Familar Faces Atop Nissan Leaderboard

By Associated PressFebruary 20, 2004, 5:00 pm
PACIFIC PALISADES, Calif. -- Mike Weir's victory last year at Riviera was no fluke.
 
Neither was John Daly's victory last week.
 
Weir, who had never made the cut in the Nissan Open until he won in a playoff last year, birdied five of his last seven holes Friday for a 7-under 64 that gave him a share of the lead with Shigeki Maruyama.
 
They were at 12-under 130, which tied the 36-hole record at Riviera first set in 1992 by Davis Love III.
 
Scott McCarron (65) and Briny Baird (62) were another shot back.
 
Daly also tied a record -- most trips to the media center in one week.
 
Daly played even better than he did last week at Torrey Pines, where he won his first PGA Tour event in nine years. Keeping a large crowd in suspense with every shot and every putt, he had a chance to tie Weir for the lead until making a bogey on his final hole for a 64 that left him two shots behind.
 
It continued an amazing resurgence for Daly, the two-time major winner who has a history of winning big tournaments and then only making news off the golf course.
 
The cheers that followed him resounded across Riviera as Daly kept stuffing iron shots close to the pins.
 
'I was even impressed with myself on some of those irons,' Daly said. 'This was one of the best ball-striking rounds I've had in a long time.'
 
Weir now has played his last five rounds in the 60s at Riviera.
 
'I seem to have figured this course out,' Weir said.
 
Tiger Woods got his act together, too, driving the ball better than he has in a while. Woods started the second round below the cut line, but removed any drama about making his 117th consecutive cut with two birdies on his final three holes for a 5-under 66.
 
Still, Woods was just as far behind the lead as when he started.
 
'I might even lose ground,' Woods said when he finished. 'Just seeing 20-odd guys at 4 under or better for the day ... I didn't think the golf course was playing that easy, but evidently it is.'
 
While some of the names atop the leaderboard are familiar, the scoring wasn't.
 
Riviera is one of the toughest tracks on tour because of its small greens with deceptive breaks. Weir and Charles Howell III finished at 9-under 275 last year, and the tournament's 72-hole scoring record hasn't been touched in 18 years, a rarity in this era.
 
But greens have been soft since rain earlier in the week, and overcast skies Friday even made the toughest pins accessible from the fairway.
 
Baird had a 62, one stroke away from tying the course record and matching his best score on the PGA Tour.
 
McCarron had a 65, putting him in a great shape after two days to atone for two years ago. He was poised to win, leading by three shots with seven holes to play, when he missed 6-foot putts on the final three holes and lost by one shot to Len Mattiace.
 
It was shaping up to be a fascinating weekend.
 
Weir has a chance to become the first repeat winner at Riviera since Ben Hogan won three times in 1947-48, one of those coming in the U.S. Open.
 
The Canadian is a huge Hogan fan, having read his books and studied his swing.
 
Everyone, it seems is a Daly fan.
 
Despite the endless list of troubles Daly has faced -- most of it his own doing -- everyone can relate to a guy who is not afraid to talk about his problems or his fears.
 
He had a couple of more revelations Friday.
 
He has lost 47 pounds since the start of the year. 'I just went nuts at Christmas, ate everything in sight,' he said.
 
He still hates flying commercial. 'You pay for gas and hope you get there,' he said.
 
He drives his customized motor home around the country, with three 42-inch plasma TVs.
 
Golfweek magazine reported that Daly is paying $20,000 a month to two ex-wives for alimony and child support.
 
Daly was a laugh-a-minute during his 20-minute interview, the third time in the last four tournament days that he has sat down with the media.
 
He wasn't at all surprised by all the constant attention on his life.
 
'Golf can get a little boring,' he said. 'I'm a perfect target. I just want to do good. It's life. You learn. It's just taking me longer than most people.'
 
He's doing just fine right now.
 
Divots: Vijay Singh had a 1-under 70 and appeared safe to make the cut on the number. Singh missed the cut last week at Torrey Pines, ending his streak of 12 consecutive top 10s on the PGA Tour. He left without comment. ... David Toms, playing for the first time since wrist surgery, had another 71 and was at even-par 142. ... Woods hit his drive in the right rough on No. 11, and as he walked down the fairway, fans applauded him for a great shot. They were looking at a ball that was about 350 yards in the middle of the fairway -- struck from the adjacent practice range. 'That's not my ball,' Woods finally told them.
 
Related Links:
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    Day WDs from Farmers pro-am because of sore back

    By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 24, 2018, 12:07 am

    SAN DIEGO – Jason Day has withdrawn from the Wednesday pro-am at the Farmers Insurance Open, citing a sore back.

    Day, the 2015 champion, played a practice round with Tiger Woods and Bryson DeChambeau on Tuesday at Torrey Pines, and he is still expected to play in the tournament.

    Day was replaced in the pro-am by Whee Kim. 

    Making his first start since the Australian Open in November, Day is scheduled to tee off at 1:30 p.m. ET Thursday alongside Jon Rahm and Brandt Snedeker.

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    Farmers inks 7-year extension through 2026

    By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 24, 2018, 12:04 am

    SAN DIEGO – Farmers Insurance has signed a seven-year extension to serve as the title sponsor for the PGA Tour event at Torrey Pines, it was announced Tuesday. The deal will run through 2026.

    “Farmers Insurance has been incredibly supportive of the tournament and the Century Club’s charitable initiatives since first committing to become the title sponsor in 2010,” PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan said.


    Farmers Insurance Open: Articles, photos and videos


    “We are extremely grateful for the strong support of Farmers and its active role as title sponsor, and we are excited by the commitment Farmers has made to continue sponsorship of the Farmers Insurance Open for an additional seven years.

    In partnership with Farmers, the Century Club – the tournament’s host organization – has contributed more than $20 million to deserving organizations benefiting at-risk youth since 2010. 

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    Woods impresses DeChambeau, Day on Tuesday

    By Ryan LavnerJanuary 23, 2018, 11:27 pm

    SAN DIEGO – Bryson DeChambeau played with Tiger Woods for the first time Tuesday morning, and the biggest surprise was that he wasn’t overcome by nerves.

    “That’s what I was concerned about,” DeChambeau said. “Am I just gonna be slapping it around off the tee? But I was able to play pretty well.”

    So was Woods.

    DeChambeau said that Woods looked “fantastic” as he prepares to make his first PGA Tour start in a year.

    “His game looks solid. His body doesn’t hurt. He’s just like, yeah, I’m playing golf again,” DeChambeau said. “And he’s having fun, too, which is a good thing.”

    Woods arrived at Torrey Pines before 7 a.m. local time Tuesday, when the temperature hadn’t yet crept above 50 degrees. He warmed up and played the back nine of Torrey Pines’ South Course with DeChambeau and Jason Day.

    “He looks impressive; it was good to see,” Day told PGATour.com afterward. “You take (Farmers) last year and the Dubai tournament out, and he hasn’t really played in two years. I think the biggest thing is to not get too far ahead, or think he’s going to come back and win straight away.


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    “The other time he came back, I don’t think he was ready and he probably came back too soon. This time he definitely looks ready. I think his swing is really nice, he’s hitting the driver a long way and he looks like he’s got some speed, which is great.”

    Woods said that his caddie, Joe LaCava, spent four days with him in South Florida last week and that he’s ready to go.

    “Before the Hero I was basically given the OK probably about three or four weeks prior to the tournament, and I thought I did pretty good in that prep time,” Woods told ESPN.com, referring to his tie for ninth in the 18-man event.

    “Now I’ve had a little more time to get ready for this event. I’ve played a lot more golf, and overall I feel like I’ve made some nice changes. I feel good.”

    Woods is first off Torrey Pines’ North Course in Wednesday’s pro-am, scheduled for 6:40 a.m. local time. 

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    With blinders on, Rahm within reach of No. 1 at Torrey

    By Rex HoggardJanuary 23, 2018, 10:10 pm

    SAN DIEGO – The drive over to Torrey Pines from Palm Springs, Calif., takes about two and a half hours, which was plenty of time for Jon Rahm’s new and ever-evolving reality to sink in.

    The Spaniard arrived in Southern California for a week full of firsts. The Farmers Insurance Open will mark the first time he’s defended a title on the PGA Tour following his dramatic breakthrough victory last year, and it will also be his first tournament as the game’s second-best player, at least according to the Official World Golf Ranking.

    Rahm’s victory last week at the CareerBuilder Challenge, his second on Tour and fourth worldwide tilt over the last 12 months, propelled the 23-year-old to No. 2 in the world, just behind Dustin Johnson. His overtime triumph also moved him to within four rounds of unseating DJ atop the global pecking order.

    It’s impressive for a player who at this point last year was embarking on his first full season as a professional, but then Rahm has a fool-proof plan to keep from getting mired in the accolades of his accomplishments.

    “It's kind of hard to process it, to be honest, because I live my day-to-day life with my girlfriend and my team around me and they don't change their behavior based on what I do, right?” he said on Tuesday at Torrey Pines. “They'll never change what they think of me. So I really don't know the magnitude of what I do until I go outside of my comfort zone.”

    Head down and happy has worked perfectly for Rahm, who has finished outside the top 10 in just three of his last 10 starts and began 2018 with a runner-up showing at the Sentry Tournament of Champions and last week’s victory.

    According to the world ranking math, Rahm is 1.35 average ranking points behind Johnson and can overtake DJ atop the pack with a victory this week at the Farmers Insurance Open; but to hear his take on his ascension one would imagine a much wider margin.

    “I've said many times, beating Dustin Johnson is a really, really hard task,” Rahm said. “We all know what happened last time he was close to a lead in a tournament on the PGA Tour.”


    Farmers Insurance Open: Articles, photos and videos


    Rahm certainly remembers. It was just three weeks ago in Maui when he birdied three of his first six holes, played the weekend at Kapalua in 11 under and still finished eight strokes behind Johnson.

    And last year at the WGC-Mexico Championship when Rahm closed his week with rounds of 67-68 only to finish two strokes off Johnson’s winning pace, or a few weeks later at the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play when he took Johnson the distance in the championship match only to drop a 1-up decision to the game’s undisputed heavyweight.

    As far as Rahm has come in an incredibly short time - at this point last year he ranked 137th in the world - it is interesting that it’s been Johnson who has had an answer at every turn.

    He knows there’s still so much room for improvement, both physically and mentally, and no one would ever say Rahm is wanting for confidence, but after so many high-profile run-ins with Johnson, his cautious optimism is perfectly understandable.

    “I'll try to focus more on what's going on this week rather than what comes with it if I win,” he reasoned when asked about the prospect of unseating Johnson, who isn’t playing this week. “I'll try my best, that's for sure. Hopefully it happens, but we all know how hard it is to win on Tour.”

    If Rahm’s take seems a tad cliché given the circumstances, consider that his aversion to looking beyond the blinders is baked into the competitive cake. For all of his physical advantages, of which there are many, it’s his keen ability to produce something special on command that may be even more impressive.

    Last year at Torrey Pines was a quintessential example of this, when he began the final round three strokes off the lead only to close his day with a back-nine 30 that included a pair of eagles.

    “I have the confidence that I can win here, whereas last year I knew I could but I still had to do it,” he said. “I hope I don't have to shoot 30 on the back nine to win again.”

    Some will point to Rahm’s 60-footer for eagle at the 72nd hole last year as a turning point in his young career, it was even named the best putt on Tour by one publication despite the fact he won by three strokes. But Rahm will tell you that walk-off wasn’t even the best shot he hit during the final round.

    Instead, he explained that the best shot of the week, the best shot of the year, came on the 13th hole when he launched a 4-iron from a bunker to 18 feet for eagle, a putt that he also made.

    “If I don't put that ball on the green, which is actually a lot harder than making that putt, the back nine charge would have never happened and this year might have never happened, so that shot is the one that made everything possible,” he explained.

    Rahm’s ability to embrace and execute during those moments is what makes him special and why he’s suddenly found himself as the most likely contender to Johnson’s throne even if he chooses not to spend much time thinking about it.