I have moved a few hundred miles down the coast for the L.A. Open at Riviera .This is another first for me as I haven’t played this event before.I have played a round on the course a couple of years ago but not in a tournament.Normally I am in Malaysia the week that this event is on. It is a tournament with great history, Hogan has won here a few times and it is often referred to as Hogan’s Alley. Playing here this week was an easy decision as I was already in California for the AT&T and also it is a tournament that I have seen on the television and thought that I would like to play. So the fact that it fitted into my new schedule so easily was great.
Last week I was bed ridden with the flu for the practice days so I didn’t get to do any sort of preparation. Gladly I am over the flu now and so I got to go through my normal preparation. I have played the course twice in practice this week, once on Tuesday and then in the pro-am on Wednesday. I have spent a bit of time on the range going through my routines and trying to get myself to focus on my target; generally hitting a lot of shots working on my mental game, as opposed to working on my golf swing. It is always the same for me at the start of the season. I am too technical and not enough mental which comes from not playing much golf during my break and spending a lot of time working on my swing. As it is a new course to me I have played two full eighteen holes; the good thing being that the wind blew from a different direction the two days that I played. By seeing it blowing in different direction it means that there is more chance that I will have played the course in the wind that we will get in the tournament. For me it is a case of playing more rounds to get myself back to full tournament mode, or match fitness - as the soccer players would say. The more tournament rounds that I play in the early season the better I get as it generally takes me a few weeks to really get
The Riviera Country Club measures over 7,500 yards which is long by any standards but when you add in the elevation changes that are on this course then you are getting into some really long holes. It is an old course, tree lined with small greens. It really is a fantastic course; a tough test of golf. Normally this event is blighted with bad weather and so the course plays its full length but this year the weather has been good so far and the ball is running and the greens are firm, as a result of this the course is not playing quite as long as normal. This is a golf course that I would happily play anytime; I am a big fan of the old courses that are tree lined. I find that they set up well and the trees give you plenty of targets to aim at off the tee. The small greens mean that you have to be able to chip the ball well as you invariably miss more greens than normal. At Par 71, it is tough going as the par 5’s can play tough; the 1st hole is a very reachable par 5 but then the other two, 11th and 17th, are only on if there is a very favourable wind. The holes that I think will be key this week are: 6, 10, 16 and 18. The 6th is a 200 yard par 3 with a bunker in the middle of the green. It is a hole that you would be more than happy to play in level par for the week. The green is heavily sloped so even a good shot can end up running away to a very awkward position. It is very possible that you will see people chipping on this green.
The 10th is a 300 yard par 4, it is very reachable off the tee but the real trouble with this hole is the green. It is a long narrow green that is heavily sloped from right to left so any thing missing the green right means that it is nearly impossible to hold the green with your chip or bunker shot. However even if you lay it up it is still a very tough pitch and putt as the green is so narrow. It is a hole that you want to make a birdie on but you can easily make a bogey too. The 16th is a 160yard par 3, surrounded by bunkers and has a very small green. The problem with this hole is that it is very hard to make a par if you miss the green. While it is not a long hole it is key to hit the green. The 18th is a 475yard par 4 that plays up hill all the way. The tee shot is blind and the fairway slopes left to right. It is important to hit your drive up the left so that you don’t get blocked out by the trees on the right. A good drive still leaves you with a long iron and in some cases a wood to the green. This is another hole where four pars would mean that you are making up ground on the field.
As far as this week goes I am still trying to get into playing mode so I don’t have great expectations. As always I am trying to get myself into contention on Sunday afternoon but more importantly I want to be able to say that I have improved as the week goes on with regard to my focus and getting my mental game right. If I manage to get into contention come Sunday as well then it will, have been a great
The Tournament The week went well overall for me. It started very well which was always going to make it hard as it meant that I was in contention for the whole week and, as a result, under the spot light. The final round was not what I would have hoped for but overall it was a good week. I finished in seventh place on my own which I would have jumped at coming here; it does seem somewhat disappointing having been leading for a lot of the week but then it is only my third event of the year. I am still knocking the cob webs off and getting myself going again.
It was first time playing an event here in Riviera and in practice on Tuesday and Wednesday I have to say that I thought the course played very well but tough. The greens were firm which meant that if you missed the fairway it was very tough getting close to the flag. I struggled to see how low scores could be shot on this course.
Thursday and Friday,
Starting out on Thursday I wasn’t thinking about any score or number; no different than any other round I play but if you had asked me if I thought it was possible to shoot eight under around here I would have laughed at you. I got off to a great start making birdies on my first three holes. The 1st was a reachable par five which was more like a par four, the 2nd hole I hit a nine iron to about four feet and then on the 3rd hole I hit a nine iron close. It couldn’t have got off to a better start. The 4th hole I had to hole a five footer for par after running my first putt well past and then on the 5th I made my fourth birdie after hitting a wedge in close. It all seemed so easy, nothing was a problem. My first wake up call came on the 8th when I pulled my drive and had to hook my second shot around trees to the elevated green. The pin was back right of the green and the only place that I couldn’t miss the green was right. I didn’t hook it enough and it missed right and I ended up making my first bogey. I turned in three under and started the back nine as I had started the front. I birdied the first four holes of the back nine, nearly driving the 10th; hit the par five 11th in two and then hit two good shots into the 12th and 13th. This put me seven under par for the day and cruising along. On the fourteenth I hit it to thirty feet and as I was feeling invincible I had a go at the putt and ran it five feet by and then missed the one back for another bogey. However I got it right back on the 15th; here I hit a five iron from 196 yards. It was right down the flag all the way, ran up the green and hit the flag and finished three feet away for a tap in birdie. Another birdie on the 16th after a good eight iron got me to eight under which I finished on. I hit a bad second shot to the par five 17th; it finished just on the lip of a bunker and left me with an awkward pitch. I hit it to thirty feet and two putted for a par, which was a little disappointing. In the end I made ten birdies and two bogeys for a round of 63, which put me three shots in the lead overnight.
Friday wasn’t quite as good as Thursday but it had its moments. I started on the tenth which is the driveable par four; I pushed my drive and left myself with no chip shot. I ended up chipping it through the green, then to four feet and missing for a bogey. I got the shot straight back after hitting it up to the edge of the par 5 11th in two and getting up and down. I made another bogey on the 13th from the middle of the fairway, when my second shot caught a gust of wind and came up well short of the green. Then I holed from off the green on the next for a birdie and then made another bogey on the 15th after missing the green left. I followed this up with a birdie on the 16th and another birdie on the 17th. This got me to 1 under for the day, which I made the turn on. On the back nine I was much steadier, making a birdie on the 1st and then on the 6th with pars on the other holes to end up shooting a 68 for a total of 11 under and a tie for the lead with Phil Mickelson.
The weekend didn’t really work out as I would have hoped for. I got off to a slow start on Saturday; I hit it through the first green and was left with a very tough up and down and ended up with a par. I made my first birdie on the third hole after hitting it to fifteen feet. However I gave this shot back on the sixth after I pulled my five iron left of the green and was left with another very tough chip and putt which I didn’t get up and down again. I turned in level par and then failed to make a birdie on the 10th hole, which was disappointing as it is a very reachable par four. I birdied the reachable par five 11th to get to one under for the day and then from there in I played solid but couldn’t make another birdie. I missed good chances on the 16th and the 17th, both from inside seven feet. They would have been nice putts to hole as it would have given me the lead but it wasn’t to be.
Going out on Sunday I was one behind Mickelson and one ahead of Rich Beem. I opened up with two good shots to the middle of the first green but I then three putted it for par. Then on the second hole I hit a really good second shot right down the flag but it ran through the green; I chipped and putted for par. This was the story of my day; I had to chip and putt the third, fourth and sixth for pars, to keep me on level par for the day. I dropped my first shot on the 8th hole; I was in the middle of the fairway and was hitting a nine iron. The pin was on the back right of the green, I pushed my shot right, from where it was nearly impossible to get it up and down from below the green; I chipped it to twenty feet and then missed the putt. I birdied the 11th to get back to level par when I got it up and down from the front trap for four. The next five holes were my worst of the tournament; I bogeyed the 12th, 13th and 16th. On the 12th I missed the green left, I was able to putt but I left it seven feet short and failed to hole the second putt. On the 13th I pulled my drive left and ended up behind a tree. I tried to hook a seven iron around but got a flyer and it flew the right corner of the green and ended up in a terrible position. I chipped it short of the green and then had to chip and putt for a bogey. I bogied the par three 16th after my eight iron tee shot came up short in the trap and plugged. I had no shot to the pin, so ended up hitting it to 20 feet and two putting. I made a good par on the 17th after hitting my drive into the right trap; from here I could only chip it out and then hit my hybrid to the green. On the 18th I hit a very good drive down the right which left me 150 yards to the green; it was down wind so I hit a wedge. I hit to 18 feet; then when I went to hit my putt everything was quiet and just as I was about to hit it the blimp went across the sun and the shadow covered me and the hole. I had to stand off it and the crowd went into hysterics! Luckily I holed it to keep them in good spirits.
In the end I shot 73, two over par. It was a poor round but I wasn’t too despondent as I had hit a lot of good shots but had received a lot of bad luck and they all seemed to come up half a club long or short. It was certainly a tough day as the wind was swirling.
In the end I finished seventh, a good performance but a bit disappointing after my start. I am happy with my overall performance as I felt that did everything right and that I was improving as the week went on. I know that it is hard to believe this as my scores got worse but my routines were getting better and I have a few things to work on. For now it is on to Tucson for the Accenture Matchplay. It will be nice to play a matchplay tournament again.