Bill Haas is just 18 holes away from successfully defending his title at the Northern Trust Open at Riviera Country Club.
Haas has posted a 12-under-par score of 201 through the first 54 holes of the tournament and currently holds a three-stroke lead over Webb Simpson, Charl Schwartzel and John Merrick.
Luke Donald and Fredrik Jacobson are four strokes back at eight-under par for the tournament.
Haas catapulted himself into the lead on Saturday by playing holes nine through 11 in four-under par, which included a chip-in eagle at the par-four 10th.
“Just kind of was plugging along out there and then all of a sudden, made a nice putt at 9, chip‑in at 10, good up‑and‑down at 11 and then made a couple nice par saves,” Haas said his round.
Haas has played bogey-free golf over the past 36 holes, and his third-round score of 64 was a full four strokes better than any other player in the field.
Riviera Country Club has historically been the type of golf course that a select few players manage to fall in love with, while others can never seem to unlock the secrets of its small undulating greens and sticky kikuyu grass.
Ben Hogan, of course, fell in love with Riviera back in 1947 when he captured three titles (including the 1948 U.S. Open) at the storied venue in a span of just 18 months.
Arnold Palmer won the Northern Trust Open three times in a five-year span between 1963 and 1967, including back-to-back wins in 1966.
Paul Harney captured back-to-back wins in 1965 and 1966, which briefly disrupted Palmer’s domination of the course through the early-to-mid 60s.
Fred Couples won at Riviera in 1990 and 1992 and tied for third just three years ago at the age of 50.
Corey Pavin won back-to-back Northern Trust Open titles in 1994 and 1995 and continues to attend the event despite now being a full-time member of the Champions Tour.
Mike Weir won back-to-back titles in 2003 and 2004.
And most recently, Phil Mickelson captured back-to-back Northern Trust Open titles at Riviera in 2008 and 2009, posting a combined score of 27-under par over those eight rounds.
Riviera is, in a way, similar to Augusta National. The courses don’t look the same, the turf is different, the layout is different and the natural landscapes are vastly different. But they both seem to be venues where once players understand how to successfully navigate their way around them, they have made a friend for life.
Once a player initially cracks the top 10 at Augusta National, it’s not at all uncommon to see that same player’s name on the Masters leaderboard for years to come, no matter how poorly he happens to be playing coming into that April tradition unlike any other.
Riviera is quite similar. The same players seem to rise to the top of the Northern Trust Open leaderboard year in and year out, no matter what the states of their games are heading into the event—or in the case of players such as Couples and Sam Snead, no matter how “over the hill” they appear to be.
“I like everything about it,” Haas said of Riviera Country Club. “The golf course, the grass, just how it’s old school style golf course. Walking in the locker room, seeing the pictures of all those champions on the wall, it’s just got a great feel of it about it.”
Haas appears to have fallen in love with Riviera Country Club, and history has shown that when Riviera makes its way into a player’s heart, it typically stays there for many years to come.
Don’t be surprised if Haas runs away with the Northern Trust Open title this afternoon, and also don’t be surprised if Haas’ name becomes a fixture on the Northern Trust Open leaderboard for the remainder of his career.