Phil Mickelson was in fine form at the Phoenix Open two weeks ago. Image courtesy of thesun.co.uk
Golf can be a cruel game; at the Phoenix Open at the end of January, Phil Mickelson had a putt lip out on 18 which cost him a round of 59. The next week at Pebble Beach, ‘Lefty’ was going down the 18th at Pebble Beach and fell on his backside on the waterfront while looking for his ball and took a triple bogey.
The veteran has surged up the rankings from 17 at the end of 2012 to his current position of 10. Twice he has won at Riviera Country Club, the host venue for the Northern Trust Open. Alongside his victories in 2008 and 2009, Mickelson was also the first round leader in ’09 when he shot a 63, while a 66 was good enough to be in front after 18 holes last year.
South African Charl Schwartzel finished 2nd at the Joburg Open at the weekend, seven shots adrift of Englishman Richard Sterne. He’s making his first appearance at Riviera, but is on a hot run having finished in the top five in all of his past six starts. Of the other internationals, Sergio Garcia has started 2013 in sensational form, winning once and posting three top 10s, although he was hampered by a shoulder problem in Dubai a fortnight back. He finished in a tie for 4th at Riviera last year, while world No. 3 Luke Donald also has a great record at the course, having finished in the top 15 on five occasions.
Another man in form is Jimmy Walker , who has finished top-four in two of his past three starts, including a tie for 3rd last weekend at Pebble Beach. He has a very good record in the Northern Trust Open, finishing tied for fourth at the California course the past two editions of the tournament. Also in form is last year’s event winner, Bill Haas , who has two top-10s in his opening four starts in 2013.
Australian Aaron Baddeley won here in 2011 and tied for 11th in 2012, so he is comfortable with the course which requires players to be able to work the ball off the tee due to the wind blowing in off the coastline, as well as accuracy with irons thanks to predominantly small greens. Adam Scott makes his first appearance of the season, and he is a previous winner back in 2005 when the tournament was reduced to 36 holes.
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