Only two from top ten at Northern Trust
BY Bruce Young | US PGA Tour | 2014 Northern Trust Open | Preview | 12 Feb 2014
From the Monterey Peninsula and the staging of the AT&T Pebble Beach event last week, the PGA Tour heads south to Los Angeles for this week’s Northern Trust Open at the Riviera Country Club.
John Merrick defends the title he won in a playoff over Charlie Beljan last year, the victory the first for Merrick on the PGA Tour.
Earlier but recent winners have been Bill Haas, who also completed a playoff victory against Phil Mickelson and Keegan Bradley in 2012, and Aaron Baddeley who won his second PGA Tour title when winning in 2011.
Mickelson won in 2008 and 2009 while Steve Stricker won in 2010.
Justin Rose leads the field in terms of world ranking but although the Englishman was in outstanding for late in 2013 he has not played since mid December so his tournament readiness might be in question against some who have played perhaps three or four events already this season.
In eight starts in the event Rose has recorded only one top ten so the stars seem unlikely to align this week.
Matt Kuchar is the only other player from the top ten and with six consecutive top tens up to and including his last start in Hawaii five weeks ago he must be a consideration despite his lack of recent play. He will be back fresh and ready to go although he does not enjoy a good record at Riviera.
Dustin Johnson played very well at Pebble Beach last week when runner-up to Jimmy Walker and does enjoy a good record at this event having finished 4th, 3rd and 10th in three of his six starts. A first win in the event is very much a possibility.
The ever present Jordan Spieth plays his fifth event of 2014 and having finished runner-up at Kapalua and 4th last week at Pebble Beach. Spieth is likely to be in the mix once again. Working against him is the fact that in his only start in the event two years ago he missed the cut.
Webb Simpson has played well in this event on both occasions he has played. In six of his last seven PGA Tour starts he has been inside the top ten on six occasions suggesting that this could be his week.
It is just a matter of time before Hideki Matsuyama wins an event on the PGA Tour and although this is his first time to this event he has played very nicely as a card holder on the PGA Tour this season. He has been 16th and 4th in the two events he has played in 2014 and he appears more then capable of winning at this level.
Bill Haas has been neither good nor bad this season and with a win and a third place finish in his last two visits to this event the stars are aligning.
The Australian line-up is strong numerically at least with Marc Leishman, Matt Jones, Aaron Baddeley, Geoff Ogilvy, Stuart Appleby, John Senden, Greg Chalmers and Robert Allenby teeing it up.
Leishman has produced one or two good events at this venue and given his great weeks at the Sony Open and at Torrey Pines he should be a chance to at least lead the Australians .
Baddeley, of course, won three years ago.