Mercedes-Benz Gets 07 in Gear

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 30, 2006, 5:00 pm
PGA Tour (75x100)A season of great interest and intrigue gets underway as the 2007 PGA TOUR kick-starts a new campaign at the Mercedes-Benz Championship.
 
The serene setting of Kapalua, Hawaii provides the backdrop to the first event of the year ' a year which will end with a mad dash for $10 million.
 
Stuart Appleby
Stuart Appleby looks to hoist the Mercedes-Benz trophy for a fourth straight year.
The Mercedes-Benz Championship is not only the first tournament on the 07 TOUR calendar; its also the first event under the new FedExCup system.
 
For the next 33 weeks, players will be battling for points that will qualify them for the first playoff system in mens golf. For the record, 144 players will earn entry into the first of four events that comprise the playoff. Field sizes will be reduced after each tournament. The 30 players with the most points will advance to the TOUR Championship, where they will compete for a $10 million annuity.
 
There are 34 players in the Mercedes-Benz field this year. That does not include Tiger Woods or Phil Mickelson, both of who have twice won this event and both of who opted to skip it once again.
 
Woods, who is missing out for the second consecutive year, said a busy 'off'-season left him ill-prepared for the season-opener. Instead, he will try to extend his PGA TOUR winning streak to seven at the Buick Invitational, where he is the two-time defending champion.
 
Meanwhile, Mickelson, who hasn't played here since 2001, decided that he would prefer to spend more time with his family and will make his 2007 debut two weeks later at the Bob Hope Chrysler Classic.
 
Of those qualifiers who made the trip to Hawaii, 13 are making their first appearance in the lid-lifter: J.B. Holmes, Arron Oberholser, Aaron Baddeley, Chris Couch, Brett Wetterich, J.J. Henry, Trevor Immelman, John Senden, Dean Wilson, Will Mackenzie, Eric Axley, D.J. Trahan and Troy Matteson.
 
There is also a group of players who have been here before, but not in some time. That would include Tim Herron and Jeff Maggert, who are making their first appearances since 2000, and Corey Pavin, who last played this event in 1997.
 
Then there are the regulars, guys like: Jim Furyk, who is making his 10th start in the last 12 years; Vijay Singh, who has played in 11 of the last 14, including this year; and David Toms, who is making his seventh appearance.
 
And then there is Stuart Appleby. Appleby is the defending champion ' as he was last year, and the year before that. Appleby has won this event each of the last three years and is trying to become just the fifth player in TOUR history to win the same event on four consecutive occasions.
 
I'm short of words, Appleby said after defeating Singh in a playoff in 2006. To win it? First time great. Second time awesome. Third time, it's the wrong English, but more awesomer.
 
A fourth win would be the most awesomest of his career then.
 
The Mercedes-Benz marks the first of back-to-back weeks on the Hawaiian Islands. Next up is the Sony Open, where Michelle Wie will once again try and make the cut in a mens event, and where many of the Nationwide and Q-school graduates will get their first shots at retaining their cards.
 
Then, its off to California, for the Bob Hope.
 
The West Coast Swing will consist of nine tournaments, including the inaugural Mayakoba Classic in Mexico.
 
The Golf Channel begins its partnership with the TOUR by broadcasting all four rounds of the two Hawaiian tournaments as well as all five rounds of the Bob Hope.
 
Players and fans alike are curious to see how things will shape up this season, and it all begins on The Plantation Course.
 
Here are our five favorites this week:
 
Stuart Appleby
Its hard to imagine that Appleby could win this thing yet again ' then again, who would have thought that he would have won it a second or third time? Over the last three years, the Aussie is a combined 51 under par at Kapalua. Should he prevail for a fourth straight year, he would join Woods (Bay Hill, 2000-2003), Gene Sarazen (Miami Open 1926, 1928-30 (no event in 1927)), Walter Hagen (PGA Championship, 1924-27), and Young Tom Morris (Open Championship, 1868-70, 1872 (no event in 1871)) as the only players in TOUR history to win the same event on four consecutive occasions.
 
Vijay Singh
Singh is coming off a lucrative, but disappointing 2006 season. He finished fourth on the money list with over $4.6 million. However, he won only once; the first time since 2001 that he hadnt won multiple events. Singh has a remarkable record in this tournament, despite not having won it. He has finished inside the top 5 six of the last seven years, and was runner-up in 2006 and 2004.
 
Jim Furyk
Furyk owns a home near the 18th hole at Kapalua, and the course has treated him quite well over the years. He won here in 2001 and has top-5s on three other occasions, including a third-place showing last year. Furyk has risen to No. 2 in the world ranking. This could be the year in which he proves that he is the biggest challenger to Tigers throne.
 
J.B. Holmes
Sergio Garcia, in 2002, is the last player to win this event on his first try. If someone is to duplicate that feat this year, then it may well be Holmes. The Plantation Course measures 7,411 yards and can play even longer depending on which way the wind is blowing. Recent winners of this event include Appleby, Ernie Els, Garcia, Woods, David Duval and Mickelson ' all big boppers. Holmes was second on the TOUR in driving distance in his rookie season. He also got off to a hot start in 06 by winning the FBR Open, before cooling off down the stretch. He may be ready to start another early-season run.
 
Adam Scott
A Mercedes-Benz victory would look nice on Scotts resume, which includes a Players Championship and a TOUR Championship. Scott officially ended 06 by capturing the season finale in Atlanta. It was his first win of the year ' and he wants to avoid another long drought in 07. Scott would love to get off to a fast start this year; winning this week would obviously be a good way to do it ' and it would keep an Aussie in the winners circle for the fourth straight year. He has a couple of top-10s in two previous appearances.
 
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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.