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.
Ended his slow start with a solo fourth at the WM Phoenix Open two weeks ago, his fifth top 10 in his last seven PGA TOUR starts. Tied for fourth at Riviera in 2011 and finished T17 last year; ranked inside top 10 in ball-striking in both.
Hottest non-winner on the PGA TOUR. Two top-fours in his last three starts, including a T3 at Pebble Beach to match a personal best. Tied for fourth here in 2011 and 2012. Ranks sixth in adjusted scoring and fifth in the all-around.
Brandt Snedeker isn't the only red-hot touring pro these days. In his last six starts, the South African hasn't finished worse than fifth. In his last four, he's gone 2nd-win-win-2nd. Making his first appearance at Riviera.
The defending champ ranked T58 in greens hit but third in strokes gained-putting and seventh in scrambling en route to the title. Sits ninth on TOUR in GIR early this season. Two top 10s in four starts just one shy of entire 2012 total.
Two-time winner at Riviera and all-time money leader at this event comes off a disappointing 60th place finish at Pebble Beach, but he's just one week removed from a dominant performance in Arizona.
Returns after a two-month respite. Capped off 2012 with four top 15s, including a win at the Australian Masters. Since his unofficial victory at Riviera in 2005, he's posted three top 20s with a T17 in 2012, ranking 11th in ball-striking.
Making his 2013 PGA TOUR debut. Since last season, he won once abroad and added three top 10s. Suffered from discomfort in his left shoulder two weeks ago in Dubai. Five top 25s at Riviera, including a personal-best T4 last year.
The 2011 champ at Riviera hasn't missed the cut in 10 career starts. Tied for 11th last year, ranking 10th in strokes gained-putting. Currently ninth on the TOUR in the stat. Top 15s in two of his last three starts.
In his second appearance at Riviera, qualified for the three-man playoff last year, ultimately settling for a share of second place. Led the field in the all-around. Also ranked second in strokes gained-putting; first in one-putt percentage.
All three of his cuts made at Riviera have gone for a top 20, including a T13 in 2012. Led last year's field in total driving and placed T14 in greens hit. Opened this season with a T4 (of 30) at Kapalua and a solo 15th in Scottsdale.
First start anywhere this year. Closed out 2012 with a victory and three third-place finishes in his last five starts. Logged five top 15s (including a T3 and a solo second) in a six-year stretch at Riviera (2005-2010).
Coming off an uncharacteristically poor showing at Pebble Beach where he missed the cut by three strokes, but he's exhibited a short-term memory many times before. Three top 10s in five starts at Riviera. Placed T4 a year ago.
Quietly on fire, with a T11 at the WM Phoenix Open and a T3 at Pebble Beach. Riding an active streak of eight consecutive rounds in the 60s. Top 25s in each of his last three appearances at Riviera, including a T10 in 2010.
Riviera is the kind of course where you'd expect a grinder like he is to flourish. He's 7-for-8 with only two top 25s but last year's T17 was a career best. Ranked T6 in fairways hit and 19th in strokes gained-putting for the week.
Arrives on the heels of a T9 at Pebble Beach, his best finish on the PGA TOUR in 20 months. It was also his second top 20 in three starts worldwide this year. Feels "20 years younger" after back surgery. Placed T12 here in 2011.