The PGA Tour rolls into Pacific Palisades, California right off the heels of a Brandt Snedeker victory at the 2014 AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am. Riviera Country Club and the hills of Los Angeles will provide the surrounding picturesque views while the tour plays the 2015 edition of the Northern Trust Open. The top-50 in the World Golf Rankings after this week are locked in for the WGC-Cadillac Championship in a couple of weeks.
Ben Hogan won here three times in a year and a half including the 1948 U.S. Open. The course known as “Hogan’s Alley” is a challenging track that as has been ranked as high as number three on tour by PGA Tour Professionals in the past. Players like Jack Nicklaus, Arnold Palmer, Sam Snead, Tom Watson, and Ben Hogan have all tasted victory at least once here. It is not the type of course where a player can load up and bomb it. It is rather a track that requires the professional to work the ball, play crisp irons and use imagination around the challenging greens. In short Riviera is no push over.
Dates: February 16 – 19 2015
Course: Riviera Country Club
Stats: Par71, 7,349 yards
Television Coverage (Times):
Thursday: Golf Channel 5:00 – 8:00 PM EST
Friday: Golf Channel 5:00 – 8:00 PM EST
Saturday: Golf Channel 1 – 2:30 PM EST, CBS 3 -6 PM EST
Sunday: Golf Channel 1 – 2:30 PM EST, CBS 3 – 6:30 PM EST
Purse: $6.7 million total purse, $1.206 million winner share
Players need to have a great warmup session each day because things get interesting at the second hole. It is 471 yard, Par-4 and is arguably the most challenging hole at Riviera Country Club. The tee shot plays to a slight dogleg with out-of-bounds to the left. If players find the landing area, they are left with a long iron to hybrid into a green protected by many bunkers and only plays 25 feet in width. Four pars here all week will probably gain a shot on the field.
I like to refer to the two par threes on the front as the terrible twosome. The Par-3, 236 yard fourth hole will challenge the field all week. Varying wind conditions could see some players with as much as a three wood off the tee. The green slopes severely from right to left and is well guarded by the insanely large bunker in the front. The sixth will play to 199 yards and is the other par three. Here is arguably the most unique par three in golf. Total distance is not the concern but being precise is the difference between birdie and double. This severely two-tiered green has a bunker in the middle. Yes, in the middle and if players come up on the wrong side it is all but impossible to make par.
For all the trouble at Riviera, the 10th hole could be the biggest swing hole of all. This par-4 only plays 315 yards but is not a no-brainer to attack. While a large portion of the field can get there, many might choose to lay up left and ensure a solid angle while taking bogey out of play. The green is narrow and protected by ugly bunkers right, left and behind. Risk-reward is the name of the game and scores from eagle to double bogey will all be seen this week.
The finishing hole at Riviera Country Club is universally considered one of the most challenging and scenic in golf. The Par-4, 475 yard finishing hole begins with a blind tee shot played up to a challenging fairway. If players find the fairway they are left with a long iron or hybrid into a kidney shaped green protected by bunkers short and right. The green rests in a natural amphitheater setting the stage for great crowds, crazy bounces and drama sure to last until the final putt drops.
Northern Trust Open Top Picks
With seven of the World’s top-25 in the field this year, picking or predicting a winner at the Northern Trust Open is quite the adventure. Sergio Garcia makes his 2015 debut this week beginning his 2015 Masters preparation. Let’s take a look at three players that I would predict to be right in the hunt coming down the stretch on Sunday at Riviera Country Club.
|Bill Haas||Over the last few years you would be hard pressed to find a player with a better resume at the Northern Trust Open than Bill Haas. Since 2011, Bill Haas finished tied for 12th in 2011, tied for third in 2013, tied for 23rd last year and won the Northern Trust Open in 2012. Haas finished tied for 19th in his last start and is already is a winner in 2015 capturing the Humana Challenge a few weeks ago. He just might become the tour’s first multiple winner in 2015 this week at the Northern Trust Open.|
|Jordan Spieth||Here in 2014, Jordan finished tied for 12th and the youngster has stored how he should play his way around Riviera Country Club. He has already finished in the top-10 twice this year with ties for seventh at the Waste Management Phoenix Open and last week at the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am. He has also captured a title at the Hero World Challenge. His last four rounds have been no worse than 68 and all signals are go for the youngster.|
|Bubba Watson||Bubba should be the odds on favorite here this week. He is the events defending champion and fired back-to-back 64s in the weekend last year. He has played in three official events in the 2015 season and already has a runner-up finish at the Waste Management Phoenix Open and won the WGC- HSBC Champions. Throw in a top-10 at the Hyundai Tournament of Champions (his only other start) and it is easy to say the lefty is ready to defend his title at the final stop of the 2015 West Coast Swing.|