Northern Trust Open Predictions to Win and Golfer vs. Golfer Picks
Dates: February 18-21, 2016
Course: Riviera CC Pacific Palisades, CA
TV: The Golf Channel/CBS
by, Evergreen, PGA Golf Betting Handicapper, Predictem.com
Many major sports have a pace to their schedules that have fans looking for landmarks through the season. The NBA and MLB seasons, for example, dont really heat up until after the respective all-star breaks and NCAA Basketball schedule is pretty irrelevant outside the run-up to the tournament. The PGA Tour has several ebbs and flows to its season and they focus on the four Majors before culminating with the FedEx Playoffs. The top of Tour heap pretty much pick and choose where and when they want to play but the serious prep work for the Majors starts about a month beforehand which means we are now getting into the start of Masters season. The Northern Trust Open is the final Tour stop of the California Swing and fans will certainly start to notice more and more stars coming out of their winter vacations. Rory McIlroy is making his debut in this event and he headlines this field along with Jordan Spieth. Five of the top-ten in the OWGR are teeing it up at the famous Riviera Country Club and all playing this week are either looking to get sharp for, or possibly exempt for Augusta.
Riviera CC is one of the true gems in the Tour course rotation. The 7,322 yard, par-71 layout has roots dating back to 1926 and has played host to the L.A. and Nissan Open before Northern Trust came on as title sponsor. This course has seen all the greats throughout the years and even at 90 years old, the storied track is a clever challenge that is truly timeless. James Hahn took out some very big names on the way to winning a playoff here last year, further extending this events reputation for tight finishes. You have to go back to 1997 to find a finish where the winner had better than a two-stroke margin on the field and there have been more than a few playoffs along the way. Seven different players held at least a share of the lead on Sunday last year before Hahn, Dustin Johnson and Paul Casey went to extra holes to decide things. This course seems to favor no particular style as diminutive hitters like Corey Pavin and Mike Weir have won here as well bombers like Mickelson and Bubba Watson. It seems that anyone that can manage a strong week from tee-to-green will see success and a hot putter is always a necessity no matter the venue.
Each week, we take a look at the online betting sites and highlight a few players that we think are the best bets to win. We make some picks to win and breakdown a couple of head-to-head matches that you can find at Bovada Sportsbook. Here are our picks to win the 2016 Northern Trust Open.
Dustin Johnson (15 to 1 odds to win)
It is easy to overlook nearly everyone outside of McIlroy and Spieth will suck up most of the attention but there arent many better bets than DJ this week. For starters, he has consecutive runner-up finishes here and he has two top-10s this season despite not playing very much. He is always one of the longest drivers on Tour, currently averaging 313 yards off the tee but that isnt the key stat this week. What is a bit more important is his 4.94 birdies per round in 2016. Johnson is getting that lofty birdie total despite being outside the top-150 in strokes gained-putting. Basically, he is torching the field tee-to-green and just treading water with the putter. Id love to see what kind of rounds he will put together once that putter rounds into midseason form and this week should be a step in a positive direction with so much prior Riviera experience and success. DJ can still ride under the radar with all eyes on Rory and Spieth and that 15 to 1 is tremendous value for someone with his talent and tournament record.
Sergio Garcia (25 to 1)
Garcia has been all but forgotten to American golf fans as this will be his first start since playing in the CIMB and HSBC events last fall. He logged two top-24 finishes in those events and should be plenty rested and ready to build up his game with the Masters on the horizon. Sergio has a sparkling Riviera record with T4, T13 and T4 finishes the last three years. Garcia has spent most of the last few years getting his putter up to Tour average in terms of strokes-gained and he becomes a threat to win every event when he is rolling it true on the greens. His ballstriking has been elite for years and he finished 2015 inside the top-30 in total driving, birdie average and scoring average. Those stats are more impressive considering his limited US schedule has him playing difficult courses against full strength fields. It is hard for any player to hit the ground running after an extended layoff but Garcia has been playing overseas and has never been a player that has had to deal with too much rust.
Kevin Na (60 to 1)
Na has been quietly moving up the OWGR list and enters this week ranked 25th overall. Hes done a lot of good work recently with just one missed cut in his eight starts this season and he has already accumulated two third place finishes and two more seconds. Na is currently 10th on Tour in tee-to-green performance and has putted well enough for the 18th best birdie mark and 7th best scoring average. His overall game doesnt pop off the TV screen or stat sheet but he is solid across the board and enters this event ranked 12th in the all-around category. There are plenty of big names in this field but lesser-knowns like Hahn, John Merrick and Len Mattiace have been able to come out on top at Riviera, maybe Kevin can keep that trend going.
Picks to win based on final score after all four rounds. Check with 5Dimes Sportsbook for single round matches and a variety of prop bets.
Jimmy Walker v. J.B. Holmes (pick to win: Holmes)
Normally, the longer player in any head-to-head is at any accuracy disadvantage but Holmes is both longer and straighter off the tee in 2016 than Walker. Jimmy has been a little better into the greens but neither player is lighting it up in that category so Id rather have the guy hitting a few more fairways. Walker has all but owned the early part of the last few seasons but he hasnt been able to find it this year and it appears that he is just a bit off in general. Holmes is making cuts and cashing good checks so far in 2016 and it becomes hard not to like a guy that seems to be on his game over a guy looking to find it. These players are scoring about the same but Homes is the more consistent player in that he has fewer birdie and fewer bogeys to net the nearly identical scoring marks. Efficiency is a key on shotmaking courses so stick with J.B. in this one.
Charles Howell III v. Gary Woodland (pick to win: Howell III)
Woodland might be the most impressive driver of the ball since the days of John Daly but like Daly, Woodland isnt finding many fairways, especially this season. Playing from the rough has hamstrung Gary and a spotty putter has pushed his scoring average outside the top-45 and his birdie average outside the top-50. The steadier Howell III has putted better and not surprisingly scored better than Woodland. A key to success this week will be recovery ability and CHIII has a big advantage there as he enters as the 34th best scrambler on Tour while Woodland ranks 217th in that category. Woodland is modestly better from tee-to-green in this match but Howell owns too many other advantages to overlook.
Good luck and good golf!