Nissan Open: Riviera not so rough

first_imgPACIFIC PALISADES – Phil Mickelson and Padraig Harrington are bucking the very essence of Riviera Country Club. The storied course typically overwhelms those who have rarely walked its hallowed ground. Golfers who don’t know every inch of the 7,279-yard course pay the price with each errant shot. Riviera usually succumbs to someone like Corey Pavin, who’s played here 23 times. Mickelson and Harrington are dominating Riviera even though tradition indicates that they shouldn’t. Mickelson hasn’t played the Nissan Open in five years, and Harrington has never played it, yet the two are co-leaders at 11-under par after two rounds. Mickelson eagled the 17th hole on his way to a 6-under 65 and Harrington shot a 3-under 68 Friday to remain in first on a perfectly sunny afternoon, in front of a gallery of 35,992. Charles Howell III is within striking distance, three shots back at 7-under after shooting a second-round 65. Harrington, Mickelson and Howell will make up today’s final group. Tee times and pairings weren’t available because there was one player, George McNeill, who couldn’t putt on the ninth hole due to darkness. The jet-setting Mickelson, who’s flying to and from his home in San Diego, might not have recent course knowledge, but he consulted someone who does. Riviera member Amy Alcott, who lives off the sixth hole, gave him a refresher on the course. “Subtleties in the greens is one of the things we were talking about,” Mickelson said. “That was the biggest thing, how the greens break, the little nuances that you notice after years and years. (She said) ‘Gosh, every time somebody plays here for the first time, they always miss this putt a foot over here,’ stuff like that.” Mickelson sank a 14-foot, 10-inch putt for eagle to atone for making bogey after missing an 8-foot putt on the 16th. “I really like the way I’m putting the ball in play,” Mickelson said. “It feels very easy.” It’s just not supposed to be that way. Harrington very much understands that. After his opening round 63 Thursday, he said that someday the course would catch up to him. That wasn’t the case Friday, although he did make some novice mistakes. The ninth hole, which he parred, was an example. “I had two practice rounds, but you can’t cover all of the detail on it,” Harrington said. “I had a putt there on my last hole from the back edge of the green. I was guessing how much it was downwind, how fast this putt was. There was some shadows. It was really difficult to see it. And just not having any experience of hitting that putt. “At the end of the day, I did two-putt it, but it was definitely a lot there, an educated guess to help with putting.” Maybe Harrington had a miscue here or there, but he’s still playing great, considering his lack of familiarity with the course. Mickelson was surprised to see that his first-round 66 was bettered by three strokes. But he wasn’t surprised that Harrington was atop the leaderboard, despite his inexperience at Riviera. “Padraig is one of the best players in the world,” Mickelson said. “He is one of the steadiest players, he keeps the ball in play and he’s great with the putter. This is a perfect course for him. When you drive it well like he does, you can be aggressive with the irons, and that’s exactly what he’s doing. He’s just a great iron player. He is an all-around solid, solid player.” Retief Goosen, who’s playing in his first PGA Tour event of the year, aced the par-3 16th hole with a 7-iron. Sergio Garcia is in good position for the weekend, four shots behind the leaders. He’s tied for fourth with Pat Perez, David Howell and Robert Allenby. But the two men of the hour are those whose course knowledge might not be up to par. That might change over the weekend, but for now, it’s not making a difference. “There will be pin positions that other guys will have played in the past, and be well aware of, and not short-sided themselves, whereas maybe my ignorance, at times, I will be able to go at those pins,” Harrington said. jill.painter@dailynews.com (818) 713-3615 160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set!last_img