PGA TOUR NORTHERN TRUST OPEN
At Riviera Country Club, Pacific Palisades; Thursday-Friday, Golf Channel and Channel 2:
Defending champion John Merrick, the UCLA grad out of Long Beach who pulled off the thrilling playoff triumph, is certainly coming back. Two-time winner Phil Mickelson, though, has decided to park the private jet this week. Maybe it’s just too taxing. Fred Couples, the 1990 winner who has played this event 31 times, has managed to swing another sponsor’s exemption, and will make an appearance. Tiger Woods? Absent, as usual. Same with Rory McIlroy.
Past champs Bill Haas, Charles Howell III, Aaron Baddeley, Vijay Singh, Jim Furyk, Bill Haas and Mike Weir are clear. There’s 1999 champ Ernie Els, too, mixing it up with Bubba Watson, Rickie Fowler, Retief Goosen, John Huh, Matt Kuchar and Matt Kuchar. Fourteen of the 30 who made it to the 2013 Tour championship are in this event, as are 23 of the top 30 players in the current FedExCup standings. But only two of the top 10 are here.
Yet, without Woods, Mickelson and McIlroy — and Justin Rose as the highest-ranking golfer available — the main attraction if you’re gallery surfing could easily be Jordan Spieth, the 20-year-old who shared the second-round lead at the recent AT&T Pebble Beach Open until a rash of bogeys pushed him down the leader board in round three — yet the Dallas native still finished tied for fourth, boosting his career earnings already to past $5 million in 36 events. In his only other Northern Open appearance, he missed the cut at 5-over. Hey, he was only 18 at the time in 2012.
Of all the young guns on the Tour, Couples said the “easy one” to be most excited about is Spieth. “I picked him for the Presidents Cup (last fall), I felt like he deserved it.” The tournament, now No. 13 on the new 2013-14 overlapping calendar schedule, has a purse of $6.7 million to split up, save the $1.2 million set aside for the winner, along with 500 FedEx Cup points. It’s not as if we need the Weather Channel’s Jim Cantore on hand for up-to-the-pitch-shot updates this time, even as rain is often the issue this time of year. The forecast, however, looks lovely – sun all week, just partly cloudy on Sunday, in the mid 70s. So even if it’s foggy in your parts, it’s clear with a zero percent chance of precipitation. Now, if there was just more participation.
Wednesday’s pro-am begins at 6:40 a.m.
Thursday and Friday rounds begin at 6:40 a.m. (Golf Channel coverage from 2 to 5 p.m.. each day)
Saturday and Sunday rounds begin at 8 a.m. (Channel 2 coverage from noon to 3 p.m. each day; Golf Channel coverage each day is from 10 to 11:30 a.m.)
THE BEST OF THE REST:
XXII WINTER OLYMPICS:
Men’s 1,500 meter short-track speed skating, 8 p.m., Channel 4 (delayed):
J.R. Celski, who won bronze in 2010, is the U.S.’s best hope.
138th WESTMINSTER KENNEL CLUB DOG SHOW:
At Madison Square Garden in New York, Best in Show award, 5 p.m., USA Network:
Oddsmakers say the breed most likely to take this year’s Best in Show is the Portuguese Water Dog – perhaps a relative of Bo, the First Dog of the White House. That would make the Wire Fox Terrier, Old English Sheepdog, Irish Water Spaniel, Doberman Pinscher, Giant Schnauzer, Miniature Pinscher, Russell Terrier, Clumber Spaniel and the Standard Poodle fighting for the leftovers. And as David Letterman said in his monologue the other night, the winner of this thing is usually is an indicator for how the Oscar awards will eventually go.
Also: Monday at 5 p.m., CNBC
NBA: LAKERS vs. UTAH, Staples Center, 7:30 p.m., TWC SportsNet:
Not sure, does Steve Nash play in this one, or not?
XXII WINTER OLYMPICS:
Women’s curling: U.S. vs. Russia: midnight, NBC Sports Net:
Get out the brooms. (Also: U.S. vs. Britain, 2 p.m., CNBC, delayed).
XXII WINTER OLYMPICS:
Women’s freestyle skiing slopestyle: 8 p.m., Channel 4 (delayed):
You’ve seen slopestyle snowboarding? Now, do it on the longer skis. (Men’s final: Thursday at 8 p.m., delayed).
NBA: CLIPPERS vs. PORTLAND
Staples Center, 7:30 p.m., Prime Ticket:
The teams jostling for one of the top four spots in the Western Conference have only one more meeting after this one – on the very last day of the regular season, April 16 in Portland. Their previous matchup on the day after Christmas was a classic – the Blazers took a 116-112 overtime victory, improving at the time to a league-best 24-5 record. Lamarcus Aldridge had 32 points on 31 shots to go with 10 rebounds, while Blake Griffin and Chris Paul combined for 69 points, Paul added 16 assists and DeAndre Jordan had 19 rebounds to go with just two points.
XXII WINTER OLYMPICS:
Men’s 1,000 meter speed skating: 8 p.m., Channel 4 (delayed):
Shani Davis is back to see if he can be the first American to capture gold in three straight Winter Games – in a legit sport as well.
MLB: DODGERS FULL SQUAD REPORTS TO SPRING TRAINING:
At Glendale, Ariz.
They get in a few days earlier than the rest of the MLB teams because of their mid-March trip to Australia to open the season against the Arizona Diamondbacks. First spring games don’t start until Feb. 26 – with the launch of the new SportsNet L.A. channel.
NBA: LAKERS vs. OKLAHOMA CITY
Staples Center, 7:30 p.m., TNT:
The only hope for the Lakers is that Kevin Durant quickly fouls out, the entire bench goes down with injuries, and there are only four players standing on the court for the fourth quarter, and one of them is Derek Fisher, who will show them some mercy. Oh, wait. They’d still get to use five, right? The Thunder’s 25-point win over the Lakers in their previous meeting on Dec. 13 came on a night when a rusty Kobe Bryant even handed out 13 assists.
UCLA vs. COLORADO, Pauley Pavilion, 6 p.m., ESPN
USC vs. UTAH, Galen Center, 7:30 p.m., Pac-12 Network:
LONG BEACH STATE vs. UC SANTA BARBARA, The Pyramid, 7 p.m., ESPN.com:
Norman Powell matched a season high with 19 points when the Bruins knocked off the Buffaloes, 69-56, last time in Colorado. The Trojan shot 50 percent (25-of-50) from the field, but still lost by 18 at Utah a month ago. And then there’s the 49ers, trying to climb back into the Big West race, testing their post-conference abilities against the Gauchos (15-6 overall, 6-2 in conference). UCSB won the first meeting against the 49ers by 14 points at home.
XXII WINTER OLYMPICS:
Men’s super combined alpine skiing: 8 p.m., Channel 4 (delayed):
American Ted Ligety has mastered this event with a downhill and slalom run.
XXII WINTER OLYMPIC GAMES:
Men’s hockey: U.S. vs. RUSSIA,4 a.m., NBC Sports Net:
Where Alex Ovechkin gets to take his best shot at Jonathan Quick, on a sheet of Russian ice. Maybe things will turn out far different than when the two countries met in the semifinals of the 1980 tournament at Lake Placid, N.Y., eh? In that U.S. victory, TV viewers didn’t have any live access, and had to wait until ABC rearranged its schedule and aired it in tape-delay. This is only a prelim, and it have far less meaning that the one 34 years ago, but this one does count for something. And you even have control of the DVR if you’re not up to rising before dawn to see it. Kings.com Insider Dan Rosen previews the U.S. in Group A with Russia, Slovakia and Slovenia.
COLLEGE BASKETBALL: UCLA vs. UTAH, Pauley Pavilion, 2 p.m., Pac-12 Network:
The Bruins’ 74-69 loss at Utah on Jan. 18 was kind of a stunner – Brandon Taylor and Delon Wright combined to make three of four free throws in the last 22 seconds and Kyle Anderson, who had 28 points, committed a costly turnover in the finals seconds to seal the deal. It was the Utes first win over the Bruins since the 1983 NCAA tournament.
COLLEGE BASKETBALL: CAL STATE NORTHRIDGE at UC SANTA BARBARA, The Thunderdome, 4 p.m.:
The Gauchos won by 13 against the Matadors in Northridge a few weeks ago.
63rd NBA ALL-STAR GAME
At New Orleans, 5 p.m., TNT:
As part of a feature story last week on ESPN.com about creative ways to fix this annual exhibition of NBA mayhem, comedian Rob Riggle presented one that has no chance of happening, but it worth wondering: “I’d put obstacles on the floor, like a Kia under the basket for players to dunk over. The fans loved when Blake Griffin did that. . . . I’d also ask players to remove an article of clothing when the other team scores. And no overtime; if the game is tied at the end, the winner is determined by a dance-off.” It’s got potential, especially if LeBron James cooperates. Because everything seems to go through King James this time of year. Except this year, it seems to be the stage where Kevin Durant and Damian Lillard are about to launch their own personal brands. OKC’s Durant continues to lead the league in media attention – and points per game (31.0). Lillard, the Trail Blazers’ point guard putting up 20 points and about six assists game, is not only on the West squad for Sunday’s game, but he’s going to be in the “Rising Stars Challenge” on Friday, plus the three-point shot competition, the skills challenge and the dunk contest on Saturday. He may even be the pick to replace the injured Kobe Bryant in the starting lineup, alongside the Clippers’ Griffin. Teammate Chris Paul, a one-time star in New Orleans, was added as a sub, but the locals are probably saving their biggest and beignet-driven ovation for local Pelican Anthony Davis, taking Kobe’s roster spot.
Friday: Basketball Hall of Fame Class of 2014 announcement, 9 a.m.; NBA TV; Celebrity game, 4 p.m., ESPN; Rising stars challenge, 6 p.m., TNT.
Saturday: D-League All-Star Game, noon, NBA TV; All-Star skills competition, 5:30 p.m., TNT.
COLLEGE BASKETBALL: USC vs. COLORADO, Galen Center, 5 p.m., ESPNU:
Best way to fly under the radar is going up against the NBA All-Star game. Colorado, playing its first game without injured star Spencer Dinwiddie, still managed to pile up a 21-point win over the Trojans in Boulder a month ago.
NASCAR: DAYTONA 500 QUALIFYING
10 a.m., Channel 11:
Danica Patrick won the pole for this thing a year ago, then finished eighth in her rookie season, en route to a 27th place in the Sprint Cup standings. So when Richard Petty was asked about her chances of ever winning a Sprint Cup race, he recently said: “If everybody else stayed home. If she’d have been a male, nobody would ever know if she’d showed up at a race track.” See how that resonates this weekend.
XXII WINTER OLYMPICS:
Women’s snowboarding: 7 p.m., Channel 4 (delayed):
Lindsey Jacobellis takes to the snowboard cross.
BASKETBALL: HARLEM GLOBETROTTERS
Staples Center, 12:30 p.m. and 5:45 p.m.:
Did you know: The Globies actually have a roster of 30 players, split on two different tours, ranging in players from 5-foot-2 guard “Too Tall” Hall (the smallest player in the franchise’s history) to 7-foot-4 center “Stretch” Middleton. There’s also Nate “Big Easy” Lofton and Herb “Flight Time” Lang, who’ve become the most identifiable on this team after their appearance in the CBS reality show, “The Amazing Race.” Their race around Southern California includes a stop at Anaheim’s Honda Center (Saturday at 1 p.m. and 7 p.m.) and at Ontario Citizens Bank Arena (Monday, Feb. 17 at 2 p.m.)