Northern Trust Open experts' picks

February, 12, 2013
02/12/13
1:46
PM ET

Each week of the season, our experts will share their insights into which players fit the criteria for our four categories: 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 at Riviera Country Club in Pacific Palisades, Calif.

Horse for the Course

Michael Collins, ESPN.com senior golf analyst: Fred Couples

Since playing this event in 1982 he's missed three cuts total. Did I tell you he's had 13 top-10s including two wins and three seconds? Call me crazy, but since length isn't a big deal around this track, experience matters most. Couples did miss the 2007 tournament; what would he know in the past 30 years?

Farrell Evans, ESPN.com senior golf writer: Phil Mickelson

Corey Pavin and Fred Couples both own two wins at Riviera and both are in the field this week. But no one has been better on the George C. Thomas design than Mickelson, a back-to-back winner here in 2008 and 2009 and a runner-up last year.

Bob Harig, ESPN.com senior golf writer: Phil Mickelson

In his past six visits to Riviera, Mickelson has two victories and two runner-up finishes.

Kevin Maguire, ESPN.com senior golf editor: Adam Scott

The Aussie won the event the first time he played it (in a weather-shortened 36-holer in 2005) but he also owns a second at Riviera plus another pair of top-20 finishes.


Birdie Buster

Michael Collins: Bubba Watson

Sounds funny to say it when talking about a guy who hits it a straight as he does (that's sarcasm) but Bubba is up near the top of the tour in greens in regulation. That will serve him much better than his length this week.

Farrell Evans: James Hahn

The 31-year-old rookie has a T-4 (Humana) and T-3 (Pebble) in five starts this season. Right now, the former Cal star is in a close race with Sony winner Russell Henley for rookie of the year honors.

Bob Harig: James Hahn

The PGA Tour rookie has made six straight cuts and has two top-5 finishes, including a tie for third Sunday at Pebble Beach where he played in the final group.

Kevin Maguire: Dustin Johnson

Last week was an anomaly for DJ, who shockingly missed the cut at Pebble Beach after playing with his girlfriend's dad in the pro-am (who was, ahem, Wayne Gretzky.) Expect to see the DJ who has three top-10s in five starts at Riviera this week.


Super Sleeper

Michael Collins: Michael Thompson

Don't be fooled by his play so far this year. He missed two cuts last year before finishing in a tie for 17th and that was in his first try playing the event. Now with a year of experience under his belt, expect nothing less than a top-15 finish.

Farrell Evans: Kevin Stadler

The son of the 1982 Masters champion, Craig Stadler, this 33-year-old former USC star is due to win on the PGA Tour. He's had victories on both the European Tour and Web.com Tour. Last week he had a tie for third at Pebble.

Bob Harig: Ernie Els

The reigning Open Championship winner has not had much success since his victory at Royal Lytham. He is making his PGA Tour debut after two lackluster showings in the Middle East.

Kevin Maguire: Patrick Cantlay

The Northern Trust Open is saluting past UCLA players and Cantlay, on a sponsor's exemption this week, proved his worth among that prestigious group at Pebble Beach with a T-9.


Winner

Michael Collins: Sergio Garcia

Since when have you known me to be scared to go out on a limb? We haven't seen hide nor hair of him in 2013 at all. No matter. He made this event his debut last year and closed with 64 to finish fourth. Don't worry, I won't say I told you so after he gets his first win since Greensboro last year. Forgot already didn't ya?

Farrell Evans: Sergio Garcia

The 33-year-old Spaniard is making his 2013 debut on the PGA Tour this week at Riviera, where he finished in a tie for fourth last year after a final-round 64. In his previous two starts in the new season on the European Tour, Garcia had a T-2 in the Qatar Masters and a T-17 in the Omega Dubai Desert Classic. He's looking to continue the good play from the end of last year that led him to a win in Greensboro in August.

Bob Harig: Charles Howell III

Off to a strong start this year, Howell squeaked into next week's Match Play and now has his sights set on getting into the Masters by moving into the top 50 in the world. Riviera is the site of his last PGA Tour victory in 2007.

Kevin Maguire: Jimmy Walker

Well, after picking Brandt Snedeker to win last week (yup, straight chalk), I'm looking to go 2-for-2 but in the complete opposite direction. Walker hasn't missed a cut this year, has two top-4 finishes including a T-3 at Pebble last week. Oh, and his last two starts at the Northern Trust Open? A pair of T-4s. That first PGA Tour win is right around the corner.

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