By Mark Lamport-Stokes
PACIFIC PALISADES, California (Reuters) - Jordan Spieth has already won seven times on the PGA Tour, including two major titles, but he says a victory at Riviera Country Club this week would have special significance.
Not only is the iconic par-71 layout, host venue for the PGA Tour's Northern Trust Open, one of his favorite courses but its allure very nearly tempted him to study at nearby University of Southern California instead of in his native Texas.
As it turned out, Spieth ended up attending the University of Texas before turning professional in 2012 at the age of 19, but Riviera has always been a 'must-visit' destination where he has already competed in three Northern Trust Opens.
"I've probably played this course close to 30 times now, which is a lot compared to other tournaments," world number one Spieth, 22, told reporters at a sun-baked Riviera on Tuesday.
"It's one of my favorites in the entire world. I love being here. It's one of the very few (courses) with the history that it has ... not only just the champions but all those who have walked these fairways.
"For me to win on a golf course that I consider one of the top few in the world, I mean, that's always a goal. It would be pretty amazing."
Riviera Country Club, with its long established links to the movie stars of Hollywood, is consistently ranked by the players as one of the top courses on the PGA Tour where long, medium and short hitters can all thrive.
It hosted the U.S. Open in 1948 and the PGA Championship in 1983 and 1995 and will forever be nicknamed "Hogan's Alley" in honor of the two Los Angeles Opens and 1948 U.S. Open won here by golfing great Ben Hogan who, like Spieth, was a Texan.
"It just requires all parts of the game and a variety of ball-striking," said Masters and U.S. Open champion Spieth.
"And then once you're there (on the greens), you've got to have great speed control. It's an all-around fantastic golf course that you don't get away with poor shots at all."
Though Spieth ended up playing college golf for the Longhorns at the University of Texas, he explained his reasons for exploring options in California.
"I liked California and I liked being out here," he said.
"A huge thing for me about USC was I heard they had four playing memberships at Riviera. When I came on my visit, I was offered one of the memberships at Riviera for the time you're at USC, and that's a pretty awesome perk."
Spieth, who tied for fourth in last year's Northern Trust Open, has been grouped with fellow Americans Justin Thomas and Fred Couples for Thursday's opening round at Riviera.
(Editing by Larry Fine)