Northern Trust Open Betting Preview
After playing at Pebble Beach last week, the PGA Tour heads to another iconic venue this week as Riviera Country Club plays host to the 2013 Northern Trust Open.
2013 Northern Trust Open Fact Sheet
- Course: Riviera Country Club
- Location: Pacific Palisades, California
- Yardage: 7,349 yards, par 71
- Defending Champion: Bill Haas
- Five Consensus Favourites: Phil Mickelson, Sergio Garcia, Charl Schwartzel, Dustin Johnson and Adam Scott
- Thursday – 3:00 PM to 6:00 PM ET (Golf Channel)
- Friday – 3:00 PM to 6:00 PM ET (Golf Channel)
- Saturday – 1:00 PM to 2:30 PM ET (Golf Channel) & 3:00 to 6:00 PM ET (CBS)
- Sunday – 1:00 PM to 2:30 PM ET (Golf Channel) & 3:00 to 6:30 PM ET (CBS)
Riviera CC is often referred to as a thinking man’s course, where every club in the bag is required and superior ball striking is rewarded. This is probably due to the narrow fairways and tiny greens, where one mistake can really end up costing you. Riviera is a lot like other courses in that when the wind is up, the difficulty spikes significantly. Last year, Bill Haas ended up winning at 7-under par in tough conditions, which was the highest winning score of any non-major event in 2012, but prior to that, winning scores have gotten to 20-under par. Luckily for the players this week, the wind isn’t expected to get above 10mph.
Riviera houses several signature holes on the challenging layout, but here are five to keep an eye on:
Par-3 4th (236 yards)
Ben Hogan called this the best par-3 in America, and while I’m not sure that’s still true today, it’s right up there. It plays long at 236 yards and has a massive bunker guarding the left-hand side of the green. In the last five years, the handicap on the hole has been 2-4-5-4-2, so most players will be happy to get away with four pars here this week.
Par-3 6th (199 yards)
The 6th would be a standard par-3, but it’s famous for having a bunker right in the middle of the green. It’s one of those things that you either love or hate, with those who hate it suggesting that it’s nothing more than a gimmick. At the very least, it can provide some interesting shots depending on where players leave themselves, and where the pin is located on that day.
Par-4 10th (315 yards)
The 10th is a definite swing hole. With the short distance, the green can be driven, but extreme accuracy is required with deep bunkers guarding the green. Those who successfully drive the green will have a huge advantage, but if they miss, they could take themselves out of the event.
Par-4 15th (487 yards)
The 15th is the longest par-4 on the course, and is consistently one of the toughest holes on the layout. Most players will have to hit a power fade to avoid the bunker on the right side of the fairway, but if they can do that, they should be set up pretty well for an approach into the largest green on the course. It’s not easy once you get on the green though, as it is multi-tiered, which can lead to some very difficult two-putts.
Par-4 18th (475 yards)
The closing hole at Riviera is one of the most recognizable finales in all of golf. The tee shot is uphill and completely blind to the players, and finding the fairway is pretty much required to hit the green in two shots. The green sits in a bowl with the clubhouse on top, creating an amphitheater like atmosphere around the closing hole.
Key Storyline This Week
A trio of big name players are making their 2013 season debuts this week. We last saw Luke Donald and Graeme McDowell at the DP World Championship last November, while Adam Scott played in the Australian Open in the first week of December. Donald and Scott have both had success at Riviera, with Scott winning this event back in 2005 when it was shortened to 36 holes due to rain. I’d be surprised if any of them pulled out a victory this week, especially when you consider that this is probably the best field that we’ve seen worldwide in 2013, but obviously you can’t count out players with their ability. By the way, the PGA Tour has decided to group them together for the first two rounds.
Sergio Garcia (Best Odds 20-1 at Bet365)
When we last saw Garcia, he was doing this to a bunker in Dubai:
Despite that tantrum above, he’s actually one of the hottest players in the world right now, with six top-10’s in his last nine starts worldwide, including a pair of wins. He usually plays well at Riviera too, only finishing outside of the top-25 twice in seven career starts, and if it wasn’t for a second-round 76 last year, he would have finished higher than a tie for 4th. If you ask anyone inside the game, they’ll tell you that there are very few players who know the game like Garcia, which is probably one of the reasons he’s always made mention of how much he loves playing here, since it’s not a place where you can just do whatever you want. There’s no reason why you should be able to get him at 20-1 this week, so jump on it.
Charl Schwartzel (Best Odds 23-1 at Pinnacle)
Brandt Snedeker has been the best player in the world over the past few weeks, but Schwartzel is a close second. He hasn’t finished outside the top-5 in any of his last five events, including two wins and a runner up finish last week at the European Tour’s Joburg Open. The one thing that’s giving me pause about him is that he’s never played at Riviera, which is usually a bad sign at a course that makes you think about every shot, but you just can’t ignore a player who’s running this well. Until he has a bad performance, put your money down on him with confidence.
Jimmy Walker (Best Odds 33-1 at Pinnacle)
Walker isn’t as hot right now as Schwartzel, but he does have a pair of top-4 finishes in his last three events, and he has had success here before, finishing tied for 4th in each of the last two years at the Northern Trust. He also loves playing in the California area, as he has eight top-10’s in his last ten events in the held in the state. He’s really starting to consistently appear on the leaderboard, and it seems like this is a spot where you can get him at good value considering the strength of the field.
Kevin Stadler (Best Odds 66-1 at bwin)
Stadler’s been under par in 13 of his 14 rounds on the PGA Tour this year, and was great last week at Pebble Beach, finishing in a tie for third, and if you look at his past at Riviera, he’s under par in 14 of his 18 rounds there as well. He’s a very good ball striker, and finds enough fairways that he shouldn’t put himself in too much trouble. My concern would definitely be in his sub par putting, but he’s been better so far in 2013.
Peter Hanson (Best Odds 67-1 at BETDAQ)
Much like Schwartzel, Hanson’s never played at Riviera, but it still doesn’t make any sense that a player of Hanson’s caliber is available at 67-1. He’s been playing pretty well to start 2013, and unlike Stadler, he’s one of the best putters in the world. It’s simply too good of a price to pass up.
J.B. Holmes (Best Odds 113-1 at Betfair)
Granted, J.B. Holmes has been awful for months, but this price is way too high with his track record at Riviera. In six appearances, he’s finished outside the top-12 only once. Like I mentioned with Greg Owen last week, sometimes guys are just so comfortable at a course that it’s difficult to explain. Holmes being comfortable at Riviera doesn’t make a ton of sense to me, but it just works. He won’t win this week, but a strong finish seems likely.
- Fred Couples makes one of his rare PGA Tour appearances this week. He won this event back in 1990 and 1992, and has loads of top-10 finishes at Riviera, but he shouldn’t really be a contender at this point in his career. Not that he needed the help to draw a crowd, but he has been paired with Bubba Watson and Lee Westwood for the first two rounds.
- Arron Oberholser is attempting another comeback this week. He played only two tournaments last year due to injury, and those two were his first since October of 2009.