THE FIRST LOOK
The First Look: Northern Trust Open
February 12, 2016
By Jeff Shain, PGATOUR.COM
- Jordan Spieth and Rory McIlroy are teeing it up at Riviera. Spieth finished T4 last year. McIlroy is making his debut. (Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
• COURSE: Riviera Country Club, 7,322 yards, par 71. A star in its own right from the days when Douglas Fairbanks and Charlie Chaplin graced its fairways, Riviera opened in 1927 and remains one of the best tests in golf. Designer George Thomas labored over 15 possible layouts before deciding on one that now features some of the TOUR’s most iconic holes. The par-3 sixth is famed for its bunker in the middle of the green, and No. 10 may be the best drivable par-4 in golf. The Los Angeles Open first arrived in 1929, and Ben Hogan’s three wins in an 18-month span – two L.A. Opens and the 1948 U.S. Open – earned Riviera the nickname “Hogan’s Alley.” Next year, the U.S. Amateur will be contested at Riviera.
• FEDEXCUP: Winner receives 500 points.
• CHARITY: City of Hope, a biomedical research and treatment center focusing on cancer, diabetes, HIV/AIDS and other life-threatening diseases. The tournament has topped $2 million in giving in each of the past two years. The First Tee of Los Angeles also receives proceeds.
• FIELD WATCH: World No. 2 Rory McIlroy pays his first visit to Riviera, joining No. 1 Jordan Spieth atop a field that draws five of the world’s top 10 to the final stop on the West Coast Swing. … Drilling deeper, the lineup features 15 of the top 30 in the world rankings, with Spain’s Sergio Garcia also making his first U.S. stop of 2016. … Two-time NTO winner Fred Couples is back again on what seems a standing invite, extending his own record with his 34th appearance at Riviera. Now age 56, he scored a top-10 finish as recently as 2011.
• 72-HOLE RECORD: 264, Lanny Wadkins (1985).
• 18-HOLE RECORD: 61, George Archer (3rd round, 1983 at Rancho Park GC), Ted Tryba (3rd round, 1999 at Riviera CC).
• LAST YEAR: James Hahn stole the spotlight from a pair of marquee names, going three holes in a playoff before beating Dustin Johnson and Paul Casey. Hahn followed a Sunday 69 with two birdies in the playoff, first with a brilliant recovery at the drivable par-4 10th and then a subtly breaking 25-footer at No. 14 for victory. Johnson missed a 12-footer that would have extended the playoff. It was perhaps the most unlikely script from a Sunday scramble that saw seven players hold at least a share of the lead on the back nine. Both Spieth and Sergio Garcia had chances to join the playoff, but bogeyed No. 18. Hideki Matsuyama and Keegan Bradley also finished one shot out.
• STORYLINES: For the second year in a row, the TOUR reaches the end of the West Coast Swing still seeking its first multiple champion. Last season went into April before anyone won twice, when Spieth ran away with the Masters. … The top 50 in the world rankings after Riviera can make plans for next month’s WGC-Cadillac Championship at Trump Doral. Among those trying to hang on above that cut line: Robert Streb and Chris Kirk. … Los Angeles native J.J. Spaun, the Mackenzie Tour’s 2015 Player of the Year, will play on the Northern Trust Exemption created to promote diversity. Spaun, of Filipino descent, was twice an All-American at San Diego State.
• SHORT CHIPS: Monday again features the NTO Collegiate Showcase, where pros play with two collegians from their alma mater. Spieth will represent Texas, while local schools put up Jamie Lovemark (USC) and Kevin Chappell (UCLA). ... Pat Perez is set to complete his eighth consecutive West Coast Swing without missing a start for which he has been eligible, a run totaling 55 tournaments dating to 2008. … Riviera is the only PGA TOUR venue Tiger Woods has played at least five times without a victory. Woods made 11 attempts, including two as an amateur, but has now been absent a decade.
• TELEVISION: Thursday-Friday, 5-8 p.m. ET (Golf Channel). Saturday, 1-2:30 p.m. (GC), 3-6 p.m. (CBS). Sunday, 1-2:30 p.m. (GC), 3-6:30 p.m. (CBS).
• PGA TOUR LIVE: Thursday-Friday, 10 a.m.-5 p.m. ET (featured groups), 5-8 p.m. (featured holes).
• RADIO: Thursday-Friday, 2-8 p.m. ET. Saturday, 1-6 p.m. Sunday, 2-7 p.m. (PGA TOUR Radio on SiriusXM and PGATOUR.com).