Thursday, February 14

Riviera: Greats Who've Won There (and Two Who Haven't)

RIVIERA COUNTRY CLUB OFTEN APPEARS NEAR the top of best-courses lists. The 1926 George Thomas design and routing make Riviera the rare classic that's still a great test of golf for the modern player.

The site of this week's Northern Trust Open, Riviera is called "Hogan's Alley" because Ben Hogan won there three times in 1947 and 1948, collecting two L.A. Opens and winning a U.S. Open, his first of four national titles. He nearly won there again in 1950 after coming back from a near-fatal collision with a Greyhound bus on a foggy west Texas highway.

Who has won at Riviera? A lot of name players, actually.

The 18th hole at Riviera Country Club. (Dedhed972)
Riviera Winners
Byron Nelson
Ben Hogan
Sam Snead
Tom Watson
Johnny Miller
Hale Irwin
Ben Crenshaw
Nick Faldo
Fred Couples
Corey Pavin
Davis Love III
Ernie Els
Phil Mickelson

and ...

Riviera Non-Winners
Jack Nicklaus
Tiger Woods

Nicklaus came close. One example: He finished runner-up to Hal Sutton at the 1983 PGA Championship. The Golden Bear closed with a 66 but lost by a shot.

Tiger's chances of winning at Riviera are nil because he avoids the place like trouble-left.

As Karen Crouse wrote yesterday in the New York Times:
Before the tour stop at Torrey Pines, Woods was asked what it would take for him to play Riviera again. “I don’t know,” he said. “We’ll just see.”

What is Woods waiting for, a freakish storm to fell all the trees that place a premium on driving accuracy? A pesticide attack on the Kikuyu grass that swallows bump-and-run shots?

It is as if Woods has developed a fear of Riviera’s eucalyptus-lined fairways, postage-stamp-sized greens and catcher’s-mitt-shaped traps, and is avoiding his phobia rather than confronting it.
I wish Tiger would play Riviera once more so The Logo, Jerry West, could quit his public groveling. It's unbecoming. Frankly, I don't care. Should Tiger? I guess his answer is, “I don’t know. We’ll just see.”

Matt Kuchar is the first-round leader of the Northern Trust Open after firing a bogey-free 64.

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