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After Further Review: Masters microscope

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Each week, takes a look back at the week in golf. Here's what's weighing on our writers' minds.

On Spieth's and McIlroy's struggles ...

Jordan Spieth opened his week in Los Angeles with a 79. Rory McIlroy closed his with a 75. No reason to worry – yet. Even the world’s best golfers are allowed a bad day at the office, and little went right for Spieth on Thursday or McIlroy on Sunday. To channel the familiar coach-speak of Bill Belichick, they’re both on to Florida. 

Both are playing relatively well despite the unexpected hiccups, as Spieth followed with a second-round 68 while McIlroy proved a quick study through the first three rounds at Riviera. But rest assured, their margin for error will dwindle quickly as the Masters approaches, and each individual performance will be housed under an increasingly exacting microscope. A bad round in February is easily forgotten. A similar performance in March, on the other hand, can often pose a larger issue as that trip to Magnolia Lane draws near. - Will Gray 

On familiar faces at Augusta ...

The journey on the road to Augusta National quickens with this week’s turn to the Florida swing. That means it’s nearly time to “round up the usual suspects” because we all know how often the Masters comes down to familiar faces with proven records there. With Bubba Watson winning the Northern Trust Open on Sunday and Adam Scott finishing a shot back, oddsmakers will be moving them up their list of favorites. Watson presented the green jacket to Scott in 2013 and Scott presented it to Watson in ’14. They’re looking ready to try to get defending champ Jordan Spieth to slip yet another green jacket on one of them six weeks from now. For Watson, there’s an every-other-year feeling to this. He won his first Masters in ’12 and won the Northern Trust Open in ’14 on his way to his second green jacket. - Randall Mell

On the NTO's improving field ...

Some figured the PGA Tour’s West Coast swing would take a hit when the WGC-Match Play bolted for a new spring home in Austin, Texas, but if the field at the Northern Trust Open was any indication the move may have been a boost to the Left Coast. Last week’s field at Riviera was the best in Los Angeles since 2013 according to the Official World Golf Ranking, and with 60 ranking points going to the champion it also held the distinction of having this year’s deepest tee sheet.

Even more encouraging for tournament organizers is that the world’s best liked what they saw. “This is definitely going to be a regular for me on the schedule going forward,” said world No. 3 Rory McIlroy, who played the L.A. stop for the first time last week. - Rex Hoggard