2015 Northern Trust Open at Riviera Picks + Predictions, Plus the Driver-Off-The-Deck BOLD Play of the Week #HogansAlley

There are a select few non-major tourneys that every player on the PGA Tour covets to win in their careers.  The PLAYERS Championship of course immediately springs to mind, as does the Tour Championship.  Throw in Jack and Arnie’s events and no doubt there are some premiere non-majors, highlighted by their indelible tracks.  This week’s Northern Trust Open belongs in that top-of-the-notch mix, as its host track Riviera CC is one of the most venerable on Tour, having hosted multiple major championships and being dubbed “Hogan’s Alley,” as the Hawk Ben Hogan himself won the LA Open here three times and also took home the trophy at the 1948 U.S. Open this same track.  No doubt, history just oozes from the stunning Riviera clubhouse that sits atop the fantastically awesome natural amphitheater that surrounds the 18th green.

Riviera is a par 71 that stretches up to 7,349 yards from the tips.  Scoring averages typically range in the mid-71s per round, making it one of the toughest non-major tracks that these guys play annually.  Its small poa greens are headache-city and the thick, bunchy rough swallows up golf balls like nobody’s business.  It’s a course that truly equalizes the playing field, as bombers + bashers like Bubba Watson and Dustin Johnson are leveled with plodders and game-managers like Jim Furyk and Matt Kuchar.  It’s the epitome of great design and a wonderful host venue for an annual PGA Tour event.

Another solid week for my picks last week at Pebble Beach, highlighted by my LOCKZILLA Dustin Johnson finishing t-4th and by nailing my HOSEL-ROCKET BUST pick of the week on previously red hot Ryan Palmer as he missed the cut.

Now, let’s hop into some picks for this week:

LOCKZILLAS (Last Week: Dustin t-4th, DeLaet t-57th)

Hideki Matsuyama
Hideki Matsuyama
– Hideki missed the cut two weeks ago at Torrey Pines and suddenly comes into this week a bit under the radar.  Let it be noted that it was his first MC since last August at the Wyndham Championship, with the previous MC before that being the prior April at the RBC Heritage.  In summary?  He doesn’t miss many cuts.  In fact, not only does he not miss many cuts, but he contends often, lest we should forget that he finished t-2nd at the Phoenix Open in his prior start to Torrey, his third top 3 so far this wrap around season.  He finished t-23rd here in his debut at Riviera last year, and I expect for a contention and potentially even victory #2 from the talented young Japanese star this week.

Harris English
Harris English
– English was the forgotten man from the playoff at Torrey Pines two weeks ago, as eventual winner Jason Day, as well as JB Holmes and defending champ Scott Stalling garnered all of the attention.  Don’t look now, but English’s game has been trending upward all season, as prior to his runner-up at Torrey Pines he had made all three cuts so far this year, including a t-3rd at the Sony Open back in January.  Add in that he’s 2-for-2 here at Riviera, with a t-10th last year and I believe his chances are high to be in contention come Sunday again this week.

SEMI-FLIER (Last Week: Lowry t-21st)

Luke Donald
Luke Donald
– Back-to-back missed cuts for the former world #1 his past two events, and it appears that the wheels have completely fallen off from the train.  No question, Luke is not currently in his form of old, as he previously appeared destined to win a major and lead Euro Ryder Cup teams for years to come; however, I’m telling you that he’s on the right track back.  In November, Luke reunited with former swing coach Pat Goss from Northwestern (Luke’s alma matter), and has no doubt seen a bumpy road thus far.  But, with more time under the belt with his new coach and returning to a place where Luke has had success before—- t-16th in ’13, solo 2nd in ’10, t-6th in ’09, t-12th in ’06, t-13th in ’05 and I’m telling you this is the week that Luke gets things back on track.  It may take a while yet for him to make a big splash back into the winner’s circle, but it’s inevitably going to happen.  Expect a top 25 from him this week and even bigger/better things this summer.

HOSEL-ROCKET BUST (Last Week: Palmer MC)

Brandt Snedeker
Brandt Snedeker
– Ah, victory at last…and hello Masters invite!  Serious congrats to Sneds for his huge victory last week (with his $20 driver and all), and now it’s time to keep that momentum going this week, errrr time for a major letdown.  It’s usually wise to fade last week’s winner for the most part, especially when that win locks up a highly coveted Master invite like it did for Sneds (which he previously had said was one of his main motivating factors this year, as he absolutely loves Augusta—who doesn’t).  I’m high on Sneds for a big season, but this week has letdown written all over it.  Stay away from Sneds this week.

DRIVER-OFF-THE-DECK BOLD PLAY OF THE WEEK (Last Week: Hahn t-29th)

Francesco Molinari
Francesco Molinari
– This ball-strikin’ Italian Jesse has committed to playing the PGA Tour on a full-time basis this season, meaning his comfort level on this side of the pond is only going to grow with time.  All that he’s done so far this season is quietly notch a t-37th at the Sony Open, t-10th at the Humana and a t-22nd at the Phoenix Open.  He has only played here once (t-40th last year), but have no fear, this course suits Francesco’s game perfectly.  Think lock-city for a top 25 with a real chance to contend for the win on Sunday.  Francesco Molinari is your Driver-off-the-Deck BOLD play of the week!

#isitThursdayyet

Joel Harrington
@joel4deepgolf

Speak Your Mind

*