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Featured pairings: Northern Trust Open

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The PGA Tour heads to Riviera this week for the Northern Trust Open, the final event before the first World Golf Championships event of the season. Here are a couple of featured groups to watch this week:

Phil Mickelson-Keegan Bradley-Bill Haas

This, of course, is a repeat of last year’s playoff, won by Haas with a long-range birdie on the first extra hole. That putt spoiled the last-hole dramatics of Mickelson and Bradley, both of whom needed birdies on the final hole in regulation to force a playoff. Lefty has the advantage in this group, and not just because he’s the only one with a victory to his credit thus far. His track record at Riviera is phenomenal – two wins and two runners-up since 2007.

Luke Donald-Adam Scott-Graeme McDowell 

All three players are making their season debuts. G-Mac won his last start, at the limited-field World Challenge; Scott captured the Talisker Masters in his penultimate event of 2012; and Donald capped his season with four top 3s in his last five worldwide starts, including a victory at the Dunlop Phoenix.

Dustin Johnson-Ernie Els-Webb Simpson 

Els is a former winner at Riviera, while Johnson has a good track record in limited action, posting three top 10s in five career starts at the Riv. Simpson’s resume here doesn’t compare, and he hasn’t cracked the top 10 in four starts this season. Last week he was T-26 at Pebble Beach.

Bubba Watson-Lee Westwood-Fred Couples

Westwood was rusty in his PGA Tour season debut last week, finishing T-46 at Pebble Beach, while Bubba has finished in the top 15 in six of his last seven starts, dating to last season. As for Freddie? Well, his record speaks for itself: In 30 starts at Riviera, he has won twice, been runner-up three times and has 14 top-10 finishes.

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