PGA Tour Picks: Northern Trust Open Odds and Predictions
by Alan Matthews - 2/12/2014
Let this sink in for a moment: Jimmy Walker is the best player on the planet right now.
OK, that's somewhat hyperbole, but you can't argue Walker's resume. The 35-year-old American has been around quite a while, but he got his first Tour win in career start No. 188 back in October at the Frys.com Open, the first event of the new wraparound season. Walker has proven that wasn't a fluke. He followed with a win at the Sony Open in Hawaii, and then last week, off a missed cut at the Farmers Insurance Open, Walker prevailed in the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am. Three wins in eight starts! In the past 20 years on Tour, only Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson and David Duval have won so often so early in a season.
Walker was in control last week at Pebble with a six-shot lead entering Sunday, but then things got challenging. He had to make a 5-foot par putt on the 72nd hole to avoid a playoff with Dustin Johnson and Jim Renner. Walker finished at 11-under 277 after a final-round 74. That was the highest final round for a tournament winner in nearly two years (Martin Laird's 75 at the 2012 Arnold Palme Invitational). In an interesting statistic from the Golf Channel, only three of the last eight players to hold at least a six-stroke lead entering the final round of a Tour even won by as many as four shots. Walker leads the FedEx Cup points standings and Ryder Cup standings by a mile right now.
I most certainly didn't take Walker at Pebble as I figured he had come back to earth after that missed cut. My pick to win came down to either Johnson or Jason Day, and I went with Day, and he was cut after 54 holes thanks in large part to a second-round 77. Day, Johnson and Phil Mickelson were all 12/1 favorites at Bovada. I didn't expect much of Mickelson, and he finished T19 after a strong opening 66. I did hit on Hunter Mahan at -165 for a Top-10 finish as he was T6. Also on Johnson at -115 over Mickelson head-to-head and Graeme McDowell at -115 over Chris Kirk. Nailed McDowell at 5/2 as the top European finisher with his T7.
This week is the finale of the California Swing as the Tour moves to historic Riviera for the Northern Trust Open. No Tiger, no Lefty and no Adam Scott this week. Still, 16 of the world's Top 30 are set to tee it up. It's the 2014 PGA Tour debut of Justin Rose, last year's U.S. Open winner. He'll stay in the States to prepare for the Masters. Walker, up to No. 24 in the world rankings, is also playing this week. Riviera Country Club is known as Hogan's Alley as he won two L.A. Opens and the 1948 U.S. Open on the course.
Last year, John Merrick, who grew up in the area and played at UCLA, got his first PGA Tour win by taking this tournament on the second hole off a sudden-death playoff. Charlie Beljan missed a 5-foot par putt on that hole to give it to Merrick. Beljan made an 18-foot birdie on the 72nd hole to force a playoff. It was the second straight year this event was decided in a playoff at No. 10.
PGA Tour Golf Odds: Northern Trust Open Favorites
Johnson is the 11/1 favorite at Bovada off his runner-up finish last week. He's either going to contend or miss the cut if you go by recent history. D.J. has three Top-10s here the past five years, including a third in 2010, but also missed two cuts, including last year.
Walker is next at 18/1, and I would have to think this guy is close to being physically and emotionally spent after the crazy start to the new season. However, he was T4 here in 2011 and '12 before a T16 last year. Jordan Spieth and Webb Simpson are also 18/1. Spieth had the 36-hole lead last week before a third-round 78. He bounced back with a 67 on Sunday to finish T4. He didn't play here as a rookie in 2013. Simpson was T6 at Riviera a year ago.
Graham DeLaet and Mahan (both 20/1) round out the favorites. The Canadian was T21 here in 2013 while Mahan was T8. Mahan is playing perhaps as well as he has since 2010 right now, while DeLaet seems a safe be to get his first Tour win at some point in 2014.
PGA Tour Picks: Northern Trust Open Predictions
On the Top-10 props, I like Johnson at +135, Matt Kuchar at +175 after his little break and Bill Haas at +200. Take Ian Poulter at 11/1 to be the top European and a playoff as the winning margin for the third straight year at +250. Heat-to-head, I lean Johnson at -130 over Simpson, Mahan (-115) over Spieth, Kuchar (-115) over Rose, Haas (-115) over Keegan Bradley and Harris English (-115) over Charl Schwartzel.
You may want to consider Charles Howell III (40/1) to win as he leads the Tour this year with five Top-10 finishes, and the most recent of his two Tour victories was here back in 2007. He also has missed the cut the past two years. But my guy is Haas at 25/1. He won this tournament in 2012 and missed the playoff by just a shot last year. Haas hasn't played all that well his past two events in 2014, but this course suits his game.
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