Local Knowledge: 2012 Northern Trust Open

Riviera Country Club
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For many players on the PGA Tour, Riviera Country Club is one of the best courses to play on the schedule each year.
T.J. Auclair, Interactive Producer

Series: Local Knowledge

Published: Tuesday, February 14, 2012 | 2:54 p.m.

As the old saying goes, they just don't make them like they used to. That adage certainly applies to modern-day courses, which have been built to combat technology with golf balls traveling further than ever before.

That's why this week's PGA Tour visit is a throwback. Many of the biggest names in golf -- including last week's winner Phil Mickelson -- are in Pacific Palisades, Calif., at Riviera Country Club for the Northern Trust Open.


Riviera Country Club is the venue for this week's Northern Trust Open. Have you played there? If so, click on the course names to write a review of your experience. Also, be sure to check out our PGA.com Course Guide to review all the courses you've played and to find the perfect course for your next round.

Our local expert
Todd Yoshitake
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The Riv isn't a bomber's paradise. Instead, it's one of the most strategic, classic courses on the PGA Tour schedule, a place shrouded in history thanks to the late great Ben Hogan. In the 1940s, Hogan won the Los Angeles Open three times and finished second once. He also won the 1948 U.S. Open at Riviera. Because of The Hawk's rampant success, Riviera is also known as, "Hogan's Alley."

Riviera PGA Director of Golf Todd Yoshitake sat with us for a few minutes to talk about the unique way Jason Gore got into the Northern Trust Open, the importance of basketball legend Jerry West to the tournament, what makes Riviera so special and more in this week's, "Local Knowledge."

PGA.com: Todd, thank you for joining us, as always. About a month ago, there was a Twitter campaign to get Jason Gore a sponsor's exemption into the Northern Trust Open. While I'm sure it wasn't the only factor in Jason getting an exemption, I'm just as sure it helped his cause. Can you talk about the power of social media and do you think that could be the future of gaining exemptions?

Yoshitake: Sure. You know, I think it was fantastic that Jason had the foresight to start that campaign. The fact that it resulted in ultimately helping to get him an exemption showed his popularity in the game and the area.

I think golf is a game where sometimes people get caught up in doing things the old fashioned way. Times are changing and social media has been incredibly influential. I think it was cool that Jason tapped in to Twitter to express his interest in playing here and I'm sure campaigns like that -- through Twitter -- get more youth involved. That's very important for our game.

PGA.com: Basketball legend Jerry West has been heavily involved with the tournament these last few years. How much has his presence meant to the tournament?

Yoshitake: Mr. West is everything to this tournament. He's all over the event. He's walking around talking to the gallery, going into the corporate areas and on the range with the players. He's one of those iconic figures that transcend basketball. While he's from West Virginia, he's all about Los Angeles and helping the local charities.

It's been great for us to have him involved as the Executive Director of the tournament. We like to pride ourselves on being one of the oldest clubs on Tour. The guys come here and feel the history. With Jerry, it pulls it all together.

PGA.com: When it comes to classic golf courses, Riviera is right near the top of the list. What is it that makes Riviera such a special place?

Yoshitake: It's got to be the history. All the players I talk to, they ask how did Hogan play this hole, etc. Through the years, we've tried to keep that same club in players' hands. Keep hazards in play. We change very little so that players come through here and are able to experience it the way Hogan did. This is very unique to the Tour. That's why the players like it here so much. The great thing about Riviera is you're right near the Pacific Ocean, you never see a building, or hear traffic even though you're near one of the busiest places in the world. It's really a little oasis down here.

PGA.com: Do you have a favorite moment in your time at Riviera? What was it?

Yoshitake: I've been here 14 years now. One of the greatest events I've seen was Phil's first win here in 2008. He came back to Riviera after not playing here for some time.

I had a chance to talk to his father awhile back and said, "You need to get Phil back here."

I know Phil spent time with Amy Alcott, the LPGA Hall of Famer. She's a member here and she would walk the course with Phil, tell him about the greens, how to read them. Then he won back to back in 2008 and 2009. Now he's the guy to beat.

PGA.com: Final question, Todd. Fred Couples will be making his 30th start in the Northern Trust Open. He's won the tournament twice and has 12 other top 10s. If all that weren't impressive enough, he still has the game to compete there with the younger guys. Can you talk about Fred and his history at Riviera?

Yoshitake: Fred has been a great champion, period -- not just at Riviera. Last year, he led going into seventh hole in the final round. He's a senior player now, but can still hit it as long as anyone. He knows this course so well. He'll lay up on No. 10 when everyone is trying to drive it. He picks his spots. He knows the winds, the angles to the course and he fades the ball. A fader has a little bit of an advantage on this course. 



I feel very lucky to have been there for Phil's two victories in 2008 and 2009. I missed this year, but enjoyed watching it on television. A beautiful course.