By Rob Bolton, PGATOUR.COM Fantasy Insider
When Bill Haas emerged in a playoff to win last year's Northern Trust Open, he extended one trend and ended another.
Only twice since 1989 has the champion made this tournament site of his first PGA TOUR victory. Kirk Triplett broke through at Riviera Country Club in 2000 for his first of three career wins. In 2002, Len Mattiace recorded his first of two career titles.
However, Haas became the first since Mike Weir went back-to-back in 2003 and 2004 to win without having posted a top 10 in a previous appearance. (Before he won, Weir missed the cut in all four of his prior attempts. The Canadian hasn't cracked the top 20 at Riviera since his second victory.)
Adam Scott is in the annals as the unofficial champion in 2005. That edition remains the most recent 36-hole tournament on TOUR.
With those anomalies aside, the last seven winners share similar run-up data. (Phil Mickelson won back-to-back in 2008 and 2009, so the sample size is reduced to six golfers.) Since Rory Sabbatini held off Scott by one stroke in 2006, each of the champions has either posted at least one top 10 in a previous appearance and/or logged his personal best in the year immediately before his victory.
Sabbatini shared runner-up honors to Mattiace in 2002. Charles Howell III tied for sixth behind Mattiace, and then chased it with a playoff loss to Weir the following season. Howell eventually triumphed in a playoff over Mickelson in 2007. That was the year before the Hall-of-Famer began his run of two in a row.
Taking a page out of Mickelson's book, after a runner-up performance (to Mickelson) in 2009, Steve Stricker climbed the final rung to take the 2010 edition.
Aaron Baddeley won this event in 2011, six years after his unofficial tie for seventh in 2005; he's a sparkling 10-for-10 lifetime at Riviera. And while Haas hadn't posted a top 10 before his win, his previous career mark here was a tie for 12th in 2011. Of course, he would survive the three-man playoff in his first start thereafter.
One final connection among this lot is that each of the last seven champions had made at least five trips to Riviera before their victories. The range begins with Howell's five previous appearances and scales up to Mickelson's nine. Sabbatini, Stricker and Haas had all appeared six times before; Baddeley made eight starts.