This week’s PGA Tour stop is at historic Riviera Country Club in the shadow of Hollywood for the Northern Trust Open, so you would think most players would want to tee it up. However, no golfer on the planet deserves this week off more than Brandt Snedeker.
The reigning FedEx Cup champion shot a tournament-record 267 last week at Pebble Beach to win the AT&T Pro-Am by two shots. With his fifth career win, Snedeker improved to a career-best No. 4 in the world, making him the second-highest American in the rankings behind Tiger Woods. With all due respect to Tiger, Snedeker is the best player in the USA right now. In five starts this year, Snedeker, 32, has this win along with two runner-ups (behind Tiger and Phil Mickelson) and a third-place finish (a T23 mixed in there). Dating to 1990, no one had finished second in back-to-back weeks and won the next tournament as Snedeker did. He's played 19 rounds this year and shot in the 60s in all but three of them,
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Snedeker also will skip next week’s big-money WGC-Match Play (as will Mickelson) with what he claims is a rib injury, but it obviously didn’t bother him last week. He’s probably just gassed. I thought Snedeker had to cool off a bit last week, and not only didn’t I recommend him to win, I thought he would finish “outside the Top 10” after playing so much already. I did hit on “outside the Top 10” for Lee Westwood and Nick Watney (both -230). I missed on “inside the Top 10” for Mickelson, Dustin Johnson and Robert Garrigus. I liked Aaron Baddeley to have a shot at winning, and he finished T12. My top value pick was Padraig Harrington, and he missed the cut.
So it’s on to Riviera, nicknamed “Hogan’s Alley,” without Snedeker, Tiger or Rory McIlroy. But the likes of Luke Donald, Adam Scott, Graeme McDowell, Sergio Garcia and Ernie Els are making their PGA Tour debuts. Overall, 16 of the world’s Top 25 are set to tee it up. One unusual name you will see is Fred Couples, this year’s captain for the U.S. Presidents’ Cup team. The 53-year-old Couples spends most of his time on the Champions Tour but has won this tournament twice and will play it for the 31st time, setting a record for this event. Don’t totally rule Couples out as he was the 36-hole leader in 2011 before finishing T7.
Riviera, which has hosted one U.S. Open and two PGA Championships, is a par 71, stretching to 7,349 yards. Last year, according to the PGA Tour, it ranked second among the par 71s on Tour in scoring at 72.622. Some say it has the best short par 4 in the country, the 312-yard 10th. The par-3 No. 6 is recognizable for its bunker in the middle of the green.
Bill Haas is the reigning champion, shooting 7-under 277 in 2012. He beat Mickelson and Keegan Bradley in a playoff, holing a 45-foot putt on the second extra hole. Lefty had drained a 25-footer just to reach the playoff on the 72nd hole and Bradley a 12-footer. All three are back.
PGA Tour Golf Odds: Northern Trust Open Favorites
Lefty is the 12/1 favorite at Bovada. After winning in Scottsdale he predictably fell back last week with a T60, shooting in the 70s in the final three rounds. Other than his one win, he really hasn’t been a factor in his other three tournaments so far. However, in his past six visits to Riviera, Mickelson has two victories and two runner-up finishes.
Garcia is the 16/1 second-favorite. El Nino played really well at the end of last season on Tour, winning the week after the PGA Championship, and also overseas recently. He played this event last year for the first time since 2008 and finished T4 thanks to a final-round 64.
Charl Schwartzel (18/1), Johnson and Donald (both 20/1) round out the Top-5 favorites. Schwartzel, making his 2013 debut in the USA, finished second on the European Tour last week, his fourth straight Top-5 finish on that Tour. This is Schwartzel’s first time playing this tournament.
I was shocked Johnson missed the cut last week, although he has looked off since winning the season-opening Hyundai. DJ might have been distracted playing with Wayne Gretzky – Johnson is dating The Great One’s daughter. Johnson has three Top-10 finishes here in the past five years, including a T3 a year ago. Donald is playing his first official event since late November. He has a best finish of runner-up at this event, coming three years ago.
PGA Tour Picks: Northern Trust Open Predictions
It’s pretty rare for a player to win twice on the West Coast Swing. In the past three years, only Mark Wilson in 2011 has done it. Thus, that rules out Lefty and Johnson. And this event hasn’t produced a first-time Tour winner in 11 years, so that rules out a large chunk of the field.
Bovada has some yes-only Top-10 props this week. I would go with Donald (+175), Sergio (+200) and Bubba Watson (+225). To win, Jimmy Walker is intriguing at 25/1. He was T3 last week, his second Top 5 in the past three starts. And he was T4 at this event in the past two years.
But my pick to win is Bradley at 28/1. He’s also +275 to finish in the Top 10 and +600 in the Top 5. The former PGA Championship winner will be fresh after taking last week off following a T24 in Phoenix that would have been much better if not for a third-round 73. Bradley led the field in all-around last year in losing that playoff.
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