Northern Trust Open, Feb 14-17, Riviera Country Club, Pacific Palisades CA, Golf Channel & CBS.
by Matt of Predictem.com
The PGA Tour makes its last stop in the 08 California swing as the Northern Trust Open kick off Thursday from the Riviera Country Club in Pacific Palisades. The par-71, 7279 yard layout hosts the event which has been known as the Nissan Open until this year. The Golf Channel has the early rounds with the CBS telecast covering the weekend.
A very strong field of 144 takes to competition this week with 17 of the Top 20 in the world teeing it up. The three absent from that group are Tiger, Ernie Els and Henrik Stenson. Several European Tour players are making their U.S. debuts this week, including Adam Scott, Justin Rose and Sergio Garcia.
Charles Howell III is your defending champion; he took the victory in 07 in a playoff with Phil Mickelson. The Euros will likely have a say in this event as 7 of the last 11 winners of the tournament have been foreign born players. All will vie for the winners share of the $6.2 million prize pool ($1.11 mil) as well as the FedExCup Points.
With Tiger absent, Phil Mickelson has been installed the favorite, with golf sportsbooks posting Lefty at 9 to 1 for the outright win. Mickelson has had mixed results at Riviera with 4 missed cuts in his last 8 tries to go along with the runner-up finish from last year. Phil is coming off a missed cut last week at the AT&T including carding an 11 en route to a 78, but it is hard to imagine Phil playing poorly two weeks in a row.
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Adam Scott looks to contend this week as he makes his 08 PGA debut. Scott is coming off a win on the European Tour, firing a final round 61 to take the Quatar Masters. Scott has had success in this event, with a win in 05 and second in 06. He is currently listed at 14 to 1 to take the trophy.
Next on the board at 16 to 1 is Rory Sabbatini. A former champion in 06 and a top-10 in 07, Sabbatini is comfortable at Riviera. Jim Furyk has the ball striking stats to be effective here (t-3 in 07) and could pay nicely at 20 to1. Sergio is another Euro making his debut in the states and will bring a 28 to 1 return if he can put the putting together with his tee to green game, Garcia finished 6th here last year.
A little deeper on the list is Mike Weir at 33 to 1. He could be a sneaky pick considering he seems to be all the way back to weekly contention form and he is a two time champion of the then Nissan. (03 and 04) If you like you r odds longer still, Steve Elkington has two top-5s this year and six top-10s at the Northern Trust, and is at 66 to 1 to win. Jerry Kelly was a respectable 22nd here in 07 and has the type of putting game that thrives at Riviera CC; Kelly is way deep at 80 to 1.
In the matchups, Im looking to 08 results as the main factor this week. Two to watch at Riviera are Mike Weir against Stuart Appleby and K.J Choi versus Vijay Singh.
I like Weir based on his 4 top-15 finishes this year along with no missed cuts. Weir holds the edge in driving accuracy against Appleby hitting 10% more fairways and that will matter this week with Rivieras rough.
I also like Choi to come out on top over Singh. K.J. has the win at the Sony on his 08 resume and Vijay certainly stumbled down the stretch at last weeks AT&T, eventually losing to Steve Lowery in a playoff. Choi also has a stellar 73% GIR stat that will play out over the weekend especially if Singh continues hitting only 58% of fairways.
For The Win
Short Adam Scott 14 to 1
Middle of the Road Mike Weir 33 to 1
Longshot Steve Elkington 66 to 1