Preview: PGA Tour’s Northern Trust Open

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.

Four of the Top 13 players in the Official World Golf Rankings are competing including the 2014 debut of World No. 5 Justin Rose, reigning U.S. Open champion. Hogan’s Alley is sure to decide the tournament.

The field attracts a number of international players gearing up the World Golf Championships – Accenture Match Play Championship in the Arizona desert next week. Ernie Els, Ian Poulter, Lee Westwood, Charl Schwartzel and Louis Oosthuizen are all teeing at Riviera. Several European Tour standouts made the trip to L.A. including Victor Dubuisson, Joost Luiten and Thorbjorn Olesen.

A number of former champions are playing including Fred Couples, making his 32nd appearance here. The local favorite won twice and has several runner-up efforts. 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 as the par-71 layout is a good, solid test. The 10th hole is always exciting. Drivable for a two at the short par-4, the 10th can also yield bogeys and worse. Playoffs have decided the last two championships at Riviera.

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

2013 Recap:

  • John Merrick (11-under) led the field in the All-Around Category for the week. He shot 69 in the final round to capture the title edging Charlie Beljan in a playoff. Bill Haas, Schwartzel and Freddie Jacobson finished T-3 at 9-under. It was Merrick’s first PGA Tour title.

FANTASY:  Jimmy Walker is a hot player with three wins this season including last week. Ride Walker until he slows down. Haas is a classic Horses for Courses scenario. He won a three-man playoff here against Phil Mickelson and Keegan Bradley two years ago. Jordan Spieth continues to contend, so take him here. He had three 67s last week but a third-round 78 cost him the title.

BETTORS: Dustin Johnson is the overall betting favorite at at 12-to-1 odds. Hunter Mahan, 20-1, enters this week with back to back Top 10s. Haas is a must-play at 25-1.

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:

  • Suzann Pettersen shot 6-under-66 in the opening round of the LPGA Tour’s ISPA Handa Australian Women’s Open. He is tied for the lead. With a victory, she will overtake an idle Inbee Park for the No. 1 spot in the Rolex Ranking.
  • Walker, who leads the FedEx Cup Standings and U.S. Ryder Cup points standing, is third on tour in Strokes Gained putting.
  • Jessica Korda, who won the season opener on the LPGA Tour in the Bahamas, is one back of Pettersen in Australia after 18 holes.
  • Tiger Woods made his PGA Tour debut at Riviera missing the cut in 1992. He is not in the field this week.
  • U.S.-born players have won 12 straight PGA Tour events.