Spieth, McIlroy head quality field at changeless Riviera

Wed Feb 17, 2016 7:35pm EST
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By Mark Lamport-Stokes

PACIFIC PALISADES, California (Reuters) - World number one Jordan Spieth and third-ranked Rory McIlroy head a top-class field for this week's Northern Trust Open at a venue widely regarded by players as one of the best on the PGA Tour.

American Spieth has long rated the par-71 layout at iconic Riviera Country Club as one of his favorites while Northern Ireland's McIlroy is playing the event for the first time this year, largely because of what he has been told about the course.

Even though the notorious Los Angeles traffic makes getting to this PGA Tour venue worse than any other, that has not kept quality fields from flowing into Riviera every year, and this week's edition has attracted five players in the world's top 10.

Apart from Spieth and McIlroy, sixth-ranked Bubba Watson, his fellow American Dustin Johnson (eighth) and England's Justin Rose (seventh) will also be teeing off in Thursday's opening round on a classic layout that barely changes from year to year.

"I'm excited to be here," four-times major champion McIlroy told reporters on Wednesday after playing in the pro-am competition. "It's real strategic.

"You've got to place your ball on the right sides of the fairways. You have to make sure you hit it to the right side of the greens. You really can't short-side yourself here, you can't really get it above the pin.

"It's a real thinker's golf course and it's a real treat to play something like this because we don't get to play them that often anymore."

Masters and U.S. Open champion Spieth, playing this week in his fourth Northern Trust Open, has made no secret of how highly he would value a first victory at Riviera.   Continued...

Feb 14, 2016; Pebble Beach, CA, USA; PGA golfer Jordan Spieth reacts to making a birdie putt on the 17th hole during the final round of the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am at Pebble Beach Golf Links. Mandatory Credit: Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports