Northern Trust Open 2011 Picks

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Following a week where all tournament we had our picks at the top of the leader board yet managed to come up empty handed, we head to San Diego, California for The Northern Trust Open. Below is a bit about Riviera Country Club, which will host this week’s stop on the PGA Tour.

Riviera Country Club

This week the PGA Tour professionals will tee it up at this 7279 yard Par 71 gem of a course. Located in the Santa Monica Valley, Riviera has been home to the Northern Trust Open 46 times with the first tournament occurring here in 1941. The designer of the course, George Thomas, forces players to manoeuvre around various doglegs and oddly shaped/placed bunkers. Riviera has no water holes but as previously mentioned the oddly shaped and perfectly placed bunkers make up for the courses lack of water.

The course does not give up crazy low scores but the winner figures to have to shoot around the minus 15 number. Ted Tryba achieved the course record here in 1999’s 3rd round with a blistering 61. For one of the pros to go low at Riviera this week they will need to take advantage of certain holes, while escaping other ones. Here is a quick overview of the holes you should pay attention to this week.

The 1st Hole is a must birdie for the players. At only 503 yards, this Par 5 can be had by almost every player in the field. Trouble looms on both sides of the fairway if it is missed but with accuracy off the tee comes an excellent birdie opportunity.

The 4th Hole is a monstrous Par 3 measuring 236 yards in length. Many players will need to utilize their short game on this hole as the green is protected by a large bunker at the front. This bunker will see plenty of action this week and players will be very happy to walk away with a 3 on the difficult 4th Hole.

The 18th may be the most difficult hole on the course and could very well decide the tournament this week. It is a 475 yard Par 4 that forces the players to be extremely accurate. Many players will be taking a long iron on their approach to an oddly shaped green that has a stadium like feel around it. A great finishing hole but one that will test even a Pros nerves.

The Players

The field this week will include all 5 winners on tour this year (Mark Wilson, Jonathan Byrd, Johnattan Vegas, Bubba Watson and D.A. Points) (And no, Bill Murray will not be joining D.A. Points this week). Steve Stricker will be at Riviera to defend his title from last year and he loves this course. Stricker was also the runner up here in 2009.

Other past winners of The Northern Trust Open competing this week include Phil Mickelson (2008, 2009), Charles Howell (2007), Rory Sabbatini (2006), Mike Weir (2003, 2004), Robert Allenby (2001), Billy Mayfair (1998), Corey Pavin (1994, 1995), Fred Couples (1990, 1992).

This week we will also have the pleasure of seeing 5 of the Top 10 golfers in the world teeing it up in San Diego. Phil Mickelson (4th), Paul Casey (6th), Steve Stricker (8th), Luke Donald (9th), and Jim Furyk (10th). They will be accompanied by young guns such as Rickie Fowler, Chris Kirk, Dustin Johnson and Bill Haas.

Steves Six Pack Picks

This week we will be focusing our picks on player’s ability to drive the ball long, Greens in Regulation and scrambling ability. Riviera will allow players to make some birdies but it will also challenge them with difficult decisions and unusual shots.

Luke Donald 20/1

Luke Donald loves playing here. He has achieved Top 6’s in his last 3 trips to Riviera, and I look for him to continue this strong play. Luke is also on a Top 10 streak. He has placed in the Top 10 in his last 5 tournaments he has played in. In 2010 Luke was 1st on Tour in Sand Saves (converted just over 66%) while also finishing 4th in scrambling on tour (converted just over 65%). Look for Lucky Luke to be there on Sunday at the top of the leader board.

Matt Kuchar 20/1

All Matt does is place at the top of the leader board it seems. He has 3 starts under his belt in 2011 and his worst finish was 7th. Matt accomplishes these high finishes by being excellent at many different statistical categories. This year he is 5th in Driving accuracy, 5th in Greens in Regulation, 2nd in Birdie Average, 3rd in All Around Ranking and to cap these stats off, he’s made 17 consecutive cuts. Take everything into consideration and there is no way he isn’t in contention on Sunday.

J.B. Holmes 25/1

J.B. is another player who loves it at this beautiful course in San Diego. In his past 3 trips to Riviera he has finished no worse than 7th. J.B. has one of the oddest ways of going around a golf course as he is always fidgeting, backing off shots and rethinking his putting line, but it works for him. He is 3rd on Tour hitting the ball a crazy 310.7 yards for his average drive; while he is also 10th on tour with  1.687 average for putts per hole. Holmes likes this tournament and course and I look for him to vie for his 3rd career win on the PGA Tour.

Bill Haas 45/1

I could not believe Bill Haas was not at the top in this week’s odds (I had him pegged around a 25/1 shot). The reason for that could be that he does not have the greatest previous record at Riviera, but Bill isn’t the same golfer he was in past years. Bill is 7th on Tour this year hitting an excellent 77.78 % of his Greens in Regulation. He is also 9th on Tour in total driving and 7th in Birdie average. Bill has been in contention this year and I think this could be the week where he puts 4 great rounds together.

Steve Marino 60/1

I really thought we had Steve at 75/1 for the win last week. Unfortunately for him and us D.A. Points had a crazy run on the 14th and 15th and took the title. Look for Steve to battle back this week and challenge once again. He is obviously playing well if he is in the hunt at Pebble Beach. Steve finished Tied for 5th here last year and should be able to build off positive memories this week.

Andres Romero 90/1

I absolutely Love this pick! This is not based on his play this year, as his best finish in 3 starts is a Tie for 66th. His only win on Tour came in New Orleans in 2008. There are plenty of players most people would take ahead of him based upon stats. Except many people may over look that he has a T3 and T5 here in the past two years. Some players just get a good feeling on certain courses and this must be Andres Romero’s course.

Good luck to our Six Pack of Golfers in San Diego and feel free to post your opinions/comments below.

RESULTS

Luke Donald – MC

JB Holmes – Tied for 12th

Matt Kuchar – Tied for 35th

Bill Haas – Tied for 12th

Steve Marino – Tied for 35th

Andres Romero – Tied for 55th

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