By Jeff Shain, PGATOUR.COM
WHO'S PLAYING?: Full field
• COURSE: Riviera Country Club, 7,349 yards, par 71. Opened in 1927, designer George Thomas labored over 15 possible layouts before deciding on one that remains among the best at forcing a player to think his way around. The par-3 sixth hole is famed for its bunker in the middle of the green, and No. 10 might 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.” Riviera also has staged two PGA Championships and the 1998 U.S. Senior Open.
• FEDEXCUP: Winner receives 500 points.
• CHARITY: City of Hope, a research, treatment and education center focusing on cancer, diabetes, HIV/AIDS and other life-threatening diseases. The L.A. Legends Club also receives a portion of charitable funds.
• FIELD WATCH: U.S. Open titleholder Justin Rose makes his 2014 debut as the PGA TOUR’s international contingent comes across for a key eight-week run leading to the Masters. In all, 16 of the top 30 in this week’s world rankings are signed up. … Two-time NTO winner Fred Couples will tee it up on a sponsor invite, extending his own record with his 32nd appearance in the event. He was the 36-hole leader just three years ago, eventually tying for seventh. … Phil Mickelson, back-to-back winner in 2008-09, is sitting out. He had started every NTO since 2007. … Sang Moon Bae, who has yet to take a week off since winter break ended, will tee it up in his seventh consecutive event.
• 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: Merrick became the first Los Angeles County native to win in his PGA TOUR backyard, holding off fast-charging Charlie Beljan on the second hole of a playoff. Merrick overtook fading leader Bill Haas with a 2-under 69, then went to extra holes when Beljan (67) birdied the final hole of regulation. Both parred a replay of No. 18, but Beljan’s missed 6-foot par save at No. 10 gave Merrick his first PGA TOUR win. The UCLA grad had broken par just three times in five previous Northern Trust starts, but turned in nothing worse than 70 all week.
• STORYLINES: Rose becomes the next-to-last man in this week’s Top 50 to play his first competitive shot of the calendar year, enjoying nearly two months off since playing in Thailand in mid-December. The only man still idle: the semi-retired Steve Stricker. … FedExCup leader Jimmy Walker is among seven of the 2013-14 season’s first 10 winners entered at Riviera, along with new Phoenix Open winner and USC alum Kevin Stadler. … NCAA champion Max Homa (Cal) makes his fourth PGA TOUR start on a sponsor exemption, awaiting his rookie year on the Web.com Tour. … Former East Carolina golfer Harold Varner III, also awaiting his Web.com Tour debut, will play on the Northern Trust Exemption created to promote diversity.
• SHORT CHIPS: The NTO plays its first edition under new leadership, with former UCLA golf coach O.D. Vincent taking over after NBA legend Jerry West stepped away last fall. Vincent returns to L.A. after five years as associate athletic director at the University of Washington. … Until Merrick’s victory last year, the NTO hadn’t produced a first-time PGA TOUR winner since 2002. … Riviera is the only PGA TOUR venue Tiger Woods has played more than four times without a victory. Woods made 11 attempts, two coming as an amateur, but hasn’t entered since 2006.
• TELEVISION: Thursday-Friday, 5-8 p.m. ET (Golf Channel). Saturday-Sunday, 1-2:30 p.m. (GC), 3-6 p.m. (CBS).
• RADIO: Thursday-Friday, 2-8 p.m. ET. Saturday, noon-6 p.m. Sunday, 1-7 p.m. (PGA TOUR Radio on SiriusXM and PGATOUR.com).