Northern Trust Open
We discuss awkward golfer celebrations, an underrated Bill Murray movie and of course, this week's tournament at Riviera
Northern Trust Open
Where: Pacific Palisades, Calif.
Courses: Riviera Country Club
Defending champion: Steve Stricker held off Luke Donald by two strokes.
This Week's Fix Six
2. Luke Donald
3. Steve Stricker
4. Phil Mickelson
5. J.B. Holmes
6. Steve Marino
Welcome to another edition of Fantasy Fix, where our one wish is that golfers could look a little less awkward when they celebrate. Seeing D.A. Points and Bill Murray win at Pebble Beach was fun, but that attempted chest bump in the 14th fairway turned golf's cool factor down a few notches. Who will be clumsily jumping for joy this week? Read on to hear our thoughts.
The PGA Tour makes a final winter stop in California for the Northern Trust Open. While the event won't feature the plethora of celebrities or breathtaking ocean views of Pebble Beach, it does have Riviera Country Club. Hey, if Ben Hogan picks you as one of his favorite courses, you know you're doing something right. Despite the absence of a certain hometown boy with 14 major championships and the early-week withdrawal of Ernie Els and Nick Watney, viewers will be treated to a very strong field. On the down side, they probably will also be treated to constant Hollywood-related attempts at humor by Jim Nantz.
Random tournament fact: This is the only tournament that Woods has regularly played in (10 appearances as a pro) that he hasn't won. As a result, he hasn't regularly played there since 2005.
Steve Stricker: The Strick Show hasn't played much this year, but it's tough to argue against a guy who is the reigning champ and who also finished runner-up the year before. In total he has an impressive streak of nine straight rounds under par at Riviera. We wouldn't mind seeing him wind up with the trophy again this week. After all, it's been too long since we've seen a grown man cry.
STUD OF THE WEEK
Hunter Mahan. We didn't know what to expect after he returned from his wedding and honeymoon, but Mahan has been on fire with a T-6 at Torrey Pines and a runner-up at Pebble. Surprisingly, he doesn't have much success historically at Riviera, but his hot hand is too much to overlook.
NOT SURPRISING RIVIERA SUCCESS STORY
Luke Donald. It makes perfect sense that one of the best ball-strikers in the world always seems to play well on what has always been regarded as a ball-striker's course (see the Hogan comment above). Donald has never won (let's be honest, he hasn't won much anywhere), but he has a second, a T-3 and five top 15s in his last six starts at Riviera.
SURPRISING RIVIERA SUCCESS STORY
J.B. Holmes. The bomber isn't the prototypical player you would expect to do well on a strategic course like Riviera, but he has succeeded nevertheless. A T-7 in 2008, a T-6 in 2009 and a T-3 last year seem to have him closing in on a first win at a course other than TPC Scottsdale. A good week at Pebble won't hurt the confidence, either.
FAN MAIL BREAK
"Hey Alex, thanks for mocking me a couple weeks ago. It really motivated me to play better the last couple weeks. Sincerely, Aaron Baddeley."
Glad to help, Aaron, especially if you being back in contention means the TV cameras showing more shots of your lovely wife, Richelle, in the gallery. Seriously, though, please feel free to e-mail me with comments, questions or just to make fun of my picks. And of course, you can follow me on Twitter.
USE AT YOUR OWN RISK
Andres Romero. A Fantasy Fix favorite, Romero's best finishes on the PGA Tour in each of the past two years have come right here at this event with a T-5 last year and a T-3 in 2009. Of course, the volatile Argentine is just as likely to finish dead last.
THANKS FOR NOTHING AWARD
Tim Clark. Unfortunately, another Fantasy Fix favorite has quickly become a Fantasy Fix goat. After taking time off to mend a blister on his left pinky toe (not the manliest thing we've ever heard), Clark pulled out just before his first round tee time at Pebble with an elbow injury. While I certainly hope this isn't serious (probably not seeing how he's in the field this week), he has some work to do for making me look bad and for costing all those people who couldn't remove him from their lineups in time. That's the last time I refer to him as a stud...