The tournament formerly known as the Nissan Open is being played at the Riviera Country Club in California, its regular host in all but two years since 1973. That means there is plenty of course form to assess and course knowledge and a ‘few years on the clock’ are significant advantages.
The Riviera Country Club is a classic layout. It has a difficult par of 71 and at 7300 yards is just about average in length by modern standards. The three par 5s are interesting risk and reward holes which can see eagles or bogeys. The bentgrass greens are relatively small which means hitting them in regulation is a key skill.
Course management is an important factor on this track. Tee shots must be placed accurately on the fairways to make approach shots to the small greens as straightforward as possible. However, players must take the driver on some holes and it is course experience that can help them make the right decisions with regards club selection.
The changes made to Riviera in recent years make it more of a driver’s course. Nevertheless it is not essential to be a big hitter to do well in the event and overall still the biggest rewards are for finding the greens in regulation.
The tournament has a number of multiple winners in its history. The latest player to win more than one title is Phil Mickelson (pictured) who won the tournament in 2008 and 2009. Mickelson also lost a play-off with Charles Howell in 2007 so he has the best recent course form of the entire field.
The field for the Northern Trust Open is the strongest on the US PGA Tour this season to date, with 16 of the world’s top 25 competing in California. Those players will have to contend with some wind on Friday but conditions will be relatively calm for the rest of the week.