Filed under: PGAThe PGA Tour travels down the California coast to Los Angeles for the Northern Trust Open at Riviera Country Club. Surprisingly, the weather won't be perfect this week, but that's nothing new for this season. Forecasts call for a chance of rain everyday but Sunday, which might help soften and slow down the greens.
It's another strong field, with a number of players making their 2011 debut. Here's how we see the week shaking out, beginning with our favorites:
1. Phil Mickelson -- He's regaining confidence in his game and no one has earned more money at the Northern Trust Open, which makes him the easy choice this week. While it would be nice to see Lefty close out an event, we won't pick against him as he tries to become the first three-time winner at this even since Arnold Palmer did it in 1967.
2. Steve Stricker -- Last year's winner mainly makes it on track record. Stricker took this tournament off for three years before returning to finish T11, second and first the last three years. In his only two starts this year, Stricker finished T4 and T9. It's hard to argue that anyone has played as well as the him the last two years -- five total wins and back-to-back runner-up finishes in the FedEx Cup standings. A win this week would make a great birthday gift for the man that turns 44 next week.
3. Matt Kuchar -- Don't forget about Kuchar, who took the last three weeks off. He opened the year with three straight top 10s, where he only shot two rounds outside of the 60s (both of those were only 70). You won't find a flaw in the three-time Tour winner's game right now. He ranks inside the top five on Tour in driving accuracy, greens in regulation, birdie average, and all-around.
4. Bill Haas -- Haas must have taken the AT&T off to work on his game after falling all the way down to a T29 finish at the WMPO. All kidding aside, you could argue that he's played the best golf on Tour this year. A final-round 76 in Scottsdale kept him from his fourth straight top 10 to start 2011. You can ignore his missed cuts the last two starts here because his game is solid.
5. Luke Donald -- The Northern Trust Open is a great place for Donald to begin his 2011 campaign. He's notched three straight top 10s at Riviera, including a runner-up finish in 2010. There shouldn't be much rust to shake off either. When we last saw Donald at the end of the year, he had recorded a top-three finish in four of his final six starts.