Tuesday, February 14, 2006
Donald trumps all picks at Riviera
By John Antonini
The toughest thing about predicting the winner of the Nissan Open is you can't use last year's tournament as a guide. Even if Adam Scott wins again he won't be credited with a repeat victory because the rain and wind that plagued the West Coast swing in 2005 relegated Riviera CC's annual tour stop into a 2½-day event where runner-up Chad Campbell got the weekend off, but lost to Scott in a Monday playoff. Scott's $864,000 winner's check was official, but the win was not.
Scott was the latest in a mixed bag of champions for a mixed-bag type of course. Riviera sets up at more than 7,000 yards, but is quirky in spots and really long in others. Since 1996 it has crowned both long (Ernie Els) and short hitters (Mike Weir), youngsters (Scott) and veterans (Craig Stadler), superstars (Nick Faldo) and journeymen (Len Mattiace). So who to pick in '06?
Tiger Woods and Els are playing, but with only a bit of hesitation, I'll take a player who is a bit quirky himself. Luke Donald played well last week at the AT&T -- a T-7, including a 62 to tie the course record at Spyglass Hill. He's not real long, but he hits more than his share of greens, and as he proved last week, there isn't a course he can't score on. He's finished in the top three at some of the tour's toughest venues such as Augusta National, Cog Hill and Sawgrass. I think he'll do a bit better at Riviera.
John Antonini is a senior editor for Golf World magazine.