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Rupert Wyman 3rd Feb 2010 - 18:33

Mickelson won't be Left behind in LA

Phil Mickelson may be at the centre of controversy following his use of a Ping Eye 2 wedge which features banned U-shaped grooves, but can be used in tournaments due to a legal loophole. The world number two has been criticised by some of his fellow professionals so Mickelson has decided not to use it in this week's Northern Trust Open.

Lefty has a fantastic record in this event having won it the previous two years and in 2007 he was tied for second. He may have looked rusty in last week's Farmers Insurance Open but the familiar surroundings of the Riviera Country Club in Los Angeles should be the perfect tonic for the left hander.

Given Mickelson's talent and previous achievements in this tournament it is hardly surprising that he is the 6/1 favourite to win it for the third consecutive year. Although he must reach more fairways this week or else he will struggle to improve on last week's finish of 19th.

Mickelson's biggest challenger should be world number three Steve Stricker. Stricker sat out last week's event but he has made a good start to 2010 finishing tied for tenth and third in his two starts this year. He also was runner-up to Mickelson here last year so will be hoping to go one better this time around. However, at odds of 12/1 I would want a little more for my money.

Another who has made a good start this year is 2001 winner of this tournament, Robert Allenby. The Aussie finished second in the Sony Open and tied for ninth in the Farmers Insurance Open. He is priced at 18/1 to pick up his fifth career win on the PGA Tour and with a track record of T3, T7, T17 in this event, he is not without a chance.

Another former winner, indeed a two-time winner, is Mike Weir. The Canadian won this event in 2003 and 2004. He has only played one event in 2010, the Bob Hope Classic, in which he finished sixth. He is rated at 33/1 to become a three-time Northern Trust Open champion.

At the same price, K.J. Choi appeals as his ball striking is back to its best and if he can find his best putting then he could be contending on Sunday. Last year in LA he tied for third so he does have previous at Riviera.

The experienced Fred Couples nowadayas can more often than not be found on the Champions Tour rather than the PGA, but the veteran has a great record at Riviera. In 27 tournaments he has finished in the top ten 13 times, including two wins, three seconds and a tie for third last year. In addition two weeks ago he was runner-up on the Champions Tour and went 51 holes without bogeying. Therefore a chance is taken on him at 80/1 and bearing in mind his record of top-ten finishes then the 13/2 about another certainly appeals.

Available at the same price is Chad Campbell. The American may not be in great form as he has missed the cut in his last two tournaments, the Farmers Insurance and Bob Hope Classic. Nevertheless he has not missed a cut at Riviera since 2003 so may be a little bit of value.

Despite the talent on show in LA though, there is no question that Mickelson is the one with the greatest chance of success. He has a fantastic record at the course and after last week's season debut at Torrey Pines, much of the rustiness of Lefty's game should have been ironed out enabling him to win the Northern Trust Open for a third consecutive year.



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