An uneventful week at Riviera turned interesting Sunday afternoon. I'm not sure how it translated on television, but the back nine was pretty exciting thanks in large part to the crowd's love for Fred Couples.
I'm also not sure how the wind appeared on television, but it was downright nasty at times. Adam Scott's final round 64 was remarkable considering the combination of wind, cool temperatures, soft fairways and a tough setup.
Though the final setup was extremely difficult, the Tour officials did inject some variety, using the lower tee on the par-4 5th twice just to keep the boys honest. On Sunday there were reasonable birdie opportunities on 1, 5, 7, 8, 10, 11, 14 and 17. The rest ranged from tough to extremely difficult hole locations.
The par-3 sixth was played from the far back tee (originally built for the "permanent temporary" green). With a back left hole location, this meant a 200-yard+ shot to a tiny quadrant. Silly, but not the first time this setup has been used.
Before the round I mentioned to ABC's Ian Baker Finch that Rory Sabbatini had suggested he would be changing irons for the final round. I later mentioned it to Nick Faldo, who stood near the cameraman's gathering area on the third tee, signing autographs and watching the play. Both were shocked to hear that Sabbatini would even contemplate such a move.
Sabbatini finished his range ball session 50 minutes before his tee time. That seems like a long time between shots in any weather, but especially strange in today's cold temperatures. In general he's one odd dude, often yammering away at his caddie between holes. They had a nasty exchange from 11 to 12 tee where his looper seemed to be
taking receiving the blame for a misread. But Sabbatini played with confidence and poise despite a pro-Fred gallery, only snapping once when an obnoxious fan uttered something, well, obnoxious.
RORY SABBATINI: There were a lot of very snide remarks out there. 12, I hit a great bunker shot and I walked out of bunker and someone said something. It's sad when, you know, you have that situation. Obviously, Freddie is the great player, they can support him. I have no problem in the world with that. I'm an ever believer in the fact that, if someone hits a good shot applaud it. Don't make snide remarks. Just appreciate the game, appreciate the shots.
Q. We were all admiring the belt buckle out there, what's the story behind it?
Admiring? Well, that's not what the scribblers were saying.
RORY SABBATINI: I don't know I just this was this week walking through the mall, there was a vendor with a bunch of belt buckles. I like wearing belt buckles and I found one that I liked. It happened to be Superman logo and happened to be my initials, so I figured hey, why not.
I saw Golf Digest fashion editor Marty Hackel hanging out in the press tent before round and would loved to have heard his thoughts on Rory's taste. But fashion guy was long gone by the time I returned for the press room lunch.
Speaking of food, in an effort to inspire cranky final day game stories they served a mystery beef later described to me as Santa Monica Canyon Tree Squirrel sauteed on a bed of carrots and kikuyu clippings. I passed and went with the fried rice and fresh fruit.
The course played as firm as kikuyu could play (well, early in the week) and maintained enough firmness today despite an early Sunday morning downpour. As usual, the maintenance team did an amazing job. Now if we could just get them to understand that they have no business tinkering with the design...
After collecting the ShotLink stats and saying goodbye to the fine folks running the press room, I strolled out to the 10th for a final look in the glorious evening light. Knowing that the course is about to undergo a major meddling, I thought about George Thomas and Billy Bell, wondering if they could have ever imagined an event like today's being played on their design.
Architects can never envision how all of the parts of their design will work, but there are so many elements of Riviera that work so beautifully because Thomas and Bell clearly thought out each design element. They cared so much about the detail work that astounds me every time I see Riviera.
And now it faces more change. What for?
That's the question everyone in the press room asked me all week: what about Riviera needs "fixing?"
I wish I knew.