Horses for Courses

By Rex HoggardJanuary 31, 2010, 6:14 am

Farmers Insurance OpenSAN DIEGO – Blame it on TMZ. Or divisive health care debates or an abnormally cold winter.

Whatever the impetus, golf has gotten mean.

Consider the last news cycle. Within the last 24 hours Phil Mickelson was forced to defend his honor, John Daly retired, then Tweeted, then unretired; and, finally, a thuggish muni took a toll on the Tour’s best and brightest.

Say this about the Tour’s SoCal staple, it stays on script.

Each year like taxes the North Course lulls Tour types into thinking they’ve got a good handle on things only to get TKO’d on the weekend when the proceedings move exclusively to the South Course.

The South’s 7,568 yards doesn’t take the tabloid’s temperature or reward style points which goes a long way to explaining why each year’s leaderboards have a “50 First Dates” feel to them.

Much like the famed Del Mar Racetrack just up the San Diego Freeway, some Tour ponies seem better equipped for the South than others.

Consider Saturday’s 54-hole primer. Atop the leaderboard is Ryuji Imada, whose last three cards at Torrey Pines read T-16, second, T-14; followed by Phil Mickelson, a three-time Torrey winner; and Ernie Els, whose handful of SoCal starts include a tie for sixth in 2005 and a 14th at the ’08 U.S. Open.

“It’s a great course to play because you don’t feel like you have to shoot a lot under par to do well,” said Charles Howell III, who is tied for 17th and counts two runners-up on his Torrey Pines resume. “It would be interesting to see what the scores would be if the North wasn’t in the rotation.”

They tried that experiment once. It was called the U.S. Open and Tiger Woods and Rocco Mediate made history and plenty of histrionics with 1 under par totals.

Opinions vary on why certain players excel on the South. Kamikaze putters seem to be the cure for Torrey’s bumpy Poa greens, while long and straight, which plays well most weeks, is also crucial, particularly on what is essentially the circuit’s longest venue at sea level.

“Driving the ball in the fairway at Torrey is important,” said Mike Taylor, the swing coach for Lucas Glover who is alone in fourth, three shots back. “I also think players who putt with more aggressive speed on those greens tend to putt better. Lucas does both very well.”

Glover is 29th and 32nd in driving distance and driving accuracy, respectively. It’s a combination that lifted him to last year’s U.S. Open victory and top-4 finishes at Torrey Pines last year and in 2006.

Simply put, it’s not the Bob Hope. Twenty under is not an option at Torrey Pines, which is why the U.S. Golf Association has made Torrey the Open’s West Coast home and why linebackers like Glover, Els and Mickelson enjoy its smash-mouth ways.

“It’s a U.S. Open course, long, hard, demanding,” said Glover, who played his best golf last year on the circuit’s hardest pitches (Torrey Pines, Bethpage, Quail Hollow). “It’s so hard it helps with my patience and I need that.”

Mickelson’s resume, to say nothing of his play this week, certainly qualify him as a founding member of the Torrey Pines “skull and crossbones” society, but Lefty’s take on the beloved muni is a bit sweet and sour.

The San Diego native has finished in the top 25 in more than half his starts at Torrey Pines (11), but he has not broken the victory seal since 2001, the same year Rees Jones did his pre-U.S. Open nip/tuck on the layout.

“The changes that were made to the golf course affected the way I've played here,” said Mickelson, whose best finish since ’01 is a tie for fourth in 2003 and ’04 and he finished 18th at the ’08 Open during the great “no driver” experiment. “The reads of the greens are totally different; they don't break towards the ocean, they break away from the bunkers.”

By comparison, Els has played Torrey Pines as a professional just twice, the 2005 Buick Invitational (T-6) and U.S. Open (T-14). The result, he concedes, of an international schedule and appearance fees. “The cash was good,” he said.

But it is a style of play, not reps, that matters at Torrey Pines.

“It's a good golf course for longer hitters,” Els said. “You can get onto some of the par 5s. But it's a good ballstriking golf course. You’ve got to hit the ball well all over. You can't really fake it around here.”

Seems about right that the “Big Easy” would be in the hunt on a course that is anything but.

Getty Images

Woods' 2018 schedule coming into focus ... or is it?

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 16, 2017, 5:46 pm

Two weeks after his successful return to competition at the Hero World Challenge, Tiger Woods’ 2018 schedule may be coming into focus.

Golfweek reported on Saturday that Woods hopes to play the Genesis Open in February according to an unidentified source with “direct knowledge of the situation.”

Woods’ agent Mark Steinberg declined to confirm the 14-time major champion would play the event and told GolfChannel.com that Woods – who underwent fusion surgery to his lower back in April – is still formulating his ’18 schedule.

Woods’ foundation is the host organization for the Genesis Open and the event supports the Tiger Woods Learning Center in Anaheim, Calif.

The Genesis Open would be Woods’ first start on the PGA Tour since he missed the cut last January at the Farmers Insurance Open.

Rose weathering delayed Indonesian Masters

By Associated PressDecember 16, 2017, 3:52 pm

JAKARTA, Indonesia - Justin Rose held a three-stroke lead after eight holes of the third round Saturday when play was suspended for the day due to bad weather at the Indonesian Masters.

Rose was 3-under on the day and led his playing partners Kiradech Aphibarnrat and Scott Vincent. The Englishman led both players by a stroke after the second round was completed Saturday morning due to weather delays on Friday.

Brandt Snedeker withdrew with apparent heat exhaustion on Friday on the 11th hole of the second round. Ranked 51st in the world, he flew to Jakarta looking to move inside the top 50 by the end of the year and ensure a spot in next year's Masters.

Getty Images

Lexi (wrist) WDs from Diamond Resorts Invitational

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 15, 2017, 11:27 pm

Lexi Thompson on Friday withdrew from the Diamond Resorts Invitational, citing inflammation in her wrist. Thompson, who teamed with Tony Finau to finish tied for fourth place in last week's QBE Shootout, said she is under strict doctor's order not to hit golf balls until mid-January.

The Diamond Resorts Invitational is scheduled Jan. 12-14 at Tranquilo Golf Club in Orlando, Fla. The field for te 54-hole event includes LPGA and PGA Tour Champions players, as well as celebrities from the worlds or sports and entertainment.

Getty Images

Rose leads Indonesian Masters; Snedeker WDs

By Associated PressDecember 15, 2017, 2:04 pm

JAKARTA, Indonesia - Justin Rose completed the final two holes of his second round early Saturday for a 3-under 69 and a one-stroke lead at the Indonesian Masters.

Rose, who had a first-round 62, was among a quarter of the field forced off the Royale Jakarta Golf Club course after weather delays on Friday.

The Englishman, who bogeyed his last hole, had a two-round total of 13-under 131.

Kiradech Aphibarnrat, who completed his 64 on Friday, was in second place.

Brandt Snedeker withdrew with apparent heat exhaustion on Friday on the 11th hole of the second round. Ranked 51st in the world, he flew to Jakarta looking to move inside the top 50 by the end of the year and ensure a spot in next year's Masters. He has been affected by a rib-sternum injury for most of the season.