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.

Northern Trust Open: Articles, photos and videos

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.

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Vegas helicopters in to Carnoustie, without clubs

By Golf Channel DigitalJuly 19, 2018, 9:33 am

Jhonattan Vegas did some range work, putted a little and strolled to the first tee for his 5:31 a.m. ET start in the 147th Open Championship.

Everything before that, however, was far from routine.

Vegas' visa to travel to Scotland expired and the process to renew it got delayed - and it looked like his overseas' flight might suffer the same fate. Vegas, upon getting his visa updated, traveled from Houston, Texas to Toronto, Canada to Glasgow, Scotland, and then took a helicopter to Carnoustie.

He arrived in time on Thursday morning, but his clubs did not. Mizuno put together some irons for him and TaylorMade got him his preferred metal woods. He hit the clubs for the first time on the range, less than 90 minutes before his start.

"I'm going to go out there and play with freedom," Vegas told Golf Channel's Todd Lewis.

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How to watch The Open on TV and online

By Golf Channel DigitalJuly 19, 2018, 5:40 am

You want to watch the 147th Open? Here’s how you can do it.

Golf Channel and NBC Sports will be televising 182 hours of overall programming from the men's third major of the year at Carnoustie

In addition to the traditional coverage, the two networks will showcase three live alternate feeds: marquee groups, featured holes (our new 3-hole channel) and spotlight action. You can also watch replays of full-day coverage, Thursday-Sunday, in the Golf Channel app, NBC Sports apps, and on  

Here’s the weekly TV schedule, with live stream links in parentheses. You can view all the action on the Golf Channel mobile, as well. Alternate coverage is noted in italics:

(All times Eastern; GC=Golf Channel; NBC=NBC Sports; or check the GLE app)

Monday, July 16

GC: 7-9AM: Morning Drive (

GC: 9-11AM: Live From The Open (

GC: 7-9PM: Live From The Open (

Tuesday, July 17

GC: 6AM-2PM: Live From The Open (

Wednesday, July 18

GC: 6AM-2PM: Live From The Open (

Thursday, July 19

GC: Midnight-1:30AM: Midnight Drive (

GC: Day 1: The Open, live coverage: 1:30AM-4PM ( Day 1: The Open, Spotlight: 1:30AM-4PM ( Day 1: The Open, Marquee Groups: 4AM-3PM ( Day 1: The Open, 3-Hole Channel: 4AM-3PM (

GC: Live From The Open: 4-5PM (

Friday, July 20

GC: Day 2: The Open, live coverage: 1:30AM-4PM ( Day 2: The Open, Spotlight: 1:30AM-4PM ( Day 2: The Open, Marquee Groups: 4AM-3PM ( Day 2: The Open, 3-Hole Channel: 4AM-3PM (

GC: Live From The Open: 4-5PM (

Saturday, July 21

GC: Day 3: The Open, live coverage: 4:30-7AM (

NBC: Rd. 3: The Open, live coverage: 7AM-3PM ( Day 3: The Open, Spotlight: 4:30AM-3PM ( Day 3: The Open, Marquee Groups: 5AM-3PM ( Day 3: The Open, 3-Hole Channel: 5AM-3PM (

GC: Live From The Open: 3-4PM (

Sunday, July 22

GC: Day 4: The Open, live coverage: 4:30-7AM (

NBC: Rd. 4: The Open, live coverage: 7AM-2:30PM ( Day 4: The Open, Spotlight: 4:30AM-2:30PM ( Day 4: The Open, Marquee Groups: 5AM-2PM ( Day 4: The Open, 3-Hole Channel: 5AM-2PM (

GC: Live From The Open: 2:30-4PM (

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The Open 101: A guide to the year's third major

By Golf Channel DigitalJuly 19, 2018, 5:30 am

Take a look at some answers to frequently asked questions about The Open:

What's all this "The Open" stuff? I thought it was the British Open.

What you call it has historically depended on where you were. If you were in the U.S., you called it the British Open, just as Europeans refer to the PGA Championship as the U.S. PGA. Outside the U.S. it generally has been referred to as The Open Championship. The preferred name of the organizers is The Open.

How old is it?

It's the oldest golf championship, dating back to 1860.

Where is it played?

There is a rotation – or "rota" – of courses used. Currently there are 10: Royal Birkdale, Royal St. George's, Royal Liverpool and Royal Lytham and St. Annes, all in England; Royal Portrush in Northern Ireland and St. Andrews, Carnoustie, Royal Troon, Turnberry and Muirfield, all in Scotland. Muirfield was removed from the rota in 2016 when members voted against allowing female members, but when the vote was reversed in 2017 it was allowed back in.

Where will it be played this year?

At Carnoustie, which is located on the south-eastern shore of Scotland.

Who has won The Open on that course?

Going back to the first time Carnoustie hosted, in 1931, winners there have been Tommy Armour, Henry Cotton (1937), Ben Hogan (1953), Gary Player (1968), Tom Watson (1975), Paul Lawrie (1999), Padraig Harrington (2007).

Wasn't that the year Hogan nearly won the Slam?

Yep. He had won the Masters and U.S. Open that season, then traveled to Carnoustie and won that as well. It was the only time he ever played The Open. He was unable to play the PGA Championship that season because the dates conflicted with those of The Open.

Jean Van de Velde's name should be on that list, right?

This is true. He had a three-shot lead on the final hole in 1999 and made triple bogey. He lost in a playoff to Lawrie, which also included Justin Leonard.

Who has won this event the most?

Harry Vardon, who was from the Channel Island of Jersey, won a record six times between 1896 and 1914. Australian Peter Thomson, American Watson, Scot James Braid and Englishman J.H. Taylor each won five times.

What about the Morrises?

Tom Sr. won four times between 1861 and 1867. His son, Tom Jr., also won four times, between 1868 and 1872.

Have players from any particular country dominated?

In the early days, Scots won the first 29 Opens – not a shocker since they were all played at one of three Scottish courses, Prestwick, St. Andrews and Musselburgh. In the current era, going back to 1999 (we'll explain why that year in a minute), the scoreboard is United States, nine wins; South Africa, three wins; Ireland, two wins; Northern Ireland, two wins; and Sweden, one win. The only Scot to win in that period was Lawrie, who took advantage of one of the biggest collapses in golf history.

Who is this year's defending champion?

That would be American Jordan Spieth, who survived an adventerous final round to defeat Matt Kuchar by three strokes and earn the third leg of the career Grand Slam.

What is the trophy called?

The claret jug. It's official name is the Golf Champion Trophy, but you rarely hear that used. The claret jug replaced the original Challenge Belt in 1872. The winner of the claret jug gets to keep it for a year, then must return it (each winner gets a replica to keep).

Which Opens have been the most memorable?

Well, there was Palmer in 1961and '62; Van de Velde's collapse in 1999; Hogan's win in 1953; Tiger Woods' eight-shot domination of the 2000 Open at St. Andrews; Watson almost winning at age 59 in 2009; Doug Sanders missing what would have been a winning 3-foot putt at St. Andrews in 1970; Tony Jacklin becoming the first Briton to win the championship in 18 years; and, of course, the Duel in the Sun at Turnberry in 1977, in which Watson and Jack Nicklaus dueled head-to-head over the final 36 holes, Watson winning by shooting 65-65 to Nicklaus' 65-66.

When I watch this tournament on TV, I hear lots of unfamiliar terms, like "gorse" and "whin" and "burn." What do these terms mean?

Gorse is a prickly shrub, which sometimes is referred to as whin. Heather is also a shrub. What the scots call a burn, would also be considered a creek or stream.