On a leaderboard well-represented by the Pac-10 conference (Scott McCarron, UCLA; Pat Perez, Arizona State; Rory Sabbatini, Arizona; Phil Mickelson, Arizona State) course knowledge is proving to be a strong asset at Riviera. Mickelson and Sabbatini are past champions here. McCarron has played the course more times than he can count. Perez has been coming here for years.
I am particularly intrigued by McCarron, once one of the longest hitters on Tour and now a veteran getting by on his smarts and his short game. (That long putter, though, makes me nervous). The 43-year-old McCarron has a two-shot lead over Tommy Armour III and Steve Stricker, and McCarron's gallery Saturday will be stocked with fellow Beta Theta Pi brothers from nearby UCLA. Armour, too, is a must-watch. He's still getting it done at age 49. (Look up 'debonair' in the dictionary and I bet you'll find a picture of Armour).
Mickelson backed up on Friday, turning a one-shot lead into a three-shot deficit. Mickelson still may win this tournament, but I'll be watching to see if he can put together back-to-back great rounds Saturday and Sunday. He'll need them. Lots of players love this golf course as much as he does.