Most impressive here is that last year's final round had Fred Couples in contention, but clearly Phil Mickelson brings in a much bigger audience.
Pebble Beach and Cypress Point make you want to play. Spyglass Hill - that's different; that makes you want to go fishing. JACK NICKLAUS
I'm on the course but believe the telecast times are 10 am on Golf Channel and whenever the college basketball ends on the network of relentless promos.
Still a ways to go to catch up to the tournament's heyday in the 90s, but the spike is a tribute to the organizer's increased local golf course outreach, several ticket offers including one for UCLA folks, improved social media efforts and I have to think, the tour's new cell phone policy.
If you heard the roar after Phil's hole-out on No. 8, it was a vivid reminder of just how energetic golf viewing can be, especially at an intimate tournament course like Riviera.
As for Friday's second round...
--With all due respect to my colleagues who think fans only come out to watch players hit the ball 300+ yards, I eavesdropped on two different conversations where the fans were seeking out the chance to see the "No. 1 golfer in the world." So yes, Luke Donald is as much or more of a draw for some fans than the bombers. And I'm still not convinced that more than 5% of the crowd could tell the difference between a 285-yard tee shot and a 320-yard drive.
--Phil is the story and it's hard to see that changing the way he's playing, especially considering his recent record at Riviera. But as Mark Lamport-Stokes notes, it'd be terrific to see Jarrod Lyle (-4) continue his good play and contend in a tour event. Here's a little on his background if you don't know his story.
--The absurdly fun-to-watch short par-4 10th featured a back-left hole location and too many wild moments to list, but Doug Ferguson captured the best:
Even with the hole location toward the back right of the green, players tried to drive the green. Rocco Mediate thought his shot was perfect, but it hopped into the front bunker and left him little hope. His next shot flew out of the sand, over the green and banged off a television tower, back into another bunker. He saved par.
"This is the coolest hole," Mediate said. "My favorite place."
--Watching the Rhodes Scholars of the PGA Tour struggle with the 10th over the first two days (4.078 scoring average...only 315 yards!!!) has me convinced that 80% of the field might not break 80 on a course with 18 genuinely strategic holes offering tempting options! Now, at least more guys layed-up short-left today and most of them made par or birdie. Though it was stunning to see the World No. 1 lay-up way too far right. It was not stunning to seem him to make par.
Second round highlights:
A fantastic day for watching golf, not so fun if you had to play Riviera in the steady 15 m.p.h winds that gusted to 30 at times until 2:45 p.m. Though Phil Mickelson's opening 66 was impressive on many levels, Jonathan Byrd's morning 68 during the worst winds stands out as the day's most impressive round.
Random observations from the day:
- Mickelson is on cruise control. He appears to be visualizing shots before pulling the trigger and looks fully engaged in the task at hand. He's putting beautifully and managing the course to perfection, with the only blemish a missed up-and-down opportunity from above the 16th hole. With the wind expected to be better Friday morning he's poised to take advantage of a favorable draw. His chip-in on 18 at dusk was nice but it was the driver off the deck at 11 that was most impressive. He talked about it after the round.
- It was a masterful course setup job by the PGA Tour rules staff and agronomist, who only ordered the greens to be single cut. Normally there is a double cut and roll. Had they pushed forward with normal preparation the greens would have become unputtable during the dry morning winds. Tees and holes were well located to take advantage of the non-prevailing wind, with only the 5th hole location standing out as questionable. But that may more a product of the abominable green complex renovation than it is a statement about setup.
- Amateurs Patrick Cantlay (78) and Jordan Spieth (76) understandably struggled in the morning winds. But both exude supreme confidence that never comes across as cockiness. Spieth looked more confident in his game than playing partners Ryo Ishikawa and Danny Lee, who each appeared to be obsessing way too much over mechanics.
-Media Lunch Report: Spinach Salmon or Tandori Chicken, Spinach and Strawberry salad with a raspberry vinaigrette, white Jasmine Rice ("sounds like a Tiger mistress" as Strege so infamously branded it two years ago) and a home run mystery cake/almond topped bar that managed to top the already stellar cookies. We have it rough here.
- You never appreciate the value of standards bearers until they aren't there. Because of the high wind warning, tournament officials did not send the scoreboard holding volunteers during afternoon play. I will remember to hug one tomorrow.
- The PGA Tour's finest will not, under any circumstance, lay up on the par-4 10th. No matter how windy, no matter how wise a play it was today playing downwind with the green on edge with the hole cut center-back-left, even though the percentages reward those laying up. For the record, here is the honor roll of those who layed-up short left to open up the best angle of attack, with their scores: Brandt Jobe (3), Justin Leonard (3), Tim Clark (4), John Merrick (4), Paul Goydos (4). Funny thing, no one had made 5 laying up left yet.
- The first groups out took five hours which not only guaranteed the round would not finish, but 30 have yet to finish the first round and will resume at 7 a.m. Friday. Sadly, a 144 player field is just no longer possible with today's pace of play.
From ShotLink (the grays have not finished the hole due to darkness):
And Phil driving the 10th today:
Few know it, but the amphitheater was not part of the original design. Instead, it was created at a later date. Originally, the clubhouse was placed atop the hill, with the coastal scrub left intact on the hill behind the famous 18th green.
Jill Painter with a super story on Tom Gardner, an assistant pro at Bel-Air Country Club who got in the Northern Trust Open at the local SCPGA qualifier.
After the 11 a.m. shotgun start at the exclusive country club, he'll race down Sunset Boulevard, about four miles from Riviera Country Club, and get some work in on the driving range and putting greens.
Gardner has his own crucial tournament this week. He qualified as a club pro to play in the Northern Trust Open, which starts Thursday.
"I bet I'm the only guy that has to work (Wednesday)," Gardner said with a laugh.
Gardner, 33, got the rest of the week off to play on the PGA Tour, so he's been the star at Bel-Air, a place filled with stars like Luke Wilson, Jerry West and Pete Sampras.
"Since I've qualified, it's been a fairly big thing at Bel-Air," Gardner said. "They've sent out emails, and the membership has been unbelievable. They're so supportive. They've really made this fun.
"It's been a dream of mine to work at a golf course like this, and there's 300 people congratulating me and telling me how proud of me they are."