Northern Trust Open Preview and Picks

Northern Trust Open Preview and Picks
Thurs. February 4 Sun. February 7, 2010
Riviera Country Club Pacific Palisades, CA
The Golf Channel/NBC

By Evergreen of

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While most sports fans are fixed on what is going on in Miami during Superbowl week, the PGA Tours California Swing enters week three with the Northern Trust Open. A Tiger-less Tour will may be a bit of white noise this week, but true golf fans will see the 2010 debuts of several top pros including Padraig Harrington, Jim Furyk and Adam Scott. Phil Mickelson will defend his 2009 title looking to make the Northern Trust his own personal groundhogs day and make it three in a row at Riviera Country Club. Check out the first two rounds on The Golf Channel with NBC picking up the weekend.

Riviera Country Club brings a different test in comparison to the other host courses this year as the 7,298 yard, par-71 track is one of the most demanding courses in terms of shotmaking. Riviera is well bunkered, especially in common bailout areas and requires players to execute nearly every shot in the book to card low rounds. Mickelson won at 15-under last year, but struggled with two rounds of 72 sandwiched around a 62 and 63. Scrambling becomes an important skill this week as players will often have to get up and down for par as poor tee shots will make hitting some greens nearly impossible. 11 to 14 under par looks good to win this week given the strength of the field.

Each week, we take a look at the golf sportsbooks and highlight a few players that we think can win it all. We make a short, middle and long odds pick and breakdown a few head to head match picks as well. Here are our picks for the 2010 Northern Trust Open.

Short Favorite: Steve Stricker (14 to 1 odds)
Mickelson has had the hot run at Riviera, but Strick has been hotter overall. Steve was 2nd here last year and has started the 2010 season with T10 and T3 finishes in Hawaii and went 28-under in those two events combined. Stricker is off to a great start despite all the flack over the new grooves and has hit 77% of greens in regulation so far this season. Why he could win: Putting. A good flatstick can cover up for just about anything and Stricker finished 2009 with the best putting average and 8th in putts per round. His accuracy will also play well this week, but a 2nd rank in scrambling from last year proves he can save par when he does miss a green.

Middle of the Road: Rory Sabbatini (25 to 1 odds)
Sabbatini has been one of the most consistent players at Riviera, finishing 2nd in 2002, 6th in 2009 and winning the event in 2006. Theres not a lot on the stat sheet that would key you in to why he does so well here, but the course obviously fits his eye. Why he could win: Comfort. All the previous good mojo will carry him this week, but his 5.75 birdies per round average in 2010 can hurt either. Sabbs has hit 80% his greens in regulation this year and has been sharp in general, currently ranking 10th in the all around category.

Longshot: Brandt Snedeker (50 to 1 odds)
Two starts this have produced T10 and T2 finishes and while his twomissed cuts here dont breed confidence; Snedeker has the game to succeed at Riviera. Brandt is among the more accurate players on Tour, especially off the tee and his 35th ranked putter makes up for a less than average power game. Why he could win: Control. Snedeker finished 22nd in fairways hit in 2009 and is currently 21st in that stat so look for him to be in the short grass all week. Sacrificing a bit of distance to find the fairway allows Brandt to work the ball into pins and that has led to five birdies per round so far this year. A very good short game helps out with the 5th best scrambling stat to this point.

Other golfers to watch:

Phil Mickelson (6 to 1)
Two time defending champ is looking to shake the cheating controversy and make it three in a row.

Jim Furyk (25 to 1)
Making first start of the year still riding winless streak dating back to 2007.

Anthony Kim (40 to 1)
A rough 2009 has him way down the board, but a return to form in the early season could bring a huge payday.

Head to Head Matches (our picks) *selected matches are for entire tournament. Check with your favorite golf sportsbooks for single round matches, updated after each round.

Ernie Els (-115) v. Padraig Harrington (-115) (Harrington)
Smart bettors won a lot betting against Harrington through the 2009 season as Paddy struggled through most of the early schedule. Dont expect the same in 2010 as Harrington finished in the top-10 in nine of ten starts on the PGA and EPGA from August to December. Els is having a nice start to the season, but is barely hitting half of his fairways so far and that will cost him this week.

Tim Clark (-115) v. Charles Howell III (-115) (Clark)
Howell is the 2007 Champ here and has two top-10s so far but Clark is coming off a T2 in his last start and owns a big advantage in driving accuracy. Even if Charles can find the short stuff this week, Clark has the better putter and ranks 6th in birdies per round to Howells 28th.

Good luck with your action!