Welcome to Hollywood! The Tour touches down in star-studded Los Angeles where Hogan’s Alley boasts a blockbuster cast of players at famed Riviera. I’ve rounded up the best scripted storylines before we go lights, camera, action at the Northern Trust Open.
1. Roddick, Romo, Rodgers: Golf is a universal sport among sports and it stepped up its game at last week’s tournament rooted in Bing Crosby tradition. These three who have taken spotlight roles in their non-golf professional athlete world sported their golf games with pride at Pebble Beach. Rodgers and Roddick even got the Tour treatment as Peter Kostis broke down their swings and Nick Faldo offered up tips.
2. Luke and MJ pow-wow: From the outside, these two couldn’t be more polar opposite. You have the quiet, art major, clean-cut, preppy, Polo-wearing Brit on one hand and the most famous athlete of the 20th century basketball star who won six NBA Titles for the Chicago Bulls on the other. In addition to golf, the two also have the Windy City in common. The former world number one who was at the top of the game in 2011 has been picking Michael Jordan’s brain in the off season in advance of his 2013 debut this week at Riviera. Jordan’s teaching him his mental approach, helping him mentally prepare for the season.
3. Lydia Ko: With her victory this past weekend in New Zealand the 15-year-old became a three-time winner on the professional circuit. While she’s still an amateur, she’s earning a lot of recognition and will be in the spotlight this week in Australia. The LPGA restricts the number of starts she can make on Tour this year to only eight due to her age, but she’s also eligible to play in the majors thanks to her US Amateur victory.
4. LPGA in Session: Australian opener kicks off the LPGA season this week. Fifteen rookies are making their debuts alongside the 2012 Rolex Player of the Year Stacy Lewis, defending champion Jessica Korda, top-ranked Yani Tseng, two-time British Open champion Jiyai Shin and Michelle Wie.
5. Top 10 and you’re (not) in: A top 10 at Pebble Beach was not enough to get Patrick Cantlay into his home game this week at Riviera, but it pays to know people in Hollywood. Thanks to a sponsor’s exemption, he’s in the field. James Hahn and Patrick Reed were also able to get in to this week’s event because of their top-10 finishes, but they began the week as alternates, proving it’s hard to break-in in Hollywood, even when the top-10 category is seen as an automatic into the next week’s field.
6. Trump Fishing for Ryder Cup: Donald Trump proposes a second course at Trump International Golf Links in Aberdeen, Scotland seven months after opening his first. It is to be named after his Scottish-born mother Mary MacLeod and constructed on the southern end of his 1,400-acre Menie Estate that is 10 miles north of Aberdeen. He has said he hopes to host either the British Open or the Ryder Cup.
7. Billy Casper: Last week the legendary golfer received the Award of Merit from the National Golf Course Owners Association for his long-term and significant contributions to the game of golf. The 51-time PGA Tour winner and three-time major champion has given back to the game through working with Big Brothers/Big Sisters, Junior Achievement, The First Tee, and his Billy’s Kids Foundation.
8. Sawgrass Spring Break for Seniors: It’s not quite Cancun, but for seniors 55 and up, maybe it’s even better. Leave the passport at home and enjoy the warm weather in sunny Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla., while playing one of the most famed courses in the game at TPC Sawgrass. The Sawgras Marriott Golf Resort & Spa located adjacent to PGA Tour Headquarters and its courses, has teamed with AARP to market the resort accommodations and golf to the senior crowd. From March 1st to June 30th this year the deal starts at $169 per night (golf not included).
9. Fred Couples: Talk about an icon in L.A. The two-time winner and three-time runner-up at Riviera returns to a course that has been near to his heart over the course of his career. This marks his 31st start which tops Gene Littler's previous record for most appearances in the tournament. He has 14 top-10 finishes.
10. Phil and Keegan duo (well, trio): The successful Ryder Cup pairing play alongside each other as well as the defending champion for the first two rounds this week as one of the featured groups. The three were against each other a year ago as Bill Haas, the third player in this grouping, beat out the major champs in sudden death.