This longstanding PGA Tour fixture always attracts a line-up of great quality, and usually a high-class leaderboard. All of the last seven winners started below 50/1, and even several of the eight 100/1 chances to reach the top five since the course was lengthened in 2005 were pickable. Riviera is very much a place for course specialists, producing six multiple winners in its three decade history of hosting this event. One of those is Phil Mickelson, who is bidding to retain the title for a third year.
Course and stats
‘Hogan’s Alley’ is one of the most famous and popular US venues, hosting Majors as well as this fixture, the last of which was Steve Elkington’s 1995 USPGA triumph. It provides a rare old-fashioned test of shotmaking skills, making a pleasant break from the target golf norm. Five of the last ten winners originated from overseas, arguably because of their greater experience of similar types of course.
Course experience is very important on a layout that requires sound management. Smaller than average greens place a great emphasis on long game accuracy, but since the course was extended in 2004, there has also been a marked advantage towards the big-hitters. So ideally, we’re looking for an experienced, big-hitting, high-class player.
Northern Trust golf betting
2.5pts ew ROBERT ALLENBY @ 20/1 (GENERAL)
Allenby would rate a strong candidate in any year on this course, having won in 2001 and made three of the last five top tens. This year is far from the norm though, because right now Bob is quite possibly the hottest golfer on the planet. Twice a winner during an extremely busy schedule just before Christmas, Allenby has started 2010 in the same vein. His performance in finishing second at Waialae whilst playing in pain was arguably better than for those previous victories, and he was right up there again on Sunday. He is going to be very hard to keep out of the frame.
2pts ew PADRAIG HARRINGTON @ 25/1 (GENERAL)
There are some players who I’d hate to back on their seasonal debuts, but not Pod, whose work-rate is legendary. After a frustrating winless year, I’m expecting to see this triple Major winner hungrier to win this sort of event than he may have been previously. It’s easy to forgive Harrington’s missed cut here last year, as he could do little right at the time. Prior to that, he’d looked tailor made for this championship course, finishing seventh and third on his first two visits.
1.5pts ew ADAM SCOTT @ 33/1 (GENERAL, 35/1 SKYBET)
Few players finished 2009 stronger than Adam, and he’s reportedly been working very hard ahead of this seasonal debut. This is a pivotal period of Scott’s career, who can no longer be considered a young prospect with the likes of McIlroy around. On the evidence of a runaway win in the Australian Open, he looks better than ever. Scott won a rain-shortened renewal of the Nissan Open here in 2005, and confirmed that was no fluke by finishing runner-up the following year.
1pt ew DAVIS LOVE @ 80/1 (GENERAL, 100/1 CORAL)
Love may lack the world-class profile that he enjoyed when finishing second in this event back in 1999, but he can still reproduce top-class golf on his day. There was certainly nothing shabby about fifth at the Sony Open on his sole 2010 start, where as usual he was right near the head of the driving distance stats. This event usually sees at least one classy older player in contention, and Davis fits the bill perfectly.
1pt ew FRED COUPLES @ 80/1 (GENERAL)
Twice a former Riviera winner, Couples is the course specialist extraordinaire. Even during the noughties when he has rarely been at the top of the game, Freddie made five top tens, including third place last year. Unlike most of his Champions Tour peers, Couples still hits the ball miles and therefore remains competitive even in this exalted company. His game is in decent nick having finished runner-up in a Champions Tour event a fortnight ago.