February 17 2011
PACIFIC PALISADES, Calif. -- At least he beat the daunting rush hour traffic here in Los Angeles.
But John Senden still had a very early wake-up call for his first round of the Northern Trust Open. And with that 7:11 a.m. PT tee time, the veteran from Australia was on the putting green before the sun was up.
"There was one guy there with a torch he was shining on the hole," Senden said, smiling and only half-joking.
The fact that Senden was referring to a flashlight, not a Tonga torch was briefly lost in the translation. Regardless, once he warmed up – the range was lighted and Mother Nature soon cooperated, Senden was on his way to a 67 that was his lowest round in 17 attempts at Riviera.
Senden teed off on the 10th hole and didn't waste time setting the tone for the day as he made a 4-footer for birdie there. He added another from similar distance at the 18th hole to turn in 2 under and followed with a two-putt from the fringe at the par-5 first.
His longest putt of the day was the 25-footer Senden made for his fourth birdie at the fourth hole. He gave that back when he missed an 18-inch putt for par at No. 5 but Senden polished his round off with another 4-footer for birdie at No. 7
"The golf course played extremely well this morning," he said. "... Today I sort of didn't strike the ball extremely well, but my iron shots even out of the rough were pretty good. This year I think the rough isn't as high as it's been. It's playable out of the rough.
"I think previous times I've been here, you hit into the rough and it's a real challenge to get the ball on the green. So I'm thinking that that gives you a lot of chances. You've still got to drive the ball well and come out of the fairways, but today I sort of was lucky enough to get some nice lies in the rough and play my way onto the green, so had a good day."
Senden says Riviera reminds him of some of the courses Down Under. Maybe that's why he's not the only Aussie high on the leaderboard -- Robert Allenby just finished at 4 under, as well.
"I think that maybe looking at all the big gum trees around the golf course makes this feel like we're at home," Senden said with a smile. "It's a fabulous golf course. I really enjoy it. My results here haven't been fantastic, but the nature of the golf course here is similar to what we have in Australia where there's a lot of subtleties. Even though the greens -- some greens are small, some greens are large, so there's a good variety, and that's what we have at home.
"And it's just a great piece of property for a golf course. I think it's in a valley but it's got a lot of slope, a lot of uphill, a lot of downhill shots. Very unique; every hole looks very different. You see a lot of the modern golf courses these days look very much the same every hole, but Riviera is very unique, and it's been great to see that they basically have not changed it over the number of years, well, I've been coming here, but probably go way back and it's hardly changed at all, and that's because it's just a great design from the beginning."
Senden said he'd normally be looking to get between 10 to 15 under to have a chance at his second PGA TOUR title. That said, he's mindful of the rainy weather forecast and how the complexion of the course might change in the next few days.
"I think tomorrow there might be some disruptions with weather, so we've got to be patient with that," Senden said. "And the golf course ... with the little bit of rain yesterday, it was a little bit softer than it was Tuesday. I'm thinking that it can be another soft day again probably tomorrow and Saturday, so it might even be more target golf on the weekend.
"So the scoring might be a little bit lower than expected." -- Helen Ross