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World's number one and two shape up at Northern Trust Open

McIlroy plays the Northern Trust for the frst time (Photo: Bruce Young)
The PGA Tour is in Los Angeles or, more specifically, Pacific Palisades this week for the Northern Trust Open at the Riviera Country Club, an event which dates back to 1926 but which was first played at this venue in 1929.

The venue chopped and changed over the tournament's first fifty or so years until 1973 when Riviera became the permanent home (other than for a couple of years).

The battle between the world number one and two, Jordan Spieth and Rory McIlroy, will likely feature as one of the highlights of the week, McIlroy getting his 2016 US campaign underway after two solid finishes in the Middle East while Spieth has already recorded a win and a runner-up finish in four events this season, two of which were played on US soil.

Spieth finished 4th in this event last year while McIlroy is playing for the first occasion.

Dustin Johnson has been a little slow getting things underway to date this year but he does own four top fours in his last six starts at Riviera Country Club including runner-up finishes in each of the last two years so he must be respected as a winning chance.

Hideki Matsuyama returns after winning in Phoenix two weeks ago and showed when he shared 4th last year that he enjoys this layout. Another bold showing can be expected from the Japanese star.

Charl Schwartzel won easily in his first start of the year in South Africa last week and, while it was against a much weaker field than he will face this week, such was the emphatic nature of it that he might do well again. In just three starts in this event he has been 5th and 3rd in two of those appearances.   

Sergio Garcia typically plays the Northern Trust well and in his only start to date in 2016 he finished 7th in Qatar. He has three top tens in his last four starts at Riviera and while he has not won a PGA Tour title in more than three years he does stand a chance this week.

The Australians have a reasonable record in this tournament with Adam Scott, Robert Allenby and Aaron Baddeley having been successful. All three are in this week’s field.

Scott plays just his second event of 2016 after finishing well back at the Sony Open but he did win a shortened version of this tournament in 2005 and finished runner-up the following year.

Scott has a good record at Riviera

Allenby won his last PGA Tour title in a six-way playoff in 2001 and Baddeley won in 2011.

Australia's greatest moment at Riviera Country Club however came in 1995 when Steve Elkington defeated Colin Montgomerie to win the US PGA Championship.

Matt Jones, Marc Leishman, Cameron Smith, John Senden, Steven Bowditch, Stuart Appleby, Jarrod Lyle and Rhein Gibson are the other Australians in the field this week.

Jarrod Lyle - Great effort just to make the field (photo Bruce Young)

Lyle, courageously played his way into the field via Monday qualifying and given it was at this event in 2012 where he recorded his best USPGA Tour finish (4th) the week will hold special memories for him.

Lyle, playing on a Medical Exemption in 2016, has five events remaining to earn $209,111 to get his full PGA Tour card back.

Gibson survived a five-way playoff for one spot at Monday qualifying to get the last place in the field.

   

 

 

 

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