Lowdown:
The PGA Tour remains in California this week for the Northern Trust Open at the Riviera Country Club in Pacific Palisades. Australia’s Aaron Baddeley defends the title and a host of star names, including World Number 1 Luke Donald, will start.
Designed by Captain George C. Thomas, and updated by Tom Fazio in 2008, Riviera is a well bunkered, undulating layout where creative shot-making is key to success. This will be the 48th time the course has hosted a PGA Tour event, in 1983 Riviera was the venue for the PGA Championship.
The event began life as the Los Angeles Open back in 1926 and has been won by some big names over the years including Ben Hogan, Arnold Palmer, Tom Watson and Johnny Miller. Riviera became known as “Hogan’s Alley” as the Texan won here three times in the late 1940s.
It’s one of the more difficult courses visited by the PGA Tour, last season it had a scoring average of 71.83 – almost a full shot over par. Only nine courses played tougher on the 2011 Tour.
Phil Mickelson has built himself a reputation as something of a Riviera specialist in recent years. He was runner-up in 2007 then took the title in both 2008 and 2009.
Last year Aaron Baddeley of Australia came out on top, he finished two-shots clear of Vijay Singh. Fred Couples had made a run at the title, bidding to become the oldest PGA Tour champion for 35 years. He took the lead early in the final round but faded to finish in a tie for seventh.

Venue:
Riviera Country Club, Pacific Palisades, California
Date: Feb 16-19
Course stats: par 71, 7,298 yards
Purse: $6,600,000 Winner: $1,188,000
Defending Champion: Aaron Baddeley (-12)

TV Coverage:
Thursday 16 – Live on Sky Sports 3 from 8pm
Friday 17 – Live on Sky Sports 3 from 8pm
Saturday 18 – Live on Sky Sports 3 from 6pm
Sunday 19 – Live on Sky Sports 3 from 6pm

Player Watch:
Phil Mickelson – You have to think “Lefty” will be a factor in this event. He played a superb final round of 64 to win at Pebble Beach last week. He’s twice a winner at Riviera, and no-one has won more money in this tournament over the years than Mickelson.

Adam Scott – The Australian won this event back in 2005 (unofficially as the tournament was reduced to 36-holes) and he was second the following year. He hasn’t played yet on the PGA Tour in 2012 and he’ll be looking to start the season with a bang.

Kyle Stanley – The current leader of the FedEx Cup, Stanley has made an incredible start to 2012 – blowing a three-shot lead on the final hole of the Farmers Insurance Open then returning the following week to win in Phoenix. He looks like the real deal and will be aiming to prove it against a strong field this week.

Key hole:
18th. The 475-yard par 4 ranked as the second hardest hole on the course in 2011. It’s a blind tee shot from below the level of the fairway then a testing approach into a kidney shaped green that sits surrounded by a natural amphitheatre.

Skills required: Experience. This is a course where knowledge of the layout gives a massive advantage. Course management is important to score well at Riviera – placement off the tee and not missing on the wrong sides of greens.

Where next?
European Tour –
Avantha Masters preview