PGA Tour pros make bunker shots look so easy, most of the time. They'll even say they'll aim for the sand, just because it's an easier up-and-down than from deep rough.
For the rest of us, getting stuck in the sand is no day at the beach. And perhaps we can add Scott Piercy to that list.
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Piercy started play at the Northern Trust Open on the tricky par-4 10th hole at Riviera Country Club. It's one of the top "risk-reward" shots on the circuit -- reach the green with your driver and you're looking at possible eagle. But the green is surrounded by deep bunkers which will inevitably catch any wayward tee shots.
And that's apparently what happened to Piercy. According to the PGA Tour's shot tracker, his 307-yard drive found the left rear greenside bunker, about 34 feet from the hole.
Then things went from bad to worse -- and worse -- and worse.
Piercy's second shot skipped over the green some 70 feet and landed the bunker on the opposite side of the green, 56 feet away. His third shot traveled 79 feet back into the original bunker, now 25 feet from the hole. And shot No. 4? You guessed it -- right greenside bunker, 27 from the hole.
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Piercy finally got himself on the putting surface with his fourth bunker shot of the hole and made the seven-foot putt for a double-bogey 6.
If a picture is worth a thousand words, this video will leave you speechless:
Obviously, that bad hole carried over for Piercy, as he bogeyed the next two holes and wound up going out in 43. He righted the ship somewhat by birdieing No. 1, but a double at No. 8 followed by a bogey on the last left him with a completely forgettable 9-over 80.
That's definitely not the way you want to start your day. But nearly every weekend hacker can commiserate, especially when his buddy offers him a towel and suntan lotion.
A product of the Roaring Twenties and a place for stars of Hollywood's Golden Age to hobnob, Riviera Country Club has been a mainstay on the PGA Tour for decades.
The course, in the Santa Monica Canyon in Pacific Palisades, was designed by George C. Thomas, opened in 1927 and selected to host the annual Tour stop in Los Angeles two years later. It's been the permanent host since 1973, with the exception of two years when the course hosted other major tournaments.
Its nickname – "Hogan's Alley" – refers to the stranglehold Ben Hogan had on the place shortly after World War II. Hogan won both the 1948 U.S. Open and L.A. Open at Riviera, setting a course record in the process.
Riviera holds a special place in golf's efforts toward diversity. Champion boxer Joe Louis became the first African-American to compete in a PGA sanctioned event there in 1952. Charlie Sifford, the first African-American member of the PGA Tour, won the L.A. Open in 1969. And Tiger Woods made his PGA Tour debut there as an amateur in 1992.
Some of Riviera's holes are among the most unique on the schedule. The par-3 sixth has a bunker placed in the middle of the green. And the par-4 10th is a driveable 315 yards, but the narrow angled green is guarded by bunkers.
Since 1992, three players have won the Northern Trust Open and Masters in the same season: Bubba Watson (2014), Mike Weir (2003) and Fred Couples (1992).
With that, here are five players to watch this week.
5. Fred Couples
2014 Northern Trust Open: Missed cut
Reason to watch: Couples, a two-time winner at Riviera, is making his 33rd appearance in this tournament. His first win came in 1990 -- when Rory McIlroy was nine months old. You might think the addition of Couples -- who's primarily a fixture on the Champions Tour now -- is a nice tip of the cap. But there's nobody in the field who knows Riviera any better. Consider his third-place finish in 2009, the fact that he led after 36 holes and wound up seventh in 2011, and missed the cut last year by one stroke.
4. Sergio Garcia
2014 Northern Trust Open: Did not play
Reason to watch: This is Garcia's first foray to the States in 2015, after missing the cut at Dubai. He could be a touch rusty, but this is a course where he could find his sharpness in a hurry. In eight previous trips to Riviera, Garcia's best finish came in 2012, when he finished fourth, two shots out of a playoff, and shot 64 in the final round. If he's looking for a perfect course to assess his game heading into the Masters, this is it.
3. Alex Prugh
2014 Northern Trust Open: Did not play
Reason to watch: There's something about the West Coast swing that appeals to this native of Spokane, Wash. Maybe it's the poa annua greens, or the kikuyu fairways? In any case, Prugh's doing the right things to make sure he keeps a secure hold on his Tour card this time around.
How good as he been so far this season? Only four of his 26 rounds have been 72 or higher. He put together four under-par rounds at Torrey Pines to finish tied for fifth, then had four consecutive sub-70 rounds at Pebble Beach, earning him another top 10.
The last time Prugh had three consecutive top-10 finishes on the PGA Tour? Try 2010, at the Humana, Farmers and Northern Trust.
BRANDT SNEDEKER: AT&T Pebble Beach champ sticking with what works
2014 Northern Trust Open: Second
Reason to watch: After knocking off the rust at Torrey Pines, Johnson put together perhaps the most-overlooked consecutive sub-70s rounds at Pebble Beach last week, shooting 69-67-68-66 to finish in a tie for fourth behind eventual winner Brandt Snedeker. It seemed like playing partner and father-in-law Wayne Gretzky got more air time than Dustin.
If not for Bubba Watson's bogey-free weekend at Riviera last year, Johnson might have walked away with the trophy. He had bookend 66s to finish two shots behind. It's also the place where he was docked two shots in 2011 for missing his tee time. Bet that doesn't happen again.
1. Bubba Watson
2014 Northern Trust Open: Winner
Reason to watch: Coming into last year's Northern Trust Open, Watson hadn't won a golf tournament since the 2012 Masters. And after struggling just to make the cut, he was nine shots behind heading into Saturday's play. That's when Watson's game kicked into another gear. He shot 64-64 over the weekend, playing the final 39 holes without a bogey and winning by two shots over Dustin Johnson.
And in the process, Watson carried that momentum into Augusta, winning his second green jacket. Can the sequel be as good? We'll know Sunday afternoon.
PGA of America Championships
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Benton Harbor, Mich.
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