Notes Problems with the Players Lefty and Ollie


Farmers Insurance OpenSAN DIEGO – Rory McIlroy won’t be at The Players Championship this year, making his intentions known in Twitter banter with Lee Westwood, who said last week he wouldn’t be going to golf’s richest tournament, either.

“I’ve decided no holes at sawgrass is better than my usual 36!” McIlroy tweeted, referring to his missed cut last year.

It appeared to be another slap at the PGA Tour from two European players who have decided not to take U.S. cards. Westwood said it would not make travel sense for him to go to The Players Championship without being able to play the week before in Quail Hollow because he is limited to 10 events on the PGA Tour.

McIlroy hinted two months ago he might skip The Players, mainly because he doesn’t feel he plays well on the TPC Sawgrass.

PGA Tour Commissioner Tim Finchem said he was disappointed, but not troubled by the decisions.

“I feel we’ll have an excellent field again,” Finchem said Tuesday. “It’s a premier tournament on a great golf course with a great pedigree of champions, the highest purse of the year. We’ll have a fantastic tournament. My only message to those guys is, you’re always welcome, and we’d love to have you back.”

There have been some suggestions in recent weeks that all tours should abandon policies that restrict how often players can compete if they are among the top 10 or even top 50 in the world.

Finchem sees no need for a change, and he doesn’t feel the PGA Tour is hurt by European players – Westwood, McIlroy and PGA champion Martin Kaymer are the most visible – who don’t join the U.S. tour.

“Candidly, I’m disappointed about players not playing here … because it helps our field,” he said. “But on the other hand, I feel like we have the right mix of international players on the tour. I see no need for us to have more international players. I also feel strongly that the European Tour needs to be a strong tour. It’s a very good thing for golf globally.

“They have struggled more than we have with this (economic) downturn,” he said. “They’ve had to morph their schedule into the Middle East and now Asia to find markets to support their tour. I applaud that. Candidly, it’s probably more important on the European Tour that some of those players play over there than it is for us that they play here.”


SINKING SINGH: The biggest news from the latest Official World Golf Ranking might have been found far from the top. Vijay Singh slipped to No. 105 in the world, the first time in more than 21 years the Fijian has not been in the top 100.

To last that long among the top 100 is an astounding testament to consistency and longevity.

Singh was No. 102 in the world on Nov. 12, 1989, just a few days after the Berlin Wall began coming down. He was a 26-year-old rookie on the European Tour. Rickie Fowler had just celebrated his first birthday.

Singh, who turns 48 next month, has not won since the Deutsche Bank Championship in 2008 that carried him to the FedEx Cup.

“I’m just going to take it one tournament at a time and try to get better each week,” Singh told the Honolulu Star-Advertiser at the Sony Open, where he tied for 57th. “At this point in my career, it’s all I can do.”


LEFTY AND OLLIE: Phil Mickelson is not alone in his praise for Jose Maria Olazabal, the two-time Masters champion who was selected as Europe’s next Ryder Cup captain. Asked to explain what he meant by calling the Spaniard a “class act,” Mickelson shared a story.

They were part of a five-man playoff at the former BellSouth Classic outside Atlanta in 2005, but only because Olazabal missed a short birdie putt on the final hole in regulation. On the first extra hole, Olazabal had a 4-foot birdie putt to win, and he missed again.

“If you remember, Jose Maria throughout his career is one of the best putters the game has ever seen, so to see him miss a second one was shocking,” Mickelson said.

Lefty went on to win the playoff, then headed to Augusta National as the defending champion.

At the Champions Dinner, Mickelson served for dessert some vanilla ice cream with several of Olazabal’s favorite toppings.

“As he was scooping up the last bit, he kind of looked at me and said, ‘Thank you,”’ Mickelson said. “I said, ‘Are we even?’ He says, ‘No, no. You still owe me one. I gave you two.’ I think it’s his ability to have a sense of humor about some of the tough times, as well as be able to take the joy of his success that has made Jose Maria a class act and a guy that you enjoy being around.”


RILEY REBOUNDS: Chris Riley played in the Tour Championship back-to-back years, and followed that in 2004 by making the Ryder Cup team. But he hasn’t been the same since, failing to keep his card for five straight years until he finished 90th on the money list in 2010.

He believes he is getting his game back to where it was. His concern, of all things, is his putting.

“I don’t putt like I used to,” Riley said. “I putt scared, like tentatively, instead of letting it go.”

Riley spent the offseason watching old videotape of himself putting, hopeful of finding a key. What he noticed was a lack of fear.

“I didn’t care. I just rolled it to the hole,” he said. “I think the older you get, it’s like, ‘Oh, this putt is big. I don’t want to blow it past the hole.’ Whereas before, I would putt like I did when I was a kid.”

Riley just turned 37, although he still talks like a kid.

“I’ve been out here 13 years. Can you believe that? Am I old? That’s a long time, right?” he said, not waiting for answers. “A couple of years I only played 17 times. But that’s like a full schedule for Tiger, right?”


DIVOTS: After being at Loch Lomond for the last 15 years, the Scottish Open is moving to Castle Stuart Golf Links, which is located between Inverness and Nairn in the Scottish Highlands. … It didn’t take long for David Fay to find part-time work since retiring as executive director of the USGA. He is joining Golf Digest to write a monthly column starting in April. … The Mayakoba Golf Classic in Mexico entered the Guinness Book of World Records by hosting the largest golf lesson at El Camaleon Golf Club. The tournament hosted 1,073 people on Sunday for one of its monthly “Golf PARa Todos” sessions, which translates to “Golf For Everyone.” Guinness officials attended to see the group lesson beat the previous mark of 1,032 people last October in Beijing. … Lorena Ochoa has renewed her endorsement contract with Ping to serve as its global representative, even though she retired from the LPGA last year.


STAT OF THE WEEK: Americans had won 11 straight official PGA Tour events until Jhonottan Vegas of Venezuela won the Bob Hope Classic.


FINAL WORD: “The reason why I changed putters is because I ain’t been making nothing.” – Boo Weekley.