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

Spieth, Thomas headline winter break trip to Cabo

By Grill Room TeamDecember 15, 2017, 1:05 am

Justin Thomas and Jordan Spieth. Really good at golf. Really good at vacationing.

With #SB2K18 still months away, Thomas and Spieth headlined a vacation to Cabo San Lucas, and this will shock you but it looks like they had a great time.

Spring break veteran Smylie Kaufman joined the party, as did Thomas' roommate, Tom Lovelady, who continued his shirtless trend.

The gang played all the hits, including shoeless golf in baketball jerseys and late nights with Casamigos tequila.

Image via tom.lovelady on Instagram.

In conclusion, it's still good to be these guys.

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Awards season: Handing out the 2017 Rexys

By Rex HoggardDecember 14, 2017, 7:00 pm

After careful consideration and an exhaustive review of 2017 we present The Rexys, a wildly incomplete and arbitrary line up following one of the most eventful years in golf.

 There will be omissions – just keep your calls, concerns and even e-mails to yourself. We appreciate your patronage, but not your feedback.

It’s Not You, It’s Me Award. You know the deal: You can’t be a part of two until you’re a better one; but on this front it’s really just a desire to find a better two.

It was a tough year for caddies, and not just any caddies. In June, Phil Mickelson split with longtime bagman Jim “Bones” Mackay. Both player and caddie cited the need for “change,” but the move reverberated throughout the game.

“The fairytale is over,” mused one caddie when told of the high-profile split.

In the wake of the Lefty/Bones break, Rory McIlroy split with his caddie J.P Fitzgerald, and Jason Day replaced looper/swing coach Colin Swatton on his bag. It all proves yet again that there are only two kinds of caddies, those who have been fired and those who are about to be fired.

Run for the Rose Cup. Sergio Garcia got the green jacket, a lifetime exemption to the game’s most coveted member-member and a long-awaited major, but Justin Rose took home the slightly less prestigious “Rose Cup.”

Following a frenzied afternoon at Augusta National in April, Rose lost to Garcia on the first playoff hole, but he won so much more with his honesty and class.

“You're going to win majors and you're going to lose majors, but you've got to be willing to lose them,” Rose figured following the final round. “You've got to put yourself out there. You've got to hit the top of the leaderboard. There's a lot of pressure out there and if you're not willing to enjoy it, then you're not ready to win these tournaments. I loved it out there.”

Few have made losing look so dignified and fewer still are as easy to root for.

Half-Empty Cup. It was the perfect setting, with sweeping views of the Manhattan skyline and the promise of the Tristate masses descending on this fall’s Presidents Cup.

If only all those rowdy New Yorkers had something to cheer.

For the sixth time in the last seven matches, the U.S. team rolled to a victory of at least three points. This particular edition was even in danger of ending on Saturday afternoon thanks to a particularly dominant performance by a young American squad led by Steve Stricker.

Officials spoke of the purity of the competition and the attention the ’17 cup generated, but however you spin the 19-11 rout, this cup is half empty.

Enigma Award. The actual hardware is simply an oversized question mark and was sent directly to Tiger Woods’ South Florida compound following the most curious of seasons.

While it’s become customary in recent years to consider the uncertain path that awaits the 14-time major winner, this most recent calendar brought an entirely new collection of questions following fusion surgery on his lower back in April, his arrest for DUI on Memorial Day and, finally, a glimmer of hope born from his tie for ninth at the Hero World Challenge earlier this month.

When will he play again? Can he compete against the current generation of world-beaters? Can his body withstand the rigors of a full PGA Tour schedule? Should Jim Furyk make him a captain’s pick now or wait to see if he should be driving a vice captain’s golf cart instead?

Little is certain when it comes to Woods, and the over-sized question mark goes to ... the guy in red and black.

After Further Review Chalice. In April, Lexi Thompson endured a heartbreaking loss at the ANA Inspiration, the byproduct of a surreal ruling that arrived a day late via a viewer e-mail and cost the would-be winner a major championship.

The entire event was so unsavory that the USGA and R&A made not one but two alterations to the rules and created a “working group” to avoid similar snafus in the future.

That working group – it turns out the U.S. Ryder Cup team has some sort of copyright on “task force” – initially issued a decision that introduced a “reasonable judgment” and a “naked eye” standard to video reviews, and last week the rule makers kept the changes coming.

The new protocols on video review will now include an official to monitor tournament broadcasts and ended the practice of allowing fans to call in, or in this case e-mail, possible infractions to officials. The USGA and R&A also eliminated the two-stroke penalty for players who sign incorrect scorecards when the player is unaware of the penalty.

While all this might be a step in the right direction, it does nothing to change Thompson’s fate. The AFR Chalice won’t change the harsh reality, but at least it will serve as a reminder of how she helped altered the rulemaking landscape.

Nothing Runs Like a Deere Award. Nothing gets fans fired up like officials turning fields of fescue rough into hay on the eve of a major championship, and the USGA’s decision to do some 11th-hour trimming at Erin Hills in June certainly caught many by surprise.

Officials said the nip/tuck on four holes was in reaction to a particularly foreboding forecast that never materialized, and the maintenance drew the ire of some players.

“We have 60 yards from left line to right line,” Rory McIlroy said. “You’ve got 156 of the best players in the world here; if we can’t hit it within that avenue, you might as well pack your bags and go home.”

The record low scoring at the U.S. Open – winner Brooks Koepka finished with a 16-under total – didn’t help ease the fervor and had some questioning whether the softer side of the USGA has gone a bit too far?

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Podcast: Daly takes big pride in 'Little John'

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 14, 2017, 5:28 pm

John Daly is a two-time major champion, but the newest trophy in his household belongs to someone else.

That’s because Daly’s son, 14-year-old Little John “LJ” Daly, rallied to capture an IJGT junior golf event over the weekend. The younger Daly birdied the first extra hole to win a five-person playoff at Harbour Town Golf Links, site of the PGA Tour’s RBC Heritage.

Daly recently sat down for a Golf Channel podcast to describe what it’s like to cheer for his son and PNC Father-Son Challenge partner, share the unique challenge presented by the upcoming Diamond Resorts Invitational and reflect on some of the notable highs of a career that has now spanned more than 25 years.

Sneds starts slowly in Masters invite bid

By Will GrayDecember 14, 2017, 4:22 pm

Brandt Snedeker flew halfway around the world in search of a Masters invite, but after one round of the Indonesian Masters it appears he'll likely return home empty-handed.

Snedeker made only two birdies during his opening round in Indonesia, shooting an even-par 72 that left him in a tie for 77th and 10 shots behind leader Justin Rose. This is the final OWGR-rated event of 2017, and as a result it has drawn several notable entrants, including Snedeker, who hope to crack the top 50 in the world rankings by year's end to secure a trip to Augusta National.

Full-field scores from the Indonesian Masters

Snedeker started the year ranked No. 28, but after missing five months because of injury he entered the week ranked No. 51 and is projected to slip even further by the end of the month. As a result, he likely needs a top-3 finish in order to secure a return to the Masters, which he has missed only once since 2007.

World No. 55 Dylan Frittelli also struggled, shooting a 4-over 76 in the opening round, while No. 56 Kiradech Aphibarnrat is tied for 14th at 4 under. Yusaku Miyazato, currently 58th in the world, is tied for ninth and five shots behind Rose.

Should Snedeker and the other hopefuls fail to crack the top 50 by the end of the year, two paths to the Masters remain: win a full-point event on the PGA Tour in early 2018 or be inside the top 50 in the world rankings when the final cutoff is made on March 25.