2010 Northern Trust Random Thoughts

2010 NTO winner Steve Stricker approaches No. 18 (click to enlarge)The 2010 Northern Trust Open will not be remembered for the dessert-free lunches in this week's media center, but instead, for Steve Stricker's workmanlike performance and rise to No. 2 in the official world golf ranking. It was also the most uneventful final round since Kirk Triplett spellbindingly outlasted Jesper Parnevik, Robin Freeman and Russ Cochran in that epic 2000 showdown.

J.B. Holmes approaches the 15th green (click to enlarge)Stricker's sense of on-course urgency and his inevitable emotions upon winning would have proven more memorable if not for J.B. Holmes' pathetic pace of play along with the combination of Nationwide Tour-light attendance and the odd propensity of name players to post some unusually high weekend scores, leaving us with Luke Donald and Holmes as contenders who looked more than content to secure a top-5. And while those two played nicely, neither seemed as anxious to add his name to the list of accomplished Riviera champions as Stricker.

Stricker in the interview room after winning (click to enlarge)Easily the highlight of the week proved to be Stricker's press conferences. They couldn't be more different than just about any press gatherings I've sat in, all thanks to Stricker's engaging, genuine character and desire to treat every question as if it's the last one he'll ever be asked in his life.

That said, a few miscellaneous thoughts from the week:

  • Stricker putts on the final hole to a sparse gallery (click to enlarge) Tournament officials estimated attendance at 30,000 for the week. At its high-water mark in 2007, 151,417 attended, just edging 1999's 151,281. On the low end, 44,147 attended the 36-hole rain-shortened 2005 edition.

  • As expected, the $20 increase in at-the-gate ticket prices and a Super Bowl Sunday free of promotional incentives from PGA Tour Championship Managment created an awkward situation as record-low galleries stayed home. No wonder some fans think the Commissioner of the PGA Tour is Tim Pinch'em.
  • Even with little in the way to impede your view, the importance of scoreboard placement and visibility to the fan experience was on display due to the dearth of boards and dreadful placement. From the 11th to the 17th a player or fan has to work hard to get a good clean glimpse of a leaderboard.A poorly placed scoreboard on 17 (click to enlarge)
  • A noticeable improvement in the electronic boards: much less nonsense like FedEx Cup standings, player bio information and credits for the host pro, tournament manager and other useless bits. Instead, there appears to be much more use of ShotLink stats and far more listings of the main leaderboard page. When you can see the boards.
  • I know you've heard it before, but honestly Riviera has never looked better...agronomically. The fairways had a summertime kikuyu thickness and the greens were immaculate, a far cry from the days of thin lies and bumpy poa.
  • Architecturally the revamped 8th stood out to such an extreme that players only offered off-the-record or unprintable assessments for fear of offending the host club. One on-the-record analysis from a very famous player ought to be shared here, but as you know, this is a family values website.Luke Donald played beautifully en route to a second place finish. He even looks mellow through impact. (click to enlarge)
  • Broken-record stuff dept: but the 10th hole continues to reveal just how few PGA Tour players can resist temptation and calmly attack an ingeniously designed 311-yard hole. Even the tournament champion couldn't stick to his game plan Sunday.

Q. On 10, was that your intended line where you laid up, or was that a mistake?
STEVE STRICKER: No, I played --

Q. That's where you play it for that hole location?

STEVE STRICKER: I would have rather have been a little further to the left where Luke was over there. The mistake was, and I did it in I think it was the pro-am round, too, they had the same pin location and I flew it past the pin there and it rolled down in that chipping area and I did the same thing today. I told myself not to do it, and I did it again.Shotlink Scatter chart for all rounds on No. 10 (click to enlarge)

  • For what it's worth, in a year that No. 10 should have been vulnerable to low scoring due to softer ground conditions and impeccable agronomy, it averaged 3.932. Perhaps the groove rule change made an impact? Dumber and dumber players?
  • Recent year scoring averages on No. 10:
  • 2009  3.915
    2008  3.865
    2007  3.847
    2006  3.786
    2005: 3.671
  • High ranking PGA Tour officials who aspire to the Commissionership should not be on the cell phones during Sunday play of a tour event when the leaders are 50 feet away? I'm just saying...