Riviera Country Club in Pacific Palisades, California
7,349 yards – Par 71 – Poa annua Greens
Tournament Stimpmeter: 12 to 12.6 feet … Fast Greens
Green Sizes: 5,000 sq. feet … Small Greens
Difficulty (Relative to Par): +0.75 … Hard Course
Strength of Field Rating: 450+ … Strong Field
Fairways Hit (Field Average): 54.3% … Hard Fairways to Hit
Greens in Regulation (Field Average): 56.5% … Hard Greens to Hit
Driving Distance (Field Average): 280 yards … Shorter-than-Average DD
Average Tournament Temperature: 69 degrees … Cold Weather
Average Tournament Wind: 9 MPH … Average Wind
#1 Poa Annua Greens
#2 California Courses
#3 >Hard-to-Hit Fairways
#4 Hard-to-Hit Greens
#5 Driver-Heavy Courses
#6 Fast Greens
#7 Strong Field Events
#8 Hard Courses
#9 Cold Weather
#10 Long Courses
2017: Dustin Johnson -17 over Scott Brown, Thomas Pieters -12
2016: Bubba Watson -15 over Jason Kokrak and Adam Scott -14
2015: James Hahn -6 over Paul Casey and Dustin Johnson in a playoff
2014: Bubba Watson -14 over Dustin Johnson -13
2013: John Merrick -13 over Charlie Beljan in a playoff
2012: Bill Haas -7 over Keegan Bradley, Phil Mickelson in a playoff
2011: Aaron Baddeley -12 over Vijay Singh -10
2010: Steve Stricker -16 over Luke Donald -14
2017: Dustin Johnson -17
2017: Bubba Watson -12
2015: Retief Goosen -8
2014: William McGirt -12
2013: Bill Haas -12
2012: Keegan Bradley, Phil Mickelson -7
2011: Aaron Baddeley -10
2010: Steve Stricker -15
2017: Dustin Johnson -10
2016: Jason Kokrak -10
2015: Retief Goosen -6
2014: Sangmoon Bae -9
2013: Freddie Jacobson, Sang-Moon Bae -9
2012: Phil Mickelson -6
2011: Fred Couples -8
2010: Dustin Johnson -11
Important Interview Quotes
Q. Being from the west coast, I know you’ve had success at a lot of different golf courses, but do you feel more comfortable out here, not just on this golf course but just generally?
PATRICK CANTLAY: Yeah, it’s nice to be in California. I love California, it’s where I grew up, I feel very comfortable here. UCLA’s just down the road so I know where to eat. And when everyone’s saying it took them an hour and a half to get back to Beverly Hills yesterday afternoon, I say that’s normal. So I think there’s something to that, something to being used to poa annua and growing up on golf courses that are kikuyu grass because I think it might be the only one we play all year with kikuyu grass. I think it all adds up, I feel comfortable here, I like the golf course and I think that helps. -2018
Q. Can you talk about missing on the right sides? How much does that go to how many times you’ve played this course, just your institutional knowledge?
PATRICK CANTLAY: Yeah, definitely knowing where the ball feeds on some of these hole locations is important, and where to err. You know, I think this golf course has a lot of intricate architecture, especially on the greens and particular hole locations where the ball will feed from certain spots, and knowing that’s huge. -2018
Q. You said patience a couple times. Can you think of another course outside of a major, Augusta National, that requires so much patience than a normal Tour event?
JUSTIN THOMAS: Sawgrass comes to mind, for sure. It’s a very similar — obviously not course design, but to me tee to green I guess I could compare it just because if you hit the
fairways, you drive it well, you can make a lot of birdies, but if you don’t, you’re grinding to make pars. Then you get those last couple holes or you can get hot out there at the same
time as you’re cold. -2018
Q. What’s the challenge for you, I know you’ve gone through it before, of just trying to stay patient, because obviously by nature all you guys are impatient, you want it to
happen yesterday kind of thing?
JORDAN SPIETH: That’s the reason I haven’t won here yet. The way that I’ve been playing this golf course, I’ll either finish I think third at best and anywhere from third
to 25th because I’m just, I’m not quite patient enough to play this golf course. I really need to approach it a lot like I approach Augusta. It has a lot of similarities in the way
you have to attack it, which center of the green is fantastic. You can putt to any pin from the center of the green and wait for your chances. Just here or there I’m just trying to do a little too much. -2018
Q. Phil, you obviously know the history of Riviera. What do you like about this golf course, and does it fit your game?
PHIL MICKELSON: If I were to isolate one of the many things I love about the golf course, I love the kikuyu grass, how small the greens are, and how the kikuyu forces you to chip and
fly the ball on the green. It’s not the easiest to hit bump-and-run shots through it. You can sometimes putt it, some of the areas are shaved tight, but I love how you have to fly the ball
on the green because that’s the way I like to chip. And the kikuyu grass allows you to get the leading edge of the wedge underneath the ball. So many of the courses we play today
are shaved so tight you can’t do that, so your only option is a putt or a bump-and-run or a complete flop shot, you know, hitting it fat. Around here you can really slide the wedge
underneath it and hit some cool wedge shots. So I always like coming around here because if I don’t hit it great, I feel like I can still get up and down. -2018
Q. Are you surprised you haven’t performed better here? It seems like it would be a course that would suit your game.
GRAEME McDOWELL: Yeah, I’m surprised I haven’t played better at Riviera, for sure. It’s a golf course which fits my eye. We went through a spell there where it seemed to be bombers winning this golf tournament, Bubba Watson, Dustin Johnson, even guys like that. But this is the first real dry year I can remember being here for the last four or five and I think the firmness of the golf course is taking guys by surprise. I think tee shots like 5 into the corner there, there’s a left side that cuts in about 265, I don’t think we’re used to balls traveling as far down that left side as they are going. The golf course is just playing that little by fiery-er and I think it’s taking some of the guys by surprise. So historically I’ve played well
in tough setups, I’m relishing the opportunity to continue playing this tough set up this weekend. -2018
Q. We mentioned the Aussies, I don’t want to pile the pressure on as you look forward and try to back up this 65 for tomorrow, but the Aussies typically have done really well around here. Adam Scott’s picked up a victory, Aaron Baddeley, Robert Allenby, Elk as well of course, PGA Championship in 1995. What is it about the Aussies at this place?
CAMERON SMITH: Looks very similar to home actually. I think the bunkering, I’ve grown up on kikuyu so love the grass. It’s probably just the same sort of mix and style of holes we
get at home. -2018
Q. Bubba, Phil before he left was asked why he thinks you have such success around here, and he mentioned the fact that you can work the ball so dramatically from both sides, particularly thought it was effective today with the pin placements. Do you feel that was a real advantage for you or has it been all week?
BUBBA WATSON: Yeah, around here it’s all about visualization. That was a big word. It’s all about seeing your shots, using your imagination. You know, today on 11, Cantlay hit a shot, he laid it, I mean, six — from us in the fairway it looked like it hit six inches short of the green, bounces up pin high for eagle. Yesterday I landed it three feet short of the green more on the up-slope with a 5-iron, a bullet 5-iron rope hooking 20 yards, and it bounced backyards three feet.
The golf course, you just don’t know what you’re going to get because of the grass and the way, the little humps and bumps are. Yeah, the imagination is huge around here. It’s so much fun. This golf course, they don’t change it, they haven’t changed it since I’ve been around, so it’s a blast every year we come here and I get to create shots. You know, out of all the times I’ve been here, I’ve only been successful a few times, so it’s worked out in my favor because I can be creative. Same thing at Augusta, you can be creative and use your imagination. -2018
Q. This is your fourth start at Riviera. Are you surprised that you haven’t been in contention before?
SCOTT BROWN: Not really. I think it’s one of those golf courses that you kind have to figure out. But even though I haven’t played that well here, I’m still in love with it. Not
surprised to play good here this year. I’m just kind of figuring out the quirks about it and hopefully I can get it going. -2017
Q. Everybody says when you watch on TV it’s pretty similar, but the trees are a lot bigger here than you thought, right?
BRANDEN GRACE: The trees are a lot bigger and the greens are a lot smaller, put it that way. There’s a couple of tricky holes out there so it’s just obviously staying patient, and with these greens, they can get bumpy. But again, like I said, this is similar to courses back home. We’ve got the same grass on the fairways, in the rough and on the greens as well, so pretty used to it but still have to grind it out. -2017
Q. Your history here at Riviera is probably not what you wanted it to be. Any particular reason why, does it not suit your eye?
PAT PEREZ: No, I love the course. I’m not really long enough to play the long holes. -2017
Q. What did you know about this course beforehand that maybe surprised you once you did start playing here?
SAM SAUNDERS: I don’t know that anything surprised me. I had some people tell me in the past that they thought this would be a good fit for me, some friends that play out on the Tour. I had always wanted to come play in the event obviously and was excited to come the first time, but now I understand why they said that. It’s really kind of, I think, a shot-making golf course. You’ve got to drive the ball really well off the tee and you’ve got to control your iron shots into these greens, too. It’s not just hit it high and straight at it. You’ve got to hit a cut shot into it to use the slope the right way or maybe turn one in to hold the green in another spot. So a lot of different shots you get to hit out there. Driving the ball in the fairway is hugely rewarded out here. -2017
Q. What do you think of the Riv overall here?
THOMAS PIETERS: I love Riviera. It just suits my eye. You want to keep playing the course almost. I just want to go out there right now and play some more, it’s so much fun to
ADAM SCOTT: My game feels pretty good on the range, at home, so we’ll see how it is this week. It’s my favorite golf course on the PGA Tour, so I’m very excited to start my season here like I have a few times in the past and hopefully kind of pick up where I left off here last year and, you know, using that favorite golf course to my advantage and hitting some good shots and good vibes and playing my way into contention. -2017
ADAM SCOTT: Well, I don’t know. What makes a good golf course to different people can be different things, but I think generally most people like this golf course. It’s presented beautifully at the moment, but it really requires good shots into the greens. These older golf courses generally have more severe green complexes and having that control into the green is very important. Therefore, hitting the fairway becomes very important and you’re working back like that. I like that. The bunker complexes are very nice here. They’re not dissimilar to what we see down in Melbourne in Australia in some ways in shape and look. There are gum trees on the course and that makes me feel like home. -2017
Q. Adam, it seems like lately there’s been actually more chatter than normal that we’re used to on the topic of poa greens and players, them really getting in their heads. Is it something you think a lot about, the difference in the grass types here versus Florida? Is that something that’s a significant issue to you?
ADAM SCOTT: Yeah, it is tricky because like I said, especially here I think it’s no secret the least putts are made here on Tour all year. The greens are quite severe. It’s an old traditional style golf course with severe greens, and then you get them at speeds 12 and a half this morning, last year they were very, very quick and if they’re just — poa seems like if it’s just not the right consistency of water versus firmness and everything, they get very bumpy and this is where we start struggling. When they’re quick and bumpy, it’s very hard to hit assertive, confident putts and you see putts starting to wander offline. Yeah, that makes it frustrating for the players, for sure.
I can imagine spending a lot of time on the west coast would wear you down if the conditions aren’t great and the poa’s a bit rough, it’s going to be tough. Yeah, absolutely. It keeps me away from playing a lot of events on the west coast. I love this golf course, I come and play here. They’re in good shape at the moment, hopefully they stay that way. Last year was my best putting week of the year here so maybe I should go on the poa a bit more. -2017
Q. What is it about this course that you like, and is it a lot like what many of the other guys were saying, that it’s just old-school and it’s fun
to play besides demanding?
SERGIO GARCIA: It is demanding, for sure. Yes, it is old-school. It is quite long, too. Yeah, greens for the most part are fairly small, so it’s the kind of golf course that if you’re playing well and you’re hitting a good amount of greens, you always feel like you have birdie chances. You don’t usually have a lot of, you know, 50- and 60-footers. So it’s just a solid golf course. -2017
Q. When you come to a course where you have lost in a playoff last year, is it positive vibes because you played well or negative vibes because you did lose?
DUSTIN JOHNSON: Oh, no, I mean, definitely positive for sure. You know, I feel like I play well here a lot. I really like this golf course. I think it sets up very good to me. It looks good to my eye. It’s a beautiful course.
It’s fun to play. You’ve got to hit a lot of different shots, and it never plays easy. So this is about as easy as it can play right now, good weather and the greens are really soft. Still, the scores are not that low. -2016
Q. You and Bubba and Dustin are among the contenders, but there’s a couple players that obviously are not as long off the tee. Just how much of an advantage is having length here?
JASON KOKRAK: Having length is an advantage I think on most golf courses. You can’t hit driver on certain spots but a lot of the long par 4s, you’ve got to hit driver on. A couple of those longer ones are into the wind but the par 5s are all gettable. 1 obviously; I hit just a 4-wood into 17. They are long par 5s, but for us, we can get there in two, as some of the other guys can’t, just depending on where the pin is. -2016
Q. So you’re not really surprised that the big bombers are kind of at the top of the leaderboard?
JASON KOKRAK: Well, yeah, No. 4 is a long par 3. So we are able to hit a long iron into there where some of the shorter players might have hybrid or even more depending on the wind. But some of the other holes, like 8, I hit 3-wood, 9-iron — or 3-iron, 9-iron in today. They are not overly-long holes but you can play a little safer off the tee and with a club that you normally hit straighter. -2016
Q. When you look at the leaderboard, it’s a pretty electric mix. Is that also an indication of how good the golf course is?
RORY McILROY: I think how good the golf course is and a little bit the way the conditions are. I think the softness in the golf course defendant plays into the hands of some of the longer — well, it’s good — longer and shorter, because the guys that are hitting it a little bit shorter have the softer greens and they are a little more receptive with the longer clubs.
But the guys that can hit it a long way are going in there with shorter clubs, as well. I think just the design of the golf course, it’s not overly long but it’s very tough and there’s no rough. It’s not like you hit it off line and you get penalized that much. Just the design of the golf course is that good that any style of game can do well here. -2016
Q. This looks like the front page of a Masters leaderboard.
ADAM SCOTT: Yeah, maybe. Again, I think the golf course, guys are so excited to play, they want to, if you need more incentive to win a golf tournament, then maybe winning at a place like this is something that drives everyone, drives the top guys. -2016
Q. Give us an idea of what it’s like to putt on these poa annua greens in the morning, when they are nice and fresh, as opposed to what they are like in the afternoon?
MARC LEISHMAN: It’s obviously almost like two different golf courses. In the morning, they are perfect. They are smooth and fast. In the afternoon, you obviously get a few footprints, especially with the rain we had Wednesday. When they are soft, they do get pretty bumpy. But you’ve got to try and take advantage of the early time and I was able to do that. -2016
Q. Plodder’s course, you have to play a shot ahead, figure out where you want to come from and what quadrant am I going to putt the ball on the green.
TROY MERRITT: Some holes I was playing three shots ahead, just making sure I was in the right to get it off the tee, in the right spot to make sure I had the right shot for birdie. That’s exactly right, keep it in front of you, you really try to limit how aggressive you are, at least I have. It worked out the first two days and hopefully it works out on the weekend. -2016
Q. You must feel comfortable here?
KYLE REIFERS: Yeah, I really like this course. I have, kind of like you said, a comfort zone here. The kind of course that suits my eye really well. It’s kind of nice to always come back here and feel like when I tee it up, I feel like I’m going to have a good week.
It’s definitely at the top. I think it kind of has withheld the test of time, and, you know, scores are never really low here. So it’s really probably one of my favorites all year. -2016
Q. Does this place suit your eye from get-go?
BUBBA WATSON: Yeah, because you’ve got room off the tee. And when I say room off the tee, not that the fairways are wide. The tree lines are wider. Some of the trees are missing, so I can play out of it. Like 12 when I hit a hook 7-iron, probably not too many guys that can do that, and it worked out. 2-putted ten feet, so it was perfect. -2016
Q. How would you classify this course? We keep hearing ball-striker’s course.
BUBBA WATSON: You’ve got to remember, today is totally different than yesterday. Yesterday was rock hard, fairways were running, greens were running.
We were wondering how we were going to play No. 3. No. 3 if you don’t hit the fairway, even if a lob-wedge it was hard to stop the ball on the green yesterday. Today obviously with the rain it was easier. The golf course is accepting shots. But this golf course, the history of this golf course, this is one of those golf courses that we talk about a lot, because of the history. There’s not much change around here. The golf course has stayed the same, same kind of grass, it’s not heavy rough. It’s basically getting the right bounce. You lands it six inches short, it stays short. You land it just on the green it could bounce over.
It’s all about hitting the right trajectories, hitting the right line, and hopefully on certain pins, hitting the fairway so you can produce a little bit of spin. So your answer is: It’s just a traditional old school golf course that’s got a lot of history. -2016
Q. How hard is this golf course playing with these greens being firm?
JORDAN SPIETH: It’s challenging. It’s playing similar to a major championship, and the rough, there’s really no rough. That’s what’s great about this place is it only takes a couple days for them to make it like a major, and they don’t even have to do much to it.
The greens this afternoon, it’s a lot of traffic and it’s tough to make putts. The ball is bumping on poa annua, but there’s nothing you can do about that. They should roll a little better tomorrow morning and hopefully get out there and find the fairway, because only from the fairway can you hit it high enough with enough spin to really hold the greens. -2015
Q. The rough almost makes it harder because now you’ve got to make a decision. If it was long, you just whack it out.
JORDAN SPIETH: You’re certainly going for the green everywhere out of the rough because the ball sits up okay, but the tough part is when it went in short of the green, it sticks and if it lands on the front, it will bound it back. Really key hitting on the fairway. -2015
Q. You have a long relationship with Riviera and this event, you won the NCAAs in 2012, and got a sponsor’s invite into this event that year for your third start on the PGA TOUR. What does this tournament mean to you?
JORDAN SPIETH: It means a lot. It’s a special tournament for me. I think this is one of the greatest golf courses in the world. Fans are great here. It’s always set up nice. I like courses where you don’t have to shoot 20-under to win, and certainly if you shoot 20-under, you’ll win by plenty here. I like difficult courses you don’t have to do too much to.
They are not trying to mess with you. They are just throwing pins in some hard locations. It’s a great tournament. It’s one that I owe a lot back to. It was a great experience getting that PGA TOUR start that then helped our team win the NCAA Championship that year. We got some good insight on pin locations and how it would play. Yeah, it’s dear to my heart. -2015
Q. Talk about the greens and how difficult they are, because they are so tiny and firm right now.
JORDAN SPIETH: Yeah, they are tough. Not only do you have to be in the fairway, you have to be in the correct side of the fairway just to be able to hold them on some of these holes. The wind is playing a big part in this, too. If it’s downbreeze, it’s even harder. Very challenging, especially the front pins. -2015
GRAHAM DeLAET: I played well. I really putted well. For the first two days, really I haven’t been striking it quite as well as I expect of myself. But a hot putter will always keep you in there. I just love this golf course. It’s one of my favorites every year, and it’s exciting standing on the first tee and hitting the opening shot.
Hopefully I can keep it going for the next two days. It was a lot of fun. Justin Thomas is a hell of a player. He’s the future of golf. He’s your prototypical new young star: Bombs it and does every part of the game well. It was a pleasure playing with him today. -2015
Q. What was your home course, what was Guadalajara Country Club like, just the way it was, and did it prepare you well for Riviera?
CARLOS ORTIZ: Yeah, it’s actually a pretty similar golf course, tree lines, and there’s a lot of holes that look kind of the same, same grass, same green, so it’s similar. It’s easy for me to shape some shots off the tees, and that’s important out here. -2015
Q. We talked about how important experience is here at Riviera, when you come here year-in, year-out, what are the things that maybe you learn more and execute better?
DUSTIN JOHNSON: You just know, sometimes even with a wedge, you just can’t attack flags. That’s the hard part about being here, especially when the greens are firm. You’ve got to play away from a lot of flags and try to use the slopes to get it close. -2015
Q. I feel like Riviera, you don’t read the greens, you learn the breaks.
VIJAY SINGH: Well, we have the green book now that helps a lot. But still, local knowledge is very important, from previous times you can see a break going one way and the green back says another way and you have to trust your instincts and hit it. It’s fun to play. It’s in great shape, the greens are beautiful. You’re going to see some low scores. -2015
Q. Even on the good iron shots, we’ve been hearing it’s hard to get it close.
JUSTIN THOMAS: It is. It’s just a tough golf course. I’ve only played one major but from my experience and from what I’ve heard from others, this is very U.S. Open-like, I would say. It’s very firm, and being in the fairway is such a huge premium, and all the spin you can get on it is really important.
There are good pins and the greens are small and severe, so you need to be precise with what you’re doing with your ball. -2015
Q. What do you like about this golf course?
SANGMOON BAE: Everything, the green, green speed, the rough. I like this grass, the kikuyu. Pretty much the same as Korea or Japan. -2015
Q. We hear players talk about how special this course. Is what is it about this place that makes it special in your eyes?
BUBBA WATSON: Right off the bat for me personally, I say that they don’t tweak it. It’s been the same. They added a tee box on 2 but I don’t know if we have even used yet. I have not seen too many changes that I was worried about. They are letting the golf course just defend itself.
And then when you look at the history, the great names, like Bubba Watson on the trophy, things like that (laughter), you look at the great names on there, it’s an honor to be a part of.
Every tournament has history, but I see it personally for me as they don’t tweak it. They just leave it the way it is. I’m surprised they haven’t tried to move the clubhouse yet, make No. 1 a lot farther like a lot of golf courses think they need to do is add length.
They leave it here, and they let the grass and the winds and the humps and bumps of the greens define their golf course instead of trying to make it extra long. -2015
Q. Is it your game that really fits in with this course, or is it your mentality and your patience and attitude?
BLAYNE BARBER: Maybe a little bit of both, but if I’m being honest, I was really frustrated and impatient the first three days. It got the best of me for sure. It’s just a tough golf course. It’s a course that par matters. And the last few weeks we’ve been playing birdie-fests, just trying to keep making birdies and move up; it gets draining if you’re not making birdies.
So to play a week where par is a good score and you throw in a birdie, you’re going to move up a few spots on the leaderboard, that’s fun for me. I like playing courses like that. -2015
Q. What’s it mean to win here at Riviera?
JAMES HAHN: Amazing. Definitely one of my favorite stops. Similar to Bay Hill. This is a tournament that I cherish the most. -2015
All quotes from ASAPsports.com unless otherwise noted.