Haas ready for his Riviera sequel

What’s Bill Haas got left for a sequel? Plenty in the bag, apparently.

The defending Northern Open Trust champ decided he’d had enough of acting like an extra from Central Casting after the first two days at Riviera Country Club. A burst of four birdies to surround an eagle at the treacherous No. 10 came during a seven-hole stretch in the middle of Saturday’s round that propelled him to a three-stroke lead going into today’s final round.

His 7-under 64 on the sun-baked fairways and slippery greens pushed him to 12-under 201, giving him the lead after 54 holes for only the third time in his career – and he’s only won one of them, at the 2010 Viking Classic.

A year ago, Haas came back from a two stroke deficit to start the final round, and on the 10th green, almost mistakenly nailed a 45-foot putt on a second playoff hole to extinguish the chances of Phil Mickelson and Keegan Bradley. 

The 10th fairway was the spot Saturday where Haas made the most dramatic shot of the day, holing out a 57-foot chip just as the national TV audience joined in the viewing to bust out of a tie with second-round co-leader Fredrik Jacobson and former UCLA standout John Merrick.

Haas used a 3-wood to knock it 268 yards off the tee before his chip. He said during the second round Friday, he approached that same testy hole with a driver.

“Wind changes, temperatures, softness of the green, where the pin is – it all changes by the minute, not necessarily by the day,” said the 30-year-old.

“Hopefully when I get to that tee box tomorrow, I’ll make a game plan.”

Haas, who has a streak of 40 holes without a bogey, finds himself in a final threesome that includes another Wake Forrest grad, Webb Simpson.

The 27-year-old Simpson, who calls Haas like “a big brother to me,” joined up with Merrick and former Masters champ Charl Schwartzel at 9-under 204.

Simpson, winner of the 2012 U.S Open and playing at Riviera for only the second time in his career, missed hooking up on his college team with Haas by a year, but “he’s really looked after me on the Tour. Our wives are friends. They’re both pregnant now. I’m happy for him – he’s going to be a dad.”

Unless anyone does something about it, Haas could also be the seventh back-to-back winner on the L.A. tour stop. The last was Mickelson, in 2008-09.

“If Bill keeps a three-shot lead and goes and plays well again, it’s going to be hard to catch him,” said Simpson. “But with the golf course this tricky, you get a guy that has a good front nine, I mean, he could be tied or even in the lead with nine to go.

“I think anything can happen (today).”

Mickelson’s 1-over 72, left sour by a bogey at 18, puts him at 3-under with a group tied at 17th that includes Bradley, who went 2-under Saturday.

Mickelson mixed in three birdies with three bogeys on the front nine, missing three par putts of about 6 feet each.

Bradley finished with four birdies and four bogeys for  his round.

Haas, who tied for ninth at Torrey Pines and tied for sixth in Phoenix last week, could join Mickelson and Dustin Johnson as the only PGA players to record a win in each of the last four seasons.

Jacobson and Luke Donald remain in striking distance at 8-under, four back of Haas. Sergio Garcia’s 2-under 69 put him back into the hunt at 6-under for the tournament.

Second-round co-leader Sang-Moon Bae was 5-over 76, even though he started with a birdie on the first hole. His undoing was a double-bogey 7 on the par-5 17th, the largest score posted on any hole by the 22 players.

Charlie Beljan somehow remains in sniffing distance of the lead as well. The 28-year-old who became famous for enduring a panic attack to win the final tour even of 2012 and earned a two-year exemption, shot a 3-under 68 to put him at a tie for seventh at 7-under.

“Two years ago, I was playing the Gateway Tour and lucky enough last year to get on the PGA Tour and to get a victory,” said Beljan, paired with Ernie Els and Mickelson on Saturday and shooting a 68 to beat them both.

“To tee it up with Mr. Els and Mr. Mickelson and to have a day like I did is something that I’ll never forget. I had them both sign my visor. I’ll put it in a nice frame at home so I’ll always have something to remember.”

Beljan’s threesome today will be less spectacular – he’s with Josh Teater and Hunter Mahan, in the third-to-last group.

More fun will be had in the final three.

“I play with my friends all the time out here so I don’t think it will affect me one way or another,” said Simpson. “I love playing with guys that I can have conversations with and have a good time.”

Added Haas: “I’ve just got to stay in the moment, don’t let my emotions get the best of me.”

 

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How Haas jumped to the front: Riviera update at 1:30 p.m.

Defending Northern Trust Open champ Bill Haas eagled the 10th hole at Riviera with a 57-foot chip to highlight a run where he made up six strokes between the fifth and 11th holes to take a two-stroke lead this afternoon.

The 30-year-old out of Wake Forrest has shot 6-under through 14 to pass by Fredrik Jacobson and John Merrick, who are 9-under for the tournament. Jacobson, tied for the second-round lead, is at even par for the day. His round has included a double-bogey 6 at the fourth hole, plus birdies at Nos. 10 and 11.

Merrick is 1-under for the day, balancing three bogeys with a double-eagle at No. 11.

Haas’ round is by far the best of the day.

His 268-yard drive at No. 10 was short of the green, leading to his chip.

At No. 9, Haas hit a 28-footer for a birdie. At No. 11, he got out of the right front bunker and made a 4-footer for a birdie.

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That beautiful old sycamore at No. 16? It’s what makes Riviera a classic branch of the PGA Tour

PACIFIC PALISADES – This sycamore tree behind the 16th tee at Riviera deserves all the support it can get.

It went sideways long ago. It probably would have been easier to retire it long ago in some arbitrary arboretum for iconic foliage, but thankfully the greens keepers at this classic golf course have stayed classy and kept it as one of the true relics left in Rustic Canyon.

Instead, four medal posts in various stages of height and rustiness keep what’s left of it propped up. Not as a Hollywood prop, but as a symbol of useful history.

Well, even that’s subject to interpretation. It provides no shade. The base is hollowed out, allowing the marshal at this par-3 hole to store his jacket and lunch for later this afternoon.

Suddenly, a large black-and-orange butterfly came fluttering out of one of the trunk’s knots. Too quick to capture with any Shutterfly account, too daring considering another morning group was about to tee off, disrupting all other nature in the nearby surroundings.

There’s another famous sycamore way over at the 12th green named after Humphrey Bogart, marking the spot where the actor used to sit and watch everyone else scratch their heads in frustration. But why this sycamore at 16 remains more relevant is part of the story why Riviera has stayed irrepressible in the annual PGA Tour stops. Continue reading

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Third-round update at Riviera, noontime: Four-way tie at the top

Bill Haas jumped out at 3-under 32 for the first nine and created a four-way tie atop the leaderboard at the Northern Trust Open this morning.

Hass joined second-round co-leader Sang-Moon Bae, former Masters champion Charl Schwartzel and UCLA grad John Merrick at 8-under. Merrick had back-to-back bogeys at Nos. 2 and 3 to shoot even so far through six. Bae is one over through six despite a birdie on No. 1.

Fredrik Jacobson started tied with Bae but is at plus-2, taking a double-bogey 6 at the fifth hole.

Josh Teater has gotten out at 3-under through 10 and jumped into a tie for second at 7-under with Webb Simpson and Jacobson.

CBS’ coverage of the third round begins at noon — most likely delayed because of the network’s coverage of the Pitt-Marquette game — and is scheduled to stay on  until 3 p.m. Among the featured players still on the course to capture is Phil Mickelson, who is at even par through the first nine (including birdies at Nos. 1, 8 and 9) and 4-under for the tournament, tied for 14th.

Luke Donald is at plus-2 through seven holes, falling into a tie for 10th.

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5:43 p.m. update at Riviera: Fog, darkness put an end to things

Sergio Garcia finished his round with a birdie 3 on the ninth hole — even though he said he couldn’t see where his tee shot even landed – to move to within one stroke of leader Matt Kuchar as play winded down tonight at the PGA’s Northern Trust Open at Riviera Country Club.

Garcia’s 6-under 65 came almost six hours after Kuchar carded a 7-under 64 to assume the first-round lead. Both started their rounds with three birdies — Kuchar on holes No. 1, 2 and 3 in the morning group (7:22 a.m. tee time) while Garcia had his on Nos. 10, 11 and 12 with a noon tee time.

Brandt Jobe, in the first group to start play today,remained third at 5-under 66, while Charlie Beljan rallied to tie him in the late afternoon.

The marine layer came as scheduled to settle over the course with the sun trying to peek through as the day was coming to an end. About a dozen golfers remained on the course when play ended at 5:43 p.m. officially. Among those still on the course was former UCLA standout Patrick Cantlay, who was 2-under after 14 holes playing in the final group.

Garcia said he noticed the weather get colder as he was on the seventh tee, with three holes left to play.

“It musta been my fault,” he said with a laugh. “It was a nice day but I could feel it coming on the fifth hole, when I had to put my jacket back on. I was surprised we were able to keep going because there were a couple of holes where we couldn’t see the pin.”

 

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4:20 p.m. update at Riviera: Kuchar hangs onto the lead with Garcia surging into a tie with Jobe for second

Matt Kuchar waves after making a birdie on the 10th green during the first round of the Northern Trust Open at Riviera Country Club today. (AP Photo/Reed Saxon)

Matt Kuchar tends to believe his schedule won’t allow for any paddle boarding, snorkeling or even surfing in the still-chilly Santa Monica Bay during his weekend stay in L.A.

Just as well. He’s already been there and done that in the warmer waters of Hawaii during a recent three-week family vacation.

It’s tough enough trying to keep your balance atop the leader board at the Northern Trust Open.

After having a blast doing “just anything in the water you can think of,” Kutcher said he came back to the PGA Tour thorougly refreshed – which likely explains how he started his first round at Riviera Country Club with three straight birdies en route to a 7-under 64 during cool but otherwise ideal sunshine conditions today.

Among those who found success teeing off  in the afternoon, when the temperatures warmed up to the low 70s according to tour officials and more spectator sightings of shorts and T-shirts, Sergio Garcia made a bold move up the leaderboard as the ocean winds started to kick in.

Garcia, like Kuchar, started with three birdies, but these were on the 10th, 11th and 12th holes. He climbed to five under with a birdie at No. 7, tying him for second with Brandt Jobe.

Tied for fourth at 4-under 67 are David Lynn and James Hahn.

England’s Luke Donald, who carried the highest world golf ranking of anyone in the field at No. 3 and playing in his first U.S. event of the year, made perhaps the shot of the day with a chip-in off the 10th green. He is 1-under after 15.

Kuchar’s bogey-free round that tallied seven birdies in total allowed him to hold a two-shot edge for most of the afternoon over UCLA grad Jobe.

Continue reading

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12:30 update at Riviera: Kuchar steams in with a 7-under 64 for first break lead

Matt Kuchar drilled seven birdies — including three to start the round — and went bogey-free to grab the lead after the morning group at the Northern Trust Open, taming the Riviera Country Club. His a 7-under 64 was a two-shot edge over UCLA grad Brandt Jobe.

Kuchar nailed his first birdie putts all within four feet to start the surge at four-under at the turn. He registered birdies at the 16th and 17th before a par at No. 18.

The 64 is one off the all-time tournament record for best round to open the event. Five others have had a 63, the last time accomplished by Phil Mickelson in 2009. Kuchar’s best previous round at Riviera was a 66 on the last day of the 2010 event, which vaulted him into a tie for 20th. His best finish at Riviera was a tie for 14th in 2008.

He’s opened with a 69 in his last three appearances at the Northern Trust Open.

Kuchar said a recent trip to Hawaii with his family helped him relax and get his mind at ease before returning to the tour. He tied for fifth at the Sony Open among the three events he’s played in 2013.

Kuchar birdied the difficult No. 10 en route to his 33 on the back nine.

Jobe, who started with the first group at 6:40 a.m., finished his round at five-under 71 and is tied with David Lynn at the moment for second. Lynn, who started at the 10th hole, made three birdies on his back nine out of his first six holes.

Jobe said it was so dark on the practice range before his round he couldn’t see what he was hitting. His first drive on No. 1 was something he couldn’t even follow.

“I didn’t even know if it was in the fairway,” he said, adding that it wasn’t. “The sun wasn’t even up when we teed off. I don’t know that I saw a putt from 15 feet.

“It’s so wet and cold and the ball isn’t going anywhere at that time. I don’t think I’ve ever played a round so early.”

Defending champion Bill Haas finished with a one-under 70, while his threesome partners of Keegan Bradely and Mickelson were even 71.

Mickelson started at 7 a.m., saying it was “freezing cold” as he started at No. 10, which he none-the-less birdied. He bogeyed the next two.

Rob Streb, who made the field after an open qualifying round on Monday, is at four-under, which included an eagle at No. 1. He is through 15 sitting alone in fourth place.

Fred Couples finished with a three-under 68 to put himself among a group that includes Pat Perez, Jim Furyk and Lee Westwood in the fourth position.

Expect scores to get even lower as the afternoon warms up. Many spectators in the crowd were comfortable in T-shirts and shorts as the sun came out strong at about 10 a.m. Sergia Garcia, for example, had a noon tee off at No. 10 and birdied his first three holes to immediately go three under.

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11:20 update at Riviera: Jobe in at six-under 66

UCLA grad Brandt Jobe used four consecutive birdies on the 14th, 15th, 16th and 17th to pull into an early tie with early leader Matt Kuchar and finish his first round at the Northern Trust Open with a six-under 66 at Riviera Country Club today.

Jobe’s bogey at No. 18 — his only square number of the day, dropped him back with Kuchar at five-under. Kuchar, who started the day with three birdies, just finished the 15th hole.

Jobe, who missed the cut last year, was in the first group at 6:40 a.m. and fell two strokes behind Kuchar at the turn and to three back after he parred No. 10 and Kuchar birdied it.

Pat Perez is tied for third at 4 under after a birdie at 17.

Rob Streb, who made the field by winning an open qualifying round on Monday, is in a group at 3 under with Jim Furyk.

Half the field is almost finished playing the course, with the other 72 set to go off at 11:30 a.m. Included in that group is the threesome (at noon) of Luke Donald, Adam Scott and Graeme McDowell, followed by Dustin Johnson, Ernie Els and Webb Simpson. Both groups are off the first tee.

Going off on the 10th tee in the late morning are groups that include Sergio Garcia (noon, with Charl Schwartzel and Carl Pettersson) and Hunter Mahan (12:12 p.m.).

Coverage on Golf Channel begins live at noon.

 

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11 a.m. update from Riviera: Jobe jumps to the top

Brandt Jobe’s four consecutive birdies on the 14th, 15th, 16th and 17th sent him past early leader Matt Kuchar at six under during the first round of the Northern Trust Open at Riviera Country Club today.

Jobe, the 47-year-old UCLA grad who missed the cut last year, was two strokes behind Kuchar at the turn and fell to three back after he parred No. 10 and Kuchar birdied it. Jobe is two holes ahead of Kuchar on the course, having started in the first group at No. 1 at 6:40 a.m.

Pat Perez is tied for third at 3 under with Rob Streb, who made the field by winning an open qualifying round on Monday.

Fred Couples has slipped back to two under with a bogey 5 on No. 3. He is in a group that includes Jim Furyk, who birdied No. 14, and a pre-tournament favorite Jimmy Walker.

Phil Mickenson has two birdies and four pars on his back nine (holes 1-6) to lift himself up to minus-1 through 15. He is in a group with last year’s champ, Bill Haas (also minus-1) and Keegan Bradley (plus 1).

Half the field is almost finished playing the course, with the other 72 set to go off at 11:30 a.m. Included in that group is the threesome (at noon) of Luke Donald, Adam Scott and Graeme McDowell, followed by Dustin Johnson, Ernie Els and Webb Simpson. Both groups are off the first tee.

Going off on the 10th tee in the late morning are groups that include Sergio Garcia (noon, with Charl Schwartzel and Carl Pettersson) and Hunter Mahan (12:12 p.m.).

Coverage on Golf Channel begins live at noon.

 

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Early returns from Riviera: Kuchar out to a blazing start

Matt Kuchar started with three birdies to go out at four under, then birdied No. 10 and knocked in a par at 11 to take a two stroke lead in the Northern Trust Open this morning.

Brandt Jobe, who started in the first group at 6:40 a.m., just birdied No. 14 and is two strokes back with a group that includes Fred Couples.

Couples started at No. 10 and was one over after his first two holes but birdied Nos. 14, 17 and, to the roar of the crowd, 18 before making the turn with another birdie at No. 1.

Phil Mickelson, who teed off at No. 10 with Keegan Bradley and defending champ Bill Haas at 7:11 a.m., is even after 12 holes. Haas is two under despite a bogey 5 at the par 4 No. 2 and No. 3 coming back. 

 

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