Lure of iconic Riviera Country Club course guarantees top-class field

By Mark Lamport-Stokes ,Reuters

PACIFIC PALISADES, California — Los Angeles traffic is perhaps the most congested of any PGA Tour venue but that has not stopped a quality field from flowing into the Riviera Country Club for this week’s Northern Trust Open. The iconic par-71 layout, with its long-established links to the movie stars of Hollywood, is consistently ranked by the players as one of the top courses on the U.S. circuit where long, medium and short hitters can all thrive.

British world number one Luke Donald, making his first start on the 2012 PGA Tour, heads a strong entry this week at Riviera where 11 other players ranked in the top 20 will be competing. “It’s always a great event to come to,” three-times major winner Ernie Els of South Africa told reporters on Tuesday. “It’s a wonderful golf course and they’ve got it in great shape now. “I’ve played Riviera a lot over the years and it’s one of those classic old golf courses that I could never tire of playing. Riviera is a real ball striker’s golf course.” Els, champion here in 1999, enjoyed the 7,349-yard, tree-lined Riviera layout the very first time he played the course. “I love the bunkering, it’s phenomenal,” the former world number one said. “I love the angles they have with their greens, the way the course flows. You’ve got to draw a lot of shots, fade a lot of shots. “I like the fact that there’s not too much elevation change other than the first and 18th. But the greens are fairly small, so you’ve got to be accurate with your iron shots. If you miss a shot, you’re going to be penalized with the bunkers there.”