No Tiger Woods. No red-hot Brandt Snedeker. Does that make Phil Mickelson the favorite at this weekend's Northern Trust Open at the Riviera Country Club? Join us for a live discussion at noon today when Times sports columnist Bill Dwyre and golf writer Chris Dufresne talk about the PGA Tour in a chat moderated by Times sports editor Mike James. You will be able to submit questions to Dwyre and Dufresne during the show.
Last year's winner, Bill Haas, is also in the field. Haas won the event in a playoff over Mickelson and Keegan Bradley, disappointing a crowd that had turned out to support Mickelson. As Times staff writer Diane Pucin wrote last year,
"Dead, solid silence.
"That was about what Bill Haas heard when he made a 45-foot birdie putt on the second playoff hole Sunday to win the Northern Trust Open at Riviera Country Club with a dramatic flourish.
"It's not that Haas is an unpopular golfer.
"It's just that his beautiful birdie denied Phil Mickelson a second consecutive tournament victory.
"Haas beat both Mickelson and Keegan Bradley in the playoff, and the crowd reacted as a group of 5-year-olds might when told that Santa Claus didn't exist.
"I like it when the crowd cheers," said Haas, who won $1,188,000 with the victory. "Honestly, 'Phil' sounds really similar to 'Bill,' so you just kind of pretend that maybe they're for you."
"Haas, 29, had finished regulation at seven under par after his round of two-under 69 Sunday and went to the driving range. He had a one-shot lead when Mickelson, Bradley and Bryce Molder, playing in the final group, headed to the 18th, where only six golfers had recorded birdies in the tournament.
"That number became eight when first Mickelson, from about 26 feet, and then Bradley, from about 13 feet, made a three on the 475-yard, par-four finishing hole, causing an uproar.
"Mickelson shot 71 Sunday, shouted, pounded his putter into the ground and bumped fists with Bradley, telling the 25-year-old, "Join me."
"It felt great," Mickelson said. "I let out some emotion because it had been going on for so long."
"Indeed, on the par-five 17th hole, Mickelson's 21-foot birdie attempt rolled to within an inch of the cup, close enough to make Mickelson stop and stare for a moment, hoping the ball might drop in.
"It sure was right in the middle," Mickelson said. "It just needed a little bit more roll."