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Northern Trust Open Preview and Picks

   by Matt Fargo - 02/15/2011

The PGA Tour continues with the California swing as it stops at Riviera Country Club for the Northern Trust Open. Formerly known as the Nissan Open, this event usually brings in a solid field and that is the case again this year. This is one of the oldest stops on tour as the event goes back to 1940 and Riviera has been the lone host since 1999. Last season, the tournament was contested on the weekend of the Super Bowl but it is back in its normal spot following the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am.

Riviera Country Club has long been known within golfing circles as “Hogan’s Alley” after the legendary Ben Hogan won three times here in a span of 18 months (two L.A. Opens and the U.S. Open sandwiched between). The layout will be around 7,300 yards and driving distance will be a premium as always at this time of the year because of the softness of the course as rain is in the forecast all week. Course management is still the most important factor however and knowledge of the track is almost mandatory.

The top nine in the current FedEx standings are in the field as well as 31 of the top 50 of the Official World Golf Rankings including five of the top 10. We also have nine past champions and a very stellar 22 Majors winners in the field. Fan favorites include Phil Mickelson, Jim Furyk, Steve Stricker and Fred Couples while making debuts this week are Paul Casey and Luke Donald. Overall this is one of the deepest fields we have seen so far this season and it comes at the best possible time.

Phil Mickelson (+800) will be making his fourth start this season following a T9 at the AT&T last week which followed up a shaky event in Phoenix. He heads to Riviera with a solid track record as he won here in 2009 and 2010 while finishing second four years ago. He finished a disappointing T45 last year but it was only his second start of the season so rust can be used as an excuse.

Defending champion Steve Sticker (+1200) returns to the U.S. following an overseas trip and he looks to start right where he left off. He finished T4 and T9 in the two Hawaii stops and last year he opened at Riviera with 67-65-66 and despite a final round 70, his lead was never in jeopardy. This came after a solo second in 2009 and a T11 in 2008 so he is obviously a horse for the course.

Matt Kuchar (+2000) has not played in three weeks but that is no concern. After his spectacular season a year ago, the time off did not hurt as he started this season with finishes of T6, T5 and T7 so his string of top 25’s is now at 12 dating back to last season. Kuchar has not had great success at Riviera as his best finish is a T14 back in 2008 but he has never missed the cut in five appearances.

Making his fourth start in four weeks is J.B. Holmes (+2500) who heads to Riviera with a great track record on this course. He finished T13 last week at the AT&T after a subpar weekend which came after a T5 at the Waste Management two weeks prior. He has played here the last three years and has finishes of T3, T6 and T7 so it is safe to say he likes playing in Pacific Palisades.

Anthony Kim (+3000) comes with some good value this week. He started the season with three straight top 20’s including a T6 at the Farmers before missing the cut in Phoenix. He has had a week off and comes in fresh. He finished T9 at Riviera in 2007, missed the cut in 2008 and then finished T52 last year. He closed with a 78 last year and it was his debut tournament so he gets a mulligan there.

We took at shot with Steve Marino (+5000) last week and he almost came through with his first PGA Tour win. He finished T4 last week at Pebble Beach after a disappointing Sunday 74 and last year at Riviera, he finished T5. He has the distinction of being the only player in the field with top fives last week and last year in this event. He opened the year with a T2 at the Sony.

Northern Trust Open Matchup Bets (All from sportsbook.com) – All for 2 Units

Steve Stricker +105 over Phil Mickelson

Dustin Johnson -115 over Luke Donald

Matt Kuchar -115 over Hunter Mahan

Bill Haas -115 over Bubba Watson

Steve Marino -120 over Brandt Snedeker

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