US Open champion Justin Rose returns from injury at this week’s Northern Trust Open, and will be vying with a number of fancied Americans for the title.
The Englishman spent two months on the sidelines due to tendinitis, but has immediately been installed as one of the favourites at Riviera Country Club in Pacific Palisades, California, this week.
Not that he doesn’t face some stiff competition, with 16 of the world’s top 30 players in attendance.
Take Jimmy Walker, for instance. A three-time winner on the PGA Tour already this season, Walker’s recent form has been a revelation. He has already earned $3,605,833 this season, a cool $1.5m more than his nearest rival, Dustin Johnson, and his latest victory came just last week at Pebble Beach.
Walker’s streak must surely be set to come to an end at some point, but so far he’s shown no signs of slowing down. Riviera also happens to be his favourite course.
The aforementioned Johnson will be another contender this week. He’s had five straight top-12s this year and also has three top 10s to his name at Riviera, including a T3 and T4 in 2010 and 2012 respectively.
Then there are the likes of Hunter Mahan and Webb Simpson, consistent performers who always seem to be there or thereabouts.
Rookie Jordan Spieth can’t be discounted either, nor can Keegan Bradley. And what of Bill Haas, Matt Kuchar and a resurgent Bubba Watson, fresh off a T2 in Phoenix a fortnight ago?
Charl Schwartzel and Louis Oosthuizen, meanwhile, return Stateside following a number of solid performances on the European Tour. At 40/1 and 45/1 respectively, they are being backed alongside the likes of veteran Jim Furyk and fellow major winner Jason Dufner.
As for the course itself, Riviera’s par-71 layout mixes great scoring opportunities on the three par-fives with some truly challenging par-threes and fours. Taking full advantage of the longer holes is key to compiling a good score.
Riviera ranks low in fairways found, greens in regulation and par saves, and statistically is the fourth-hardest of the nine par 71s in non-majors.
Thankfully, the weather will be playing along this week, with high temperatures and light winds predicted across all four days.
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