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20-second Timeout

February 21, 2009|Ellen Alperstein

Question: Many PGA Tour events move among different golf courses; why is this one settled in so firmly at the Riviera Country Club?

Answer: .A few years ago a charitable foundation donated land for a course and a to-die-for clubhouse in Palm Desert to the Bob Hope Chrysler Classic for permanent use as host venue. Currently not among the pros' popular tournaments, the Hope, after a gale-force misadventure in 2007, returned the course to the foundation, but most of the top players were already gone with the wind -- in 2008 only three of the top 30 in the world entered.

In Pacific Palisades, you don't see wind turbines, you see ocean and winsome fairways . Unlike the shiny-new desert Classic Club, Riviera is as traditional as plus-fours, as legacy-rich as a Ben Hogan one-iron shot and demanding of skill and consistency. The players love it. As a PGA Tour stop, says Tom Pulchinski, tournament director of the Northern Trust Open, it's a "no-brainer."

Over its 83-year history, 10 other courses have been host to what people still call the L.A. Open, and other sponsors (Nissan) have claimed naming rights. But there's no identity crisis here: Riviera was host first in 1929 and has retained that role every year but two since 1973. The tournament boasts majorlike field strength; this year, 29 of the world's top 50 players entered. Big names draw big TV numbers, ergo more revenue.

For courses like the L.A. Country Club, Wilshire and Bel-Air, revenue is irrelevant, but inconvenience and intrusion aren't. As private equity clubs, their member-owners eschew the expensive, disruptive preparation PGA Tour events require, not to mention the hordes of non-members such events attract. Riviera is a private, non-equity club whose owner welcomes the tournament because it builds brand. If members grumble when their course is out of commission for tournament week, hey, a tee time awaits in Palm Desert.

-- Ellen Alperstein

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