Long Time Running: The PGA Tour Hits L.A.

Steve Stricker defends at the PGA Tour's Northern Trust Open
Steve Stricker defends at the PGA Tour's Northern Trust Open

When “Lighthouse” Harry Cooper beat out George Von Elm by three strokes for the first place prize of $3,500 at the first Los Angeles Open in 1926, few could have likely imagined that the event would be still being played 85 years into the future.

But that is definitely the case as the fourth oldest event on the PGA Tour, now the Northern Trust Open, kicks off this week at the Rivera Country Club in Pacific Palisades.  Only this time, the winner will earn a substantially higher reward for his success, to the tune of $1.17 million.

Famed Riviera has been the permanent host of the tournament since 1973 and that has become an integral reason why so many top tour players look to the play the event.  The George C. Thomas, Jr. / William Bell P. Bell design is much beloved as it is fair, puts emphasis on accuracy and old school shot-making.  Add in a mix of old Hollywood styling and the legacy of Ben Hogan victories at the course and you have a pretty intoxicating event.

Defending this week is Steve Stricker, who rode a hot putter to a sixteen under par total.  He will be trying to be the third back-to-back winner in the last ten years, following the standard set by Mike Weir in 2003/2004 and Phil Mickelson in 2007/2008.   Six players have accomplished the feat in the full history of the tournament.

Stricker is still a strong contender for many reasons.  Ahead of last year’s victory he took second place in 2009 and so far this year he has two top ten finishes and has not recorded a round over par.  His consecutive cut streak, at 25 events, is the current standard on the Tour.

Other veteran players of note in the field include Jim Furyk, making his 15th appearance at the event, Phil Mickelson, and two-time winner of the 2011 Tour, Mark Wilson.

Leading the charge for the younger set will be Dustin Johnson, Jhonnatan Vegas, Rickie Fowler, Ryo Ishikawa and 2010 British Open Champion Louis Oosthuizen.

It is the first PGA Tour start of the year for Oosthuizen and just his third start ever in a non-major or World Golf Championship event.  He missed the cut at the 2008 Shell Houston open and finished tied for 64th at the 2009 Arnold Palmer Invitational.

PGA Tour rookie Joseph Bramlett received the Northern Trust Open Exemption. The exemption was started in 2009 to promote diversity in the game of golf.  Bramlett has just made one cut so far this season in three events played. He finished in a tie for 68th at the Sony Open in Hawaii.

Fast Facts

Dates: February 14-20, 2011

Where: Riviera Country Club; Pacific Palisades, CA

Par/Yards: 35-36—71/7,325

Field: 144

FedExCup points: 500

Format: 72-hole stroke play

Purse: $6,500,000; Winner’s Share: $1,170,000

2010 Champion: Steve Stricker, 268 (-16)

www.northerntrustopen.com

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