PACIFIC PALISADES, Calif. – On Valentine’s Day, the field at Riviera Country Club swooned over the gorgeous weather and the firm, fast conditions. Sang-Moon Bae took advantage of the smooth poa annua greens in the morning to grab a one-stroke lead over Aaron Baddeley and Robert Garrigus at the halfway point of the Northern Trust Open.
Play was suspended at 5:50 p.m. Friday. The second round will resume at 7 a.m. Saturday with six players needing to complete their rounds. Here are 5 Things you need to know:
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1. DEJA VU ALL OVER AGAIN FOR BAE: Sang-Moon Bae had one of those days when he putted lights-out, carding a bogey-free 66 for a 36-hole total of 9-under 133. Bae opened with 68-65 last year to share the 36-hole head before ballooning to a 76 in the third round.
When asked what he learned from that experience, he said patience.
Bae won 11 times in Asia and topped the Japan Golf Tour money list in 2011. The 27-year-old South Korean won the 2013 HP Byron Nelson Championship, but hasn’t recorded a top-10 finish since that victory, a streak of 19 events.
He rode a hot putter to the top of the leaderboard Friday. Bae has used the same Odyssey Prototype No. 1 putter for the past six years. For Thursday’s first round, he switched to a different Odyssey model. Despite taking just 26 putts, he went back to old faithful for the second round and needed only 24 putts (3.621 strokes gained putting).
Bae backed off his tee shot at 16 when a cellphone rang, but he remained dialed in, knocking an iron to 20 feet and pumping his fist after canning the birdie putt. He drained a 7-footer at 17 for his fifth and final birdie.
“He’s played solid as a rock,” said Charlie Epps, the coach of Angel Cabrera, who was paired with Bae.
When I asked Bae’s player manager, Thomas Lee, what Golfweek readers should know about Bae that they don’t already know, he answered that Bae has a good sense of humor with a special talent of mimicking the swings of other players. Wonder if he can give Peter Jacobsen a run for his money?
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2. BELJAN CREDITS NEW CADDIE: Charlie Beljan had finished his media interviews after shooting a second-round 68 and stood waiting for his caddie, Ricky Romano, to wrap up his own.
“I didn’t know you were going to get all the press,” Beljan said.
A week ago, Romano was caddieing at The Silverleaf Club in Scottsdale, Ariz. Then he got a call from Beljan offering him a job.
“I thought he was calling me to hang out,” said Romano, who competed against Beljan when the two played college golf.
Instead, Romano was inside the ropes for a practice round with Ernie Els on Tuesday. After two rounds, his boss is 7 under and just two strokes off the lead.
“It’s really surreal,” Romano said.
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3. BADDELEY PLAYING BETTER: It’s been three years since Aaron Baddeley has won a PGA Tour event. That victory was here, at the 2011 Northern Trust Open.
“It feels like it hasn’t been that long,” said Baddeley, 32, a three-time Tour winner from Australia. “But it’s good to be back out here where you have a chance to win, and especially around here. I love it around here.”
Baddeley birdied the last four holes to shoot a 6-under 65 for a 36-hole total of 134. As usual, much of the credit for his success goes to his putting, but he’s also feeling more comfortable with the swing changes he has been making with instructors Grant Waite and Chris Como.
Baddeley began working with them in October to get his weight a little more forward at impact, he said. Baddeley’s silky-smooth putting stroke rescued him a few times early Friday, and he took just 23 putts, leading the field in strokes gained-putting for the round (6.221).
A day earlier, his putting defied explanation. Baddeley, who leads the Tour in three-putt avoidance, four-putted the fifth green.
“I wasn’t mad,” he said. “I just walked to the next tee and three-putted the next; so I improved.”
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4. ALLRED IS ALL RIGHT: The low round of the tournament belongs to Monday qualifier Jason Allred, who carded a sizzling 7-under 64, two strokes better than his 66 on Monday to earn one of four spots into the tournament.
Allred toured the front side in 30 and birdied four of the first five holes on the back side – the last a holed bunker shot – to go 9 under through 14 holes.
“That’s stronger than train smoke,” tweeted Tour pro Joe Ogilvie.
Thoughts of the course record or even a 59 started to dance through Allred’s head, he later confirmed. But back-to-back bogeys on 15 and 16 dashed those dreams.
Allred, one of three Pepperdine University alums in the field this week, was only 24 years old and two years out of Pepperdine when he got his PGA Tour card for the first time, for the 2005 season. He regained a card for 2008, but lost it again and hadn’t made a Tour start since the 2010 U.S. Open. He isn’t taking this opportunity for granted.
“I would actually take a second to look around, like this is so cool, I’m at Riviera, playing a great round and just having a blast with it,” he said.
Allred’s wife is expecting the couple’s third child in two weeks. As much as he’s enjoying his week at Riviera, he said, “If I get that call (that my wife has gone into labor), I’ll be out here of here in a minute.”
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5. GARRIGUS LOVES RIVIERA: Robert Garrigus missed the cut twice, withdrew and finished T-51 in his four previous appearances at the Northern Trust Open.
He wasn’t even going to play at Riviera, a course with which he’s never been fond, until adding the tournament at the last minute with hopes of sneaking into next week’s match play. (Note to Robert: you’re too late but don’t let that stop you from winning this week.) On Valentine’s Day, it was as if he had been struck with another love arrow.
“As soon as I stepped on the first hole this week, I’m like, ‘I absolutely love this place,’ ” Garrigus said. “And I’m starting to really like it.”
And for good reason: he shot a second straight 67 and is one off the lead. Not bad for a guy who hasn’t had a top-10 finish since last year’s WGC-Accenture Match Play.
“It’s really bugged me, you know, because I feel like I belong in the top 50 in the world,” said Garrigus, who is No. 98 in the Official World Golf Ranking.
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SHORT SHOTS: Matt Kuchar (74-75-149), is going to see his cuts-made streak end at 30. Adam Scott now has the longest active streak, at 28. . . . When play was suspended, 78 golfers were 1 over or better. Other 36-hole cut casualties are likely going to be Fred Couples and Rickie Fowler at 2 over and Padraig Harrington and former champion Mike Weir. . . . First-round leader Dustin Johnson shot 70 and dropped to T-5. . . . Red-hot Jimmy Walker, who already has won three times in eight starts in the 2013-14 season, cooled off a bit with an up-and-down round of 71 and is T-14. . . . So is Jordan Spieth, who rallied with a 66 on Friday. . . . Robert Garrigus on Los Angeles traffic: “It’s the only city I’ve ever seen somebody sell flowers and newspapers on the freeway.”