The Northern Trust Open is the first tournament for a few players on tour this year including Luke Donald, Graeme McDowell, Adam Scott and Peter Hanson. Players like Garcia and Schwartzel are also over for this event after playing in Dubai and Africa respectively. Similar to last week Phil Mickelson is one of the more recent multiple winners of this event winning in back to back in 2008 and 2009. Mickelson will yet again be favourite this week even after what was a pretty awful week for him at Pebble. After last weeks win Snedeker takes a week off leaving Sergio Garica, Luke Donald and Charl Schwartzel just of the pace in the betting. At 16/1 Mickelson is the market leader and the other players mentioned all coming in at between 20 and 22/1. It will be interesting too see the European contingent get their seasons started here and see if they can set the tone early on.
The Course: Riviera Country Club is situated in California and has played host to three majors, most recently the 95′ PGA Championship. It has been the venue for this event through the years which was originally known as the Los Angeles Open and has also been named the Nissan Open in the past. Riviera is one of the courses on tour where Tiger Woods has failed to record a win. It is a par 71 course and spans over 7,349 yds. Hole 10 is one of those holes known as a risk/reward playing at only 315 yards many players will be going for the green and this is where a real difference can be made.
Defending Champion: Bill Haas, Haas won this event here in 2012 beating Keegan Bradley and Phil Mickelson in a play off. He birdied the second extra hole to secure his win and I’m sure he will be looking to be involved here again. Haas has not picked up a win since then and will want to get back into the winners circle straight away and returning to a course he plays well could give him the boost he needs.
With Mickelson being favourite again it opens up a bit of value on players that are consistently playing well and players that need a win or a good finish to get their 2013 going. Mickelson did not have a good week last week and I’m not convinced he will show up here. He will however look to pick up his form quickly again heading in to the The Masters and with wins in 2008 and 2009 and his involvement in the play off last year, Riviera will be a welcome part of his busy early schedule. As mentioned before there is some value to be had this week due to the strength of the field and hopefully that can be exploited.
Bill Haas 33/1 (General) 1pt e/w : As previously mentioned Bill Haas won this tournament last year and that was after he finished T12 here in 2011. Apart from that his form here isn’t that spectacular, but it is looking at his recent form that has made me choose him to do well this week. He started his season finishing 23rd, then missed the cut the week after, he bounced back from that cut to finish T9 and T6 since. He had a week off last week and returning to one of his former stomping grounds I believe he has a good shot at finishing at the top of the leader-board come Sunday!
Charles Howell III 50/1 (Coral & Bet365) 1pt e/w: Howell has made a tremendous start to the season starting with a T3 and then just missing out in a play off the following week. He has then gone on to come T9 and 36th, and Riviera will be one of his fonder memories in his career. Winning this event in 2007 (then known as Nissan Open) Howell picked up his first win since 2002, and has not won since. Howell also lost in a play off here to Mike Wier in 2003 so he has been involved at the top in the past. Again that shouts to you that he cannot win but at 50/1 at a course where he has managed to get a win coupled with the season he is having, I think he is definitely one to be looked at. He has missed the cut on his last three visits but he is a different player this year and hopefully he can turn things around.
Peter Hanson 66/1 (General) 1 pt e/w: Hanson had a fantastic 2012. Winning twice on the European Tour beating Mcilroy by a stroke at the BMW Masters and winning the KLM Open by 2 strokes ahead of Larrazabal and Richie Ramsay. He also recorded three of his four best finishes at major championships, most notably his 3rd place finish at The Masters in Augusta. He also came T23 at The Open and T7 at the PGA Championship so he comes into 2013 with some brilliant memories and will look to now get his first win on the PGA Tour as he prepares to again challenge for the majors. His putting has been a big part of his game and he will hope he can pick up strokes against the field this way. Hanson will be keen to make a big impression on America as he failed to do so at the Ryder Cup and he has been quite public about how he felt underused in Medinah.
Kevin Stadler 70/1 (Betfred & Bet365) 1pt e/w. Stadler has got better and better each week. Starting the year of with a 27th place finish at the Humana Challenge followed by T11 at the Waste Management, Stadler bettered it yet again at finishing T3 at Pebble Beach last weekend. With his last three finished here being 24th, 12th and 10th he will be keen to build on his record here and also take another big step towards a good 2013 season. Stadler is still looking for his first win on the PGA Tour and you can’t help but think it is going to come some time soon if continues his good form.
Africa Open Tips:
Jaco Van Zyl 14/1 (General) 2pts win
Ricardo Santos 18/1 (PaddyPower & Betfred) 2pts win
Total Points staked: 12
Profit/Loss 2013: +43
After my first win last week I’m hoping for another one this week to really get 2013 going. The Africa Open is a hard tournament to find value due to the weak field, leaving Aiken and Van Zyl stand out favourites, hopefully Santos can disrupt them and look to pick up a win. In America there is much more value to be had and hopefully one of the above can make a real challenge and make the week . Follow me on Twitter for weekend updates on the scores and any feedback and questions you may have.