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Murray's Alley

July 23, 1998|JIM MURRAY

Jim Murray, The Times' Pulitzer-Prize winning columnist, has spent more time in the barrancas and under the eucalyptus trees at Riviera than just about anyone in this wek's U.S. Senior Open. He knows the course like and old friend, or perhaps a lifelong rival. Here are some of his thoughts, reprised from a 1995 column, on each of the 18 holes.

No. 1

Par 5

503 yards

OK, so it's an easy par five! But there's a barranca out there 300 yards that has golf balls in it than an alligator pond. Hit it in there and it's an easy bogey.

No. 2

Par 4

445 yards

The members play this as a par five, which it really is. The pros play it as a four. This is where Tom Weiskopf suddenly discovered he had flu one day. His clue wasn't sniffles or stuffy nose or sneezes. It was the fact his ball was in a sand trap and he already lay five. That'll give you flu every time. I've had more ' x 's' on this hole than a love letter.

No. 3

Par 4

434 yards

This looks like a rest stop. Where you catch your breath. You might catch that yawning trap in the front instead. This is a par four you can reach with an eight-iron. But the hole doesn't like being taken for granted. It's like the homely sister in the family. Resents being condescended to.

No. 4

Par 3

230 yards

They think this is a par three. It's 236 yards into the wind guarded by what appears to be parts of the Sahara. Hit it up to the right and it'll roll down he hole. Maybe.

No. 5

Par 4

419 yards

Take your four and get out of town. The green is a 35-foot drop below the main fairway, which means you can drop down a club in approach. It also means you can drop a shot. The winner this week will never bogey this hole.

No. 6

Par 3

166 yards

This is the famous par three with the sand trap in the middle. But that's for show. Members can only use putters here, but you pros can chip if you get on the wrong side and the trap is between you and the pin. Kind of defeats the purpose of the trap, I'd say, but asks me?

No. 7

Par 4

408 yards

OK, lick your chops. This is where you've got to make your money. You've been defending yourself against the course up to now, but this looks pregnable--a 408-yard par four. Gimme the one-iron. Don't take liberties with the hole, though. There's out-of-bounds on the right and, if memory serves, Crenshaw hit three out there one year.

No. 8

Par 4

368 yards

Only 368 yards, par four. Has three written all over it, right? Don't get careless or it'll have three-putt written all over it.

No. 9

Par 4

420 yards

Take your time to enjoy the vista of this hole with the clubhouse sitting up at end of the skyline like a medieval fortress. It's one of the great panoramas of golf. It says on the card 420 yards. Don't believe it. It's uphill all the way to a green you could skate on. The fairway bunkers don't come into play anymore. They're obsolete. But hey, with the new dimpled balls, the graphite shafts and metal woods and clubheads designed by the people who brought you the atomic bomb, the whole game is going to be obsolete. If this hole doesn't put a few of you on the plane home by Friday, I weep for golf.

No. 10

Par 4

310 yards

It's not the toughest hole on the golf course, but it's the sneakiest. This is a shameless little harlot that just sits there at the end of the bar in her mesh stockings and miniskirt and winks at you. It's only a little over 300 yards long and looks as driveable as 405 Freeway. Don't go for it. Take your four-iron and hit it safely--and sensibly--left. The peninsula green will open up from there. If you try to drive it, you will find that green narrow as a burlesque runway and guarded by traps front and back. I saw Lew Worsham, who defending champion at the time, take a 10 there in the U.S. Open. Went from trap to trap. Tell your caddie not to hand you your driver even if you threaten to kill him if he doesn't.

No. 11

Par 5

564 yards

You can let out the shaft on this 564-yard par five. A barranca that is 15 feet deep and 20-25 yards wide bisects the fairway and torments the weekend players, but you guys won't know it's there. The good news is, when you get to the green, you won't have more than a 20-foot putt. That's because the green is about the size of a crap table.

No. 12

PAr 4

421 yards

You may want to go home and play with the dog. This hole is a certified terrorist. If it were human, it'd be hijacking airplanes. Not a friendly hole. If they named holes at Riv like they do at Augusta, this one would be 'Malice.' It bites. A junkyard dog. Over 400 yards and not a good lie on it. Try not to cry.

No. 13

Par 4

421 yards

I think this is where the number 13 got its reputation for bad luck. At least, it does nothing to dispel the notion. If you hook it out of bounds left, you're in good company. Tom Watson sent a couple of L.A. Opens spinning out there in his time. Like all of Riviera, if you're straight, you're safe. If you're crooked, you're hooked.

No. 14

Par 3

176 yards

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