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Northern Trust Open Notes: Come early, stay late

Fred Couples is teeing off in first round at 7:22, Bubba Watson at 12:02

Thursday's opening-round groupings for the Northern Trust Open provide something for early risers and late sleepers.

You can sleep in and still get bang for your buck, off the first tee, around noon.

A quality double-punch starts with the scheduled 12:02 tee time for Bubba Watson, Bill Haas, and Dustin Johnson. That group is followed at 12:12 by Brandt Snedeker, Ernie Els and Jim Furyk.

Fans of two-time winner Fred Couples need to set the alarm, as he tees off from No.10 at 7:22 a.m. along with Jordan Spieth and Sergio Garcia.

The early-late order will reverse for Friday's second round.

More on Fred

This year marks the 25th anniversary of Couples' first of two L.A. Open victories at Riviera Country Club. He also won in 1992. Couples is playing on a sponsor's exemption that will allow him to extend his record streak of starts to 33. Gene Littler is second with 30. Couples has 12 top-10 finishes at Riviera, with runner-up finishes in 1993, '94 and '96.

Davis' Cup

There have been mixed reviews to reports that Davis Love III will be named the U.S. Ryder captain for 2016.

Several outlets have reported the PGA of America will make an official announcement next week.

Love captained the 2012 team that lost a 10-6 final day lead against the Europeans at Medinah Country Club.

Love would be the second straight repeat captain, following Tom Watson, whose Ryder Cup team lost last September.

One player in Love's corner is Bubba Watson

"I think it's great," Watson said Wednesday. "You know he's a great champion. The Ryder Cup captaincy should be about his honor and the honor of his career and what he means to the game of golf…Davis Love, obviously, he shows that tremendously."

Times have changed

The purse for this week's Northern Trust Open is $6.7 million, with the winner receiving $1.2 million.

In 1962, Jack Nicklaus made his professional debut at the L.A. Open, which was held at Rancho Park. Nicklaus finished tied for 50th and earned a check for $33.33.

He would earn larger paychecks in his career, finishing with 18 major championships.

Exemptions to the rule

PGA Tour rookie Carlos Sainz Jr. was awarded an exemption this week as part of a Northern Trust program to advance diversity in golf. Sainz is half Filipino and half Bolivian. He attended Mississippi State, where he was a runner-up to Florida's Billy Horschel at the 2009 SEC championship.

Sainz said he had not played Riviera prior to this week.

"I'm a big fan of Ben Hogan," Sainz said of the famed golfer who, decades ago, won three tournaments in a span of 18 months at Riviera. "Getting into this tournament means a lot, and it's just another step in the right direction for me."

You think golf isn't a grind?

Last year, on the Web.com Tour, Sainz said he played 14 straight weeks on the road.

"It's a humbling experience," he said.

Also playing this week on exemptions are three-time major champion Padraig Harrington, UC Berkeley grad Max Homa and former Alabama star Justin Thomas.

One of the more interesting exemptions was extended to Austria's Bernd Wiesberger, who has not played much in the U.S. but has won twice on the European Tour. He is ranked No. 38 in the latest Official World Golf Ranking.

Etc.

Former event champions in the field include Robert Allenby (2001), Ernie Els (1999), Rory Sabbatini (2006), Charles Howell III (2007), Aaron Baddeley (2011), John Merrick (2013) and Mike Weir (2003-04).

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