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BlogNorthern Trust Preview and Picks

Northern Trust Open

February 18th – 21st, 2016

Riviera C.C.

Pacific Palisades, Ca.

Par: 71 / Yardage:

Purse: $6.8 million

with $1,224,000 to the winner

Defending Champion:
James Hahn

by Sal Johnson

Founder, Chief Data Officer, GOLFstats

E-mail me at:
sal@golfstats.com

This week’s field includes:

The field includes 48 of the top 100 and 24 of the top 50 in the latest Official World Rankings, with five players #1 Jordan Spieth, #3 Rory McIlroy, #6 Bubba Watson, #7 Justin Rose and #8 Dustin Johnson from the top-ten. The other top 50 players are  #12 Hideki Matsuyama, #18 Sergio Garcia, #19 Adam Scott, #22 J.B. Holmes, #24 Jimmy Walker, #25 Kevin Na, #27 Matt Kuchar, #28 Paul Casey, #29 Andy Sullivan, #30 Marc Leishman, #31 Charl Schwartzel, #34 Danny Lee, #37 Bernd Wiesberger, #40 Bill Haas, #41 Justin Thomas, #47 Robert Streb, #48 Billy Horschel, #49 Anirban Lahiri and #50 Chris Kirk.

Last year there were 25 top-50 players in the field.

The field includes 13 of the top 25 on the FedEx point standings for 2016. Those players are #4 Kevin Na, #5 Justin Thomas, #6 Smylie Kaufman, #8 Jason Dufner, #9 Fabian Gomez, #10 Hideki Matsuyama, #12 Jordan Spieth, #15 Vaughn Taylor, #18 Peter Malnati, #20 Charles Howell III, #21 Freddie Jacobson, #22 Si Woo Kim and #25 K.J. Choi.

The field includes 13 players in the top 25 on this year’s PGA Tour money list.  Those players are #4 Kevin Na, #5 Smylie Kaufman, #6 Justin Thomas, #8 Jason Dufner, #8 Hideki Matsuyama, #9 Jordan Spieth, #10 Fabian Gomez, #12 Vaughn Taylor, #17 Peter Malnati, #20 Freddie Jacobson, #21 Charles Howell III, #22 K.J. Choi and #24 Adam Scott.

The field includes 12 past champions: James Hahn (2015), Bubba Watson (2014), John Merrick (2013), Bill Haas (2012), Aaron Baddeley (2011), Steve Stricker (2010), Charles Howell III (2007), Adam Scott (2005), 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.

**NOTE**

One thing to look for is our new GOLFstats IQ.  For those that play in fantasy golf it’s a perfect way to help you pick those players in Draft Kings and Victiv games.  You can customize the list of those in the tournaments, to look back a couple or many years of tournament stats and you can go back a couple or ten weeks prior to the tournament.  On top of that, all the stats are fully sortable to help you pick your six players, we even give you their value for the week to help you chose.

That’s GOLFstats IQ, give it a try and tell us what you think of it

24/7 GOLF

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We have the perfect solution for you.  If you own a Iphone or a Ipad we have developed a perfect app called 24/7 GOLF.

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Screen Shot 2015-04-23 at 12.01.34 AM

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 Tshwane Open Phoenix Open Dubai Desert Farmers Qatar Masters CareerBuilder Abu Dhabi Sony Open Joburg Open Hyundai T. of Champions South African
J.B. Holmes
(176.33 pts)
T11
(39)
DNP T6
(60)
DNP T6
(60)
DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP T24
(17.33)
DNP
Jimmy Walker
(170.33 pts)
T11
(39)
DNP DNP DNP T4
(80)
DNP DNP DNP T13
(24.67)
DNP T10
(26.67)
DNP
Jordan Spieth
(163.67 pts)
T21
(29)
DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP T5
(46.67)
DNP DNP Win
(88)
DNP
Freddie Jacobson
(160 pts)
T4
(80)
DNP DNP DNP T4
(80)
DNP 69
(0)
DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP
John Huh
(138.67 pts)
DNP DNP T6
(60)
DNP T8
(50)
DNP T24
(17.33)
DNP T33
(11.33)
DNP DNP DNP
Danny Lee
(134.67 pts)
T30
(20)
DNP 4
(80)
DNP T58
(0)
DNP DNP DNP T33
(11.33)
DNP T15
(23.33)
DNP
K.J. Choi
(133.67 pts)
T115
(0)
DNP T17
(33)
DNP 2
(100)
DNP DNP DNP T50
(0.67)
DNP DNP DNP
Charl Schwartzel
(132 pts)
DNP Win
(132)
DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP
Vaughn Taylor
(132 pts)
Win
(132)
DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP
Si Woo Kim
(130.33 pts)
T35
(15)
DNP T67
(0)
DNP T18
(32)
DNP T9
(30)
DNP 4
(53.33)
DNP DNP DNP
Hideki Matsuyama
(122 pts)
DNP DNP Win
(132)
DNP CUT
(-10)
DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP
Rory McIlroy
(120 pts)
DNP DNP DNP T6
(60)
DNP DNP DNP T3
(60)
DNP DNP DNP DNP
Andy Sullivan
(112 pts)
DNP DNP DNP T2
(100)
DNP DNP DNP T22
(18.67)
DNP DNP DNP CUT
(-6.67)
Charles Howell III
(110.67 pts)
DNP DNP T24
(26)
DNP T16
(34)
DNP T11
(26)
DNP T13
(24.67)
DNP DNP DNP
Harris English
(109 pts)
DNP DNP 3
(90)
DNP T31
(19)
DNP DNP DNP T56
(0)
DNP DNP DNP
Fabian Gomez
(108 pts)
DNP DNP CUT
(-10)
DNP CUT
(-10)
DNP DNP DNP Win
(88)
DNP T6
(40)
DNP
Jason Dufner
(108 pts)
T51
(0)
DNP CUT
(-10)
DNP DNP DNP Win
(88)
DNP T9
(30)
DNP DNP DNP
Kevin Na
(100.67 pts)
T106
(0)
DNP T24
(26)
DNP DNP DNP T3
(60)
DNP T28
(14.67)
DNP DNP DNP
Hiroshi Iwata
(98.67 pts)
T4
(80)
DNP DNP DNP T18
(32)
DNP CUT
(-6.67)
DNP CUT
(-6.67)
DNP DNP DNP
Bill Haas
(91.33 pts)
T8
(50)
DNP DNP DNP CUT
(-10)
DNP T9
(30)
DNP DNP DNP T18
(21.33)
DNP
Bernd Wiesberger
(87 pts)
DNP DNP DNP T16
(34)
DNP T13
(37)
DNP T26
(16)
DNP DNP DNP DNP
Jamie Lovemark
(85.67 pts)
DNP DNP CUT
(-10)
DNP T31
(19)
DNP T6
(40)
DNP T7
(36.67)
DNP DNP DNP
Gary Woodland
(73.67 pts)
DNP DNP T33
(17)
DNP T18
(32)
DNP DNP DNP T13
(24.67)
DNP DNP DNP
Adam Hadwin
(73 pts)
DNP DNP T17
(33)
DNP T63
(0)
DNP T6
(40)
DNP T67
(0)
DNP DNP DNP
Andrew Loupe
(70 pts)
T41
(9)
DNP DNP DNP T49
(1)
DNP T3
(60)
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 Tshwane Open Phoenix Open Dubai Desert Farmers Qatar Masters CareerBuilder Abu Dhabi Sony Open Joburg Open Hyundai T. of Champions South African
Camilo Villegas
(-33.33 pts)
DNP DNP CUT
(-10)
DNP CUT
(-10)
DNP CUT
(-6.67)
DNP CUT
(-6.67)
DNP DNP DNP
Charlie Beljan
(-33.33 pts)
T123
(0)
DNP CUT
(-10)
DNP CUT
(-10)
DNP CUT
(-6.67)
DNP CUT
(-6.67)
DNP DNP DNP
Carl Pettersson
(-28.33 pts)
DNP DNP WD
(-5)
DNP CUT
(-10)
DNP CUT
(-6.67)
DNP CUT
(-6.67)
DNP DNP DNP
Whee Kim
(-26.67 pts)
CUT
(-10)
DNP T56
(0)
DNP CUT
(-10)
DNP CUT
(-6.67)
DNP T84
(0)
DNP DNP DNP
Andres Gonzales
(-26.67 pts)
T98
(0)
DNP CUT
(-10)
DNP CUT
(-10)
DNP CUT
(-6.67)
DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP
Shawn Stefani
(-26 pts)
DNP DNP CUT
(-10)
DNP CUT
(-10)
DNP CUT
(-6.67)
DNP T50
(0.67)
DNP DNP DNP
Chad Collins
(-23.33 pts)
T86
(0)
DNP CUT
(-10)
DNP DNP DNP CUT
(-6.67)
DNP CUT
(-6.67)
DNP DNP DNP
Will MacKenzie
(-23.33 pts)
T98
(0)
DNP DNP DNP CUT
(-10)
DNP CUT
(-6.67)
DNP CUT
(-6.67)
DNP DNP DNP
Johnson Wagner
(-23.33 pts)
DNP DNP DNP DNP CUT
(-10)
DNP CUT
(-6.67)
DNP CUT
(-6.67)
DNP DNP DNP
Robert Allenby
(-23.33 pts)
DNP DNP DNP DNP CUT
(-10)
DNP CUT
(-6.67)
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 isn’t what it use to be when the Match Play followed it.  Now Europeans are waiting for the Florida swing and not playing here.  Still they did get Rory McIlroy to play which helps elevate this event.

Sorry Phil, but great to see Vaughn Taylor win:

I am a big Phil Mickelson fan but in a way was happy that Phil didn’t make that five footer on 18.  When Taylor went on his tear making four straight birdies I was disappointed thinking he was going to steal the event from Phil.  But the more I looked into it and listen to the commentary on CBS I realized the tough grind that Taylor has been the last five years.  So when it looked like Mickelson wasn’t going to catch Taylor was happy, but Phil made that great birdie at 17.  Have to think the golf Gods were watching over Taylor when Mickelson missed that five footer, he will make that putt nine out of ten times.  The reality of Phil making the putt was we would see Taylor playing for his golfing life.  Second place didn’t do anything for Taylor, other than getting him in this week.  But now he will get to play the PGA Tour through 2018, get to play in the Masters and the other invitational’s invitational’s that Tour winners get.  So sorry Phil but I bet the pain of losing was eased just a bit with what this victory meant to Taylor.

What about Phil?

Have to say he is back and his game is rejuvenated.  Now before you all think that his new coach Andrew Getson is some genius, Phil did the same thing when he started working with Butch Harmon in 2007.  Ten weeks after they started working Phil won the Players Championship and went on to have six very productive years.  In talking with Butch after the Players win I asked him what he did to change Phil, Butch laughed and said he gave him confidence.  Butch is very good in getting players in the right frame of mind and I really think that Phil’s new coach Getson has done the same thing.  Phil seems to feel good with his swing and game and that is 90% of the game.  Phil will win and win very soon.  The big question, will Phil ever be able to do it at the U.S. Open?  May not be this year at Oakmont, but I can see Phil muster up that one win to complete the slam.  Just remember one thing, in 2019 the U.S. Open returns to Pebble Beach and even though Phil would be 49 it’s not out of his reach.

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 54 courses that will hold a PGA Tour event this year, Riviera, Pebble Beach, Congressional, Baltusrol and Oakmont 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 89 winners have also won a major championship.  Going a step further, 32 of the 53 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, 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 19 playoffs at the tournament, with eight 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), John Merrick (2013) and James Hahn (2015). Dating back to 1989, the tournament has ended either in a playoff (9 times) or with a one-stroke win (8 times).  So out of 27 times – 17 have been won by playoff or a shot.

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 2015 Riviera was the 5th hardest course on the PGA Tour playing to a 72.59 average while 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 under 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 is a new feature we have, a look at key stats that are important for those playing at Riviera:

This is based on the most important stats for Riviera, based on data from last years Northern Trust, and using data from all the players in the field with stats from 2015 and 2016. What we do is take there rank for each stat and average that number between players rank in ’15 & ’16
The scoring average of the field at Riviera in 2015 was 72.59, so with par being 71 that means the average score was a shot and a half over par, making Riviera the 5th hardest course to score on in 2015. It’s also important to see how the weather played a factor, it was perfect each day with very little wind. The course did play very fast and dry.

In looking at the stats for Riviera last year Greens hit, driving accuracy and putting are striking. Riviera had the hardest greens to hit of all the courses in 2015 and it was the sixth hardest in driving accuracy. Putting also showed that you have to putt well, last year it ranked first in putting from 4 to 8 feet and inside 10 feet. Also interesting to know that it ranked 2nd in putting from 10 to 15 feet, 5th on putts from 20 to 25 feet and 7th in putts made over 25 feet.

So how did the winner James Hahn win last year. He won in a playoff over Dustin Johnson and Paul Casey. He was better by a shot over Jordan Spieth, Keegan Bradley, Sergio Garcia and Hideki Satsuyama So how did Hahn win, he ranked T-34th in fairways hit, T-28th in greens hit and T-28 in putts over ten feet. Hahn was 2nd in strokes gained putting for the Northern Trust, but he never how any trouble and stuck around with a final round of 69-69.

A couple of other things to look for making birdies, it ranked 8th in birdie averages and 2nd in par 4s, so look for that certain player that does well on the par 4s.

*Greens in Regulation: Since the greens average just 5,000 square feet, they are some of the smallest on the PGA Tour. So it’s easy to see why lot’s of greens are missed. Last year on the PGA Tour, the greens of Riviera were the hardest to hit. This has been the norm for Riviera, in 2014 it ranked 9th, in 2013 3rd, in 2012 2nd and 8th in 2011. So a player that hits lots of greens will have an advantage.

*Driving Accuracy: Important because the fairways are tight with towering eucalyptus trees making it tough when your off the fairway. But another thing making it tough hitting it off the fairways is the Kikuyu rough. It may not look very long but the ball nestles down and the grass is very tough and hard to get a club through, so hitting fairways is important

*Putting inside 10 feet: In 2015 Riviera was the easiest greens to putt. Players love the greens because they are fast and are easy to read. They are very true and don’t have much undulation so lot’s of putts are made. The greens of Riviera have always been generous, last year it ranked 1st on the PGA Tour. It was also first in 2011 and 2012, in 2013 and ’14 it ranked 2nd. So players that do well in the range of ten feet and under will do great.

*Scoring Average: Last year the course was the 5th hardest on tour with a scoring average of 72.59. So those that can go low will play well this week..

Click any column title in the table header to sort columns.

 

 

For the rest of the players, hit this link

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 2015 players made 85.15%, which ranked 1st on tour.  Winner James Hahn made 82.05% ranking 65th.
  • 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 85.14% of the putts from ten feet in while the last 12 winners average making 86.21 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 19 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 22 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 19 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 in 2014 Bubba Watson ranked T3rd hitting 51 of 72 greens and last year James Hahn hit 40 of 72 which ranked T-28th.
  • 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.  In 2014 Bubba Watson ranked T15th taking just 108 putts while James Hahn took 107 putts and ranked T-10th.

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 14 winners since 2002, seven of them have been in the top-10.

  • in 2015 James Hahn was 13th getting it up and down 22 out of 32 tries (68.75%).
  • 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. It will rain most of Wednesday and be cloudy on Thursday, but after that it will be perfect with no rain and it day it will get warmer with it getting to 80 on Sunday.

 

 

 

Who to watch for at the Northern Trust Open

Best Bets:

Rory McIlroy

2016 ’15 ’14 ’13 ’12 ’11 ’10 ’09 ’08 ’07 ’06 ’05 ’04
First time playing in this event

Just have a feeling that Riviera is going to be perfect for Rory’s game, he hits lot’s of greens and hits it straight.

Jordan Spieth

2016 ’15 ’14 ’13 ’12 ’11 ’10 ’09 ’08 ’07 ’06 ’05 ’04
T4 T12 CUT

He also makes lot’s of putts and came very close to getting into the playoff last year.

Paul Casey

2016 ’15 ’14 ’13 ’12 ’11 ’10 ’09 ’08 ’07 ’06 ’05 ’04
T2 T12 T22 CUT

Has the game to really play well on this course, could of won last year.

Best of the rest:

Sergio Garcia

2016 ’15 ’14 ’13 ’12 ’11 ’10 ’09 ’08 ’07 ’06 ’05 ’04
T4 T13 T4 T46 6 T20

Always plays well at Riviera, again he is great on shotmaker type of courses which this is.

Dustin Johnson

2016 ’15 ’14 ’13 ’12 ’11 ’10 ’09 ’08 ’07 ’06 ’05 ’04
T2 2 CUT T4 CUT T3 T10 T59

19 under in his last eight rounds at Riviera, if he is driving great he will play great.

Keegan Bradley

2016 ’15 ’14 ’13 ’12 ’11 ’10 ’09 ’08 ’07 ’06 ’05 ’04
T4 T20 T16 T2 CUT

Has not been over par in last 16 rounds, course brings out the best in him.

Freddie Jacobson

2016 ’15 ’14 ’13 ’12 ’11 ’10 ’09 ’08 ’07 ’06 ’05 ’04
CUT T3 T13 75 T55 CUT T39

His game is coming together and he could win this week, remember he was T-3rd in 2013.

Justin Rose

2016 ’15 ’14 ’13 ’12 ’11 ’10 ’09 ’08 ’07 ’06 ’05 ’04
T45 T13 T9 T37 CUT T62 T39 T58 T59

Game show some spark last week at Pebble, course should be right up his alley.

Solid contenders

J.B. Holmes

2016 ’15 ’14 ’13 ’12 ’11 ’10 ’09 ’08 ’07 ’06 ’05 ’04
T22 T52 CUT T8 T12 T3 T6 T7 T51

Course could be good for him, of course it’s always down to his putting. Has played great the last three weeks.

Jimmy Walker

2016 ’15 ’14 ’13 ’12 ’11 ’10 ’09 ’08 ’07 ’06 ’05 ’04
T41 T20 T16 T4 T4 T37 70 T39 CUT

Watch him on this course, has played well in the past.

Charl Schwartzel

2016 ’15 ’14 ’13 ’12 ’11 ’10 ’09 ’08 ’07 ’06 ’05 ’04
T41 5 T3

Coming off a win in South Africa, plays well at Riviera but could be a bit jet-lagged.

Adam Scott

2016 ’15 ’14 ’13 ’12 ’11 ’10 ’09 ’08 ’07 ’06 ’05 ’04
T10 T17 CUT T14 T69 2 Win

Never forget about him on a course like Riviera.

Long shots that could come through:

Charles Howell III

2016 ’15 ’14 ’13 ’12 ’11 ’10 ’09 ’08 ’07 ’06 ’05 ’04
T61 CUT CUT CUT T66 CUT T59 T55 Win T51 T47 73

Past champion that could do it, he always seems to finish in the top-20.

Justin Thomas

2016 ’15 ’14 ’13 ’12 ’11 ’10 ’09 ’08 ’07 ’06 ’05 ’04
T41

Have to think his game will come around real soon.

Jamie Lovemark

2016 ’15 ’14 ’13 ’12 ’11 ’10 ’09 ’08 ’07 ’06 ’05 ’04
CUT

Played a lot of college golf at Riviera.

Still Not sold on him:

Bubba Watson

2016 ’15 ’14 ’13 ’12 ’11 ’10 ’09 ’08 ’07 ’06 ’05 ’04
T14 Win CUT T13 WD CUT T17 T14 CUT

His game seems to be on another planet right now, still can’t be trusted to play well

Comments

  1. I’m with you on Bubba, just think his mind won’t be right till the Florida swing.

  2. Great read, thanks for your time.

  3. Rick Nowosad says:

    Re: Howell
    “Past champion that could do it, he always seems to finish in the top-20.”

    Of course anything is possible, even his win in 2007. But otherwise, his best finish here over the last dozen years is a T47… long shot indeed!

    Based on current form, Matsuyama, Hahn, English and Choi might be far better long shots. That said, Howell will probably win!

  4. Isnt’ frustrating on how inconsistent Bubba has gotten?
    You never know when his true game will shine or when he will play terrible.

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