Winning Share: $1,206,000
A fascinating battle ensued last Sunday as Jimmy Walker ended up victorious by only 1 shot after having a 6 shot lead at one point. He was incredibly nervy throughout the final day and the fact he is 18s with many bookmakers is understandable but at the same time laughable.
Moving onto this week we are in California for the Northern Trust Open where an unbelievable field has assembled one week before the first WGC event of the year.
Many Europeans have taken the plunge to come over in preparation for the Matchplay and it all adds up to a potentially exciting 4 days of golf.
The Riviera Country Club is one of the more prestigious courses on tour and has been host pretty much every year since 1973. A 7,298 yard par 71, it is not one of the longer tracks, but it heralds a keen eye from the fairway, with tee to green specialists and scramblers usually finding their way to the top of leaderboards in years gone by.
The plotters and players with course experience will have the upper hand but it is well known that the greens are smaller than average. Therefore, it is imperative to have a cracking iron game, short and longer distance, whilst the scrambling will come into play when the inevitability of missing a green occurs.
We must admit that with the strong field, many of the names are in the 20-40s bracket in terms of odds and we have uncharacteristically gone with 3 players at lower odds than we usually would. In some ways we apologise, but at the end of the day we are so sure that these 3 in particular will challenge for the win.
Jordan Spieth (22/1 StanJames)
We went with Jordan Spieth last week, feeling very confident that the youngster would bring home the victory, but his 3rd round +6 completely ruined his chances. However, the conditions he had to deal with were some of the worst we have ever seen and he was caught up in the thick of it.
The –5 he shot on Sunday though, showed his capabilities and we have every right to believe that he would have won had those conditions not played such a significant part.
His tee to green abilities were outstanding again and he is putting with such maturity for someone of his age at the moment. What was really interesting though, is that he lead the stats for scrambling during the week and that could be a key part to his game at Riviera.
He is obviously one of the form players and we are looking past that one appearance here 2 years ago which resulted in a missed cut for 2 reasons – his game is beyond a perfect fit for the course and at least he has a couple of rounds behind him on what is quite a tough track.
Graham DeLaet (22/1 various)
We did manage to get Graham DeLaet at 25s before his prices have dropped across the board, which shows he is someone that many punters are looking at this week and for good reason too.
He is another player in sublime form at the moment, continuing his impressive displays from the back end of last season. It does not feel all that long ago when we were backing the Canadian at 50/60s!
Four top 10s in a row is impeccably consistent golf and his last two outings resulted in two T2. He finished 1 shot off at the Farmers Insurance, whilst a sublime –6 final day performance at the Waste Management meant he finished 1 behind once again.
Usually we would be worried about someone not being able to get the job done, but in these 2 tournaments we cannot really give him our classic tag of ‘bottlejob’.
His tee to green abilities are up there with anyone, he finds greens for fun and is a solid scrambler – 6th GIR, 59th scrambling. There are quite a few left to right doglegs on this course as well, so when you realise he is 10th for right tendency off the tee, you do get really excited about his prospects.
He has played here the past 2 years, not showing the most impressive form, but just like Spieth, at least he has some experience round here.
Bill Haas (30/1 various)
The last of our 3-amigos this week comes in the wonderful baldy form of Bill Haas. As soon as we saw his name pop up on the entry list, there was no way we couldn’t not go with him.
He is the epitome of the golfing cliché ‘plotter’ and he is coming onto a course where has enjoyed a rich history. T3 last year, when he probably should have won but he shot a poor 73 final round to finish 1 behind. And in 2012 he beat the illustrious duo of Phil Mickelson and Keegan Bradley in a playoff to claim the win after a consistent 4 days of golf.
Basically, he loves these sorts of courses and when you look at the stats, it is backed up even more – 23rd GIR, 44th scrambling and 30th right tendency. The perfect trio of stats.
He hasn’t been particularly spectacular this season by any means, but a T6 at the Humana Challenge showed his form is nearly there, especially because he finished at –23 and he is definitely not known for that sort of scoring.
We really do feel Haas can manage his way round the course and as long as his putting is half as good as it was at the Humana, then he will be challenging the leaders.
Charles Howell III (50/1 Ladbrokes)
Oh Charles Howell. Oh how we have struggled with the enigma that is Charles Howell III. He has cost us before in the past and we have backed him at times during his purple patches for tournaments he is perfect for, yet he goes on to forget how to play golf.
So why this week? Like we have said many times in the past, there was no way we couldn’t.
He is in fine form and has started the season superbly, with 5 top 10s out of his 9 starts. That is good going no matter who you are. His last round was a faultless 65 at the Waste Management, where he ended up finishing T6 and that should give him plenty of confidence going into a tournament he enjoys.
He won here by beating Mickelson in a playoff back in 2007 and that ladies and gentleman was the last time we saw Howell with a trophy. Would it not be perfect symmetry to see him win here 7 years later, during a sustained period of form that we have rarely seen from him?!
Added with the fact he is a classic tee to green, iron specialist (11th GIR), an accomplished scrambler (5th scrambling) and often finds the right of fairways (46th), then you can really see that poetic symmetry already.
Victor Dubuisson (90/1 StanJames)
We have decided to go with Victor Dubuisson because of his encouraging price and although he hasn’t played here before, he did get a taste for PGA action last week, where he finished a respectable T13.
We have seen the Frenchman extensively on the European Tour and when he is in his full flow, he is a sublime iron player (12th on tour last year), averages nearly 300 yards off the tee (20th driving distance) and is well known for taking his opportunities when he makes them (9th Putts per GIR). He is obviously in America acclimatising for the WGC next week and if he impresses again than his profile will certainly be on a new level.
We have every faith that Dubuisson will be a PGA Tour regular at some point in his career because when we have seen him playing well, he genuinely is a unique talent.
Brian Davis (150/1 various)
A cheeky added extra this week with Brian Davis, because his odds were too tempting to ignore. It is a course we has finished T3 at before in 2005 and he produced a solid display last week (T13), so he will be coming here with a bit of form.
He was actually T1 with Mickelson in GIR for the week, so his irons are in top shape and he is 11th for tendency so this is somewhere where his consistent tee to green abilities could prove interesting.
Spare change? Brian Davis.