x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 23 January 2018

Golfers enjoy high society on the Riviera

In the shadow of Hollywood, the golfers bring their own glamour for the start of the PGA Tour.

Luke Donald will make his first start of the year on the PGA Tour in Los Angeles. Jeff Topping / The National
Luke Donald will make his first start of the year on the PGA Tour in Los Angeles. Jeff Topping / The National

Eleven of the world's top 20 players will tee off today at the Riviera Country Club in Los Angeles, a classic course with long established links to the film stars of Hollywood.

Riviera is consistently ranked by the players as one of the top courses on the US circuit, a place where long, medium and short hitters can all thrive.

Luke Donald, the world No 1, who is making his first start of the year on the PGA Tour, heads the field this week. Others in the top 10 include the Australians Jason Day (seventh) and Adam Scott (eighth) and the big-hitting American Dustin Johnson (10th).

"It's always a great event to come to," said Ernie Els, a three-time major winner. "It's a wonderful golf course and they've got it in great shape now.

"I've played Riviera a lot over the years and it's one of those classic old golf courses that I could never tire of playing. Riviera is a real ball-striker's golf course."

Els, the champion at Riviera in 1999, said he enjoyed the 7,349-yard tree-lined layout the very first time he played the course.

"I love the bunkering, it's phenomenal," he said.

"I love the angles they have with their greens, the way the course flows. You've got to draw a lot of shots, fade a lot of shots."

Riviera, which hosted the US Open in 1948 and the US PGA Championship in 1983 and 1995, is located just off Sunset Boulevard and has a long association with nearby Hollywood. From the 1930s to the 1950s, the course hosted the Los Angeles Open which in those days was considered one of the PGA Tour's premier events. Actors such as Douglas Fairbanks, Clark Gable, Mary Pickford, Spencer Tracy and Katherine Hepburn flocked to the club to watch the professionals compete.

Phil Mickelson, the champion in 2008 and 2009, has always relished the challenge of the Riviera layout that winds its way through the Santa Monica Canyon. "The golf course is one of the best we have on tour," said Mickelson, who clinched his 40th PGA Tour title at the Pebble Beach National Pro-Am on Sunday. "It is such a visually stimulating course and a very challenging shot-making course."

Spain's Sergio Garcia, who is also making his first appearance of the year on the PGA Tour, has not always been able to compete at Riviera because of scheduling difficulties.

"Fortunately I'm starting [on the Tour] a little bit earlier than last year, which is a good thing," said Garcia, who has often played instead on the European Tour's season-opening events in the Middle East.

"I love this course. It's one of my favourites on Tour and I've always enjoyed Riviera. It's a bit of a shame that I wasn't able to come and play more often."