RotoWire Partners

Northern Trust Open: Four of a Kind

Greg Vara

Vara is the lead golf writer at RotoWire. He was named the 2013 FSWA Golf Writer of the Year. In addition to producing the weekly preview and the bulk of the draft kit content, Vara participates in Yahoo!'s "Experts Picks" where he routinely dominates. He also picks college football games against the spread in his "College Capper" article.

Cliches are used for a reason - because there is usually an element of truth to them. Yes, they aren't novel, but the reason they get overused is because the truth in them usually applies to the situation. I mention that because I'm about to drop a cliche on you -- winning on the PGA Tour is really tough. There was a time when it seemed like winning wasn't all that hard; after all, Tiger Woods could win just about whenever he wanted for about a decade. We've found out together that winning just wasn't supposed to be as easy as Tiger made it look. But this isn't about Tiger, this is about Jimmy Walker, a man who already had two wins under his belt this season before teeing it up last Thursday. He entered the final round at the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am as the leader in FedEx points and quite possibly the hottest player on the planet, and yet by the time he reached the 72nd hole, he was in real jeopardy of blowing a six-stroke lead. So how does that happen? It's not like Walker was some young buck hanging on for dear life for his first win on the PGA Tour, or some old-timer feeling the nerves as he tried to close out. Walker is in the prime of his career, playing the best golf of his life, it shouldn't have been that hard to close on Sunday. I guess the only way to explain it is to say, winning on the PGA Tour is really tough.

This week:
Northern Trust Open - Riviera CC, Pacific Palisades, Calif.

Last Year:
John Merrick shot a final-round 69 on his way to a playoff victory over Charlie Beljan.

Players to Consider:

Jimmy Walker

It's time to see just how hot Walker can get. He enters this event on a roll and has a solid track record at Riviera as well. We saw the pressure get to Walker late last week, and though there's no way to tell what happened there, I have to assume it was a fluke. He's already won three times this season!

Graham DeLaet

If not for Jimmy Walker's start to the 2014 season, the golf world would be talking about DeLaet, who's also on fire early this season. DeLaet has finished runner-up in his last two events and is riding a streak of four consecutive top-10s. He also carded a top-25 here last year.

Bill Haas

Haas is often the forgotten one when people talk about the big names in golf, but his resume stacks up well with many of the younger players on the PGA Tour. He's played very well at this event the last three years, earning a top-15, a top-3 and a victory two years ago.

Dustin Johnson

Johnson has been hit or miss at this event the last four years, rotating top-5s and missed cuts during that time. The good news is, he's due for a top-5 this year! Seriously, he's playing well and knows how to get around this course, so a top-5 is certainly realistic.

J.B. Holmes

Holmes has yet to regain his pre-injury form, but he's showing some progress this season as he's made the cut in all three events he's played. This week should be a good measuring stick of where he's at because his track record here is solid. Prior to missing the cut last season, Holmes had a streak of five consecutive top-15s.

Players to Avoid:

Aaron Baddeley

Baddeley won this event in 2011, but he hasn't been the same play since. Baddeley has been on a bit of a rollercoaster the last two seasons, but he's struggled to find the high points the last eight months. A return to Riviera could get him out of this funk, but I wouldn't bet on it.

Freddie Jacobson

Jacobson has had his moments at this event, which should put him on the radar this week, but he's really struggled since the calendar turned to 2014. I'm not sure he can pull out of this rut this week. His two most recent starts have resulted in a MC and a WD.

Lee Westwood

There will be plenty of good spots to use Westwood throughout the season, but this is not one. Westwood finished in the top-25 last year at this event, but he has only one top-10 here in seven tries.

Carl Pettersson

Pettersson is hoping to bounce back this season after a tough 2013 campaign, but so far the results are not what he'd hoped. He's not likely to get back on track this week either as his results at Riviera leave a lot to be desired. In 11 starts here, only one top-10 for Pettersson.

Vijay Singh

Did I really put Singh on the "Consider" list last week? I did have my reasons, but after seeing how he played at Pebble Beach last week, a place where he has a good track record, there's no way I can advise anyone to use him this week at Riviera, where his track record is not very good.


Last week:
Jimmy Walker (Win) - $1,188,000; Season - $1,524,961.

This week:
Graham DeLaet - He might be the real deal, or he might just be on a roll. Either way, he's playing at a very high level and has played well here before, so this is the week to use him.


Group A:
Matt Kuchar, Ryan Moore

Group B:
Graham DeLaet, Dusti Johnson, Webb Simpson, Bill Haas

Group C:
Jimmy Walker, J.B. Holmes


Last week:
Vijay Singh - missed cut; streak (0)

This week:
Jimmy Walker - I mixed it up last week and went with a sleeper and it didn't pay off, so this week I am taking what looks to be a sure thing in Jimmy Walker.