Woods Tries to End Dry Spell at Riviera

By Associated PressFebruary 19, 2004, 5:00 pm
LOS ANGELES -- Tiger Woods won the Masters by a record 12 shots in his first Grand Slam event as a pro, so he never had the burden of being the best player to never win a major.
 
The best to never win at Riviera?
 
Jack Nicklaus never won here either, although he only played it eight times.
 
The Nissan Open is the first PGA Tour event Woods attended, and he made his PGA Tour debut as a 16-year-old in 1992, missing the cut by six shots.
 
While he calls it his favorite stop among regular tournaments, the record doesn't bear that out.

It's the only place Woods has played at least five times without winning.
 
That's not to suggest the No. 1 player in golf is feeling pressure.
 
'Not at all,' he said Wednesday. 'I enter an event, I try to win.'
 
Woods has come close a couple of times.
 
He tied for second, two shots behind Ernie Els in 1999.
 
The year before, Woods had his only playoff loss on the PGA Tour when Billy Mayfair beat him on the first extra hole. But that doesn't really count, because the Nissan Open was played at Valencia Country Club that year.
 
Woods gets another crack this week at Riviera against a field that includes defending champion Mike Weir, Vijay Singh and John Daly, fresh off his first PGA Tour victory in nine years.
 
'It's one of the best-designed golf courses that we play all year,' Woods said. 'It's hard, but it's fair. It's right there in front of you, no hidden surprises.'
 
It should come as no surprise that Riviera was wet and sloppy Wednesday. It's a tournament that has had its share of rain over the last five years.
 
The forecast is for scattered showers the rest of the week, meaning the course will play long and soft. That could make a big difference on the 475-yard 18th hole, which has been lengthened by 24 yards, and the tee lowered 4 1/2 feet to make it play even more up the hill.
 
A year ago, Charles Howell III reached the 18th green with a sand wedge.
 
Now, Woods wonders whether some will be able to get to the fairway at the top of the hill.
 
Hal Sutton won the 1983 PGA Championship at Riviera by one shot over Nicklaus. Asked what he thought of the changes, Sutton replied, 'I miss Riviera.'
 
Woods grew up about 40 miles away in Cypress, although he didn't exactly hop over to Riviera on the weekends. The club is private and exclusive, and Woods can recall playing there only about a dozen times as a teenager.
 
He said he was 11 or 12 when he played there the first time, but doesn't remember his score.
 
'I did break 90,' he said.
 
Some of golf's greatest players have one trophy missing from the mantle.
 
Palmer never won the PGA Championship in 37 tries. Tom Watson was 0-for-31 in the PGA, while Sam Snead played the U.S. Open 31 times without winning.
 
Those, however, are majors, the most difficult to win.
 
Among regular PGA Tour events, Woods hopes he's not heading down the same path as Nicklaus in the Canadian Open. Nicklaus played it 25 times without winning, although he was a runner-up five times. Even more frustrating was that 15 of those tournaments were played at Glen Abbey, a course Nicklaus designed.
 
Woods has shot in the 60s only 10 times in 20 rounds at Riviera. He has only two top 10s, including a tie for fifth last year when he closed with a 65 but was never in contention.
 
Even at his best, Woods was no match for Riviera.
 
Woods had one stretch four years ago when he won or finished second in 10 out of 11 tournaments. The exception, of course, was Riviera. He tied for 18th.
 
Few other courses require players to shape the ball off the tee, or have a bunker in the middle of the green (No. 6). The small greens and subtle contours are one reason scoring records don't come easily at Riviera.
 
'You don't have to have pot bunkers that are two stories deep off the tees,' Woods said. 'If the greens are small and hard, you'll have a tough time getting it close.'
 
That's one reason the 72-hole scoring record at Riviera - 20-under 264 by Lanny Wadkins - has stood for 18 years, a rarity these days.
 
Even rarer is a course Woods can't seem to master.
 
Copyright 2003 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
 
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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.


    Farmers Insurance Open: Articles, photos and videos


    “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.