Tournament: Northern Trust Open, February 18-21.
Course: Riviera Country Club, 7,322 yards, par 71. One of the great old ladies of the Tour, a classic course that hosted Hollywood's elite going back as far as the 1930's. They've lengthened it over the years, but the 10th and 18th are some of the best holes on Tour and they haven't changed much over time.
Defending Champion: James Hahn. Don't worry if you've never heard of him. The unlikeliest of winners, he outlasted very hot Dustin Johnson and Paul Casey with some incredible clutch play down the stretch and in the playoff to take home the winner's check.
Television: Thursday-Friday, 5-8 p.m. ET (Golf Channel). Saturday, 1-2:30 p.m. (GC), 3-6 p.m. (CBS). Sunday, 1-2:30 p.m. (GC), 3-6:30 p.m. (CBS).
Fun Fact: This is the only tournament that Tiger Woods has played at least 5 times, yet never won. He hasn't played since 2006, but still... that's a heck of an accomplishment.
Former 'Dawgs in the Field (Seven): Erik Compton, Harris English, Brian Harman, Chris Kirk, Brendon Todd, Hudson Swafford, Bubba Watson. Kisner and Henley have the week off.
The Tour continues the West Coast Swing for one more week before heading to Florida (Vineyarddawg hates Florida). In Los Angeles this time, the old LA Open has corporate sponsorship from a financial firm; imagine that! But there are rumours this will become the Hyundai in the coming years, and thus someone else will take over the early January Tournament of Champions. Fascinating jostling of corporate advertising dollars if you're into that sort of thing.
With a classic course, and after the menagerie of quirky early season tournaments, you would expect a good field. You would be correct. World #1 Jordan Spieth is here as is #2 Rory McIlroy. 5 of the top 10, and 15 of the top 30 are entered this week, so expect good golf on a solid track. It always seems to deliver. There's also the unique Collegiate Showcase, in which a current collegian is paired with an alumni from their school and play Monday for a chance to gain entry into the main tournament Thurs-Sunday. Why do I mention this? Because current UGA senior Lee McCoy played in this showcase for the 2nd consecutive year. He shot +1 72 to tie for fourth, similar results to his third place finish last year. Maybe he slipped a spot because he dropped 2015 partner Harris English for 2016 partner Hudson Swafford. Or not.
Turning our attention to those who play for real money, here is a list of those you want to root for this week:
Erik Compton (#256 OWGR). A better man than a golfer, he seems to be working more for the Donate Life organ/transplant charity than his game lately. I don't blame him - he's had two heart transplants. He withdrew from Phoenix two weeks ago but I can't find any reason why. He has a charity tournament in his hometown of Miami the beginning of March, but hopefully makes a cut this weekend to defray some expenses.
Harris English (#78). He's made his last four cuts going back to November, and his most recent finish was a tie for 3rd (he actually shared the lead late on the back nine before faltering). He's 40th in driving distance, but 136th in driving accuracy. This might be the problem. Harris - this is the problem.
Brian Harman (#103). Brian has made four straight cuts in 2016, and two top 15s. That's over $500k in earnings. The somewhat diminutive native of Savannah is sneaky long, but is middle of the pack in most every statistical category. Still, he's hanging around and making a living.
Chris Kirk (#50). Laid back, with his mind on his money, he's often mentioned on the perimeter of great young US players. Though he's only broken 70 twice in 2016, he's been steady and this course calls for patience. I think he makes top 25 this week in a tough, crowded field.
Hudson Swafford (#224). I jinxed Hudson in Phoenix where he missed the cut (my bad). His golf game is unquestionably more consistent than last season, so I think he can continue his strong play and continue to get back inside the top 200 in the world.
Brendon Todd (#93). I don't want to say Todd is in a freefall, but T26, cut, cut, cut, T83, cut, cut, T56, cut doesn't exactly make a case for trusting your swing. He's won three times professionally, once on the PGA Tour, and has almost $7 million in career earnings. Time to right the ship bruh.
Bubba Watson (#6). He had his worst result of the year last week, reluctantly partnering with Mark Wahlberg at the AT&T. Then again, he's Bubba. You never know what you're going to get, though I expect we'll see some strong scores on this course where working the ball is a must. Bubba actually won this tournament in 2014... on his way to winning the Masters two months later.
That's your summary for this week, and I'll try to post results in the comments as the weekend progresses. If you like pro golf, you'll like this week. And with seven Bulldogs in the field, you have a rooting interest and plenty of chances to say...