If you're going to host the deepest field of the year to date, you better have a host course to match. No problem.
In what was its 50th year as site of the Northern Trust Open, Riviera Country Club did not disappoint in 2012. With an assist from Mother Nature, Riviera registered splits of 53.43 percent in fairways hit and 53.20 percent in greens in regulation, both tournament lows since the data was first maintained in 1992. Overall, it ranked a respective 11th and second among all tracks played on the PGA TOUR last season.
Given the record-breaking ball-striking challenge and premium on course management, it wasn't surprising that Riviera's proximity-to-the-hole measurement of 41'1" was the longest on TOUR all year. It was also the longest Riviera has averaged since 2003. Making it even more impressive is that the greens average just 5,000 square feet.
Riviera ranked second of 11 par 71s in scoring average, but it's clip of 72.622 was its highest since 1996. Indeed, one is unlikely to find form on such a difficult venue against a 144-man field that boasts a significant number of the world's elite. However, there are areas where Riviera balances its test with fairness.
For one, the course annually sits inside the top half easiest on TOUR in scrambling. This isn't uncommon on layouts with small greens, but it's still a comforting fact. Meanwhile, the trio of par 5s is scorable. Holes 1, 11 and 17 have ranked as the easiest three holes at Riviera every year since 2006. The 503-yard first hole has served as the easiest or second-easiest opener of any PGA TOUR course during the same time frame.
No rain is expected and seasonably high temperatures in the 70s will accompany a primarily sunny sky, but the wind could become an issue at times. Because that's nothing new along the coastline, experience at Riviera is likely to carry additional value.
|Power Rankings: Northern Trust Open|