The PGA Tour stays in California this week for the Northern Trust Open at Riviera Country Club. Bubba Watson defends the title and a strong field has assembled, including Dustin Johnson and Jordan Spieth.

Lowdown:
The PGA Tour stays in California this week for the Northern Trust Open at Riviera Country Club. Bubba Watson defends the title and a strong field has assembled, including Dustin Johnson and Jordan Spieth.

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 52nd year Riviera has been the venue for the Northern Trust Open. Back in 1983 Riviera was also host to 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.

Last season Bubba Watson closed with two straight 64s to win by two from Dustin Johnson. Both men will start amongst the favourites this time out.

Riviera is one of the more difficult courses visited by the PGA Tour. The fairways are notoriously tough to find and the greens are extremely testing, subtle slopes make for some of the most challenging putting the players face on the circuit.

The weather forecast looks good for the week. There might be some early morning fog, but otherwise there’s no reason to think there will be interruptions to play.

Venue: Riviera CC, Pacific Palisades, California
Date: Feb 19-22
Course stats: par 71, 7,349 yards
Purse: $6,700,000 Winner: $1,206,000
Defending Champion: Bubba Watson (-15)

TV Coverage:
Thursday 19 – Sky Sports 4 from 10pm
Friday 20 – Sky Sports 4 from 10pm
Saturday 21 – Sky Sports 4 from 6pm
Sunday 22 – Sky Sports 4 from 6pm

Player Watch:
Nick Watney – He was tied 7th at Torrey Pines then posted a second place last week at Pebble Beach.

J.B. Holmes – Between 2008 and 2012, Holmes worst finish at Riviera was a tie for 12th. He was tied second at Torrey Pines and climbed into a tie for 10th last week after a final round 65.

Charlie Beljan – A great outside chance. He was third on his own last week in the AT&T and has a great record at Riviera. He lost in a playoff in 2013 and was tied 12th last year.

Key hole: 18th. The 475-yard par 4 is one of the hardest holes on the course. 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.