A few random observations from round one on a glorious day one at Riviera to watch Northern Trust Open golf.
—Don’t be fooled by the incredible scoring: Riviera is not playing "easy." A stunning 84 players were at even par or better when play was suspended at 5:42 despite firm and fast greens. The lack of rough helps, but so does the impeccable conditioning. I’m not sure how comfortable I am at the site of rollers on the fairways and green collars, but Riviera’s turf in play areas has never looked or played better for this event. The native areas? Well, now I know how the place will look when the Rapture happens.
--As Doug Ferguson noted in his game story, the ball was flying a long way thanks to the warm temps, lack of humidity and surprising run in the fairways. Johnson's 349-yarder at 13 in the early morning hours stood out.
--Some will look at the leaderboard and notice a lot of long hitters. I prefer to notice that many players who like to hit driver and do it well are up there. Novel thing, this getting to hit driver. Frees everyone up and it's sure a lot more fun to watch than irons off most of the tees.— Jordan Spieth played like a 20-year-old today. Turns out he is, indeed, a Human American after all. Three-under through 10 with an eagle hole-out, Spieth made bogey at the par-5 11th, then drove his ball into the trees out of bounds left on 12, but they spit his Titleist back into play. From there, he attempted a silly shot over the barranca, which is not marked as a hazard. With about 30 seconds to go in the lost ball search, he found his ball, salvaged a bogey and then was distracted by a sound on the 13th tee. Another bogey there led to an incoming 40. Oddly, on the 18th tee he gave a long look at the scoreboard, then blew his drive right, tried a risky recovery but demonstrated his maturity by openly telling his caddie he didn’t need to play a stupid shot. Spieth took his five, posted a 72 and lives for another day.
—So, so excited to see Charlie “Put A Windmill On It” Beljan back in contention.
—Speaking of the windmill hole, here’s how the 10th played in round 1 through the play suspension: 4.077 scoring average, 30 birdies, 81 pars, 23 bogeys, 9 double bogey. It sure looked like more players layed up this year and I think the scatter chart backs me up. According to ShotLink, the scoring average for those going for it was 4.06, and 4.08 for those laying up. I wrote about the 10th for GolfDigest.com after spending another grand morning watching a mix of shotmaking artistry, stupidity, brilliance and peculiarity.