Bombers, ball-strikers have equal chance at Riviera

By Rex HoggardFebruary 21, 2016, 1:08 am

LOS ANGELES – Bubba Watson, Jason Kokrak and Chez Reavie – which one of these players doesn’t belong?

If that sounds like the beginning of a bad joke, it’s actually a testament to Riviera Country Club’s brilliance, if not the standard of play at this week’s Northern Trust Open.

If there’s no greater compliment for a golf course than an eclectic leaderboard, consider this week’s collection of contenders an unabashed endorsement of one of the PGA Tour’s most endearing layouts.

Watson, Kokrak and Reavie – Nos. 4, 9 and 116 on the PGA Tour this season in driving distance, respectively – will set out in Sunday’s final three-ball in what amounts to a mandate for more inclusiveness at the game’s highest levels.

Alhough distance is always an advantage, the final threesome of would-be champions may play the same game but they do so in vastly different ways.

“My advantage is that I can hit more fairways and plot my way around,” said Reavie, who led by as many as three strokes before slipping back late on Saturday. “They have a lot more firepower, so obviously I'm hitting 3-iron into [No.] 15 and Dustin [Johnson] is probably hitting like an 8-iron or something like that.”

For one rare week, however, the playing field is, if not even, then at least tilted ever so slightly in the plodders’ direction.

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It’s the brilliance of Riviera that it defies definition. Is it a bomber’s layout? A ball-striker’s ballpark?

Label-averse Watson didn’t particularly care for either characterization, figuring, “It's just a traditional old school golf course that's got a lot of history.”

It’s why, at 56 years old, Fred Couples plays the Northern Trust Open, and Justin Leonard counts this among the half dozen Tour stops he considers “must play.”

“I just love the golf course,” explained Leonard, who is tied for 14th place and is 206th in driving distance. “And it doesn't necessarily suit my game. When it's firm like this, my chances are better.”

The mitigating magic that makes Riviera so unique was on display midway through Saturday’s round when Johnson, No. 6 on Tour in driving distance this season, had to scramble for par at the 10th hole.

DJ’s par brought his score on the drivable par 4 to even par this week; while Reavie, who averages 23 yards less off the tee this season than Johnson, is 2 under at the 10th through three rounds after rolling in an eagle putt from just off the front of the green.

That the 10th played just 289 yards in Round 3 just reinforces the notion that distance may be king but royalty can also be found in more measured forms.

Reavie’s 20-foot eagle putt at the 10th hole, combined with a bogey for Johnson at the 11th, gave the diminutive veteran - he’s listed at 5-foot-9 in the Tour media guide but that seems ambitious - a three-stroke advantage.

Bogeys at Nos. 14 and 15 cost Reavie his advantage, but his play around the greens (he’s 14 for 19 in scrambling attempts this week) gave him confidence he could overcome those late miscues just as he’s overcome his relative distance deficit to his fellow contenders.

“So I have to play good golf, absolutely. But I've got to play good golf anywhere I'm at, too,” said Reavie, who finished with a 69 on Saturday and is one shot behind Watson. “It's a ball-striker's golf course, so even though you have shorter irons in, you still have to hit them in the right spot.”

It’s a lesson Rory McIlroy is learning this week. The world No. 3 has largely plodded his way around Riviera, where he is making his first start, and has quickly come to appreciate the design elements that make it so unique on Tour.

“Just the design of the golf course, it's not overly long but it's very tough and there's no rough. It's not like you hit it off line and you get penalized that much,” said McIlroy, who scrambled for par at the last hole on Day 3 for a share of fifth place, two shots back. “Just the design of the golf course is that good that any style of game can do well here.”

Maybe an even better example of Riviera’s refusal to be typecast as either a bomber’s course or a ball-striker’s layout can be found in Sunday’s penultimate group that includes Johnson, Kevin Chappell and K.J. Choi, Nos. 6, 41 and 197, respectively, in driving distance this year.

The title may end up going to one of the game’s hard-swinging set – with Watson, who won the Northern Trust Open two years ago, the easy favorite – but the best part about Riviera is it’s not a foregone conclusion.

Cabreras take 1-shot lead in Father/Son

By Associated PressDecember 16, 2017, 11:23 pm

ORLANDO, Fla. - Two-time major champion Angel Cabrera and Angel Cabrera Jr. birdied their last three holes for a 13-under 59 to take a one-shot lead Saturday in the PNC Father-Son Challenge.

Cabrera, a Masters and U.S. Open champion, is making his debut in this popular 36-hole scramble. His son said he practiced hard for 10 days. What helped put him at ease was watching his father make so many putts.

''We combined very well,'' Cabrera said. ''When I hit a bad shot, he hit a good one. That's the key.''

They had a one-shot lead over Mark O'Meara and Shaun O'Meara, who are playing for the first time. That included a birdie on the last hole, which O'Meara attributed to the strength of his son.

''My little man hit it 58 yards by me on the 18th,'' said O'Meara, the Masters and British Open champion in 1998. ''It's a little easier coming in with a 6-iron.''

Defending champions David Duval and Nick Karavites rallied over the back nine at the Ritz-Carlton Golf Club for a 61. They are trying to become the first father-son team to repeat as winners since Bernhard and Stefan Langer in 2006. Larry Nelson won two years in a row in 2007 and 2008, but with different sons.

''I'd imagine we have to break 60 tomorrow to have a chance to win, but hey, stranger things have happened,'' Duval said. ''I've even done it myself.''

Duval shot 59 at the Bob Hope Classic to win in 1999 on his way to reaching No. 1 in the world that year.

Duval and his stepson were tied with Bernhard Langer and 17-year-old Jason Langer, who made two eagles on the last five holes. This Langer tandem won in 2014.

Jack Nicklaus, playing with grandson G.T., opened with a 68.

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Woods' 2018 schedule coming into focus ... or is it?

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 16, 2017, 5:46 pm

Two weeks after his successful return to competition at the Hero World Challenge, Tiger Woods’ 2018 schedule may be coming into focus.

Golfweek reported on Saturday that Woods hopes to play the Genesis Open in February according to an unidentified source with “direct knowledge of the situation.”

Woods’ agent Mark Steinberg declined to confirm the 14-time major champion would play the event and told that Woods – who underwent fusion surgery to his lower back in April – is still formulating his ’18 schedule.

Woods’ foundation is the host organization for the Genesis Open and the event supports the Tiger Woods Learning Center in Anaheim, Calif.

The Genesis Open would be Woods’ first start on the PGA Tour since he missed the cut last January at the Farmers Insurance Open.

Rose weathering delayed Indonesian Masters

By Associated PressDecember 16, 2017, 3:52 pm

JAKARTA, Indonesia - Justin Rose held a three-stroke lead after eight holes of the third round Saturday when play was suspended for the day due to bad weather at the Indonesian Masters.

Rose was 3-under on the day and led his playing partners Kiradech Aphibarnrat and Scott Vincent. The Englishman led both players by a stroke after the second round was completed Saturday morning due to weather delays on Friday.

Brandt Snedeker withdrew with apparent heat exhaustion on Friday on the 11th hole of the second round. Ranked 51st in the world, he flew to Jakarta looking to move inside the top 50 by the end of the year and ensure a spot in next year's Masters.

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Lexi (wrist) WDs from Diamond Resorts Invitational

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 15, 2017, 11:27 pm

Lexi Thompson on Friday withdrew from the Diamond Resorts Invitational, citing inflammation in her wrist. Thompson, who teamed with Tony Finau to finish tied for fourth place in last week's QBE Shootout, said she is under strict doctor's order not to hit golf balls until mid-January.

The Diamond Resorts Invitational is scheduled Jan. 12-14 at Tranquilo Golf Club in Orlando, Fla. The field for te 54-hole event includes LPGA and PGA Tour Champions players, as well as celebrities from the worlds or sports and entertainment.