The Northern Trust Open | Thursday 19 February - Sunday 22 February | Riviera Country Club
This week the PGA Tour heads to the Riviera Country Club for the Northern Trust Open and after the spectacle that was Pebble Beach, it’s going to be interesting to see what transpires here. Thankfully for us this is a tournament that has been around for nearly ninety years and the past 44 instalments have been played on this track so there’s a lot of course information available which always helps. Traditionally, experience on this track has been key and it’s rare that a player wins on debut so keep an eye on those who’ve participated in the past. The course measures in at 7,349 yards so it’s not the longest around but course management is vital as there are a few longer holes that require big hitting.
Clearly the key is knowing when to go big and when to hold back which is a skill that only a few players possess and which comes with experience. The greens are also small so accuracy with the irons is vital if birdies are going to be made, as is the ability to scramble because saving shots will go a long way in ensuring players finish near the top. This is always a competitive event and with the field that has assembled this time around this year looks to be no different. So can we find a winner? Let’s hope so.
To Win Outright
Jordan Spieth 12/1
Bubba Watson 12/1
Dustin Johnson 12/1
Jimmy Walker 16/1
Brandt Snedeker 22/1
Bill Haas (30/1 a win, 66/1 a place)
In events like this, the obvious starting point is tournament form and with that in mind there’s no need to look a whole lot further than Bill Haas. Over the past few years he has performed commendably at Riviera and a win in 2012 was followed up with a third-place finish in 2013. Although he faded a bit last year he still finished inside the Top 25 but he wasn’t playing as well then as he is now and should improve on that significantly this year. He’s playing some great golf at the moment and won his first event of the year a few weeks ago at the Humana Challenge. He hasn’t really looked like winning again which explains the price of 30/1 but he can’t be discounted on a course that he thrives on. Each way here is the bet for me.
JB Holmes (40/1 a win, 88/10 a place)
Bookies seem to consistently underrate JB Holmes and this week that could prove a fatal error as he arrives in form on a course that he has fared well on in the past. Despite poor showings in this event in 2014 and 2013 he has posted four Top 10s here since 2008 and with his game the way it is at the moment he could easily repeat that this year. A T10 finish in the tough Pebble Beach Pro-Am showed he has what it takes to play tough, technical courses and a T2 at the Farmers Insurance Open proves that he’s ready to win. Again, each way is the bet for me.
Rory Sabbatini (125/1 a win, 27/1 a place)
Oh Rory…in my old age I’ve become wary of these bigger prices but when one does tickle my fancy it’s almost inevitably Rory Sabbatini and every time he lets me down. This week I’m hoping all of that changes though as he’s playing some great golf at the moment and in his last few starts he’s managed five Top 25s, a clear sign that he’s over the injury woes that plagued him for most of 2014. He’s another player who enjoys the course and a win in 2006 has been followed by three Top 10s. A tentative each way bet on Rory is my tip here. If it pays off I’ll forgive him for being himself.
Dustin Johnson (12/1 a win, 26/10 a place)
I tipped Johnson on his return and that was a mistake but he came out firing at Pebble Beach and his fourth-place finish has catapulted him back into the good books of punters and into a position as one of the favourites here. With the performance he put in last week he looks to be a worthy bet on a course where he’s finished in the Top 5 in his last three starts; don’t discount him this week. Straight wins is the bet for me.