Northern Trust Open Picks: “Hogan’s Alley” Stages Last California Venue Along with Impressive Field

by Aengus Moorehead

Northern Trust Open Picks: “Hogan’s Alley” Stages Last California Venue Along with Impressive Field

The Story:
A star-studded field will be on display in Los Angeles, including World No. 2 Rory McIlroy making his 2016 debut. The Northern Trust Open is celebrating its 90th anniversary as Riviera’s storied history and difficult test of golf leaves it revered among Tour players each year.

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It will be fascinating to see if anyone actually does get inspired to that extent and if they do, they will need to overcome a clutch of big names headed by Jordan Spieth and McIlroy.

Their presence opens up the betting a little for some tip-top performers a little further down the list and the much-maligned Sergio Garcia gets the vote for starters to make an impact in the tournament for a second straight season.

The Spaniard was right in the mix 12 months ago but the general state of his game - which he felt at the time was not up to muster - finally caught up with him over the closing six or seven holes. Some loose shots and three late bogeys allowed a winning position to slip away and once more added fuel to those critics who believe this gifted performer's winning touch deserts him on this side of the Atlantic.  

Meanwhile, there's not much between Spieth and McIlroy but I prefer the former. He finished a disappointing AT&T Pebble Beach National Open with an immaculate 66 on Sunday and he already has form in the bag at Riviera. He missed the cut here in 2012 in his debut but finished 12th on his return in 2014 and fourth last year. Scrambling and putting are the world number one's main strengths and Riviera looks like somewhere where he could flourish.

I can see Rory’s superb long game repeatedly putting him in position this weekend but I don't want to be siding with Ulsterman on a course where putting from inside 10 feet is key. He puts very poorly on occasions and he currently ranks 200th on the PGA Tour for putting from 10 foot and in.

Dustin Johnson has a great record at Riviera but hasn't got going yet in 2016 and Hideki Matsuyama, who won the Phoenix Open his last time out and who finished fourth last year, having finished 24th on his debut 12 months earlier, looks a marketable proposition.

My Top Three:
Dustin Johnson: +1400
Pebble Beach has not been as kind to DJ of late, including this season, but that hasn’t stopped him from quickly turning the page to the tune of back-to-back runner-up finishes at Riviera. The stats and current form gave way to his excellent course history in this ranking.

Bill Haas: +3300
In a four year stretch at Riviera from 2011-2014, Haas finished inside the top-25 each year, tallying a win in 2012 and a 3rd in 2013. Last year though, he was an MC, just as he was here in 2011 and 2010. He’s compiled a good start to his season, playing his way to a nice top-10 last week and a top-10 three weeks ago, but he sprinkled in another MC in between. He’s third in driving accuracy thus far in 2016 and I see that benefitting him this week.

Sergio Garcia: +2500
Five straight finishes of 11th or better and he's had plenty of close calls at Riviera. Pair of T-4s and a T-13 in three trips in the last four years; has rounds of 64 and 65 here; demanding courses accentuate his ball-striking, but his short game is an excellent insurance policy, I like his chances.

My Sleeper Pick:
Charl Schwartzel: +2500
Ended 2015 with T-4 at the Dubai World Championship plus mopping the floor with the fields in South Africa on the European Tour (1st, T-9); opened '16 with a win last week at Tshwane Open, also in his native South Africa; he's used to Kikuyu and loves Riviera as 11 of 12 rounds the last three years are par or better; T-3 in '13, T-5 in '14 before T-41 last year.

Propping up:

  1. Take Justin Rose +325 for Top-Five finish
  2. Take Harris English +105 over Matt Kuchar -125
  3. Take Sergio Garcia +600 as Top European
  4. Take Adam Scott +300 for Top-Ten finish
  5. Take Charles Howell III -125 over Gary Woodland +105

Here are the odds for the top field:

Jordan Spieth   +650
Rory McIlroy   +650
Dustin Johnson   +1400
Hideki Matsuyama   +1600
Justin Rose   +1800
Jimmy Walker   +2200
Bubba Watson   +2200
Sergio Garcia   +2500
J.B. Holmes   +2800
Charl Schwartzel   +2500
Adam Scott   +3300
Bill Haas   +3300
Paul Casey   +4000
Matt Kuchar   +4500
Keegan Bradley   +5000
Andy Sullivan   +5500
Fredrik Jacobson   +5500
Harris English   +5500
Justin Thomas   +5500
Brendan Steele   +5500
Kevin Na   +6000
Jason Dufner   +7000
Matt Jones   +7000
Ryan Moore   +8000
Billy Horschel   +8000
Charles Howell III   +8000
Danny Lee   +8000
Gary Woodland   +9000
Luke Donald   +9000
Patrick Rodgers   +9000

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