PGA Tour Picks: Northern Trust Open Odds and Expert Predictions
by Alan Matthews - 2/18/2015
It turns out I was a week early on Brandt Snedeker. He was my choice to win the Farmers Insurance Open at Torrey Pines two tournaments ago but finished T19. No way I was going to pick the same guy to win in back-to-back weeks, so he wasn't on my radar last week at the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am. Naturally, Snedeker did win.
Snedeker made 23 birdies and just one bogey all week en route to winning by three strokes at 22-under 265, breaking by two shots the tournament record he set two years ago while winning at Pebble Beach and by two shots the winning score under par held by Phil Mickelson (2007) and Mark O'Meara (1997). Snedeker struggled last season while reworking his swing with new coach Butch Harmon. When he won this tournament in 2011, Snedeker was playing his best golf, a top-five player in the world. He came into last week's edition at No. 63 in the world, without a win in 18 months and on the outside looking in for elite invitation-only events like the Masters and World Golf Championships. That's not a problem any longer, and Snedeker jumped to 31st in the world.
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Nick Watney finished runner-up, his second straight excellent tournament after a T7 at Torrey Pines. Watney also struggled last year is not currently eligible for the Masters and World Golf Championships. He says that's big-time motivation. Watney, by the way, is a die-hard Giants fan and played the pro-am with San Francisco catcher Buster Posey.
My pick to win at Pebble was Jimmy Walker, but he was largely done in by an opening 72 and finished T21 at 13 under. Thus, I missed Walker on a Top-10 finish but did hit on Jason Day at -150 and Jim Furyk at +235. Furyk was T7 in his first tournament of the new season. I did also get Snedeker head-to-head at +110 over Dustin Johnson, although Johnson played very well (T4), Hunter Mahan (-115) over Ryan Palmer, and Furyk (-115) over Graham DeLaet.
The California Swing ends this week with the Northern Trust Open at historic Riviera Country Club outside Los Angeles. Riviera is known as "Hogan's Alley" for all of Ben Hogan's success there, including winning the 1948 U.S. Open. Seven of the world's Top 25 are set to play, including Sergio Garcia making his first start in the States this year. Also playing is Fred Couples, for the record 33rd time. The 55-year-old has won the tournament twice and contended as recently as four years ago. Mickelson is not playing as his kids are on spring break. Of course Tiger Woods is on sabbatical but could return next week in Florida. He probably wouldn't have played here regardless as he hasn't since 2006. Tiger has never won at Riviera.
Bubba Watson is the defending champion, which at the time ended a 41-tournament winless drought. Watson shot a pair of 64s on the weekend to win by two shots at 15-under 269 after trailing leader William McGirt by four shots entering Sunday. Bubba played the final 39 holes without a bogey. Johnson finished second. McGirt shot a final-round 73 and was T6.
There still has yet to be a player with multiple tournament wins this season. Those in the world Top 50 after this week lock in a spot for the WGC-Cadillac Championship at Doral in two weeks.
PGA Tour Golf Odds: Northern Trust Open Favorites
Johnson is the 10/1 favorite at Bovada . I have been both right and wrong about DJ off his long absence/suspension. I thought it would take him a while to get back into rhythm. I was right at the Farmers Insurance Open when he missed the cut but wrong last week at Pebble as Johnson had that T4 after a final-round 66. Johnson is very hit or miss at Riviera. His runner-up last year was hit third top-five finish in the past five trips. The other two times he missed the cut.
Watson and Jordan Spieth at 11/1 . Watson led the field in driving distance last year in his victory. He hasn't finished worse than 10th in his three Tour events this season, including a win at the WGC-HSBC Champions in China and a runner-up at the Phoenix Open on Super Bowl weekend. Spieth bounced back from a missed cut two weeks ago with a T7 last week. He was T12 here last year.
The favorites are rounded out by Walker (16/1) and Snedeker (22/1). Walker has finished in the Top 20 each of his past four trips here, including T4 in both 2011 and 2012. I don't expect much from Snedeker after his big win last week. He met his goal of qualifying for the Masters so I'm a bit surprised he didn't pull out.
PGA Tour Picks: Northern Trust Open Expert Predictions
On the Top-10 props, I like Watson (+120), Walker (+150), Hideki Matsuyama (+250) and Sergio (+275). I don't like Johnson because he's basically working from home and will be, I'm sure, helping take care of his newborn child with his wife. Take Matsuyama at -110 as the top Asian player, John Senden at 5/1 as the top Aussie and Sergio at 9/4 as the top European.
Head-to-head, go with Watson (-115) over Johnson (-115) and Watson (-125) over Spieth (-105), Matsuyama (-110) over Snedeker (-120), Furyk (-130) over Watney (even money), Sergio (-130) over Bill Haas (even money), and J.B. Holmes (-110) over Harris English (-120).
Holmes is interesting value at 33/1 to win. He comes in off back-to-back Top 10s and was no worse than T12 at Riviera from 2008-2012. But I have another 33/1 guy I'm taking to win: Charl Schwartzel. Somehow he hasn't won in the USA since the 2011 Masters. But the South African has played well to start this year overseas on the Euro Tour and was T3 two years ago here and fifth in 2014. I will probably cover myself with a bet on Watson as well. But Schwartzel could pay off huge.
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