Northern Trust Open experts' picks

February, 14, 2012
The PGA Tour heads down the California coast from Pebble Beach to Riviera Country Club in Pacific Palisades.

Each week of the season, our experts will share their insights into which players fit the criteria for our four categories below: Horse for the Course (a golfer who knows the track inside and out), Birdie Buster (a guy who could take it low this week), Super Sleeper (a player who could unexpectedly contend) and Winner.

This week's tournament: The Northern Trust Open

Horse for the Course

Michael Collins, senior golf writer: Ryan Moore
He hasn't missed the cut since the first year he played in the event in 2007. Even though this will be his fifth event in a row, he's going to a course on which he now feels comfortable and knows well.

Farrell Evans, senior golf writer: Phil Mickelson
After an emotional win last week at Pebble Beach, the 40-time PGA Tour winner will be brimming with confidence this week on a Riviera layout, where he has twice won the Northern Trust Open. The last of his two wins came here in 2009, when his 15 under total included rounds of 63 and 62.

Bob Harig, senior golf writer: Fred Couples
After playing in Dubai, the Champions Tour player is competing on a sponsor's exemption at one of his favorite venues. Couples is playing the event for the 22nd time and tied for seventh last year.

Kevin Maguire, senior golf editor: Aaron Baddeley
In 2011, the Aussie posted his first top-10 finish of the year at Pebble Beach, then went on to win the Northern Trust Open the following week for his third PGA Tour title. Well, after ending up in fourth place on the Monterey Peninsula amid all the Phil-Tiger fanfare, Baddeley returns to defend his title.

Birdie Buster

Michael Collins: Vijay Singh
It's taken awhile (last year was his first top-10 there, finishing solo second), but I think Singh finally has found his "eye" around Riviera. He's toned down his workout regimen and is feeling as healthy as he has in a while. At age 48, there always will be those aches and creaks.

Farrell Evans: Spencer Levin
After blowing a 6-shot lead in Phoenix, the 27-year old former University of New Mexico star rebounded last week with a tie for ninth at Pebble Beach. Last year at Riviera, he finished in a tie for 12th, and the following week he lost in a playoff to Johnson Wagner at the Mayakoba Golf Classic.

Bob Harig: Phil Mickelson
Last week's winner returns to Riviera for the Northern Trust Open, an event he won in 2008 and 2009. He is coming off a victory at Pebble Beach, where he made six birdies and an eagle to cruise to his 40th PGA Tour win. Mickelson was the only player without a bogey Sunday.

Kevin Maguire: Brandt Snedeker
Sure, he's missed the cut at Riviera three of the four times he's played there, but Snedeker is riding high after that playoff win at Torrey Pines a couple of weeks back.

Super Sleeper

Michael Collins: Jason Gore
Yes, he'll face a ton of pressure because it's a home game for him and it was because of Twitter that he received a sponsor's invitation. But I believe he can overcome that because of his attitude and especially because his game is in great form right now.

Farrell Evans: Fred Couples
The coolest guy in golf will make his 30th appearance at the Northern Trust Open, which he won in 1990 and 1992. He finished in a tie for seventh here last year. You wouldn't expect a 52-year-old Champions Tour player to have a chance against all these kids, but Couples can still hit it out there with some of the longest hitters in the game.

Bob Harig: Ernie Els
Making his season debut on the PGA Tour, Els is still outside the top 50 in the world (65th) and could use a boost, as he is not yet eligible for the Masters.

Kevin Maguire: Erik Compton
Last year, playing on a sponsor's exemption at Riviera, Compton not only played the weekend but also shot a final-round 64 to prove that he can go low on the famed venue.


Michael Collins: Adam Scott
Do you remember he has won this event? Yep, in 2005, but it was only a 36-hole rain-shortened event that isn't an official victory. (I was soaked caddying that year.) He's making his 2012 PGA Tour debut this week, and he'll start his year off with a bang.

Farrell Evans: Kevin Na
The 28-year-old South Korean native has had back-to-back T-5s in Phoenix and Pebble Beach. He likes Riviera. Last year he finished third here, and the year before that he had a tie for 10th. Na, who turned pro at age 17, got his first tour victory last year in October in Las Vegas at the Justin Timberlake Shriners Hospitals for Children Open.

Bob Harig: Luke Donald
Last year, Donald missed the cut at this event, then went on a worldwide tear. He got his bad early-season event out of the way in Abu Dhabi, and the world No. 1 will bounce back at Riviera, where he finished second two years ago.

Kevin Maguire:Luke Donald
Skeptics will point to the fact that Donald missed the cut in his last appearance in the Northern Trust Open. True, but the reality is, the player in 2011 and the golfer who tees it up this week as No. 1 in the world look nothing alike when it comes to their golf games.





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