(AP) — The chatter and speculation hasn't stopped since the players
arrived at Torrey Pines earlier in the week for the Farmers Insurance
Open. The focus of such a busy week is sure to shift to another topic on
Yes, there's a golf tournament to be played.
Woods is back on the course that has brought him seven titles as a pro,
hoping to get a good idea where his game is headed this year. It's the
first time he has played Torrey Pines when his game and his health were
in reasonably good shape since that Monday playoff win at the 2008 U.S.
Brandt Snedeker returns as the defending champion. So does
Kyle Stanley, who served up the win to Snedeker last year when he made
triple bogey on the final hole to lose his three-shot lead, and then
lost in a playoff.
Phil Mickelson is celebrating the 20-year
anniversary of the first of his three PGA Tour wins at Torrey Pines, his
home course on tour. He tees off Thursday on the North Course, which he
has been hired to redesign.
It was easy to overlook all this for
the three days leading up to the opening round. Credit that to Mickelson
suggesting he might have to leave California because of the hit he's
taking in federal and state tax increases on close to $50 million he
brought in last year. Or players leaving a mandatory meeting just as
quietly as they entered to learn about the proposed rule that affects
Or even PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem suggesting
that bifurcation — two sets of rules — might work in some areas of
golf, even though he doesn't think that would apply to anchored putting.
On that issue, he said the tour prefers to follow whatever rules the
USGA and Royal & Ancient Golf Club make.
Now for the golf.
Farmers Insurance Open is the first PGA Tour event of the year on
network television, the week the NFL takes off to get ready for the
Super Bowl, and it offers magnificent views of the Pacific Ocean below
the bluffs. And it usually serves up an interesting finish, though last
year will be tough to top.
Stanley overpowered the South Course to
build a three-shot lead, and then made the smart play by laying up
short of the water on the par-5 closing hole. And that's where it all
went wrong. His wedge spun off the green and into the water. He went
well behind the flag on his next shot, lagged his putt down to just
outside 3 feet and then missed that for an 8 to get into a playoff. Two
holes later, Snedeker was posing with the trophy and Stanley was in
"It's still pretty crazy when you look at the number of
events that had to happen for me to get into a playoff, and then to get
in the playoffs and win," Snedeker said. "I obviously didn't want Kyle
to have to go through that, but I had a great benefit from it, and I
appreciate the fact that he did do that for me. And I hope I never
return the favor, but you never know in this game. You might."
feels a connection to Torrey Pines. As a rookie, it looked as though he
might shoot a 59 on the North Course. He was 10 under through 10 holes
until he had to settle for a 61 that tied the course record. That was in
2007, and by the end of the week, Woods wound up the winner again. It
was his seventh straight PGA Tour win, a streak that ended at his next
With so much buzz over tax rates and belly putters,
Woods has been able to get around in relative peace. He at least arrived
with a little more sleep, considering he missed the cut in Abu Dhabi
last week and left two days earlier than he planned.
He has lived in Florida from the moment he turned pro, though Torrey Pines can feel like home.
feel comfortable here, there is no doubt," Woods said. "There are few
courses that are like that where I've had my share of success, either
I've won or been in contention to win. This, Firestone, Augusta. I just
feel comfortable on those venues, and I feel like my record over those
three courses has been pretty good."
Woods and Mickelson, always
the top attraction at Torrey Pines, will be on different sides of the
golf course the opening two rounds. Woods will be playing with Rickie
Fowler and Nick Watney, who have their own connections to this public
course along the Pacific.
Fowler grew up not too far away and made his U.S. Open debut at age 19 at Torrey Pines, where he made the cut and tied for 60th.
one of my favorite courses," Fowler said. "It's got the length. I like
the small greens. I grew up on poa annua greens, and some guys don't
like poa annua. I do. Obviously, there's some decent views. But it's
just a great piece of property, being close to home. It's a special
place for me."
Woods won four straight years at Torrey Pines
through 2008, a streak that ended when he didn't play while recovering
from knee surgery. Watney won that year.
Fowler hasn't played with
Woods since the Memorial last year, when they were paired in the final
round. Woods got him by 17 shots that day — he closed with a 67 to win,
while Fowler staggered home to an 84.
"I was just on the sidelines
watching," Fowler said with a smile. "I enjoy playing with Tiger. There
is some extra energy out there. There are a lot of fans involved, and a
lot of people moving around. So between Nick and I, we'll make for
about 5 percent of the crowd out there. Tiger will take up the rest."