The Northern Trust Open tees off early Thursday morning in tony Pacific Palisades for the final PGA Tour stop in California of the 2014 season. The annual event at Riviera is the second-to-last stop in the west coast swing, with next week's WGC-Match Play closing things up in Arizona before the Tour jets over to Florida.
Riviera is one of the classic, historic courses that the PGA Tour pros love to play. It's regularly rated among the top three or four layouts that dot the annual rota, a nice departure from the more soulless and prevalent TPC setups. The west coast swing is loaded with great venues, and Riviera is certainly a part of that. It's a smaller course, but challenges the pros in unique ways that force them to change up their regular routine. The par-3s on the front side are brutal, and the design of the par-3 6th green features the funky sand trip right in the middle of the putting surface. The 10th hole is a drivable par-4, but only in distance as it's exceedingly difficult to actually put the ball on the green. And then there are the challenging finishing holes, which can swing the leaderboard in a matter of moments on the unpredictable Sunday afternoon poa annua greens.
Tiger Woods continues to avoid this historic event in his hometown, many citing his aversion to those poa annua putting greens that have given him trouble in the past here. It's odd that the second largest market in the country has just one area stop, and has fallen out of the majors rotation (there's some movement to bring the U.S. Open back to LACC). Woods, however, should probably show up for the hometown fans, especially now that his World Challenge event is moving out east too.
But even with Tiger gone, just the venue is often worth tuning in to watch, and it also draws a pretty loaded field. A majority of what will become the 2014 U.S. Ryder Cup team is likely here, and they pepper the tee sheet on Thursday. With the sunset getting later and later and just one course in play this week, that tee sheet features threesomes off split tees from sun up to sun down. The first group goes off in the rare (for the Tour) 6:40 a.m. local slot, and the last groups will be out until darkness.
Golf Channel will have their usual coverage of the first two rounds, but the broadcast window is pushed back a bit this week from 5 to 8 p.m. ET. That's an hour or two later than what they've been running for previous events in the west coast swing, but the last tee time does not go off until 4:25 p.m. ET. Bubba Watson, Rickie Fowler, Jordan Spieth, Jason Dufner, and Keegan Bradley are just some of the bigger names who will be out later in the day during TV coverage. If you can't watch on TV, Golf Channel's LiveExtra app will simulcast the coverage, but there will be no featured holes or featured group streams at PGATour.com this week. Here are your media options for Thursday:
Thursday's 1st round coverage:
TV: Golf Channel - 5 to 8 p.m. ET
Online: GolfChannel LiveExtra simulcast 5 to 8 p.m.
Radio: Sirius-XM PGA Tour Network (Ch. 93/208), 2 to 8 p.m.