After a weekend of huge hats and crazy pants, it will be nice to get back to watching golf. This week we’ll be heading up the California coast to the Los Angeles metropolitan area. This also marks the halfway point of the winter fantasy golf season, so for those of you looking to make a strong move in the second half, make sure you’ve got a strong bench to go along with your starting foursome. With that, lets take a look at this weeks tournament.
Tournament: Northern Trust Open
Date: February 17th to the 20th
Location: Riviera Country Club, Pacific Palisades, California
Defending Champion: Steve Stricker (-16)
About the course: Riviera CC was the 20th ranked course in 2011, putting it in the top 40% of courses. The course starts out nice and easy with a par-5 first hole that yielded nearly twice as many eagles/birdies as pars in 2010 (261 to 136), making it the easiest hole on the course. Granted, if the course starts like a lamb, it ends like a lion, with the dangerous par-4 18th hole that only runs 28 yards shorter than the first hole. In 2010 the 18th hole had a 2 to 1 ratio of pars to bogeys, meaning that many golfers ended their rounds on a poor note.
Golfers to watch: Steve Stricker is a good candidate to repeat at the event, seeing as he finished second in 2009 and 11th in 2008. Phil Mickelson is again a very strong bet to finish on top, having won in 2008 and 2009. He also finished second in 2007. Matt Kuchar is back playing on the PGA after a hot start. He finished 6th, 5th and 7th in his three January tournaments, so look for him to carry that hot streak over into his first tourney in February. Luke Donald is making his 2011 PGA debut, and given he’s finished in the top six each of the past three years at the Northern Trust Open, including second in 2010, he’s picked the right tournament to start with. Hunter Mahan has finished in the top 30 in all four tournaments he has entered this year, and with a second place finish last week, he’s likely to finish high again. J.B. Holmes has finished in the top ten each of the past three years, and with top 15 finishes each of the last two weeks, his head seems to be in the right place for another top finish. If you’re looking a little deeper for a fantasy golf sleeper this week, consider Jimmy Walker, who has not missed the cut yet in 2011, and has two top 10 finishes, including 9th last week at the AT&T Pro-Am.