PGA Tour Preview: Northern Trust Open at Riviera Country Club

Preview – PGA Tour – Northern Trust Open – Riviera Country Club – Pacific Palisades, CA –

Dating back to the 1920s, this week’s PGA Tour stop – Northern Trust Open – at famed Riviera Country Club near Hollywood is on the tour’s most decorated events with a rich tradition.

The event also starts the unofficial march to the march to the Masters in April. Several international-born players are teeing it up this week including Charl Schwartzel, Sergio Garcia (making his 2015 U.S. debut), and Bernd Wiesberger.

Riviera, measuring up to 7,325 yards, demands players hit the greens in regulation (GIR) and generally rewards seasoned and established players with victory. Don’t look for a shootout at Hogan’s Alley as the par-71 layout is a good, solid test. The drive-able 10th hole can produce eagles and also bogeys and worse.

Look for a trending Dustin Johnson among other regulars familiar with this course to contend. DJ has three Top 4 finishes and a T-10 in seven trips here.

Playoffs have decided this championship in two of the last three editions. Recent past champions here include Aaron Baddeley (2011), Bill Haas (2012) and John Merrick (2013).

Weather is expected in the 70s for much of the week.

2014 Recap:

  • Watson (15-under) rallied with a 64-64 weekend at Riviera to win the title. He used the victory as a springboard to win the Masters. Bubba edged Dustin Johnson by two shots, while Brian Harman and Robert Allred finished T-3 at 12-under. Schwartzel was fourth alone. William McGirt, Harris English, Bryce Molder and George McNeill logged Top 10s.

FANTASY:  Haas is a classic Horses for Courses scenario. He won a three-man playoff here against Phil Mickelson and Keegan Bradley in 2012 and is coming off his win at the Humana. Take English, who logged a Top 10 last year. He needs a good showing to earn a spot in the Masters. He lost in a playoff at Torrey Pines and enters this week rested. For an international player in your line up, take Schwartzel. He has the game to score here and is hungry to win after blowing a final-round lead in a European Tour event last month.

BETTORS: Bubba Watson is the overall betting favorite at at 10-to-1 odds. He has eight Top 3’s in his last 13 months on tour. He is also the top-ranked American at No. 3 and the best-ranked player in the field. Consider DJ (11-1) and Haas at 28-1 odds and a bigger return-on-investment with a player like Nick Watney (33-1). Watney was T-7 at Torrey and then runner-up last week at Pebble. Wager on Robert Streb, who might sneak his way onto the U.S. Presidents Cup team. He has five Top 10s this season and has rested since Phoenix. Take a flier at 100-1 on Pat Perez in this spot.

Golf Channel has television coverage all week including early coverage on the weekend with CBS Sports brings home the third and fourth round prime time telecasts.

Other Golf News:

  • The LPGA Tour visits Australia this week in Melbourne for the ISPS Handa Women’s Australian Open. Lydia Ko, Rolex Ranking No. 1, headlines the field as a 4-1 betting favorite. Karrie Webb, the defending champion, is listed at 20-1. She has won this title five times since 2000.
  • Darren Clarke, 46, was named the European Ryder Cup Captain for the 2016 matches in Hazeltine. Clarke is expected to match whits against Davis Love III, who could be named the U.S. Captain next week. Clarke won 14 times on the European Tour, captured the Open Championship and triumphed at two World Golf Championship events. Europe has won eight of the last 10 editions.
  • The European Tour hosts the Hero India Open at Delhi Golf Club in New Delhi, India. Miguel Angel Jimenez, Jeev Milka Singh and Marcus Fraser are the featured contenders. Anirban Lahiri (6 1/2-1) is the betting favorite after his victory at the Malaysian Open two weeks ago.
  • Garcia tees off Thursday at 7:22 a.m. local time alongside Jordan Spieth and Fred Couples, who is making his 33rd start at Riviera.