Last year's Northern Trust Open produced a play-off between two players initially rated at 1000.0 and 800.0799/1. Without being quite so ambitious, Paul Krishnamurty rates a couple of big outsiders as capable of producing another upset...
"In the case of Francesco Molinari, odds of 180.0179/1 are frankly an insult. That is often the case with Europeans on the PGA Tour, as if they are stepping up in grade, but in reality Molinari has been faring well enough against Race to Dubai fields of a similar quality."
With the exception of last year's 800.0799/1 shock winner John Merrick, decades of previous Riviera form tells us that the Northern Trust Open usually produces a champion with international pedigree. Naturally that suits the favourites and limits the number of plausible candidates players within our triple-figure price range, but I think I've found a couple that represent good trading value at silly odds.
In the case of Francesco Molinari, odds of 180.0179/1 are frankly an insult. That is often the case with Europeans on the PGA Tour, as if they are stepping up in grade, but in reality Molinari has been faring well enough against Race to Dubai fields of a similar quality. The Italian, a former WGC champion, hasn't missed a top-25 since last September and opened his 2014 campaign with a promising 13th in Dubai. A total lack of course experience is obviously a negative, but at least it can be said that Molinari's relentlessly accurate style is always a useful asset on a tough, championship course.
Next, in keeping with a long tradition of backing one of the all-time Riviera greats in this event, I cannot ignore odds of 400.0399/1 about Fred Couples. Twice champion here during the 1990s, Couples remained a regular contender here up until as recently as 2011 when registering his sixth top-ten finish of the century. Can he still win on the PGA Tour at the age of 53? The odds are against it, but why not? Major venues often inspire something special from legendary seniors, as the likes of Tom Watson and Greg Norman have shown in recent Opens, plus Couples himself at the Masters. Freddy still hits it a mile and remains as competitive as ever on the Champions Tour. Those are better credentials than dozens of players at much shorter odds.
Because the combined odds of our two selections are more generous than usual, it is possible to set a much less ambitious lay target. My plan is to stakes three units combined, then place lay orders on both players at 25.024/1 and 3.02/1, with a view towards banking a minimum of seven units profit if either hits the first target.
Back Francesco Molinari 2u @ 180.0179/1
Back Fred Couples 1u @ 400.0399/1
Place order to lay each player 10u @ 25.024/1
Place order to lay each player 20u @ 3.02/1
Updated 2014 Stats: -20.5 units