CBS Sports golf analyst Gary McCord discusses the field for this weekend’s Northern Trust Open. Bubba Watson won last year’s tournament and is looking to repeat. Dustin Johnson has momentum going into the tournament after a T4 finish at Pebble Beach. And several star European Tour players join the field to play the par 71, 7,300-yard-plus course at the Riviera Country Club.
Defending champion Bubba Watson comes into the event red-hot after a T2 in the Phoenix Open, a 10th-place finish at the Hyundai Tournament of Champions, a T11 in the World Challenge and a victory at the WGC-HSBC Championship. What have been the keys to his success?
He’s obviously powerful. Bubba plays courses he likes, and when he’s playing well, he attacks them. He’s got as good an arsenal as anybody out there, and if the putter gets hot and his ball gets in the fairway, then he’s going to be tough to beat.
Dustin Johnson went T4 at Pebble Beach in only his second start after a six-month layoff. It appears that he hasn’t missed a beat? What’s your take on the status of his game?
I know that Dustin has been playing a bunch of golf. He’s jumped back in where he was before the six-month layoff when he was going well. He had a good stretch going and hasn’t stopped. While he might be a bit tour rusty, he’s already shown that he’ll figure it out real quick. He’s another quality player with a good golf swing that knows what he’s doing. So there’s no surprise at all.
Sergio Garcia, Luke Donald and Charl Schwartzel are among a group of the PGA Tour’s international players making their first starts of the season in the U.S. Why did they choose Riviera?
They’re out here because it fits their schedules. These guys like the course. It lends itself to good ball strikers, and these three guys are good ball strikers.
What characterizes Riviera the most?
Since Riviera is a ball striker’s golf course, you’ve got to be precise off the tee and hit your irons well. It’s a course of preciseness. Get the ball in the fairway between the eucalyptus trees, then you can go ahead and attack it. The problems happen when you’re in the rough. The kikuyu grass is one of the most difficult to chip or pitch from.
Which of the emerging next generation of superstars do you expect to contend this week? Jordan Spieth, Justin Thomas, Hideki Matsuyama.
Matsuyama has played well so far this season, and Jordan Spieth is going to contend anywhere. It’s too early to tell with Justin Thomas. I expect that both Spieth and Matsuyama are going to be close to the top on Sunday.