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Couples On Riviera's 10th: "It's not as fun because it's more of a struggle."

As the Northern Trust Open first round neared a conclusion before play was called at 5:43, Riviera's 10th was playing to a 4.056 average and for the first time several players suggested that maybe the short par-4 beloved by so many wasn't as fun as it used to be.

Several players referred to "changes" but the only difference this year is the Stimpmeter reading of 12 and increased firmness from a lack of rain. The last major changes to the green caem in 2009 when the surrounding bunker lips were lowered.

Fred Couples after an opening 68:

Q.  Since you've been here, how have you played 10 in the past?  Do you feel like it's been one of your better holes here at Riviera?

FRED COUPLES:  Yeah, I said that yesterday.  I used to tell my caddie being a little cocky that when we teed off, just put the 3 on the card, because I birdied it so many times, and now I think if you look at the last four years I've played, I barely make pars on it.  I bogeyed it last year twice.  They might need to re‑evaluate that green here in the near future.

It's really slopey, and the front of the green goes up and the back goes like that and the balls are rolling over.  It's all fun and hunky‑dory when you try to drive the green but when you get around the green and you're playing 35 feet left of the flag because there's nowhere to go, it kind of defeats the purpose.


Q.  Is it fun?

FRED COUPLES:  It's not as fun because it's more of a struggle.  There's nowhere to drive it.  If you're good enough to drive it in that grass and pop it up in the air and have it trickle on the front of the green, you're really a good player.

But if you drive it on the green, it rolls down across and they have shaved it and it just rolls to where there's nowhere to go, except when the pin is in the very front.  But the other three days, you're chipping 40 feet from the hole.

Lee Westwood, making his first Riviera appearance in six years, opened with 68 and said after the round:

They have changed it since I played it, six or seven years ago.  There's like a run‑off area down the left if you hit driver, so it runs too far and then you've got to come around the bunker to a back right flag.

So it's really difficult to play it now, and there's no fringe around the green, around the bunkers.  So anything, it's a very severe green, it's very quick and anything that spins off goes in the trap.  It's significantly harder than the last time I played it.  I probably still haven't quite figured out how you play it but I think most of the people will be in the same position to be honest.

Phil Mickelson, birdied the hole en route to an opening 71:

Q.  Would 10 be any better, if they worked with it more, could it be a better hole than it already is?

PHIL MICKELSON:  Well, I think it was ten years ago, but over time, greens are going to shrink, kikuyu is going to keep in.  As we have got firmer greens, it's become a hole that you used to try to make a three on and you're pretty happy today to make a four.

I got lucky today in the sense that I hit a perfect chip shot and made a great putt but this hole is going to play over par.  It's very difficult to make threes there right now.

Q.  On 11, you turned and watched Westwood play his shot; is that one hole you can sit and watch out of curiosity how guys play and what they do?
PHIL MICKELSON:  Yeah, I always enjoy watching him chip around the greens, too, though.

It is fascinating how, as the green has sped up and the hole becomes more difficult, how much it seems to be in the heads of the world's best. I'm not sure it's quite as extreme as some are describing simply because so few actually lay-up off the tee in the proper area.

Either way, Doug Ferguson filed a fun summary of the early morning antics Thursday worth a look. Most notably, Humana Challenge winner Brian Gay opened with a triple bogey 7.

He's among the shorter hitters in golf, and chose to lay up to the left. He had 58 yards left and a decent angle to the diagonal green. The safe shot would have been a pitch that landed on the front of the green and rolled up to about 20 feet. Gay realized the middle part of the green sloped hard to the left, so he took on a small gap just to the left of the front bunker.

It was a smaller margin of error, and he made an error. The shot was too far to the right and went into the sand. He compounded that by aiming at the flag, and his bunker shot went through the green into the back bunker. His next shot hit the 8-inch lip of the bunker and rolled back to the sand. He hit the next onto the green about 7 feet away, and the missed his putt. Triple bogey.

His caddie, Kip Henley, walked over to the 11th tee and said, "What the hell just happened?"

He added a few minutes later, "This has got to be one of the top five holes on tour. Maybe the best. And I'm saying that after my man made triple."

Mark Lamport Stokes reports on the first round, where Matt Kuchar's 64 led the way.

A few images from the opening day, including Jonas Blixt's hot pink shoes, Adam Scott's range bag-turned-putter cover and the tallest professional basketball player in the world making an appearance.

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Reader Comments (16)

How bout Luke Donald's deuce, sick flopper
these guys will cry about anything...and if they don't make birdie they'll cry even louder...its a great hole, and if they can't see that, then shame on them...
02.14.2013 | Unregistered Commentergreg c
These clowns never stop wining. The best play to the back right hole location has always been to lay up out to the extreme left and leave at least a full sand wedge so as to impart maximum spin - just as the captain intended. These guys have shown themselves fools time and again at the 10th since ball changes have made it difficult for them to check their egos. Even Brian Gay employed poor strategy by not laying back far enough, a tweener yardage across a portion of the right bunker and the slope off it never was wise unless a recent rain left conditions moist. This is part of Thomas' genius in the placement of the large center line bunker, it suggests that the line of charm for an optimal lay up is over its left portion, but standing on back right portion of green with gaze backward one comes to realize layups should stay left of the fairways first bunker.
02.14.2013 | Unregistered CommenterBouje
Phil being humourus? Is there anyone who enjoys watching Westwood Chip? A disaster is never far away.
02.14.2013 | Unregistered CommenterBelowPar
With the mismanagement of the architecture of Riviera,
can you actually still lay up far enough left on 10 to get an
angle that actually can get at a back pin, given the firmness and right to left slope?

As you rip players, lets remember that #8, along with others has been pretty bastardized at Riv
02.14.2013 | Unregistered Commenternon profit winner
I'm sure Westwood enjoys watching Phil take a walk on the rocky shores of the Pacific just as much!
02.14.2013 | Unregistered CommenterHawkeye
Phil likes watching Westy chip?! Must be a joke.
02.15.2013 | Unregistered CommenterStord
Gay lays up in proper area and makes 7. To a man, they say the back of the green is too firm. Doesn't sound like the problem is the hole, sounds like a set-up issue. They can soften up the green....
I think Mickelson was giving Westwood the needle there.
02.15.2013 | Unregistered CommenterJeremy
I don't understand how "the finest short par four in the world " (a very small universe, to be sure) can be bastadized by the course or the tour with no complaint. It plays totally differently than it did ten years ago. Was it "greater" ten years ago or now?
As an aside, why do you all rag on the r&a about changes to toc, but sit mute while "the greatest short par four in the world" is a tricked up mess?
02.15.2013 | Unregistered Commenterjoe
The PGA Tour staff polled the players on the design changes for the 8th.
Showed them the plans and asked for comments.
Do you want them to do the same on the 10th?
I sure don't.

They've done a lot of tinkering with the course since 2008.
One of the caddy's books showed 8 green expansions in that period.
Mike said they added close to 200 yards since 2011.
02.15.2013 | Unregistered CommenterIan Andrew
rees jones needs to finish screwing up that course
02.15.2013 | Unregistered CommenterUmp
Why do these guys cry like little girls? I think the 10th is genius. The pros have been programmed to think that the play on every short par 4 is to take out the driver and swing for the fences. I wish there were more holes like this on tour where players had to really employ sound strategy to have the best angles of attack. That'st he beauty of the 10th, going for the green is a high-risk shot that will not always result in a birdie.

I think that Merion will demonstrate how short Par 4's can still be relevant and a great test in golf. The only problem is that instead of relying on the merits of interesting design, I know Mike Davis is going to cut the fairways as wide as my driveway.
02.15.2013 | Unregistered CommenterG-Man
10 is still a great hole, the player just has to put it in the right place off the tee so that he can spin it a bit more. Getting to close especially with the rgeen speeds this year is not great and they should know that. I wonder if they have played enough practice rounds this year. I think the new balls with less spin has changed things and the green is a bit firmer this year. I am not sure it is that different than it has been in the past few years. It can be a very tough hole out of position but if you play it left and have enough of a wedge so it spins it is still a nice birdie chance. Though a back pin is very tricky, one needs to be precise.
02.15.2013 | Unregistered CommenterJim
Undoubtedly tour players whine to much, and they are to "macho" and unwilling to lay back. And the ball is different, which doesn't help matters. But these are 144 of the best golfers in the world, and they didn't get there without knowing how to play golf - and having better course strategy than most of us. Add to that, I remember watching Freddie play the hole a few years ago, and he always laid it up. So maybe, just maybe, we should listen to them & what they are saying.

The greens are firmer and faster this year and with the shaved bunker change a couple years ago, maybe they've pushed the hole to far. It's great to see disasters, but you also want the players to be able to play it multiple ways & have good shots rewarded. That green might not be designed to handle a 12 stimp
02.15.2013 | Unregistered Commenterelf
having 17 year olds lead National Championships, having the eventual winner in the clubhouse (not having to hit a ball with the pressure of the lead over his head) watching all the "car crashes" during the final round does not necessarily identify the "best" golfer

not requiring the leaders to hit driver to reach greens does not necessarily constitute a good way to test skill, there were maybe 2 holes at Olympic that they could actually hit driver on?....10 at Riviera was a good hole before, didnt need changing
02.15.2013 | Unregistered CommenterUmp

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