Fred Couples can tell you some Riviera Country Club history

Mickelson risked serious injury Saturday when he fell on his backside on the seaside rocks in search of his tee shot on the par-five finishing hole. Mickelson took a triple-bogey eight only to follow with a double bogey the next day, on the same hole.

"I got lucky," he said Wednesday of his fall. "I could have certainly fallen poorly or fallen the wrong way. But I ended up OK."

Which Phil will Riviera see this week?

He is a two-time winner, in 2008 and 2009, after ditching Riviera for many years because he didn't think he could win here.

This is Mickelson's fifth straight week in the starting gate, but only he could consider this a home game since he'll be commuting by plane from his home in Rancho Santa Fe.

"It takes me about an hour, 15, 20 minutes door to door," pilot Phil said.

That's faster than it takes some days to get from Riviera to the 405 Freeway.

Also in this week's "clusters to watch" should be the grouping of Luke Donald, Graeme McDowell and Adam Scott. All are making their 2013 tour debuts this week.

Donald, who has fallen from first to third in the World Golf Rankings, isn't worried about coming late to a season in which Woods and Mickelson have already hoisted trophies.

"It's a marathon," Donald said. "Not a sprint."

Others capable of winning include Bubba Watson, Ernie Els and Dustin Johnson. Sergio Garcia is also opening his PGA season.

Watson, the reigning Masters champion, is rebounding from early-season flu that forced him to withdraw from the Farmers Insurance Open.

These guys know the course's hook nooks and nuances, but not like Couples, who could play Riviera in socks with his eyes closed.

He has watched the classic, drivable, 315-yard, par-four 10th hole change before those eyes. Equipment and other factors — deer antler spray? — have made the green easier to reach, but that's offset by a sloping surface that has been shaved closer than a sailor's face.

Couples used to play a two- or three-iron and tell his caddie, " 'Put the three [birdie] on the scorecard.…' Now, I would take a four and run to the next hole."

Couples says it is imperative to take advantage of the majestic, but short (503 yards), par-five opening hole. It's a bogey hole only if you are distracted by the view.

"You kick yourself if you don't birdie No.1," Couples said.

Hogan called the 236-yard fourth hole the best par-three in America. The par-three sixth is distinguishable for its bunker in the middle of the green. The par-four eighth has not one, but two, fairways.

Couples' man crush with Riviera sets in on the last three holes, although he adds, "Even 15 is an incredible hole."

The par-three 16th requires landing a mid-iron 166 yards onto a tea-saucer green. That's followed by the longest acreage, a 590-yard par-five, and concludes with the iconic, uphill, dogleg-right finishing hole.

"It's kind of a shot-maker's course," Couples said. "You don't want to miss any of these greens."

Or, at Riviera, any of the cuts.

chris.dufresne@latimes.com

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