PACIFIC PALISADES, Calif.—Even though he’s not yet 23, Spieth has played Riviera “close to 30 times” and could easily mail in his preparation for this week’s Northern Trust Open.
Considering the similarities Riviera shares with last week’s tour stop in terms of the greens—small by modern standards and grassed with Poa Annua—Spieth would seem ready to go for his 12:12 pm PT tee time Thursday with Justin Thomas and Fred Couples.
“You can go back in your memory, and I can picture all the holes,” he said in a pre-tournament news conference. “I know where the pins are, I know where the breaks are on those greens. But you've still got to get on to the practice greens and then dial in the feel, dial in the speed.”
But here’s where Spieth reveals why he’s different.
“This poa annua putts differently than it did last week at the courses that we played there in Pebble Beach, and so you've got to really -- you've got to be careful here," he said. "It can get away from you very quickly. And it's hard to get below the hole. That's the thing out here. So you start to go to the driving range and I'll start to try and work on some shots where you kind of float ones in, work on a lot of shots that you can loft up in the air more than maybe you would do last week.”
While most players are just trying to lock in their swings or are getting used to the stickier kikuyu grass, Spieth has actually mapped out a key to approaching Riviera’s difficult greens. He’s adjusting the way he approaches iron shots to keep himself below the hole as much as possible.
For someone coming off a T-4 last year at Riviera when he scraped it around and still only missed the playoff by one stroke, it’s one more reminder why he’s the World No. 1.