Golf on the West coast is about to get a whole lot more exciting.
With winds gusting up to 35mph at Riviera Country Club, Thursday’s first round has been a wild ride — well, for just about everyone besides J.B. Holmes, who had brain surgery last September. Doctors at John Hopkins University Hospital removed quarter-sized chunk of Holmes’ skull to repair a Chiari malformation that gave him vertigo-like symptoms.
Holmes is five-under through 11 holes this afternoon and currently leads by one over Phil Mickelson, who is four-under through 11 and coming off his spectacular win last week at the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am.
(*Update, 4:19pm: Holmes made two consecutive bogeys on Nos. 4 and 5, his 13th and 14th holes of the day, to drop to three-under. Mickelson birdies three of the first four on the back nine and is now alone atop the leaderboard at five-under.)
Last Thursday afternoon at Riviera Country Club, Sean O’Hair, who was getting a lesson with instructor Sean Foley, bombed a drive, turned around to Hunter Mahan, also a student of Foley’s, and jokingly said, “Next week — suck on that, b—-!”
Mahan and O’Hair, who have been good friends since they were 13, face each other in the first round of the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship. At the time they weren’t aware the bracket was final yet, and when informed, they didn’t look thrilled, but continued the playful trash-talking.
“I hope they both shoot seven-under and someone loses in a nine-hole playoff,” said Foley, who also coaches Tiger Woods, Justin Rose and Stephen Ames.
Last week the guys behind TourPlayers filmed a special feature of me covering the Northern Trust Open at Riviera — who knew I was such a comedian?? If you don’t want to watch the whole thing, I recommend fast forwarding to the 1:55 mark — as if I haven’t suffered enough embarrassment in the last few weeks! The word I’d use to describe myself isn’t very politically correct, so I’ll let you fill in the blank. Hey, if you can’t laugh at yourself…Enjoy!
Photographer Kyle Auclair caught these priceless moments on No. 12 on Sunday at Riviera. I was too preoccupied with whatever I was tweeting or whomever I was texting (or saving Freddie’s number in my phone) to notice Fred Couples brush shoulders with me as he walked toward his ball, which he had hit to the right rough after a(nother) stray drive.
Now this second shot is even better in my opinion. I think the expression on my face says it all. Feel free to have fun captioning these photos.
Kevin Na got off to a shaky start at Riviera on Sunday, which actually made him play faster at times on the front nine, but he pulled it together, draining two clutch putts in the final two holes. It wasn’t enough to capture his first win on the PGA Tour and send the trophy to his sick father in Korea, but he was happy with his solo third-place finish at the Northern Trust Open.
“I let my friends down a little bit, but not too much,” Na said. “I’m going to take the positives out of this week. It was still a great week.”
Fred Couples knows Riviera so well that he takes the backdoor exit through the kitchen in the clubhouse to avoid the media and the crowds. After shooting a two-over 73 in the final round of the Northern Trust Open to drop down the leaderboard and finish T7, he probably wasn’t in the mood to chat. Naturally, when Freddie discreetly came out of the scoring room and saw reporters focused on Kevin Na, he quickly turned the corner and walked briskly toward his escape route. But we cornered him just before he got away and he politely agreed to give us a few minutes of his time when asked.
Erik Compton, who earned a spot at the Northern Trust Open in the Monday qualifier, posted eight birdies and a bogey to shoot seven-under 64 in the final round at Riviera and surge up the leaderboard to a T25 finish. The 64 was also the lowest of the week. Not bad considering this was Compton’s first tournament of the year. Perhaps his fine play was propelled by his practice sesh a day earlier, where he used his caddie as target practice.
Stack and what? “Wilt” and “jilt” were suggestions thrown around the media center at Riviera. Aaron Baddeley, an early adopter of the Stack and Tilt method, captured his third-career PGA Tour victory at the Northern Trust Open on Sunday, posting a final round two-under 69. Baddeley, who struggled the past few years since last winning the FBR Open in 2007, switched back to his former swing and returned to working with his first swing coach Dale Lynch two years ago.
Kevin Na is playing for someone else other than himself on Sunday at the Northern Trust Open. His father Yong Na, who taught him to play golf, was diagnosed with leukemia at the end of last year and decided to stay in South Korea for treatment. “I’d really like to send that trophy over to him,” said Na on Saturday after posting four-under 67 to tie Fred Couples for second going into the final round.