scott Piercy, #15 Shawn Stefani, #16 Harris English, #17 Nick Watney, #20 Brendon de Jonge, #23 Steven Bowditch, #24 Gary Woodland and #25 Tony Finau.

The field includes 18 players in the top 25 on this year’s PGA Tour money list.  Those players are #1 Jimmy Walker, #2 Bubba Watson, #4 Brandt Snedeker, #5 Robert Streb, #6 Sang-Moon Bae, #7 Charley Hoffman,  #9 Ryan Moore, #10 Ben Martin, #12 Hideki Matsuyama, #13 Bill Haas, #14 Nick Watney, #15 Shawn Stefani, #16 Scott Piercy, #18 Harris English, #21 Gary Woodland, #23 Nick Taylor, #24 Scott Stallings and #25 Brendon de Jonge.

The field includes 10 past champions: Bubba Watson (2014), John Merrick (2013), Bill Haas (2012), Aaron Baddeley (2011), Charles Howell III (2007), Rory Sabbatini (2006), Mike Weir (2004 & ’03), Robert Allenby (2001), Ernie Els (1999) and Fred Couples (1992 & ’90)

Ten of the 13 different PGA Tour winners from the 2014-15 season are in the field this week: Sang-Moon Bae (Frys.com Open); Ben Martin (Shriners Hospitals for Children Open); Robert Streb (McGladrey Classic; Ryan Moore (CIMB Classic); Bubba Watson (World Golf Championships-HSBC Champions); Nick Taylor (Sanderson Farms Championship); Charley Hoffman (OHL Classic at Mayakoba); Jimmy Walker (Sony Open); Bill Haas (Humana Challenge); and Brandt Snedeker (AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am).

Eighteen of the 30 players who qualified for the 2014 Tour Championship are in the field this week, including Jim Furyk, Sergio Garcia, Gary Woodland, Russell Henley, Bubba Watson, Cameron Tringale, Bill Haas, Brendon Todd, Jimmy Walker, Kevin Na, Hideki Matsuyama, Hunter Mahan, Webb Simpson, John Senden, Morgan Hoffmann, Jordan Spieth, Geoff Ogilvy and Dustin Johnson.

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.

 

**NOTE**

We have made a lot of changes in Golfstats and one of the biggest is that every on-going event gets updated every hour.  It’s not real time scoring, but after each day you will see our database change.  This will help look at things like good scores in a row and how each player does after every round.

Another change is our new feature, “Who will win on Sunday”.  Just like our previews, this will not only preview the final round but also look at players who shoud win.  All of these will enhance GOLFstats and encourage you to check our stuff over the weekend and during play.

Another thing to look for in the next couple of weeks is 24/7 Golf.  This is a new app that you can get with your Iphone so that you can take a lot of GOLFstats which you when your away from your computer.

So join us a couple of hours after play on Saturday night or Sunday morning for our “Who will win on Sunday” feature in which you can see who shall win during the final nine.

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 Farmers Malaysian Open Phoenix Open Dubai Desert Humana Challenge Qatar Masters Sony Open Abu Dhabi Hyundai T of C South African
Bernd Wiesberger
(280 pts)
DNP DNP 2
(100)
DNP T4
(80)
DNP 3
(60)
DNP T6
(40)
DNP DNP
Jimmy Walker
(238.67 pts)
T21
(29)
T7
(55)
DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP Win
(88)
DNP 2
(66.67)
DNP
Brandt Snedeker
(196.33 pts)
Win
(132)
T19
(31)
DNP T10
(40)
DNP CUT
(-6.67)
DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP
Harris English
(183.33 pts)
DNP T2
(100)
DNP T40
(10)
DNP T30
(13.33)
DNP T3
(60)
DNP DNP DNP
Nick Watney
(169 pts)
2
(100)
T7
(55)
DNP CUT
(-10)
DNP 14
(24)
DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP
Hideki Matsuyama
(150 pts)
DNP CUT
(-10)
DNP T2
(100)
DNP DNP DNP T78
(0)
DNP T3
(60)
DNP
J.B. Holmes
(144.67 pts)
T10
(40)
T2
(100)
DNP T66
(0)
DNP DNP DNP CUT
(-6.67)
DNP 33
(11.33)
DNP
Pat Perez
(139.33 pts)
T4
(80)
74
(0)
DNP T26
(24)
DNP T30
(13.33)
DNP T17
(22)
DNP DNP DNP
Bubba Watson
(126.67 pts)
DNP DNP DNP T2
(100)
DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP 10
(26.67)
DNP
Bill Haas
(119 pts)
DNP T19
(31)
DNP 76
(0)
DNP Win
(88)
DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP
Scott Stallings
(114 pts)
DNP T2
(100)
DNP CUT
(-10)
DNP T64
(0)
DNP DNP DNP T14
(24)
DNP
Alex Prugh
(103.33 pts)
T10
(40)
T5
(70)
DNP DNP DNP T64
(0)
DNP CUT
(-6.67)
DNP DNP DNP
Jordan Spieth
(100 pts)
T7
(55)
CUT
(-10)
DNP T7
(55)
DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP
Justin Thomas
(99.67 pts)
DNP CUT
(-10)
DNP T17
(33)
DNP T7
(36.67)
DNP T6
(40)
DNP DNP DNP
Brendan Steele
(95.67 pts)
DNP T45
(5)
DNP T26
(24)
DNP T2
(66.67)
DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP
Robert Streb
(95.33 pts)
DNP DNP DNP T10
(40)
DNP DNP DNP T17
(22)
DNP T8
(33.33)
DNP
Colt Knost
(90.67 pts)
T41
(9)
T17
(33)
DNP DNP DNP T10
(26.67)
DNP T17
(22)
DNP DNP DNP
Charl Schwartzel
(90 pts)
DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP CUT
(-6.67)
DNP T9
(30)
DNP 2
(66.67)
Matt Jones
(87 pts)
T7
(55)
DNP DNP T59
(0)
DNP T41
(6)
DNP 70
(0)
DNP T11
(26)
DNP
Charles Howell III
(86 pts)
DNP T5
(70)
DNP T71
(0)
DNP T56
(0)
DNP T26
(16)
DNP DNP DNP
Shawn Stefani
(83.33 pts)
DNP DNP DNP T30
(20)
DNP T15
(23.33)
DNP T6
(40)
DNP DNP DNP
Russell Henley
(82 pts)
DNP DNP DNP T59
(0)
DNP DNP DNP T17
(22)
DNP T3
(60)
DNP
Charley Hoffman
(80.67 pts)
DNP CUT
(-10)
DNP T53
(0)
DNP T2
(66.67)
DNP DNP DNP T14
(24)
DNP
Rory Sabbatini
(75.33 pts)
CUT
(-10)
DNP DNP T22
(28)
DNP T24
(17.33)
DNP T6
(40)
DNP DNP DNP
Charlie Beljan
(73.33 pts)
3
(90)
CUT
(-10)
DNP T66
(0)
DNP CUT
(-6.67)
DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP

How Player Rankings are Computed

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

Player AT&T Pebble Farmers Malaysian Open Phoenix Open Dubai Desert Humana Challenge Qatar Masters Sony Open Abu Dhabi Hyundai T of C South African
Jim Renner
(-43.33 pts)
CUT
(-10)
CUT
(-10)
DNP CUT
(-10)
DNP CUT
(-6.67)
DNP CUT
(-6.67)
DNP DNP DNP
Derek Ernst
(-36.67 pts)
CUT
(-10)
CUT
(-10)
DNP CUT
(-10)
DNP DNP DNP CUT
(-6.67)
DNP DNP DNP
Mike Weir
(-36.67 pts)
CUT
(-10)
CUT
(-10)
DNP CUT
(-10)
DNP CUT
(-6.67)
DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP
John Merrick
(-36.67 pts)
CUT
(-10)
CUT
(-10)
DNP CUT
(-10)
DNP CUT
(-6.67)
DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP
Andrew Putnam
(-33.33 pts)
CUT
(-10)
CUT
(-10)
DNP DNP DNP CUT
(-6.67)
DNP CUT
(-6.67)
DNP DNP DNP
Tim Wilkinson
(-33.33 pts)
CUT
(-10)
DNP DNP CUT
(-10)
DNP CUT
(-6.67)
DNP CUT
(-6.67)
DNP DNP DNP
Carlos Sainz Jr.
(-33.33 pts)
CUT
(-10)
CUT
(-10)
DNP DNP DNP CUT
(-6.67)
DNP CUT
(-6.67)
DNP DNP DNP
Padraig Harrington
(-30 pts)
CUT
(-10)
CUT
(-10)
DNP CUT
(-10)
DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP
Ryo Ishikawa
(-26.67 pts)
DNP CUT
(-10)
DNP CUT
(-10)
DNP CUT
(-6.67)
DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP
Brice Garnett
(-26.67 pts)
DNP CUT
(-10)
DNP CUT
(-10)
DNP T64
(0)
DNP CUT
(-6.67)
DNP DNP DNP

How Player Rankings are Computed

The Buzz:

One of the iconic events on the PGA Tour at one of the great old clubs, unfortunately the field won’t be as good because of the switching of the Match Play championship.  In previous years it was the week after the Northern Trust, now it’s in May.  Before many of the eu European players would come a week early and play in L.A., that isn’t happening, so that’s why the field isn’t as strong.

A great west coast swing:

Have to say personally I am more energized by what’s happen in golf the last seven weeks.  How can you beat the champions this year starting with Patrick Reed at the Hyundai and including Jimmy Walker, Bill Haas, Brooks Koepka, Jason Day and now Brandt Snedeker.  Now Koepka won his first at Phoenix so we can’t say this will be a west coast swing of winners, but in looking back the last great west coast swing was probably in 2005.  Before that it was probably in 1997, the point is there haven’t been a run of winners like we have seen this year.

With Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson and Ernie Els fading into the sunset, the PGA Tour can really use some great new blood.  Of course the tour will say every winner is great, but that really isn’t true.  People will remember guys like Jason Day, Patrick Reed, Jimmy Walker and Brandt Snedeker.  Sorry to say many probably would be shocked to learn that Sang-Moon Bae, Ben Martin, Robert Streb and Nick Taylor have also won in 2015.  So if we can get another great champion at the Northern Trust this could be the best west coast swing of all time.

Thoughts on Woods, Mickelson and Jim Furyk:

After many months of pain, made a trip to an orthopedic who told me my knees have arthritis and I would probably need replacement surgery in the years to come.  To try to stem this action, he is sending me to therapy and while I was going through some painful exercises my mind started going out to Woods, Mickelson and Furyk.  The reality that my aches and pains are becoming reality at age 58, I can realize a bit more how it is to physically get older.  It’s interesting to note that in the 2,053 events on the PGA Tour since the start of 1970, only 269 have been won by players 40 years and older.  That means that only 7.6% of the winners are over 40.  As for Woods we have to wonder what his future will be.  Tiger isn’t the type of player that will stick around if playing poorly, if he can’t get himself to a level of winning, he won’t show up.  He has made that clear over the course of his career and it’s evident now that Woods isn’t close to having his game.

In a way I wondered deeply back at the 2009 PGA Championship what damage Woods final round 74 would have, he handed the victory to Y.E. Yang and it’s really the last time he has been in contention on the final holes of a major.  After that Woods won a couple of weeks later at the BMW Championship and then at the Australian Masters before his personal problems became reality.  Many can say things went downhill when his injuries sidelined him after winning the 2008 U.S. Open, still since that 2009 PGA Championship Woods has only won nine times and frankly all of those wins he didn’t play that great in the final round.

Is Woods finished? I don’t think so. But we need to be realist, I don’t think we are ever going to see the kind of game that made him a dominate figure between 1999 and 2009.  Woods may win again on the PGA Tour, who knows he may also win a major but the reality is that Woods is up against father time and a mind that isn’t working like it use to.  Tiger isn’t the same person he was before getting married and having kids.  As a single father, he has to do the balancing act that many of us have to endure.  What was important to Tiger ten years ago is probably not what is important to Tiger today.  Of course he has endured a lot of physical problems, but right now those aren’t the problem.  So we will see what the future brings.  Last week he admitted that things aren’t the same with his game and he will not play until he is ready to win.  What that means we don’t know, probably that he won’t play at Honda.  The question will be if Tiger can’t sort out the problems in time for the Masters, will he not play?  If Tiger’s short game and putting woes continue, will he play in the majors?  Right now all of the World Golf Championships are out of the question since he has fallen outside of the top-50.  Time off will continue his slide down the world rankings, if he doesn’t play before the Masters he will be out of the top-100.  If he doesn’t play before the U.S. Open he will slide out of the top-200 and if he doesn’t play the rest of the year could be outside the top-1000.  Talking about majors, since World War II, 16 winners were 39 years old.  But after that it slides down drastically.  Only nine have won at age 40, seven at age 41 and 42, six at age 43.  Even worst, only 8 players over the age of 44 have won majors so Tiger’s biological clock is wearing down.

The same with Mickelson, it’s sad because after he won the British Open in 2013 we thought that maybe, just maybe Phil would find enough magic to win another major, possibly the U.S. Open.  Reality is that Phil hasn’t really come close to winning since with the exception of last year’s PGA Championship when he was runner-up to Rory McIlroy.  In the case with Mickelson it’s got to do with his putter, he hasn’t putted very well since Muirfield.  Now we saw players like Ben Hogan win despite poor putting so there could be some chance for Mickelson.  He is a very positive person and doesn’t have the same personal baggage Tiger has so you never know what Phil will do next.  Still reality says that he may never win again.

In looking at players that get over the age of 40, it doesn’t mean they can’t win again.  Vijay Singh won 22 times, Sam Snead 17 times, Kenny Perry 11, Julius Boros (including a major at 48) and Steve Stricker with 9.  Mickelson has won 42 times but only five in his 40s so he has not produced since his 40th birthday in June of 2010.  Another who has struggled since turning 40 is Jim Furyk.  He turned 40 in May of 2010, he won the Tour Championship along with the FedEx Cup championship a few months after that but Furyk has not won since.  He is at 16 wins with one major and on the bubble for becoming a Hall-of-Famer.  I feel that if Furyk doesn’t win again, he won’t make it.  Yes he has had a great career but not great enough.  He has won over $62 million but let’s be real, what do we remember Furyk for?  His 2002 U.S. Open victory and winning the FedEx Cup in 2010, that’s it.  Furyk’s career in the win department is very forgetful, eight of his wins have come on courses with palm trees on them and nobody remembers those wins.  Since winning the FedEx Cup in 2010 he has had many chances of winning.  We all know the stat, he is 0 for 9 in winning when leading or co-leading going into the final round.  But look at this chart on GOLFstats, 21 times he has been in contention going into the final round and hasn’t won.  Sorry this isn’t a hall-of-fame resume and for fantasy golf players is probably a complete turnoff.

Brandt Snedeker

All I can say is that he is back.  We saw his great run at the end of 2012 and ’13.  Only because of injuries was his game derailed.  But I see nothing but strong play from Brandt from here on.  If there is one favorite in the majors other than Rory, it’s Brandt.  I wouldn’t be surprised to see him win one, he will win other events in 2015.

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 and Pebble Beach are the only ones that have hosted both the U.S. Open and the PGA Championship.
  • In the history of this tournament, 48 of the 88 winners have also won a major championship.  Going a step further, 32 of the 52 winners at Riviera have also won a major championship  Of those 32, 20 have also won the Masters so there is a link between winners at both Augusta National and Riviera.
  • 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 than 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 either in a playoff (8 times) or with a one-stroke win (8 times) 16 times – the last being John Merrick’s playoff victory in 2013.

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 2014 Riviera was the 24th hardest course on the PGA Tour playing to a 71.209 average while in 2013 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 than70 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 has been in the top ten every year since they have kept track in 2003 of 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, look at how it’s been done since 2003.

  • In 2014 players made 84.87%, which ranked 2nd on tour.  Winner Bubba Watson made 88.57% ranking 18th
  • In 2013 players made 83.37%, which ranked 2nd on tour.  Winner John Merrick made 85.53% ranking T33rd
  • In 2012 players made 84.39%, which ranked 1st on tour.  Winner Bill Haas made 87.14% ranking 22nd
  • In 2011 players made 84.84%, which ranked 1st on tour.  Winner Aaron Baddeley made 91.18% ranking 6th
  • In 2010 players made 86.48%, which ranked 8th on tour.  Winner Steve Stricker made 84.51% ranking 61st
  • In 2009 players made 85.67%, which ranked 7th on tour.  Winner Phil Mickelson made 87.84% ranking T29th
  • In 2008 players made 85.08%, which ranked 5th on tour.  Winner Phil Mickelson made 91.55% ranking 4th
  • In 2007 players made 85.35%, which ranked 6th on tour.  Winner Charles Howell made 91.78% ranking 2nd
  • In 2006 players made 85.30%, which ranked 3rd on tour.  Winner Rory Sabbatini made 82.89% ranking T63rd
  • In 2005 players made 86.53%, which ranked 8th on tour.  Winner Adam Scott made 85.71% ranking T57th
  • In 2004 players made 85.04%, which ranked 4th on tour.  Winner Mike Weir made 93.75% ranking 4th
  • In 2003 players made 84.90%, which ranked 1st on tour.  Winner Mike Weir made 85.71% ranking T38th

So all of the players that have played at Riviera since 2003 make 85.15% of the putts from ten feet in while the last 12 winners average making 88.01 of their putts from ten feet in.

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. So you would think placing drives in the right spot is important.  Consider some of the champions over the last 23 years:  Bill Haas, Steve Stricker, Charles Howell III, Rory Sabbatini, Mike Weir, Len Mattiace, Nick Faldo, Kirk Triplett, Craig Stadler, Corey Pavin, Tom Kite and Ted Schultz have the reputation of being the best in placing drives in the right spot.  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 2014 winner Bubba Watson who was T8th but before that it was Nick Faldo in 1997.  Of the 18 since 1997, only six have finished in the top-25 so that means that 12 of them were out of the top-25, amazing. So being a straight driver is not an advantage at Riviera.
  • Experience is key. The list of champions in the last 21 years includes Bubba Watson, 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.
  • 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, right?  Not really, in the last 18 years only five winners have been in the top-five for the week in greens hit while eight have been out of the top-ten.  Bill Haas was the worst in 2012, he was 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.  In 2013 John Merrick ranked T23rd hitting 46 of 72 greens while last year Bubba Watson ranked T3rd hitting 51 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 Bubba Watson ranked T15th taking just 108 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.

So how has the past winners done scrambling in their winning year?  Of the 13 winners since 2002, seven of them have been in the top-10.

  • In 2014 Bubba Watson was T16th getting it up and down 15 out of 21 tries (71.43%).
  • In 2013 John Merrick was 19th getting it up and down 17 out of 26 tries (65.38%).
  • In 2012 Bill Haas was 7th getting it up and down 26 out of 36 tries (72.22%).
  • In 2011 Aaron Baddeley was 1st getting it up and down 18 out of 20 tries (90.00%).
  • In 2010 Steve Stricker was T8th getting it up and down 19 out of 24 tries (79.17%).
  • In 2009 Phil Mickelson was T29th getting it up and down 14 out of 21 tries (66.67%).
  • In 2008 Phil Mickelson was 4th getting it up and down 20 out of 26 tries (76.92%).
  • In 2007 Charles Howell III was T6th getting it up and down 16 out of 21 tries (76.19%).
  • In 2006 Rory Sabbatini was T62nd getting it up and down 14 out of 24 tries (58.33%).
  • In 2005 Adam Scott was T14th getting it up and down 8 out of 10 tries (80.00%).
  • In 2004 Mike Weir was T7th getting it up and down 20 out of 26 tries (76.92%).
  • In 2003 Mike Weir was 6th getting it up and down 19 out of 26 tries.
  • In 2002 Len Mattiace was T11th getting it up and down 22 out of 28 tries (78.57%).
  • In 2001 Robert Allenby was 69th getting it up and down 11 out of 20 tries (55.00%).
  • In 2000 Kirk Triplett was 71st (dead last) getting it up and down 5 out of 14 tries (38.46%).

Last but not least, the weather is dreadful in the northeast but this week will be perfect in Los Angeles.  Look for great temperatures and only one possible day of rain, Saturday but that is only a 20% chance of rain.  Rest of the week will be bone dry.

 

 

Who to watch for at the Northern Trust Open

Best Bets:

Charl Schwartzel

2015 ’14 ’13 ’12 ’11 ’10 ’09 ’08 ’07 ’06 ’05 ’04 ’03
5 T3

We know how important it is to have that link with Augusta National, he has won the Masters and come close two times in this event.

Dustin Johnson

2015 ’14 ’13 ’12 ’11 ’10 ’09 ’08 ’07 ’06 ’05 ’04 ’03
2 CUT T4 CUT T3 T10 T59

Four top-tens in last six starts, his game seems to improve every time he has played in the last two weeks.

Nick Watney

2015 ’14 ’13 ’12 ’11 ’10 ’09 ’08 ’07 ’06 ’05 ’04 ’03
T34 CUT T59 CUT CUT T19

Hasn’t played well at Riviera with no top-tens in six tries, but his game seems to be blossoming so you have to think he can win anyplace he wants.

Best of the rest:

Jimmy Walker

2015 ’14 ’13 ’12 ’11 ’10 ’09 ’08 ’07 ’06 ’05 ’04 ’03
T20 T16 T4 T4 T37 70 T39 CUT

Still a danger anytime he tees it up, has had another very succesful west coast swing.

Harris English

2015 ’14 ’13 ’12 ’11 ’10 ’09 ’08 ’07 ’06 ’05 ’04 ’03
T10 T51

A pair of top-threes at Sony and Phoenix, was T10th at Northern Trust last year.

Brandt Snedeker

2015 ’14 ’13 ’12 ’11 ’10 ’09 ’08 ’07 ’06 ’05 ’04 ’03
T17 CUT T20 CUT CUT

Not very impressive of a record at Riviera, still he is playing very good golf right now so I’m not going to count him out.

Jordan Spieth

2015 ’14 ’13 ’12 ’11 ’10 ’09 ’08 ’07 ’06 ’05 ’04 ’03
T12 CUT

This is a great course for him, only question is if his game is in shape and he has a pair of 7 place finishes in the last month.

Solid contenders

Sergio Garcia

2015 ’14 ’13 ’12 ’11 ’10 ’09 ’08 ’07 ’06 ’05 ’04 ’03
T13 T4 T46 6 T20 CUT

Has a good record at Riviera, but I am concern at his poor results since finishing T2nd at CIMB Classic back in November. Have to think that he will be ready, but you never know with Sergio.

Bubba Watson

2015 ’14 ’13 ’12 ’11 ’10 ’09 ’08 ’07 ’06 ’05 ’04 ’03
Win CUT T13 WD CUT T17 T14 CUT

Have to like the past winner, was T2nd in last start at Phoenix and is game shows he knows how to play at Riviera.

Bill Haas

2015 ’14 ’13 ’12 ’11 ’10 ’09 ’08 ’07 ’06 ’05 ’04 ’03
T23 T3 Win T12 CUT CUT T36 T22 T51

This guy is really good on this course, has played well this year and the good play could continue

J.B. Holmes

2015 ’14 ’13 ’12 ’11 ’10 ’09 ’08 ’07 ’06 ’05 ’04 ’03
T52 CUT T8 T12 T3 T6 T7 T51

Good record at Riviera and is playing great right now.

Long shots that could come through:

Charlie Beljan

2015 ’14 ’13 ’12 ’11 ’10 ’09 ’08 ’07 ’06 ’05 ’04 ’03
T12 2

Played great at Pebble last week and played great here the last two years, this is the darkhorse pick of the week.

Alex Prugh

2015 ’14 ’13 ’12 ’11 ’10 ’09 ’08 ’07 ’06 ’05 ’04 ’03
CUT T10

Has shown a lot in the last two weeks, could continue it this week.

George McNeill

2015 ’14 ’13 ’12 ’11 ’10 ’09 ’08 ’07 ’06 ’05 ’04 ’03
T6 T33 T49 T5 CUT T36 T44

Has had some good results at Riviera.

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