The Northern Trust Open begins Thursday morning bright and early. Well, maybe bright is a bit of a stretch; the first tee time is 6:45 AM. They have to do that because they have 144 players in the field and the last tee time in the afternoon wave doesn’t go off until 1:25 PM. With sunset at 5:37 PM, it will be pushing it whether the field will be able to finish or not.
These are all things that get into the mix of a player’s thoughts as they get ready to get into the flow of the tournament: What time to I have to get up? When will it be light enough to be able to productively hit balls? How crowded will the range be? How crowded will the putting green be? How long does it take to get from the range to the first or tenth tee? How am I going to finish when they’ve only allowed 4:12 of daylight for my round? How long can I play into the dusk and still see the break on the greens? How many holes will I have to finish the next morning? And once I’m finished, how long will I have until I have to begin my morning round?
And you thought there was nothing going on about all of this. In the more experienced players, not so much. They’ve all been through all these little dramas we get distracted by and they know that there is nothing they can do about any of it. Nothing. So you just show up prepared to play at your tee time. And play until you’re done, however long that takes, in whatever light you’re provided. Just like everyone else. It’s not just happening to you.
But for a chance to play the vaunted Riviera Country Club in Los Angeles, California, (technically, Pacific Palisades, but everybody says LA) you do what you have to do. And if you do it well enough on this par 71, 7,298 yard beauty, who knows, they just might change the nickname from “Hogan’s Alley.” Hogan inspired the nickname in the 40s when he won three times and finished second once. Probably not going to happen, but you gotta have big goals. You gotta have big dreams.
And together with all of that history, the course has attracted a talent-laden field.
Led by World No. 1, Luke Donald, you have all but two of top 10 leading money winners including Kyle Stanley and Phil Mickelson; Jason Day, Adam Scott and Dustin Johnson off the world rankings at 7, 8 and 10; all but one of this year’s PGA Tour winners; Defending Champion, Aaron Baddeley; 14 Major winners including last year’s PGA Champion, Keegan Bradley; and lest we forget, a special sponsors invitation to the inimitable, Fred Couples. Let’s hope his back holds up, because he knows how to play this course having won twice. And UCLA amateur phenom Patrick Cantlay also got a sponsors exemption; it’s a home game for him.
For the beauty of the storied course and the quality of the field, this one is always worth watching. It begins on the Golf Channel at 3:00 PM (ET) and finishes up on CBS on the weekend.
Or better yet, if you’re in LA, go buy a ticket. If that caused a little tingle in your body, this really is one of those things you have to do at least once. They’ll be happy to have you and you’ll be thrilled that you went. Maybe even enough to come back next year.