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Sunday, February 9, 2014

Northern Trust Open - Preview

The PGA TOUR wraps up the stroke play portion of the West Coast Swing with the Northern Trust Open, and here is a little preview to get you started in your research.

The iconic Riviera Country Club once again serves as the venue, as it has every year with only two exceptions since 1973. It is a par-71 layout, stretching out to 7,349. Perhaps the most recognizable hole is the par-4 10th. The 315-yard par 4 is reachable by most of the field, and is often referred to as the best short par 4 in golf. While you'll probably see a few eagles on that hole, you're sure to see plenty more bogeys and doubles.

Several other things stand out about the layout.

  • There are three par 5s. The first is the opening hole, and offers a relatively easy birdie for the field. The other two come on the back nine, and are only reachable by the longest hitters after drives in the fairway. In essence, it levels out the field.
  • The par 3s have some character to them, with the par-3 fourth offering 236 yards of all you can ask for with the green sloping away. The par-3 sixth has a bunker sitting right in the middle of it. The par 3s on the back are easier than the front, but by no means easy.
  • Length is generally a good thing, and the ability to work the ball both ways off the team has some value. Especially on par 4s. 
  • Known as "Hogan's Alley," it should be no surprise that ball-striking is of importance. Perhaps more so than any other stop to date on the PGA TOUR, pure tee-to-green game is rewarded.
  • While John Merrick broke through to win here in 2013, consider that the exception more than the rule. The winner's circle in this event is littered with names like Haas, Stricker, Mickelson, Scott and Els. 
  • Of note, the white-hot Jimmy Walker has said this is his favorite course on the PGA TOUR and he has finished T4, T4, T16 here in his last three starts.
I alluded to the winner's, it's probably a good idea to list the champs and runners-up dating back to 2005 for your review.
  • 2013 - Merrick over Charile Beljan in a playoff at 11-under.
  • 2012 - Bill Haas over Phil Mickelson and Keegan Bradley in a playoff at 7-under.
  • 2011 - Aaron Baddeley (-12) over Vijay Singh (-10)
  • 2010 - Steve Stricker (-16) over Luke Donald (-14)
  • 2009 - Phil Mickelson (-15) over Steve Stricker (-14)
  • 2008 - Phil Mickelson (-12) over Jeff Quinney (-10)
  • 2007 - Charles Howell III over Phil Mickelson in a playoff at 12-under.
  • 2006 - Rory Sabbatini (-13) over Adam Scott (-12)
  • 2005 - Adam Scott over Chad Campbell in a playoff at 9-under (shortened to 36 holes).
We'll take our normal look at course history, current form and some relevant statistics and return with a power ranking tomorrow evening. 

Until then, happy research!

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