Northern Trust guide

Dave Tindall's in-depth preview and best bets for this week's PGA Tour event - the Northern Trust Open

By Dave Tindall Twitter: @DaveTindallgolf.   Last Updated: 12/02/14 3:21pm

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The tee sits 75 feet above the fairway at Riviera's par five opening hole.

The tee sits 75 feet above the fairway at Riviera's par five opening hole.

Sky Bet

The next leg of the PGA Tour's West Coast Swing takes place at storied Riviera Country Club in Los Angeles.

Open for play since 1927, the George C. Thomas masterpiece is one of the most revered courses on tour and has held three major championships.

Riviera has also long been known as "Hogan's Alley", a nickname bestowed upon it by three-time Masters champion Jimmy Demaret after the legendary Ben Hogan won the 1947 and 1948 Los Angeles Opens and the 1948 US Open at Riviera within a span of 18 months.

It's seen a mix of winners and, famously, both Jack Nicklaus and Tiger Woods have failed to win there.

Woods sits it out again while two-time winner Phil Mickelson also misses the tournament for the first time since 2006.

Winners in the last 11 years comprise six Americans, two Australians, a South African and a Canadian (Mike Weir twice).

Weir and Mickelson's double wins also make it four wins in the last 11 years for left-handers.

As usual, Sky Sports will have live coverage of all four days.

The course

The iconic clubhouse behind the 18th green

Riviera is a 7,298 yard par 71 where course management and excellent ball-striking are rewarded. The old-school layout features tree-lined fairways and greens that are much smaller than the tour average. The reason for the success of the internationals may well be down to the Kikuya grass which makes Riviera play like no other on tour. The ball sits up in the fairways, grips the club head in the rough, and around the protected greens there are no chip and run possibilities. Short side yourself and only the lob wedge can save you. The winning score can vary depending on the wind and Mike Weir won back-to-back titles in 2003 and 2004 with -9 and -17. John Merrick fired 11-under to take the trophy in 2013.

The leading contenders (and Sky Bet odds)

Dustin Johnson (11/1): DJ went close to a third win at Pebble Beach last week as a closing 66 was just one shot too many. Still, it was an impressive performance (he ranked second in Putting Average) and that means a sixth and a runners-up finish from just two starts in 2014. Add in his strong record here - third 2010, fourth 2012 and 10th 2009 - and it's obvious why Johnson has been made clear favourite to pocket a ninth PGA Tour win.

Jordan Spieth (18/1): The 20-year-old's remarkable rise continues and a fourth place at Pebble Beach means his last 13 starts have produced a win, three seconds, two fourths and four other top 20s. Filter out majors and he has a win and five top fours from 11 starts. Last week at Pebble he was ranked second in the All-Around ranking so he's doing everything well and showing no signs of a dip. Missed the cut (76-71) on debut here last year.

Hunter Mahan (20/1): A popular pick to win at Pebble Beach last week, Mahan gave punters a run for their money although didn't do enough on the weekend as a pair of 72s left him in sixth. That added to a fourth in Phoenix the week before so the Californian is enjoying the West Coast swing. This is his ninth start at Riviera and he'll be out to improve upon last year's eighth place (his best finish and only second top 20).

Jimmy Walker (20/1): Labelled as a player who could contend but not finish things off, Walker has, rather remarkably, turned himself into a winning machine. He made the big breakthrough in October's Frys.com Open, followed it up with victory in the Sony Open in Hawaii last month and made it three wins from eight starts by winning at Pebble Beach last week after establishing a six-shot lead after 54 holes. He can't win again though, can he? Back-to-back fourth places at this course (one that he loves) in 2011 and 2012 suggest he could well be in the mix again!

Webb Simpson (20/1): Simpson won the 2012 US Open on a revered course (Olympic Club) in California so will be hoping to repeat the trick on another - Riviera. He's played here just twice but has some encouraging results with a 15th on debut in 2010 and a sixth last year. As for his 2014 form, the Ryder Cup star was third in the Tournament of Champions in Hawaii, 23rd in the Humana Challenge in California and 10th last time out in Phoenix.

Graham DeLaet (25/1): The two wins for countryman Mike Weir may prove a good omen for DeLaet as he goes in search of that elusive first PGA Tour win. The increasingly regular knocks at the door are getting louder and he now has second places from his last two starts (Farmers Insurance Open and Phoenix Open). This is DeLaet's third start here after finishes of 44th in 2012 and 21st last year.

Justin Rose (25/1): Finally, Rose makes his first start in 2014 after being sidelined by mild tendinitis in his right shoulder. He said on Tuesday: "I'm feeling good. It was a race against time to really get back playing and get back strong, and if I'm honest, I've only really been hitting balls, drivers, for about a week, ten days now." Riviera "fits my eye" says Rose, who has made seven cuts out of eight here, with his two best finishes (9th and 13th) coming on his last two visits (2011 and 2012).

Conclusion

With the exact same shuffling walk and hitch of the pants as his dad, Kevin Stadler really is a chip off the old block.

So how about following in Craig's footsteps and putting his name on this trophy too.

Craig's victory came in 1996 while he also finished runner-up in 1997 but it's not just genetic suitability to play well at Riviera that makes Kevin a good bet this week!

Already this year we've seen Jimmy Walker and Patrick Reed score quick follow-up victories to their maiden wins so there is no reason why Stadler can't continue the trend.

Encouragingly, if we trawl back through Stadler's records we find that in December 2005 he won the Argentine Open and two starts later captured the European Tour's Johnnie Walker Classic in Australia.

So, after following up his debut PGA Tour win in Phoenix a fortnight ago with a 45th at Pebble, perhaps he can go in again.

Craig Stadler: Won here in 1996; can son Kevin follow in his footsteps?

Kevin's Riviera form isn't in the same league as his father's but five straight cuts, including a 10th (2010), a 12th (2011) and a 24th (2012) offers definite encouragement.

All in all he makes real each-way appeal at 70/1.

Last year the course really firmed up on the weekend so it was some effort by Bill Haas to card a Saturday 64 - three strokes lower than anyone else.

Haas couldn't keep it going on Sunday and eventually finished third but that was in defence of the title he'd won at Riviera 12 months earlier while he was also 12th in 2011.

With hot weather forecast this week and players saying how it's already playing firm, Haas looks one who could cash in again.

He's already finished sixth in the Humana Challenge this year (another tournament he'd won before) so take him at 25/1 to get hot at Riviera once more.

Marc Leishman shot the joint third best round of the day (a 68) in tough Saturday conditions last year and, given the record of internationals here, is worth a bet at 60/1.

Steve Elkington won the US PGA at Riviera in 1995 while fellow Aussies Robert Allenby (2001), Adam Scott (2005) and Aaron Baddeley (2011) have won this event in recent memory.

Leishman couldn't go through with his effort here 12 months ago, falling away with a Sunday 77, but back in 2010 he closed with a 65 to finish 15th on debut while he was also 17th in 2012.

He started this year with a fifth in the Sony Open and a second at Torrey Pines so there's plenty of evidence to suggest that this could be the scene of his second PGA Tour win.

Finally, Ryan Moore loves to putt fast greens so will find the course just how he likes it.

Moore has been playing the most consistent golf of his pro career either side of the Christmas break with his last eight starts showing a win and five other top 11 finishes.

He's been in the top 11 after 54 holes in each of the last three runnings at Riviera and went on to finish fourth in 2011.

Moore's stats look excellent and, boosted by the win for his native Seattle Seahawks (he wore their colours all week when sixth in Phoenix), he can keep the good times coming with a win here.

Bill Haas: Beat Phil Mickelson and Keegan Bradley in a dramatic three-way play-off in 2012

Best bets

1pt e.w. Kevin Stadler at 70/1 (1/4 1,2,3,4,5)
2pts e.w. Bill Haas at 25/1 (1/4 1,2,3,4,5)
1pt e.w. Marc Leishman at 60/1 (1/4 1,2,3,4,5)
1.5pts e.w. Ryan Moore at 28/1 (1/4 1,2,3,4,5)

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