Northern Trust Open Tips Steve Bamford 19:30 GMT 15.2.11

I always mark down Torrey Pines and the Northern Trust Open at Riviera Country Club as the first meaningful tests of any PGA Tour season. The cream ‘always’ rises to the top on this classical Par 71 in the suburbs of LA. Look at the past champions list and you get a feel for the quality of player that wins on the tight confines of this 7,300 yard Par 71 test in Pacific Palisades. Stricker, Mickelson (x2), Scott, Weir, Allenby, Els, Stadler, Pavin, Faldo, Kite, Couples (x2) Watson, Irwin, Miller, Wadkins and Palmer. Not a bad group of players I think you’ll agree.

Riviera has long been known within golfing circles as "Hogan's Alley", a nickname bestowed upon it by three-time Masters Champion Jimmy Demaret after Ben Hogan won the 1947 & 1948 LA Opens and then captured the US Open again at Riviera in the summer of 1948. The Par 71 is a tight classical test, where errant drives are punished by blocked 2nd shots. It’s also the first time that golfing pros will face bent grass greens (over-seeded with Poa Annua) in 2011 after a plethora of tournaments played on Bermuda, Bermuda Poa Trivialis or Poa Annua surfaces across South Africa, The Gulf and the Western States of the US. Change will arrive, hopefully in our favour.

Riviera itself always attracts a top class field and next week’s GC Matchplay in Arizona has certainly helped attract a number of interesting players to the field. The classical nature of the course, tied in with the history of the tournament and Riviera’s location a block south of Sunset Boulevard all help. 2011’s highest purse fund to date of $6,500,000 doesn’t hurt either! Let’s make sure we get part of the profit action this week as well.

Finally congratulations to Steve Mullington. Who’s he I hear you ask? Well Steve landed an amazing Quiros / Points double last week in our free to play Facebook based Punters League and grabbed a £25 Free Bet with Paddy Power into the bargain. After all that he’s still not top of the overall league, the winner of which will grab a £265 free bet from Ireland’s Number 1 bookmaker. Join our Group here and get involved: Facebook Group

It has to be said that I make no apologies for picking the two heads of market this week in LA. Whatever angle you look at the Northern Trust players who have a history on classical course tests and fast bent greens thrive. The real threat of precipitation both leading up to the tournament and during the opening 3 rounds adds a further dimension to the case for experience and quality. However there is also a space for some youthful exuberance.

Steve Stricker 2pts EW 14/1 with BetFred Free Bet Get a £50 free bet via this link: BetFred Free Bet

It’s impossible to ignore the Wisconsin defending champion this week. As is Stricker’s want, he’s lightly raced in 2011 as he selects his schedule with Woods like efficiency. In the main he focuses on Par 70 and Par 71 tracks where ball striking makes the difference. 4th at Kapalua on a track that never suited was impressive and as a result he went in the Sony Open at Waialee as 9/1 favourite. However I quite rightly ignored Stricker that week on the basis that he’s never won on Bermuda and sure he popped in with a decent enough 9th after not making enough putts! His decision to go to Qatar shocked the golfing world and sure enough he struggled to make the cut before finishing 45th. However I think there was method to his madness. Stricker has never been a fan of coastal golf (or the rowdiness of Phoenix) so the only way to keep the rust off his game was a trip to Qatar no doubt greased by a Sponsors Exemption! Back on his favourite bent greens Stricker would prefer sunny conditions this week, but his performance at the rain lashed Ryder Cup last autumn highlights that Stricker is no fair weather yank. RESULT: T29

Robert Karlsson 1pt EW 50/1 with £25 matched bet click here:

I’m looking for true World Class this week and 50/1 for Karlsson who is back to his very best of late is like manner from heaven! I can’t believe this price hasn’t been snapped up especially as he is as short as 35/1 elsewhere. Extrabet also offer 50/1 on Karlsson on their Win Market and with their in-play close bet facility - read more here - there is room to trade and lock in profit when he is contention. Some of the market makers obviously doubt the Swede’s ability in the US but I have a totally different view. 9th here on debut in 1999 would suggest the Monaco based native clicks with Riviera and don’t forget, Robert is a full PGA Tour member (he is laughably termed a Rookie) for the first time in 2011, so he will want to hit the ground running. Karlsson has a superb form line of 6 5 / 1 4 which includes the Dubai World Championship last season. But it’s Robert’s ‘outings’ to the US prior to a major in the past 2 seasons that really grabbed my attention with the WGC Matchplay next week. A trip to Houston (not dissimilar green mix) in 2009 prior to The Masters gleaned 14th (Casey won), then last year a trip to Southwind the week prior to the US Open generated a play off 2nd behind Westwood…..can’t play in the States, don’t you believe it! RESULT: T62

Anthony Kim 1pt EW 40/1 with Paddy Power Free Bet £50 In Free Bets, get it here: Paddy Power Free Bet

Kim let me down in Phoenix 2 weeks ago but then again I probably read the signs wrong around his liking for desert golf. However I’m still very much a believer in the Californian who will want to play well in his home state. Forget Bermuda, Bermuda Trivialis or Poa Annua, Kim is a Bent grass animal whose best results have always been on fast carpet. That’s why his 3rd place finish at 45/1 behind Mickelson after shooting 65 in the final round at Augusta last April shouldn’t have been the shock it actually was. So I was pleasantly surprised to see the 25/1 prior to Phoenix grow to 40/1 after a single MC on a course that’s abundantly more suited to the Kim’s attacking ball striking game. 9th here on debut in 2007 and if he dodges the showers expect a strong performance this week from the World Number 33 whose fresh after not unsurprisingly giving Pebble a miss last week. RESULT: W/D After Start

Phil Mickelson 2pts Win 8/1 with Extrabet NEW Offer!!! £130 promotion via this link: Extrabet

My saver of the week has to be Lefty. By far and away the best classical track player in the world over the course of the past 3 years as his resume highlights. Mickelson has multiple wins at Riviera, Colonial, East Lake and that daddy of them all Augusta National. He’s also won on famous shot making Par 70 and 71 tests such as TPC Boston, TPC Four Seasons, TPC Sawgrass and even at Tiger’s favourite…..Bay Hill (I know it’s a Par 72 but it’s a tough technical test). What amazes me is that after an incredible 2nd 3 weeks ago at Torrey Pines and 9th last week at Pebble Lefty is actually longer than the 7/1 he was quoted when hideously rusty and out of form last season. Mickelson is long over-due and all he needs is for a couple more putts to drop on his favoured bent / poa grass greens. Loves to win out West in February and I simply can’t argue. RESULT: T35

Ton-Plus Tip: Dean Wilson 200/1 EW Victor Chandler. £25 Free Bet and 'Hole In Won' Offer, click here.

We’re highlighting Victor Chandler this week and their great Hole In Won Promotion, so when Dean Wilson appeared at a market leading EW punt price of 200/1 with VC I had to open an account! I can remember sitting over a pint last summer with my tipping partner in crime Paul Williams and discussing where Dean Wilson had appeared from to lead the Canadian Open at St Georges in Toronto. It made no sense at all. Wilson eventually finished 2nd at 200/1 EW behind the “unquoted” Arjan Atwal and the $550,000 prize guaranteed his 2011 playing privileges. Well looking back you’ll be glad to here it actually all makes perfect sense and I’m thinking the Las Vegas resident can perform well this week in LA. The fact is Wilson loves challenging, tight, classical courses and thrives solely on Bent /Poa carpet. Take 2008 Wilson finished 3rd in Milwaukee and interestingly 3rd behind AK at Congressional, a course that’s tough enough to host this year’s US Open in June. Now both of these finishes were on Bent / Poa. More evidence around Wilson can be seen with a 7th here at Riviera in 2006 and 17th last time out in 2009 back up my philosophy. 300/1 at Extrabet in their win only market where you can close the bet in-play and take the profit must also appeal. RESULT: M/C

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