2011 PGA Northern Trust Open, Riviera Country Club, Pacific Palisides, CA
Thursday, February 17, 2011-Sunday, February 20, 2011, TV: Golf Channel, CBS
Defending Champion: Steve Stricker
The PGA tour comes to Pacific Palisades for the event that used to be called the Los Angeles Open and then the Nissan Open. One of the oldest courses on tour, the Riviera Country Club has hosted a PGA event every year since 1926. The course is 7,279 yards and is a Par 71. It was shortened by 19 yards for last year’s event. It ranked as the 20th most difficult course out of 52 last year on the PGA tour. The most difficult hole is the 18th, a par-4 475 yard hole. It is one of the most famous finishing holes in golf. The tee shot is blind and you must carry the hill to have a chance to reach the green. The easiest hole is the par 5 503 yard 1st hole. If you are long and accurate on your tee shot, you have an excellent chance at a birdie or eagle, but if you miss the fairway, they you could be in trouble.
Eight former champions of this event are in the field in 2011, including last year’s champion Steve Stricker, Phil Mickelson, Charles Howell III, Rory Sabbatini, Mike Weir, Robert Allenby, Billy Mayfair, Corey Pavin, and Fred Couples. All five winners of 2011 events are in the field as well, including Jonathan Byrd, Mark Wilson, Jhonattan Vegas, Bubba Watson, and D.A. Points. Here is a look at some of the contenders and their odds courtesy of bodog. I will also give some props and head to head match-ups I like as well.
1. Phil Mickelson (8/1) Mickelson finished tied for 9th at Pebble Beach last week, his second top ten of the year. He has won this event twice in 2008 and 2009. He co-led the field last week in greens in regulation a vital skill for taming Riviera. It is also key to score birdies or better on the par-4’s something Mickelson excels at. “Lefty” is always worth a play, but I think you can get better value on Mickelson at -140 to finish in the top 10.
2. Steve Stricker (12/1) Stricker is the defending champion and has 2 top 10 finishes in 2 events played this season. He was also the runner up to Mickelson in 2009, and finished tied for 11th in 2008. Stricker is 6th in greens in regulation and 4th in birdies on par-4’s. Stricker is obviously capable of winning this event, but I think a better play is Stricker at even money to beat Mickelson head to head. You can also get Stricker at +110 to finish in the top ten.
3. Matt Kuchar (20/1) Kuchar has 3 top 10’s in 3 events played. Though he has never finished in the top ten here, he is playing the best golf of his career. Kuchar ranks fifth in greens, second in birdie average and third in all-around. I predict this will be his break-out year at this event, and he has a good shot at finishing in the top 10 this week. You can get good value on him at +180 to finish in the top 10.
4. Dustin Johnson (20/1) Johnson has 3 top tens in 4 starts this year. He has finished in the top ten two years in a row at this event. Johnson finished tied for 55th last week at Pebble, but he has the skills to compete here at Riviera.I do like Johnson to beat hunter Mahan head to head at -115.
5. Luke Donald (25/1) Donald hasn’t played a tournament since early December in the Chevron World Challenge. Before that he was one of the hottest golfers on tour with 5 straight top 10’s since the Tour Championship. Rust could be a factor, but I like Donald as a nice dark horse pick. He is -115 head to head against Matt Kuchar and I like Donald in that match-up.Though Donald has never won here he does have 3 straight top 6 finishes here. Donald is my pick to win the event. I would also place a wager on the field at 10/1.
Other contenders and their odds to win are Hunter Mahan (20/1), Paul Casey (20/1), Ernie Els (25/1), Jim Furyk (28/1), J.B. Holmes (33/1), Rickie Fowler (33/1), Retief Goosen (40/1), Padraig Harrington (40/1), Anthony Kim (40/1), Geoff Ogilvy (40/1), Bubba Watson (40/1), Charles Howell III (50/1), D-A Points (50/1), Vijay Singh (50/1), Jhonattan Vegas (66/1), Mark Wilson (80/1), and David Duval (100/1).
It should be an exciting tournament, though rain is forecast for Thursday, Friday, and Saturday.