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Expert Picks: Northern Trust Open

Luke Donald
Getty Images experts offer up their fantasy choices below for the Northern Trust Open. Each week a panel of experts will offer up their picks from four groups of players based on Golf Channel's new fantasy game, Fantasy Challenge. We will also keep track of their scores and standings. The panel consists of: senior writers Rex Hoggard, Randall Mell and Jason Sobel; contributors John Hawkins and Win McMurry; editorial director Jay Coffin;'s Rob Bolton; 'Morning Drive' hosts Gary Williams and Erik Kuselias; and Golf Talk Central contributor Ryan Ballengee.

Win McMurry

Group 1: K.J. Choi: He cashes checks at Riviera. Never missed a cut. In 11 starts has four top-10s, including a T-7 last year. He knocked the rust off overseas on the desert swing, but has had a week to rest and readjust back in the United States.

Group 2: Aaron Baddeley: I typically avoid the defending champion, but not at Riviera. Since 2003 we've seen two back-to-back champions here, a trend as winners and runner-ups' names are frequently repeated in this tournament's history books. Oh, and he tied for fourth last week.

Group 3: Jimmy Walker: He comes in off a T-9 at Pebble, one of two top-10s in his last three starts, and he finished T-4 in this event a year ago.

Group 4: Fred Couples: Despite the daily struggles with his back, Freddie always seems to find a way into contention at Riviera. He loves L.A., loves the course, loves the people he reconnects with here each year, and he finished T-7 here last year after spending a majority of the week in the lead.

Ryan Ballengee

Group 1: Phil Mickelson: Got burned last week by ranking him but not picking him. He's a two-time winner and clearly rejuvenated after Pebble.

Group 2: Kevin Na: In the top five in his last two starts, he had a chance to win here in '10 and was in the top 10 last year.

Group 3: Jimmy Walker: Quietly playing some excellent golf, Walker has improved dramatically here every year - 70th, to 37th, to 4th last year.

Group 4: Fred Couples: T-33 last week in Dubai, has his back fixed and is celebrating his 30th Riviera start.

Rex Hoggard

Group 1: Luke Donald: The world No. 1 is making his PGA Tour season debut this week and if we learned anything from 2011 it was that 'Luke Donald Disease' may not collect a ton of trophies but it cashes a lot of checks.

Group 2: Aaron Baddeley: Defending champion never signed for a card over 69 last year and the Australian showed good form last week with his fourth-place finish at Pebble Beach.

Group 3: Padraig Harrington: Irishman showed signs of life last week with his first top-10 Tour finish since last year's Wells Fargo Championship.

Group 4: Jason Gore: When it comes to feel-good stories it's tough to find a better rooting favorite than Los Angeles-area resident who landed a coveted sponsor exemption into the Northern Trust thanks to a viral campaign on Twitter.

Rob Bolton

Group 1: Luke Donald: No. 1-ranked golfer in the world. Unfinished business after missing the cut at Riviera last year. Top-sixes here the previous three years.

Group 2: Aaron Baddeley: The defending champion posted a solo fourth at Pebble Beach last week. He's cashed at Riviera in all nine of his starts.

Group 3: Jimmy Walker: Recorded one of his three fourth-place finishes in 2011 here. Top-10s in two of his last three starts, including a share of ninth at Pebble Beach.

Group 4: David Hearn: First-timer at Riviera has had trouble avoiding the big number lately but he's a good fit with the course profile.

You can watch complete coverage of the Northern Trust Open Thursday-Friday live on Golf Channel from 3PM-6PM ET.