LOS ANGELES (AP) — Adam Scott wanted to add a West Coast event to his schedule, and it made sense to go from Hawaii to San Diego at the start of the year. Instead, he went from Hawaii to his home in the Bahamas, and then flew out to the Northern Trust Open this week before heading back east for the Florida Swing.
Riviera has that kind of appeal.
It's why Jordan Spieth refers to it as one of his top five golf courses in the world. It's why Rory McIlroy, finally settled at his home in Florida after his Middle East swing, flew across the country to play the course for the first time.
"It's a real thinker's golf course, and it's a real treat to play something like this," McIlroy said.
Scott's decision was looking even better during his pro-am round Wednesday when it was unseasonably warm and mostly clear. The Farmers Insurance Open at Torrey Pines did not finish until Monday because of 40 mph wind and rain.
That was before the rain arrived Wednesday afternoon, with a few lingering showers expected in the morning before it gives way to sunshine the rest of the week.
Scott has seen worse, and it led to one awkward exchange this week when he was asked what it would mean to win at Riviera.
Been there, done that.
Scott won a playoff against Chad Campbell in 2005 after a week of so much rain that only 36 holes were completed over four days, and they returned on Monday to play the 18th hole. Trouble is, Scott did not get credit for an official PGA Tour victory because it was only 36 holes.
He still considers it a victory, which was reflected in his answer: "It would feel just as good as the last time I won here."
The road to the Masters typically begins with the Florida swing, although for McIlroy, it starts across the country at Riviera.
The Northern Trust Open is the first of five tournaments he will play over the next six weeks through the Match Play in Texas. McIlroy is No. 3 in the world, but he has a chance to move up considering his next three starts will feature the strongest fields of the year.
"This is the start of the road to the Masters," he said. "And I think everyone, if not thinking about it directly, it's definitely in the back of their minds."
The Northern Trust Open is a big week for those trying to get into the first World Golf Championship of the year in two weeks at Doral.
The top 50 in the world are eligible for the Cadillac Championship, along with the top 10 on Europe's money list.
On the bubble are Billy Horschel (No. 48) and Chris Kirk (No. 50). Horschel is playing Riviera for the first time, so perhaps that is no coincidence. Jamie Donaldson is No. 51 and Matt Jones is No. 52, so both need good weeks.
Players still can qualify through the top 50 after the Honda Classic, and that's when the top 10 in the current FedEx Cup standing applies. Graeme McDowell is at No. 7, which might be why he chose to sit this week out.
The only night golf played in California is in the morning at Riviera.
The 144-man field makes it a challenge to complete the opening two rounds before darkness, which is why the first tee time is 6:40 a.m. PST, meaning lights will be erected on the driving range for the early starters.
Bryce Molder, Will MacKenzie and Cameron Smith have the first time Thursday on No. 1, while Ricky Barnes, Jason Kokrak and Bernd Wiesberger are off on No. 10.
Last year, only one player failed to finish 36 holes by Friday.
Spieth has played Riviera four times over the last four years, even though he missed in 2013 when he was playing the Web.com Tour on sponsor exemptions. He missed the cut as an amateur in 2012, and then returned a few months later and helped Texas win an NCAA title.
He was three shots off the lead going into the final round in 2014 (and tied for 12th), and then last year he made bogey trying to make birdie on the 18th and it cost him a spot in a three-man playoff.
"For me to win on a golf course that I consider one of the top few in the world, I mean, that's always a goal," he said. "It would be pretty amazing."
Fred Couples is playing the Northern Trust Open again, 25 years after he won for the first time at Riviera.
That's not enough to make him feel his age. But consider the guys playing with him.
Couples is paired with 22-year-old Jordan Spieth and 22-year-old Justin Thomas. Neither was born when Couples won the Masters.
This article was written by Doug Ferguson from The Associated Press and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.
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