The TOUR moves down the California coast to L.A. this week to Riviera Country Club for the Northern Trust Open. This year marks the 50th time that Riviera has hosted the event, and many of the world’s top players are making their 2012 debuts this week. Luke Donald, Jason Day, Sergio Garcia, and Adam Scott will all be teeing it up for the first time in 2012 this week, but don’t expect many cobwebs.
A Group - The World’s #1 player makes his 2012 debut this week at Riviera, where he surprisingly missed the cut last year. His prior history of top 10s from 2008-2010 tells me it was an off week. I can’t in good conscience leave Luke Donald off the starting squad this week. Last week I opted to avoid the erratic Mickelson and that obviously didn’t pan out well. I’ll have him in reserve this week in case he ends up having a surprising two solid weeks in a row.
B Group – Dustin Johnson seemed to erase any doubts about his health last week at Pebble Beach where he tied for 5th. Despite an MC in 2011 at Riviera, he has good history at the venue with a T3 in 2010 and a 10th place finish in 2009. Also getting the nod is Jason Day who is also making his 2012 debut this week. Day had a monster 2011 and proved that he belongs in the upper echelong of elite players. Day is also coming off a runner-up finish in Qatar two weeks ago and looks to be continuing the momentum from 2011.
C Group - Starting in the C group has to be returning champion Aaron Baddeley. Badds hasn’t missed a cut at Riviera in nine appearances. He’s also coming off a strong showing at Pebble where he finished 4th and led the entire field in birdies. If he has the putter rolling, as he usually does, look out. Backing him up I’m going with the nostalgic pick of Freddie Couples who’s history at Riviera speaks for itself with 14 top 10s, which include two victories and three seconds. Couples also had a share of the lead heading in to the weekend in 2011.
Starting Foursome: Luke Donald, Dustin Johnson, Jason Day, Aaron Baddeley
On the Bench: Phil Mickelson, Brandt Snedeker, Bo Van Pelt, Fred Couples