The official tournament name has seen some changes in recent years, but the fans and players know it best by the one name that means the most: "Riviera."
Riviera Country Club is renowned as one of the best courses in the country - and one of the best stops on the Tour. Players, fans, media and the television audience will once again enjoy one of golf's most spectacular settings this week at the Northern Trust Open. But before the first tee shot is struck, we want to know a little more about the course and the week. Who better to tell us than PGA Head Professional and Director of Golf Todd Yoshitake.
PGA.com: Todd, obviously,Riviera looks great on TV. But I was lucky enough to see it in person recently - and TV doesn't do it justice. What can you tell fans at home that gives them an accurate picture of what Riviera is really like.
Yoshitake: Well, first and foremost, we're located on an incredible piece of property. Next to ocean, major metropolitan city, major interstates - and yet, you never see a road, an office building, anything that gives you the feeling you're amid the chaos of daily life. You are in an oasis here. The canyon walls with the spectacular homes, the tall eucaplytus trees, the greenery of our land - it really is beautiful, just to look at. The design and layout challenges the best players in the world - but is also enjoyable for every level of golfer. It's a links style course, I think 17 of the holes allow for a player to run the ball up onto the green. The variety of challenges and opportunities, along with the incredible visuals, is what makes Riviera such a tremendous and timeless layout.
** Watson focused on games, not names **
PGA.com: How will the course play this week?
Yoshitake: We've had very little rain so the course will play firm and fast. That's typical for us. There isn't a lot of rough but this course is all about positiioning your shot so accuracy and smart course management is always a key here.
PGA.com For fans coming to the event, what's the best spot on the course to set up shop?
Yoshitake: My favorite spot is by 10 green. I like to watch people trying to drive the green, and then when most miss, the variety of shots that they have to attempt as a recovery is really enjoyable. They are so good and often attempt - and pull off - shots that aren't even in consideration of most amateur players.
PGA.com: What's the one shot every golfer needs if they want to get around Riviera in pretty good order.
Yoshitake: I think there are two shots that are a must. If you want to score, you need to have an accuarate driver. As we said earlier, positioning is so critical here, you have to attack the pins and greens from the right angles. Also, the soft pitch shot, the little lob around the greens, will benefit every level of golfer when they come out here. And it's one you need to practice, the kikuyu grass will give you a nice lie but if you haven't hit much off of it before, it takes some time to adjust.
** Stricker may miss match play due to brother's illness **
PGA.com: What is kikuyu grass? What challenges does it present?
Yoshitake: Kikuya is a great year round grass we have in our fairways and rough. It's originally from South Africa and was great for the polo fields we used to have here at Riviera. It's thick and wirey and will almost always give a perfect lie in the fairway. The rough, it is difficult to hit out of. It's a very dense grass and the ball tends to stick when it lands. You won't see a lot of bump and run shots, even though we'll cut it tight. The greens here are a combination of bent/poana and they will roll great.
PGA.com: With all the history at Riviera, is there a favorite moment that you think back on?
Yoshitake: There's no way you can pick one. Obviously, Ben Hogan's run here (winning three times in 18 months including a U.S. Open) in 1947-48 spawned the name "Hogan's Alley" and that is what most people think of. In 1992, I qualified to play in the NTO and a certain young amateur was in the group behind me making his debut on the Tour. His name: Tiger Woods. So yes, there are a number of great memories for the club and for myself.
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