The big guns are primed for the Northern Trust Open on the PGA Tour this week. Both Rory McIlroy and Jordan Spieth start at Riviera Country Club.
A strong field has assembled for this prestigious event and the competition looks to be pretty wide open. Waste Management Phoenix Open winner Hideki Matsuyama will be among the favourites – he was just one shot off joining a playoff for the title last year. Charl Schwartzel starts after his dominant victory in last week’s Tshwane Open and 2014 winner Bubba Watson will be looking to bounce back from a missed cut at Pebble.
Jordan Spieth admitted his head wasn’t in the right place last week and he’ll be trying to sort that this time out. For Rory McIlroy, this is his debut in the tournament and he will have to use all his skills to come to terms quickly with Riviera’s tricky putting surfaces.
Designed by Captain George C. Thomas back in the 1920s, 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 53rd year Riviera has been the venue for the Northern Trust Open. Back in 1983 Riviera was also host to the PGA Championship. Next year’s U.S. Amateur will be contested at Riviera.
This 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 James Hahn was something of a surprise winner in this event. He outlasted Dustin Johnson and Paul Casey to come through via a playoff. Sergio Garcia, Jordan Spieth, Hideki Matsuyama and Keegan Bradley finished one shot back.
Riviera is one of the more difficult courses visited by the PGA Tour. In fact, last year it averaged more than 1.5 strokes over par. 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 looks set fair for the week with only moderate winds to contend with. Rain on Wednesday may soften the course making it slightly easier.
Venue: Riviera CC, Pacific Palisades, California
Date: Feb 18-21
Course stats: par 71, 7,079 yards
Purse: $6,700,000 Winner: $1,206,000
Defending Champion: James Hahn (-6)
Thursday 18 – Sky Sports 4 from 10pm
Friday 19 – Sky Sports 4 from 10pm
Saturday 20 – Sky Sports 4 from 6pm
Sunday 21 – Sky Sports 4 from 6pm
The big guns are primed for the Northern Trust Open. Who might come out on top?
Hideki Matsuyama – He has to have a great chance. A winner in Phoenix, rested last week and coming back to a venue he so nearly won at last year. It would be a surprise if he didn’t contend.
Justin Rose – A good performance last week at Pebble (tied 6th) and this course should suit his game as it rewards strategy and accuracy. He’s had a couple of reasonable finishes here in the past.
Justin Rose swing sequence:
Dustin Johnson – He has a great record here; five top-10s since 2009 including second place finishes in both 2014 and 2015.
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: Course management is important to score well at Riviera – placement off the tee and not missing on the wrong sides of greens.