5 Key Storylines Entering Northern Trust Open

Mike DudurichContributor IFebruary 12, 2013

5 Key Storylines Entering Northern Trust Open

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    Going back to 1929, when the Los Angeles Open was first played at Riviera Country Club, the early-season stop on the PGA Tour quickly grew into a must-play for the best players in the world.

    In the middle of the century, Riviera became known as Hogan's Alley after Ben Hogan won two Los Angeles Opens and the 1948 U.S. Open on the course.

    The PGA Tour comes calling this week to Riviera and the course will provide one of the compelling storylines throughout the week.

    Here's a list of the five most compelling storylines of the of the week.

1. The Big Boys Are Coming, the Big Boys Are Coming.

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    The third (Luke Donald) and seventh (Adam Scott)-ranked players, as well as British Open champion Ernie Els will be making their 2013 debut in the United States.

    Truth be told they set their schedules up so they can get a tournament in before World Golf Championship-Match Play Championships next week.

    In total,16 of the top 25 in this week’s official will be at historic Riviera.

2. How Will Riviera Treat the Field?

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    This is one of the great old classic courses on Tour. Built in 1927, it’s not a bomber’s paradise and it’s not necessarily a shot-maker’s bonanza.

    This, more than any other course the PGA Tour plays on, is a thinking man’s course. It plays to a par of 71 and a yardage of 7,349.

    Two of the most famous holes on the course are the third, the par three with a bunker in the middle of the green and the drivable par-four 10th that is one of the greatest short par fours in the game.

    Not only is it a course like Riviera special because of its great architecture, but it has produced great champions like Byron Nelson, Sam Snead, Arnold Palmer, Tom Watson, Johnny Miller, Nick Faldo, Fred Couples, Craig Stadler, Hale Irwin and Ben Hogan.

3. The Old and New

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    Two-time champion Fred Couples (1990 and 1992) will compete at Riviera for the 31st time, becoming the leader in that category.

    Couples, who’ll be making his 2013 tournament debut, led after 36 holes two years ago, eventually finishing in a T7.

    Another member of the senior set, Corey Pavin, who won in 1994 and 1995, is also in the field.

    He and Patrick Cantlay gained entry into the event on sponsor exemptions.

    They’re also fellow UCLA alums, separated by 30 years.

4. Who Wants Two?

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    What do Phil Mickelson, Dustin Johnson, Russell Henley and Brian Gay have in common coming into the Northern Trust?

    They are the only golfers in the field with a chance to post two wins on the West Coast swing.

    That’s not a particularly easy accomplishment considering it’s been done just once in the last three years: Mark Wilson in 2011.

5. Defying the Odds

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    Don’t be surprised if J.B. Holmes has a big week at Riviera Country Club.

    While he’s a definite power player (sixth a year ago on tour; 13th so far this year), Holmes has found a way to get around the old layout rather nicely, finishing in the top 12 the last five years.

    Part of the reason for his success has been Holmes’ ability to find the tough-to-hit fairways at Riviera, a skill that’s often difficult for shorter-hitting players.