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Michael Arkush

Tiger Woods makes big mistake by skipping out on Riviera

Devil Ball Golf

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Of all the historic layouts the premier players in the world navigate each season, Riviera Country Club, just outside Los Angeles, easily belongs in the top echelon.

Ben Hogan won there. So did Byron Nelson and Sam Snead and Tom Watson and Johnny Miller. The list of greats goes on and on. Everybody, it seems, has won there except Tiger Woods, and now it's fair to ask: Will he ever?

He certainly won't if he doesn't play, and that became official on Friday when Woods, competing this week in Dubai, failed to enter the Northern Trust Open for the fifth year in a row.

Woods is making a mistake. Riviera is one of the PGA Tour's signature events - at least, it used to be. Besides, he grew up in Southern California, and it was Riviera back in 1992 which gave Woods, then 16, a sponsor's exemption to tee it up with the pros for the first time. So how does he show his gratitude? By not playing, that's how. He had an excuse two years ago with his knee, and last year with his personal problems. He doesn't have an excuse this time.

The tournament will do fine without him. Phil Mickelson will compete and so will Ernie Els and Fred Couples, and a lot of the best pros. Plus the course itself will offer the typical challenges which make for compelling drama.

Still, there will again be a void without him. And, one wonders, when or if he will ever tee it up at Riviera again.

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