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On the Tee: Northern Trust Open

by | CBSSports.com Senior Golf Columnist
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Last year at Riviera, Aaron Baddeley won a trophy and got to meet Jerry West. (Getty Images)  
Last year at Riviera, Aaron Baddeley won a trophy and got to meet Jerry West. (Getty Images)  

Everything you need to know about the Northern Trust Open:

Nuts and bolts

Hole-by-hole | Past champions | Expert Picks | TV: 3-6 ET Sat., 3-6 ET Sun. (CBS)

Defending the throne

The 2010 Northern Trust event turned into something akin to generational warfare for Aaron Baddeley, all of 29 years old at the time.

Chased and prodded all day by more accomplished elders Fred Couples and Vijay Singh, both former world No. 1s, Baddeley rode his trademark putting stroke to his first win in four years with a 2-under 69.

For Baddeley, he needed the victory far more than did Singh and Couples, two guys with serious résumés. Once considered a rising star after winning the Aussie Open as a teenage amateur, Baddeley had skidded to No. 224 in the world while changing swing coaches and had not won since the 2007 Phoenix Open.

Baddeley, reunited with former coach Dale Lynch, used the victory as a springboard and has since climbed to No. 44 in the world entering this week's event.

"To be honest, it felt like coming home," Baddeley said last year of his return to Lynch, his coach as a teen. "Dale and I have spent a lot of hours together, and at times it's been frustrating, but like I said, that end product, we knew what we were working toward, and that was the key."

Venue and you

Here's the best way to play private Riviera Country Club: Marry a famous celebrity who is already a member, stand on Sunset Boulevard with a sign that says, "Will mow your lawn for a free round," or just flat bribe a member. I lived in Los Angeles for 12 years and played it exactly once.

Track and field

The Northern Trust event has generally amassed one of the best fields of the year globally, and this year, it's the same story, even without Steve Stricker in the mix. The field includes eight players from the world's top 15, and 27 of the top 50. Last year, those numbers were eight and 30, however. So in all, a slight downturn in firepower. Riviera was ranked as the third-best course on the PGA Tour in a magazine poll of players.

Three whacks from short range

 Riviera is carved inside a canyon surrounded by million-dollar homes erected on steep slopes. The 18th green is a veritable ski slope, too. When the greens are dry and fast, it can be a frightful place to maneuver, as rookie Brendan Steele learned last year, when he six-putted the green.

 Top amateur standouts Patrick Cantlay (UCLA) and Jordan Spieth (Texas) both received sponsor exemptions and the background chatter is that Cantlay is thinking about punching out of college soon. Put it this way -- several management agencies are sure to be bending his ear this week, which represents a veritable home game for the Southern California product.

 Former Riviera winner Adam Scott, ranked No. 8 in the world, makes his first start of the year this week, while world No. 1 Luke Donald, No. 8 Jason Day and No. 17 Sergio Garcia make their U.S. debuts. No question, with Accenture Match Play set for next week and the star-filled Florida Swing to follow, it's officially golf season.

Odds and evens

Odds on winning, via Golfodds.com and the Las Vegas Hotel and Casino: Phil Mickelson 12/1, Luke Donald 15/1, Dustin Johnson 20/1, Adam Scott 25/1, Sergio Garcia 25/1, Jason Day 25/1, Hunter Mahan 25/1, Matt Kuchar 25/1, Nick Watney 30/1, Aaron Baddeley 30/1, K.J. Choi 30/1, Kevin Na 30/1, Kyle Stanley 30/1, Rickie Fowler 40/1, Bubba Watson 40/1, Brandt Snedeker 40/1, Bill Haas 40/1, Keegan Bradley 40/1, Charles Howell 40/1, Padraig Harrington 40/1, John Rollins 40/1.

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