Fantasy Golf: Expert Picks for Northern Trust Open
The PGA has over one month of the 2011 campaign in the books, yet we continue to stare at a calendar showing nearly two months of time to endure before the first major event – The Masters – marks the "official" start of the season for a majority of golf enthusiasts. This week's Northern Trust Open brings the Tour back to the Riviera Country Club in Pacific Palisades, California. This illustrious course has served as PGA staple since 1929, marking it as one of the historic venues of the game. Former champions include iconic golf greats such as Ben Hogan, Sam Snead, Byron Nelson, Arnold Palmer, Hale Irwin, and Tom Watson. Recent champions include Fred Couples, Nick Faldo, Ernie Els, Robert Allenby, Mike Weir, Adam Scott, Phil Mickelson, and defending champ Steve Stricker.
Phil Mickelson [Yahoo Class A] - World Ranking: #18
Mickelson is the top-ranked golfer in the field and he already owns several quality performances this season. He normally enjoys Riviera (boasting two wins at this event) and his momentum should reward.
This is Stricker's first PGA start, but he has done well in early appearances over recent campaigns. He's the defending champ at this event and is a persistent force of reckoning at Riviera.
Luke Donald [Yahoo Class B] - World Ranking: #76
Donald hasn't filed a competitive round since December, but his resume at Riviera is outstanding -- boasting three consecutive top-ten finishes at this event. He nearly won here last season.
Dustin Johnson [Yahoo Class A] - World Ranking: #8
DJ left fantasy owners frustrated at Pebble Beach last week (finishing T55), but has been as reliable as any top golfer at Riviera over recent seasons, including top-ten finishes in each of his last two visits.
Matt Kuchar [Yahoo Class C] - World Ranking: #20
Kuchar left last season as one of the most rewarding options for fantasy owners and is proving his worth again this season. He has yet to break through for a top finish at Riviera, but he has showcased dramatic improvement.
Allenby has struggled thus far in 2011, but the links of Riviera have been to his liking in the past. His career patterns suggest this is a great spot for wager despite early disappointment.
Paul Casey [Yahoo Class C] - World Ranking: #24
We warn of potential problems as Casey noted neck pain via Twitter on Monday, but his skills demand attention from fantasy owners if he can get right and make the start at Riviera.
J.B. Holmes [Yahoo Class B] - World Ranking: #21
Holmes has proven his worth at Riviera with three top-ten finishes over his last three appearances. He has momentum at his back with top finishes in each of his last two PGA starts as well.
Kim was on the verge of a top finish at this event last season with three outstanding days of work, but a horrific Sunday ruined the effort. While he missed the cut in Phoenix, his other 2011 starts have been promising.
Cabrera may be one of the more volatile fantasy commodities on the market, but he often puts his best foot forward on the links of Riviera. His career resume at this track demands respect.
Bill Haas [Yahoo Class C] - World Ranking: #30
We worry about his lack of emergence in previous starts at Riviera, but Haas has been far too impressive to ignore thus far in 2011. He may be the fantasy MVP of the season thus far (next to Mark Wilson, already boasting two victories).
Rickie Fowler [Yahoo Class A] - World Ranking: #5
Fowler's time on the Tour is short, but his talents are undeniable and the links of Riviera appear to be a perfect fit for his game. We warn of his missed cut here last season, but he cannot be ignored.