Northern Trust Open
Riviera Country Club
Pacific Palisades, CA
Par: 71 (35-36)
Greens: Creeping Bentgrass and Poa Annua (5,000 square feet on average)
Rough: Kikuyugrass 2.5”
Water Hazards: zero
Course Architect: Captain George C. Thomas (1926); Tom Fazio (2008)
Winner’s Share: $1,188,000
FexExCup Points: 500 to the winner
Defending Champion: Bill Haas defeated Phil Mickelson and Keegan Bradley on the second playoff hole when he drained a 45-foot birdie for his fourth win on TOUR in his career.
Dates: February 14-17
Notes: Ahhhhhhhh, back to normal. 144 players will be cut to the top 70 and ties after two rounds. The early weather report looks absolutely perfect!
Len Mattiace (2002) was the last player to break his TOUR maiden at Riviera.
If you’re looking to Bill Haas this week to repeat, it’s not impossible as Corey Pavin (1994-95), Mike Weir (2003-04) and Phil Mickelson (2008-09) have completed this task in the last 19 years.
Riviera is referred to as “Hogan’s Alley” because the great Ben Hogan won the 1947 and 1948 Los Angeles Opens and the U.S. Open on this great track in an 18 month period. The term was coined by the great Jimmy Demaret.
Riviera has hosted the U.S. Open, The PGA (1983; 1995) and the U.S. Senior Open (1998).
Since 1990, only eight champions have been major champions yet they have accounted for 12 of the 22 victories.
Jack Nicklaus collected his first check on TOUR here in 1962. It was for $33.33. That’s right. No, I am not missing any zeroes or commas…
Last year, Bill Haas, Phil Mickelson and Keegan Bradley all finished on seven-under-par 277. That was the highest winning score since Craig Stadler posted 278 in 1996. The average winning score over the last ten or so years is around 13-under.
Jason Kokrak, T34, was the best rookie finisher last year.
Rank and File
This week, we have a massive field as 25 of the top 50 OWGR players are at Riviera this week. This is the best ranked field yet of 2013.
Riviera Country Club and the Northern Trust Open is the fourth-longest running Event on TOUR. Riviera has hosted every Northern Trust open since 1973, minus two editions (1983 and 1998). The course is a lovely old dear set in the bowl of the Santa Monica Valley and has stood the test of time. Captain George C. Thomas used doglegs and strategic bunkering to make the players think their way or bomb their way over and around this behemoth.
Riviera will bring solid rough back into play for the first time since Torrey Pines. The kikuyugrass is sticky and swallows golf balls around the greens and off the fairways so play out of the rough will be popular and necessary this week.
Once on the greens, the creeping Bentgrass and Poa annua will provide another challenge altogether. The bumpy and lumpy that occurs later in the day will test even the best putters. Last year, Haas was third in the field in strokes-gained putting en route to victory; Bradley was first. Yet, putting for par all day after trying to get up-and-down will wear guys out.
Riviera is consistently ranked in the harder half of courses played on TOUR each season due to the challenging fairways and greens to hit and tough, slick putting.
Top 10, Plus One
Bubba Watson: One of the most accurate drivers of the golf ball, Watson should have an advantage this week with his length and penchant for GIR. Watson is off and running with T4 at HTOC and a closing round 64 for solo 15th in Phoenix two weeks ago. He’s been T14, T17 and T13 in six (one WD) starts.
Sergio Garcia: He’s played twice on the European Tour (T2, T17) and had some success in kicking off 2013. Known as one of the steadiest ball-strikers around, Garcia is looking to build off his final round 64 (T4) here last year.
Phil Mickelson: Back-to-back winner leads us down another dead-end alley again this week. He’s not playing in the WGC-Match Play so this is his last tournament for a while. In his last six appearances here, he’s won twice, been second twice and finished T35 and T45. There’s no point in leaving all of that out this week.
Jimmy Walker: Last year, he was T8 at Torrey Pines, T9 at Pebble Beach and T4 at Riviera. This year he was T4 at Torrey Pines and T3 at Pebble Beach. He was also T4 here in 2011. There’s no doubt that the Butch Harmon effect is working here. Next stop is a W!
Aaron Baddeley: Similar to Walker, the 2011 champion also plays well on the Pebble-Riviera circuit. Baddeley’s last three finishes at Pebble have been T12 or better and his last two here have been T11 and WIN. Oh, and he’s made every cut in 10 tries. G’day mate!
Charl Schwartzel: In his last four events he’s won, finished second, T3 and fifth. Ok. Works for me. He’d be ranked higher if he saw this quirky, classic course before this week in tournament play.
Luke Donald: He would be rated higher in this list if he would have teed it up once or twice this year and not racked up 78 and 79 in his last two outings. Donald made 16 of 17 cuts on TOUR last year and has a fantastic putter and short game along with supreme accuracy off the tee.
Ryan Moore: After getting off to a rocky start in two events in Hawaii, Moore blasted TPC Scottsdale to the tune of 22-under his last time out. He’s a sweet ball-striker and tremendous putter and that has helped him to T4 and T17 finishes the last two years here.
Bill Haas: The 2012 champion in a playoff is on a very similar arc to begin 2013 as he was last year. He struggled in Hawaii and at the Humana before lighting his fire at Torrey Pines. He won here last year because he kept the ball in play and got up and down from everywhere with a hot putter. He was T12 in 2011 so last year wasn’t too far off the cards.
Adam Scott: His last time out in 2012 he won the Australian Masters so he has that going for him, which is nice. He picks up the 2013 schedule with a start at Riviera where he has won (2005) and finished second (2006) during his six attempts. He also has a T14 and a T17 on his resume so this renowned ball-striker should be ready to go this week.
Lee Westwood: Westwood began his season with a T5 at the Omega and was T46 last week playing with his Dad at Pebble Beach. He’s another one of the great ball-strikers who should thrive where accuracy tee-to-green is necessary. This will be his first start in five years at Riviera. His best finish is T5 in 2006.