U.S. Open

Pinehurst Resort & Country Club (Course No. 2)

The Loop

The star of this show was the stage, Riviera Country Club

February 22, 2015

There would be no Oscar for choreography for the Northern Trust Open, which produced far more missteps than dance steps on Sunday afternoon. The star of this show was the stage.

The Riviera Country Club, 12 miles west on Sunset Blvd. from the Dolby Theater at which the Oscars would be held later in the day, sparkled in the gloom of a wet Sunday afternoon, its difficulty worthy of its pedigree.


James Hahn on the first tee at the Riviera Country Club (Getty Images)

"A shrine of the sport. A citadel of the game," the late great Los Angeles Times columnist and Riviera member Jim Murray called it. Until the USGA went to Torrey Pines in 2008, Riviera was the only Southern California course ever to host a U.S. Open, back in 1948, when Ben Hogan won for the third time in 18 months on what came to be known as Hogan's Alley.

Riviera was U.S. Open tough this week, playing hard and fast generally. The winning score was six-under par 278, the highest winning score since Craig Stadler produced the same number in his 1996 victory there.

The winner was James Hahn, an underdog in a playoff that included Dustin Johnson and Paul Casey. Hahn, 33 and ranked 297th in the world, won for the first time with birdies on the second and third playoff holes.

It's all about the story in Hollywood and the better story would have been a Johnson victory, coming as it would have only three weeks after he ended the sixth-month leave he took to address personal issues.

But Johnson squandered his best opportunity earlier. Several others did, too. Sergio Garcia had a gloved hand on the trophy before he finished with consecutive bogeys that threw the advantage to Johnson, who bogeyed a chance to win in regulation by making an unlikely six on the par-5 17th hole.

Hahn's bogey at 16 prevented him from winning in regulation. Jordan Spieth could have joined the playoff with a par at 18, but made bogey. And Casey bogeyed 18 when a par ultimately would have made him a winner in regulation.

This is not how back nines on Sunday ordinarily are played on the PGA Tour, but there is nothing ordinary about Riviera, a course universally revered. "There's 18 great finishing holes out there," Tom Weiskopf once told Murray.

"You can't fake it around this place," Canadian Graham DeLaet said. "It's a good, solid traditional golf course. It's pure golf. But the 10th hole that everybody talks about, it's a 300‑yard hole that's like a chess game. Just to make a four there, you'd take it every single day. But the finishing hole is great and everything in between. There's just no let‑up on the golf course and you have to hit quality shots all the way around."

Riviera at its best plays defense, making the quality shots more difficult. It played its role to perfection all week, an Oscar-worthy performance by a citadel of the game.