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David Thompson 15th Feb 2012 - 17:26

Trust Phil Mickelson to Open up in California


The Northern Trust Open


Starts Thursday 15:00 - live on Sky Sports 3 from 20:00

The PGA Tour kicks up a level this week at the historic Riviera Country Club in California. World number one Luke Donald will be making his 2012 PGA Tour debut alongside other high profile golfers such as Aussies Adam Scott and Jason Day (25/1). The stunning 7,298 yard track ranks highly among the elite players and none more so than defending champion Aaron Baddeley (28/1) and two-time winners Fred Couples (100/1) and Phil Mickelson.

Luke Donald had a sensational year in 2011 and kicks off here as the second favourite at odds of 16/1. His early display on the European Tour in the HSBC Golf Championship in Abu Dhabi saw him finish up in tied-48th with four solid rounds of golf. The putter was not on fire for the World's best that day but the signs were good and he has made it clear that he would like to emulate the success of last season.

Phil Mickelson is the markets front-runner at odds of 9/1. The Lefty has a huge amount of confidence in his game at the moment having come back from a six-shot deficit at the AT&T at Pebble Beach to win by two strokes last weekend. The big American was thrilling the crowds with his world famous iron play, but it was his work with the putter that will have the other professionals concerned in California. He likes the course having won twice in 08 and 09, and if the price were into double digits I would recommend a punt on the four-time Major winner.

With such talent on show, it will be tough for anyone to pick a winner before a ball has been struck in anger. This is made even more difficult considering that many will be making their season debuts after the off season. A market that appears less competitive is the Top European market. Luke Donald obviously leads the way at 7/4 but Sergio Garcia at 3/1 is undoubtedly the form player. He finished tied fifth at the Qatar Masters and the Spaniard looks to have his game under control at this early stage of the season.

Another interesting market where there could be value is the first round leader. The World's tenth-ranked player Dustin Johnson (20/1) is a 28/1 shot to lead after day one. In his last three events, including his tied-fifth at Pebble Beach last weekend, he has a collective first round score of 18-under-par. He has tailed off in the later rounds, possible linked to his knee surgery, but an average of 6-under-par demonstrates that the big hitter is fast out of the blocks and could be worth a dabble.

Other than that top ten finishes should be on the cards for the in-form KJ. Choi (11/4) and Bill Haas (17/5). At this early stage of the season look out for those players who have already played a few events in 2012. They could surprise a few of the highly ranked players and earn you a hefty return in the process.



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