“For a 4-iron, you’d put it five, six or seven paces from the edge.”

Damon Hack goes inside the ropes (and gets out to Riviera early) to file a New York Times piece on PGA Tour course setup.

This caught my attention:
With so many technological advances in golf in the last 20 years, placing a pin near a bunker or by a tier on a green is one way to combat golfers’ hitting tee shots that travel 300 yards. But Mutch said the officials try to balance their pin locations. On Riviera’s back nine, he chose four on the left side of the green, four on the right, and one near the center. Not every pin can be in a treacherous, devilish position.

“For wedges, you’d put it three or four paces from the edge of the green,” said Mickey Bradley, a PGA Tour rules official. “For a 4-iron, you’d put it five, six or seven paces from the edge.”
A bit formulaic, no?

Revising Riviera

230136-678395-thumbnail.jpgGolfobserver.com has posted my 2005 series on the changes to Riviera. Sad to say, the destruction has continued. With the white bunker sand, sterilization and Orlando whale tails added everywhere, it feels more Florida than Pacific Palisades.

Golfonline's Joe Passov takes a look at George Thomas's design work in the area and reviews the remaining public courses that he designed.

Greetings From L.A., Volume 2

greetingsfromLAAnother stellar weather day here at Riviera. Adhering to doctor's orders, I only took in a couple of hours of the pro-am play. I witnessed the usual displays of tepid pace of play, excessive self obsession, garrishly dressed wives and voila, the traditional pro-am headache set in.

The greens appear firm, with dry warm weather the next few days they figure to actually allow Riviera to provide an interesting test.  There is almost no rough, but that's just fine with 27-yard wide landing areas and firm, fast greens.

That said, I had a lively chat with Steve Elkington today. Alongside were Mike Clayton and Jaime Diaz. A variety of topics were discussed, but Elkington was most interesting when talking about the changes to the course.

Naturally, he has taste and has been a longtime Riviera fan (especially as the 1995 PGA) so he finds much of it revolting, and in particular I was pleased to hear someone note the careless green enlargements, which have eliminated so much of the precision necessary for iron play. Brad Faxon made a similar observation, but just as many players love the new sand in the bunkers, and therefore, it's all good.

Inside The...Cables?

I might actually go down to the Golf Channel set to take in this interactive/it's-all-about-you experiment gone awry: 

Golf Fans to Go “Inside the Ropes” with the GOLF CHANNEL at the Nissan Open
 The GOLF CHANNEL will offer golf fans inside the ropes opportunities during the Nissan Open this week at Riviera Country Club. Beginning Thursday, the cable network will give behind-the-scenes access to its news production at the tournament, with live audiences during the broadcasts of its signature news shows – Sprint Pre/Post Game and Golf Central – for the first time.
 Situated near the 10th tee at Riviera Country Club, select golf fans will be on the stage to watch the live production of Sprint Pre/Post Game and Golf Central.  In addition, select golf fans will be able to view tournament coverage shot-by-shot in front of the stage throughout the duration of the tournament.

Taking Options Out Of An Option Hole

Rough Where There Used To Be Short Grass (Click to enlarge)
Greatest option par-4 in golf? Yes, many would vote for Riviera's 10th, which was recently discussed and celebrated in Links Magazine (yours truly was a contributor, no link available).

But as we all know, options can lead to birdies, and we know that can't happen! So in their on-going attempt to do something to Riviera, Tom Marzolf and gang have made two almost mind-bogglingly poor change to the great 10th. Almost, because, well, they've made others in recent years.

The first I knew about and lament as I see it in person this week. The aiming bunker that the smart player goes out to the left, has been expanded toward the green to cut down on the number of drives going for the green (because you know, that's so boring to watch!).

Rear view of No. 10 lost approach (click to enlarge)
The other change is subtle but far more egregious.  A good portion of the left approach and lefthand drop off area, mown as fairway from 1993 to 2006, have been converted to light rough. This keeps missed approaches or attempts to drive the green closer to the putting surface. (This in the second photo you can see the outline of the old fairway area that ran balls well away from the green.)

Yes, this is one of those minor things that us architecture junkies howl about, but this short grass area was precisely the type of element that makes No. 10 such a playing and spectating joy.  The short grass added dimensions to the decision-making process and were left with all sorts o of weird shots, particuarly to the back hole locations.

Now balls will stay closer to the green and the hole should play easier. But worse than that, the growing of rough were there was once short stuff will eliminate options around the green, making it less interesting to watch or play.

One Way Around L.A. Traffic

Tod Leonard on Phil Mickelson's late entry into the Nissan Open:
“I'm starting to play well and I want to play more,” Mickelson said. “I'm real excited about the way I'm driving the ball. In the past, I've missed a lot of fairways (at Riviera). But if you can put it in play there, you can really attack the course.”

Mickelson said he would attempt to commute to L.A. each day from his home in Rancho Santa Fe by using his private jet, flying from Palomar Airport to Santa Monica Airport.