THIS WEEK’S BEST BET:
PGA TOUR NORTHERN TRUST OPEN
At Riviera Country Club, Pacific Palisades; Thursday-Friday, Golf Channel and Channel 2:
Chris Condon / Getty Images.
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.
Jordan Spieth finishes play on the 10th hole during the second round of the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am on the Monterey Peninsula Country Club Shore Course in Pebble Beach. (AP Photo/Ben Margot)
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.)
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