We went to Los Angeles’s Riveria Golf Club this past Sunday for the closing round of the Nissan Open. While I have been to more impressive golf events with respect to sponsor tents, great buffets and free beer et al, I love this event solely due to the fact that it is held in a narrow canyon nestled in one of LA’s most modernly developed and respectable communities – Pacific Palisades. Seriously the golf course lies below ridges of multi-million dollar homes in a beautiful sliver of the community. Throw in the fact that this was/is the golf course of choice of Bing Crosby, Bob Hope and er, OJ Simpson and you have some hallowed and interesting ground to walk upon.
I mean, it is really a cool deal – a distinguished golf tournament, that has gone on a long time, held smack dab in the middle of swanky LA. This is quite the logistical deal.
In Houston we went to the Shell Open at the Woodlands all of the time. It is located about 35 miles north of town in the wide open spaces – there is lot of land, go out there and park and have a good time.
LA is one of the most urban-ly dense, but green places (outside of the Wilshire Corridor) that you want to see. And to hold a fairly hallowed golf event in (for Houstonians I will say River Oaks) or any other tony place is unbelievable. And that’s why I get a great kick out of it.
You can’t really drive to it. You have to drive to the sprawling Veteran Administration’s complex at the intersection of the vaunted 405 and Wilshire Boulevard to park and take buses through Brentwood into the Palisades such that you get dropped right off into a residential neighborhood that frankly looks fairly surburbian. As soon as you get out of the bus there are little kids all set up along the one Leave It to Beaver-like block selling you lemonade and muffins an whatever. After you get through that gauntlet you go thorough a series of tents and find yourself in the ravine that is the golf course – and then you are in heaven. You are in a canyo surrounded by homes on top of hills - fairly SoCal - but unbelievably beautiful anyway.
For $25 bucks this is one of the best values in LA entertainment than anyone can imagine. At this particular event everyone’s anti-Tiger Woods hero Phil Mickleson has been leading and/or tied for the lead since the start. And while I know he has that following (and I will have to admit myself included) I was amazed at how overall pervasive it was. The entire golf course rooted for this guy. We see it, hear it on TV – but we don’t really know. But it is REAL. They are all rooting him on.
Now I have Deoborah in tow and, while not an ardent sports fan, she inexplicallby loves golf tournaments. But in any instance I'm basically dragging her around the golf course. We watch everyone tee off for about an hour and make a beeline for the for the fourth hole - the hole that Ben Hogan said was his favorite par three of all time and one that was lionized in the LA Times this week.
That was a great hole - we set up right in front of the green and next to a bunker and I told Deoborah we would see some action there. Next we see nice guy Jim Furyk coming out of the bunker. As the gallery now starts to follow everybody it won't be that easy to see the action.
And now it starts to get flinty. A certain group of people start to be annoying. They jump in front of you on several holes. For the record I will not go there. I'm basically standing on a slope of 45 degrees trying to see stuff as everyone crowds around. I see Phil three-put.
From there -it is mostly dashing around from hole to hole. Ernie Ells is the only othe golfer who has a major following. But the deal was that the tournament was Phil's to lose - and he had the entiere gallery behind him.
And of course he blew it on the final hole, went into a playoff and lost. I was left with the feeling of how a guy could have all of this emotional goodwill and just waste it.
But then that’s golf. We had a good time anyway.