NORTHERN TRUST OPEN NOTES

Bill Haas trying for two in a row at Riviera

Only seven players have won the tournament in back-to-back years. Success on No. 10 might be crucial to his defense.

Third-round leader Bill Haas is trying to become only the eighth player to win what is now called Northern Trust Open in consecutive years.

The first player to do it was Macdonald Smith in 1928-29.

The last to do it was Phil Mickelson in 2008-09.

The others are Ben Hogan (1947-48), Paul Harney (1964-65), Arnold Palmer (1966-67), Corey Pavin (1994-95) and Mike Weir (2003-04).

Haas is also trying to become the first player to successfully defend a title on the PGA Tour since Steve Stricker won the John Deere Classic in 2009, 2010 and 2011.

Short game

This must be why golf is so tough.

Riviera's short, 315-yard par-four 10th hole is a fan favorite because it is so deceivingly difficult.

Easy birdie? No way. The 10th hole played to slightly over par Saturday with its scoring average of 4.058.

The tricky part is there is no one way to play it.

Haas made birdie on the hole last year to win a playoff against Mickelson and Keegan Bradley.

Saturday, Haas chipped in for an eagle.

What's his strategy?

"It changes daily," Haas said. "Today was a three-wood. Yesterday was a driver. I mean, wind changes, temperature, the softness of the greens, where the pin is. It changes by the minute, not necessarily by the day."

When will Haas decide how to play No. 10 in the final round?

"Hopefully when I get to that tee box tomorrow, I'll make a game plan," he said.

Riviera gives and takes

Fred Couples was right when he said "you kick yourself" if you don't make birdie on the par-five first. It played as the easiest hole Saturday with 4.3 scoring average.

The toughest hole was the 479-yard, par-four 12th, which played to 4.290. The second-toughest hole was the par-three fourth, at 236 yards (3.279).

No blemishes

Only six players have played bogey-free rounds through the first three days.

Haas did it twice with his Friday 67 and Saturday's 64. Haas was the only bogey-free player Saturday.

Matt Kuchar (64) and Jesper Parnevik (70) had no blemishes Thursday. Ernie Els (68), Trevor Immelman (69) and Bradley (70) were bogey-free in the second round.

First time magic?

Charl Schwartzel, the 2011 Masters champion, is only three shots off the lead while playing in his first Northern Trust Open.

The only players to win the event on their first try were Harry Cooper in 1926 (first year of the event), Densmore Shute (1930), Tommy Bolt (1952), Pat Fitzsimons (1975) and Adam Scott (2005). Scott's 36-hole, rain-shortened win was deemed unofficial, but he got to keep the prize money.

chris.dufresne@latimes.com

 

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