Par 5 Questions for the Farmers Insurance Open

By Randall MellJanuary 25, 2011, 8:04 pm
Setting the week’s agenda with five questions about the Farmers Insurance Open . . .

Is Tiger Woods a believer again?

Tiger Woods
Tiger Woods won the 2008 U.S. Open at Torrey Pines. (Getty Images)
That’s the real question with Woods making his 2011 debut at the Farmers Insurance Open this week, because it doesn’t matter what anyone else thinks.

Does Woods believe in his game again? Does he believe in himself again?

The 2010 season ended up being about everything Woods lost, including his confidence. We’ll see at Torrey Pines if he’s ready to start making this year about what he’s going to win back.

Because nobody closed the gap on Woods in his first winless season last year. Nobody caught up to him. He dropped down in class in the aftermath of all his troubles.

There can’t be a better tonic for Woods than Torrey Pines, where his belief was so strong he overcame a torn ACL and fractured leg to win the U.S. Open nearly three years ago. He’s won the last five times he’s teed it up at Torrey Pines. He’s won there seven times, equaling Firestone as the course he’s claimed his most titles. Of course, we saw what happened to Woods last year at Firestone, where his final-round 77 left him at 18 over par. It sticks in the brain as evidence that an even a favorite venue guarantees nothing.  

Still, Woods’ swing under Sean Foley seemed a lot better at the end of last season, and he made us believe he could overcome almost anything with his win on nearly one leg at Torrey Pines in ’08. He returns this time trying to overcome a fractured spirit, and this, more than any other place, is where you can imagine him finding his game.
What should we expect from Phil Mickelson this week?

A magnificent shot through a Black Forest with goblins all around to set up a win?

A terrible closing shot off a hospitality tent to lose?

With Mickelson, it’s all wondrously possible.

But Mickelson can use another big victory. He’s sliding more swiftly than Woods in the world rankings.

While Woods slipped another spot to No. 3 behind No. 1 Lee Westwood and No. 2 Martin Kaymer in Sunday night’s release of the latest Official World Golf Ranking, Mickelson slipped two spots to No. 6. Mickelson was No. 2 less than four months ago. This marks Mickelson’s lowest ranking in nearly four years.

Mickelson can steal the show this week, but it will be an upset.

Yes, Mickelson’s won three times at Torrey Pines, but he hasn’t won there in 10 years, not since the Rees Jones’ renovation. He’s coming off a tie for 37th at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship last weekend, where he finished 19 shots behind Kaymer.

Mickelson says he wants this year to be everything last year wasn’t after his Masters victory, and his schedule looks ambitious, though the schedule he posted on his website might be more a wish list than a hard-and-fast plan. Last week, he posted a schedule that would have him play six consecutive events and 10 of 12 weeks through the Masters. But now he says it’s a 50-50 proposition that he’ll play the Accenture Match Play Championship because of a possible family vacation. Though the Accenture is still up on his schedule on his website, he’s removed the Arnold Palmer Invitational, making it nine proposed starts in 12 weeks through the Masters.

We’ll be looking this week for signs of which way we can expect Mickelson to move in the world rankings this season.
Will Jhonattan Vegas ride momentum from his Bob Hope victory?

It’s always intriguing to see how a player making a big breakthrough responds in his next start. We’ve seen confidence gained create a hot run, and we’ve seen the overwhelming excitement in the aftermath create a hangover.

If Vegas gets in contention again this week, it says a lot about what kind of all-around player he is. Torrey Pines South is such a different test than the Hope desert courses. The way Vegas kept getting up and down to save pars last Sunday, it should come as no surprise when this long bomber’s right back in the mix at ultra long Torrey Pines South.
Will Rickie Fowler break through to claim his first PGA Tour victory?

Fowler played well on some tough courses last year, and this feels like a course where the Southern Californian could break through.

A year ago, Fowler tied for fifth at Torrey Pines. As an amateur at the ’08 U.S. Open there, he made the cut. He also played well at Jack Nicklaus’ Muirfield Village last season, finishing second, and at Quail Hollow, finishing sixth.

With the phenomenal way Fowler finished at the Ryder Cup, expect him to ride a phenomenon known as the “Ryder Cup bounce” into this season.
Will Ben Crane have a larger following this season?

With his home-made spoof workout video having gone viral last year and his second comedic effort out on scouting golf courses, Crane should.

Crane’s got that Leslie Nielsen dynamic going for him as the defending champ at the Farmers Insurance Open.

A straight dramatic actor for so long, Nielsen could make you smile just seeing him pop onto a TV or movie screen after changing his image in comedies. Crane is now that feel-good kind of personality. You feel like you know him now because of that video, and you feel good about knowing him.

Follow Randall Mell on Twitter @RandallMell
Getty Images

Suspended Hensby offers details on missed drug test

By Will GrayDecember 12, 2017, 11:30 pm

One day after receiving a one-year suspension from the PGA Tour for failing to provide a sample for a drug test, Mark Hensby offered details on the events that led to his missed test in October.

Hensby, 46, released a statement explaining that the test in question came after the opening round of the Sanderson Farms Championship, where the Aussie opened with a 78. Frustrated about his play, Hensby said he was prepared to give a blood sample but was then informed that the test would be urine, not blood.

"I had just urinated on the eighth hole, my 17th hole that day, and knew that I was probably unable to complete the urine test for at least a couple more hours," Hensby said. "I told this gentleman that I would complete the test in the morning prior to my early morning tee time. Another gentleman nearby told me that 'they have no authority to require me to stay.' Thus, I left."

Hensby explained that he subsequently received multiple calls and texts from PGA Tour officials inquiring as to why he left without providing a sample and requesting that he return to the course.

"I showed poor judgment in not responding," said Hensby, who was subsequently disqualified from the tournament.

Hensby won the 2004 John Deere Classic, but he has missed six cuts in seven PGA Tour starts over the last two years. He will not be eligible to return to the Tour until Oct. 26, 2018.

"Again, I made a terrible decision to not stay around that evening to take the urine test," Hensby said. "Obviously in hindsight I should have been more patient, more rational and taken the test. Call me stupid, but don't call me a cheater. I love the game. I love the integrity that it represents, and I would never compromise the values and qualities that the game deserves."

Getty Images

Day's wife shares emotional story of miscarriage

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 12, 2017, 4:12 pm

Jason Day’s wife revealed on social media that the couple had a miscarriage last month.

Ellie Day, who announced her pregnancy on Nov. 4, posted an emotional note on Instagram that she lost the baby on Thanksgiving.

“I found out the baby had no heartbeat anymore. I was devastated,” she wrote. “I snuck out the back door of my doctor, a hot, sobbing, mascara-covered mess. Two and a half weeks went by witih me battling my heart and brain about what was happening in my body, wondering why this wouldn’t just be over.”

The Days, who have two children, Dash and Lucy, decided to go public to help others who have suffered similar heartbreak.

“I hope you know you aren’t alone and I hope you feel God wrap his arms around you when you feel the depths of sorrow and loss,” she wrote.  

Newsmaker of the Year: No. 5, Sergio Garcia

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 12, 2017, 1:00 pm

This was the year it finally happened for Sergio Garcia.

The one-time teen phenom, known for years as “El Nino,” entered the Masters as he had dozens of majors beforehand – shouldered with the burden of being the best player without a major.

Garcia was 0-for-72 driving down Magnolia Lane in April, but after a thrilling final round and sudden-death victory over Justin Rose, the Spaniard at long last captured his elusive first major title.

The expectation for years was that Garcia might land his white whale on a British links course, or perhaps at a U.S. Open where his elite ball-striking might shine. Instead it was on the storied back nine at Augusta National that he came alive, chasing down Rose thanks in part to a memorable approach on No. 15 that hit the pin and led to an eagle.

Full list of 2017 Newsmakers of the Year

A green jacket was only the start of a transformative year for Garcia, 37, who heaped credit for his win on his then-fiancee, Angela Akins. The two were married in July, and months later the couple announced that they were expecting their first child to arrive just ahead of Garcia’s return to Augusta, where he'll host his first champions’ dinner.

And while players often cling to the notion that a major win won’t intrinsically change them, there was a noticeable difference in Garcia over the summer months. The weight of expectation, conscious or otherwise, seemed to lift almost instantly. Like other recent Masters champs, he took the green jacket on a worldwide tour, with stops at Wimbledon and a soccer match between Real Madrid and Barcelona.

The player who burst onto the scene as a baby-faced upstart is now a grizzled veteran with nearly two decades of pro golf behind him. While the changes this year occurred both on and off the course, 2017 will always be remembered as the year when Garcia finally, improbably, earned the title of major champion.

Masters victory

Article: Garcia defeats Rose to win Masters playoff

Article: Finally at peace: Garcia makes major breakthrough

Article: Garcia redeems career, creates new narrative

Video: See the putt that made Sergio a major champ

Green jacket tour

Article: Take a look at Sergio's crazy, hectic media tour

Article: Garcia with fiancée, green jacket at Wimbledon

Article: Watch: Garcia kicks off El Clasico in green jacket

Man of the people

Article: SERGIO! Garcia finally gets patrons on his side

Article: Fan finally caddies for Sergio after asking 206 times

Article: Sergio donates money for Texas flood relief

Article: Connelly, Garcia paired years after photo together

Ace at 17th at Sawgrass

Growing family

Article: Sergio, Angela get married; Kenny G plays reception

Article: Garcia, wife expecting first child in March 2018

Departure from TaylorMade

Article: Masters champ Garcia splits with TaylorMade

Squashed beef with Paddy

Article: Harrington: Garcia was a 'sore loser'

Article: Sergio, Padraig had 'great talk,' are 'fine'

Victory at Valderrama

Article: Garcia gets first win since Masters at Valderrama

Getty Images

Newsmakers of the Year: Top 10 in 2017

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 12, 2017, 12:30 pm