What We Learned: Northern Trust Open


Each week, the GolfChannel.com team offers thoughts on 'what we learned' from the most recent events. This week, the team reflects on the wild final round at the Northern Trust Open at Riviera Country Club.

I learned that sometimes life really does imitate art. For years, Sergio Garcia appeared surly, sulky and sullen on the course – and his putter wasn’t much fun to be around, either. Over the past few months, a happier Sergio has emerged and perhaps not coincidentally, he’s been holing putts like never before. Always one of the top tee-to-green ball-strikers in the world, he proved once again with an 7-under 64 in the final round of the Northern Trust Open on Sunday – which included two eagles and five birdies -- that he’s finally figured out the flat stick. That just might result in a season of “major” proportions for Garcia this year. It also recalls something another pure ball-striker once said on the big screen: “Happy learned how to putt! Uh-oh!” And if you don’t think “Happy Gilmore” qualifies as art, well, maybe you’re a little too surly, sulky and sullen yourself. –  Jason Sobel

Maybe the U.S. Golf Association has it right and the long putter may in fact mitigate the skill needed under pressure. No one looked as nervy as Keegan Bradley on Sunday at the Northern Trust Open or as cool as Bill Haas during the second extra frame, yet both long-putter users rattled home winners when the pressure was on. No disrespect to either Bradley or Haas, but the USGA may be on to something. –  Rex Hoggard

Bill Haas is major championship ready.

Because that’s what Sunday felt like at Riviera Country Club with Haas winning the Northern Trust Open.

With tough scoring conditions, another level of pressure in that playoff against a pair of major championship winners, the setup at Riviera didn’t need a half-foot of rough to offer a major championship-caliber test.

If you’re handicapping the field at the Masters, you’ve got to move Haas up the list. The man can handle enormous pressure. Winning the FedEx Cup with all that money on the line, there was mega pressure there, too. –  Randall Mell

The balance in power is shifting back to the American side. Americans are 7-for-7 on the PGA Tour this year and the Riviera playoff highlighted all that is good with U.S. golf. Ladbrokes is currently offering the same odds on the U.S. and Europe for the 2012 Ryder Cup. Expect the Americans to be favored come September. –  Mercer Baggs

I learned that Riviera should be hosting a major in the next decade. It's hosted three men's professional majors, but none since 1995 when Steve Elkington won the Wanamaker there.

This course deserves another crack at the hosting either the U.S. Open or the PGA Championship, and this week's event proved the teeth of Hogan's Alley – or, specifically, the  kikuyu grass rough. The mix of imaginative par-4 holes, tricky par-3s – despite what Luke Donald says – and modest par-5s is as modern as when George Thomas designed the place 86 years ago.

With the USGA making an effort to return the Open to some of the game's classic tracks – Merion in '13, Pinehurst No. 2 in '14 – Far Hills should consider bringing the National Open back to the Riv.

And, it would end in prime time... –  Ryan Ballengee