Just the seventh main event in the 2015 PGA TOUR gets rolling on February 19th, when the Northern Trust Open kicks off. Tiger Woods will be the biggest absentee as he tries to find his game and spend some time with those close to him, while Brandt Snedeker will try to make it two wins in a row this season after claiming the 2015 AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am. He won’t be the only golfer trying to make it two straight, though, as Bubba Watson will take his unorthodox game to the green at Riviera Country Club in in Pacific Palisades, California and try to win for the second consecutive season.

Watson is obviously a big name on his own, but despite his sights being set on a title defense, there are other big names and story-lines to consider as the PGA TOUR rages on and counts down to a potential clash of the titans at The Honda Classic on the 26th. Before we can get that far, we need to take a look at the keys going into this one and see who may emerge as the winner:

Nick Watney to Close

Watney took second behind the aforementioned Snedeker at Pebble Beach and it’s worth wondering if he’ll come into Riviera looking to finish the job. He gave Snedeker a scare and had Snedeker not gone on a record-setting run, he just might have. Watney will have to avoid a fade down the stretch like he endured his last time out, but he’ll definitely be a name to watch on the final day.

Dustin Johnson Rages On

Dustin Johnson’s return from some time away from the golf scene has been huge news in 2015 and in just his second tourney he tied for fourth with 17-under 270 at Pebble Beach. That was impressive, to say the least, and it could be that one of PGA’s top golfers is just rounding into form. It’s a quick progression, but not one fans of golf will bat their eyes at. If Johnson comes remotely close to what he was dealing out in his last tournament, he may be a real problem for the field when things get going on Thursday. It’s also worth noting that Johnson was second in this very event a year ago, putting him on the short list of candidates to take it in 2015.

Bubba Repeat?

It’s not just lazy to pick Bubba Watson to win the Northern Trust Open for the second year in a row. It might make a lot of sense. He completely dominated this event a year ago, finishing the event with the strongest weekend in tournament history. That’s where Watson’s magic lies, as he played lights out to top a very rock solid effort out of Dustin Johnson. Watson tends to either flat-line or go nuts, and when he’s in the zone he’s almost impossible to stop. If he comes in with all the goods, will everyone else just be lost in the dust – again? Maybe so.

Who Wins?

Snedeker is obviously red hot after winning just days ago, Watson could easily repeat, Watney came oh, so close last time out and Dustin Johnson is inching closer to sweet vindication. We also can’t forget about guys like Hideki Matsuyama (two top-5 finishes in 2015) and Jim Furyk (6th ranked golfer). The rub with Furyk is he hasn’t won a major event since 2010 and he hit well in his last time out. He’s not a lock to win, but he’s a solid dark horse worth betting on.

We’re going to go with recent success, talent and an eye on continued momentum and roll with Dustin Johnson. It’s probably down to Watson defending, Furyk coming out of nowhere again or Johnson finishing his rise back to the top of his game. We’re pulling for Dustin Johnson and he has the goods to back it up. Look for him to take the 2015 Northern Trust Open as he and the rest of the field get ready for a heated Honda Classic.

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