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Nic Ladds 18th Feb 2009 - 17:13

Rely on Hoffman in the Northern Trust

Phil Mickelson yet again finds himself topping the market for a tournament he has won previously but due to his recent performances he can be backed at odds of 16/1.

'Lefty' has not had the best few weeks. Despite winning this tournament last year, finishes of 42 and 55 before missing the cut last week at the FBR Open where he had previously been victorious do not do anything to justify the 16/1 on offer.

Mickelson has seen his world ranking place slip to fifth and while class is permanent, it is best to stay away from betting on him until he shows a return to form.

A host of previous course winners are taking part in what was formerly known as the Nissan Open but they can't all win so where should our money be lying this week?

Mike Weir currently shares favouritism with Mickelson and his claims are more valid than his market rivals'.

Weir has won this tournament twice in 2003 and 2004 and put in an excellent performance last week in the Pebble Beach Pro-Am where many of his market rivals failed and he is preferred at 16/1 over Mickelson.

The likes of Padraig Harrington who is available at odds of 18/1 and Rory Sabbatini who is 40/1 both have some decent course form (Sabbatini won this tournament in 2006) but both missed the cut badly at Torrey Pines last week so are best left alone.

Ernie Els isn't attractive at odds of 25/1 as his putting seems to have deserted him and he has slipped all the way down to 13th in the world rankings.

Robert Allenby won here in 2001 but does not appeal at 33/1 as he seems to have lost the knack of winning and is best left alone until he manages to hold his nerve until the end of a tournament.

An interesting one is Charley Hoffman at odds of 50/1. Hoffman has been in blinding form so far this year having been beaten in a play-off in the FBR Open and finishes before this of 19, 14 and 7 shows what excellent form the American is in and there is no reason to desert him now at a nice price.

Luke Donald is another candidate with a great chance. He has form here at The Riviera having finished 3, mc, 12 and 11 in his last four visits and has been playing well so far this year suggesting the 25/1 on offer could be a decent wager.

Other 25/1 shots include Vijay Singh, Geoff Ogilvy and Jim Furyk, none of whom could be counted out with complete confidence as if any of these turn up playing their best game they can take this but others are preferred more on price or current form.

Zach Johnson who is available at odds of 28/1 has been fantastic so far this year. He has finished 12, 6 and won in the Sony Open.

His statistics this year have him near the top in both the driving statistics and the greens in regulation which puts him in a fantastic position to put in a bold show at The Riviera where an emphasis is put on the approach to the green as opposed to putting.

Keep an eye on Ryo Ishikawa, the young Japanese superstar who has won three times in Japan and is touted for extremely big things. If you fancy the youngster to make a big impact perhaps the 125/1 on offer will appeal to you.

Graeme McDowell on his best form looks a huge price at 80/1 as does Angel Cabrera at 100/1 while Shigeki Maruyama was beaten into second by one shot in 2004 and could go well at 100/1.

Zach Johnson - 28/1
Charley Hoffman - 50/1
Shigeki Maruyama - 100/1

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