Pebble Beach as kind to Jimmy Walker this past week and it appears Mr. Walker is in for one heck of a 2014 PGA Tour campaign. Yet the tour rolls on and the West Coast Swing continues. Welcome to Riviera Country Club and the Northern Trust Open. Riviera Country Club, in the Santa Monica valley, has hosted this event 47 times. The course will play to 7,349 yards and a par of 71.
The course known as “Hogan’s Alley” is a challenging track that as has been ranked number three on tour by PGA Tour Professionals. It is not the type of course where a player can load up and bomb it. It is rather a track that requires the professional to work the ball, play crisp irons and use imagination around the challenging greens. In short Riviera is no push over. The player that stands victorious this week will take home the $1.206 million winners share of a $6.7 million purse.
Like many historic courses, Riviera has been the venue where many of the greats of the game have finished the weekend on top. Players like Jack Nicklaus, Arnold Palmer, Sam Snead, Tom Watson, Ben Hogan and others have all tasted victory at least once here. Predicting a winner in a full field golf tournament is a lot like finding a needle in a haystack but that doesn’t mean it cannot be done. Who will joined the storied list of past champions here? Let’s get to the predictions and picks for the 2014 Northern Trust Open.
Contender – Bill Haas
Over the last few years you would be hard pressed to find a player with a better resume at the Northern Trust Open than Bill Haas. After he righted his own ship he has been on fire at this event. Since 2011, Bill Haas finished tied for 12th in 2011, tied for third last year and won the Northern Trust Open in 2012.
Haas has played in six official events in the 2014 season (which includes the tail end of 2013s calendar year). He has already finished in the top-25 on four occasions as well as a tie for sixth at the Humana Challenge. His last two competitive rounds were both 71s which might concern but looking back to 2012 he has a similar final two rounds before winning at Riviera.
The Pick – Jordan Spieth
What can you say about Jordan Spieth? The 2013 Rookie of the Year played 2013 in a way that many people would consider a dream. He earned his full card, played on the Presidents Cup and compounded an incredible record. He made 18 cuts finishing in the top-25 13 times, the top-10 nine times with three runner-ups while winning the John Deere Classic, his first tour victory. He ended 2013 on an incredible run showing the FedExCup Playoffs were not too much for him ending the season with a tie for 19th at the Barclays, a tie for fourth at the Deutsche Bank, tie for 16th at the BMW and a tie for second at the TOUR Championship.
The youngster just doesn’t understand that it is not supposed to be this easy to complete effectively on the PGA Tour. In 2014, Jordan has played in five official events making the cut in all but one. Of the made cuts, Jordan has finished in the top-25 four times and twice in the top-10 including a second at the Hyundai Tournament of Champions and a tie for fourth at last week’s AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am. The important take away from Pebble Beach is that Jordan rebounded from a third round 78 to shoot five under 67 in the final round playing himself right back into the event. He missed the cut in his only career start at the Northern Trust Open in 2012 but this means that he has seen Riviera Country Club before and with the way he is playing the field better watch out.
Who will win the 2014 Northern Trust Open?
- Jordan Spieth (43%, 32 Votes)
- Other (Please Leave Comment) (38%, 28 Votes)
- Bill Haas (19%, 14 Votes)
Total Voters: 74