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Sunday, February 15, 2015

Northern Trust Open - Preview

With Pebble Beach in the past, it's time to turn our full attention to the Northern Trust Open, and here is a preview to get things off and running. Riviera Country Club is the iconic venue, with a strong resume of past champions.

Not that it matters, but this is my favorite event of the West Coast Swing. The field is arguably the best, with players like Charl Schwartzel making their 2015 debut in the U.S. Riviera is my favorite layout of the West Coast Swing. It's just a great combo. Hopefully my insight will reflect my excitement for this event.

Riviera is a 7,349 yards, and it plays to a par of 71. It features three very different par 5s, and a par 4 that can be reached off the tee. The par 3s are demanding, especially on the front nine.

The course opens with a short par 5 that is reachable by everyone in the field. In fact, longer players will hit a 3-wood and a long iron and have a realistic look at eagle. The par-5 11th hole is pretty hefty, but it it reachable by roughly a third of the field with a solid drive in the fairway. The par-5 17th is a monster that is rarely reached in two.

The par-4 10th, reachable off the tee, is often considered one of the best short par 4s in all of golf. Depending on the hole location, it can be a tough par to secure.

Perhaps the best thing about Riviera is that it truly tests the all-around game of a player. There is no one aspect of a game that can deliver a strong result or cause failure. An average putting week can be overcome by great ball-striking, and an average week tee-to-green can be salvaged with a hot putting week.

Here is a list of past winners and runners-up since 2006. Of note, 2005 was washed out at 36 holes.

  • 2006 - Winner: Rory Sabbatini (13-under 271) over Adam Scott (272)
  • 2007 - Winner: Charles Howell III (268) over Phil Mickelson in a playoff
  • 2008 - Winner: Phil Mickelson (272) over Jeff Quinney (274)
  • 2009 - Winner: Phil Mickelson (269) over Steve Stricker (270)
  • 2010 - Winner: Steve Stricker (268) over Luke Donald (270)
  • 2011 - Winner: Aaron Baddeley (272) over Vijay Singh (274)
  • 2012 - Winner: Bill Haas (277) over Phil Mickelson and Keegan Bradley (playoff)
  • 2013 - Winner: John Merrick (273) over Charlie Beljan (273) in a playoff
  • 2014 - Winner: Bubba Watson (269) over Dustin Johnson (271)  
As for what I'm looking for this week, it will be a class player. Merrick and Beljan are the exceptions to the rule. I do prefer a longer player this week, and I will likely take a hard look at SG: tee-to-green. Par-4 scoring average will also be a factor, as some of the par 4s are very stout. As always, course history and current form matter greatly.

I will return on Tuesday with this week's power ranking and one-and-done. 

Happy research!

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