Prestige and the Los Angeles Open

February 13, 2008

PACIFIC PALISADES, Calif. -- The quality of the course and its role in history ought to have been sufficient to envelope the PGA Tour stop at the Riviera CC in prestige, but that hasn't always been the case with this event known over time as the Los Angeles Open, the Glen Campbell Los Angeles Open, the Los Angeles Open (again), the Los Angeles Open Presented by Nissan, the Nissan Los Angeles Open, the Nissan Open and now the Northern Trust Open.

Northern Trust, at least, has the right idea; it has attempted to upgrade the tournament, mostly in ways that would get the players' attention: by raising the purse by $1 million (to $6.2 million),  by reducing the number of amateurs in a pairing to three, and by giving everyone in the field a courtesy car.

"The pro-am today was great," Justin Rose said. "The first group, I think they played in just over four hours, which is kind of unheard of in a pro-am."

The course, one on which Ben Hogan won the Los Angeles Open and the U.S. Open in 1947 and the L.A. Open again in '48 (hence Riviera's nickname, "Hogan's Alley"), is an attraction, but only since the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship was scheduled for the following week at a Western location has the field helped return some of the prestige to the event.

Seventeen of the top 20 players in the World Ranking are entered (only Tiger Woods, Ernie Els and Henrik Stenson are missing) in this, a tournament that began in 1926 and has been won by Hogan, Byron Nelson, Sam Snead, Arnold Palmer, Tom Watson, Johnny Miller, Nick Faldo and Els.

Palmer's name, incidentally, turned up on a chart last week referencing some of the highest scores made on individual holes. It showed Palmer making a 12 on one hole in the Northern Trust Open in 1961. Palmer no doubt remembers the 12 (made at Rancho Park GC in Los Angles), but surely he can't remember making it in the Northern Trust Open.

-- John Strege