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
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Rose (64) peaking just ahead of the U.S. Open

By Nick MentaMay 25, 2018, 8:40 pm

A former U.S. Open champion appears to be finding his form just three weeks ahead of the year's second major.

Justin Rose ascended to the top of the leaderboard Friday at the Fort Worth Invitational, with rounds of 66-64 pushing him to 10 under par for the week.

Through 36 at Colonial, Rose has marked 12 birdies against just two bogeys.

"Yeah, I did a lot of good things today," Rose said. "I think, you know, the end of my round got a little scrappy, but until the last three holes it was pretty flawless. I think I hit every fairway pretty much and obviously every green to that point. ...

"Yeah, the way I played through, I guess through my first 15 holes today, was about as good as I've played in a long time."

Full-field scores from the Fort Worth Invitational

Fort Worth Invitational: Articles, photos and videos

Rose won in back-to-back weeks last fall, stunning Dustin Johnson at the WGC-HSBC Championship and riding that victory right into another at the Turkish Airlines Open.

Now the 2013 U.S. Open winner at Merion feels himself once again rounding into form ahead of this year's Open at Shinnecock. A final-round 66 at The Players gave Rose something to focus on in his recent practice sessions with swing coach Sean Foley, as the two work to shore up the timing of Rose's transition into the downswing.

As for his decision to tee it up at Colonial for the first time since 2010, "It was more the run of form really," Rose explained. "I feel like if I didn't play here it was going to be a little spotty going into the U.S. Open. I felt like I wanted to play enough golf where I would have a good read on my game going into Shinnecock.

"So rather than the venue it was more the timing, but it's obviously it's just such a bonus to be on a great layout like this."

For whatever reason, Rose does tend to play his best golf at iconic venues, having won PGA Tour events at Muirfield Village, Aronimink, Cog Hill, Doral, Merion and Congressional.

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Koepka (63): Two wrist dislocations in two months

By Nick MentaMay 25, 2018, 8:19 pm

Brook Koepka's journey back from a wrist injury that kept him out four months hasn't been totally smooth sailing, even if his play has suggested otherwise.

Koepka on Friday fired a 7-under 63 to move up the leaderboard into a tie for third, three shots behind leader Justin Rose through the end of the morning wave at the Fort Worth Invitational.

After a slow start Thursday saw him play his first 13 holes 3 over, Koepka is 10 under with 11 birdies in his last 23 holes at Colonial.

"It doesn't matter to me. I could care less. I'm still going to try as hard as I can," Koepka said. "I don't care how many over or how many under I am. Still going to fight through it."

Full-field scores from the Fort Worth Invitational

Fort Worth Invitational: Articles, photos and videos

Just like he's been fighting his wrist the last two months or so. Koepka reinjured his wrist the Wednesday of The Players when he was practicing on the range and had to halt mid-swing after a golf cart drove in front of him. He nonetheless managed to finish T-11.

And that's not the only issue he's had with that wrist during his return.

"We had a bone pop out of place. I didn't tell anybody, but, yeah, they popped it back in," Koepka admitted Friday. "Luckily enough we kind of popped it back into place right away so it wasn't stiff and I didn't have too, too many problems.

"Yeah. I mean, I've dislocated my wrist twice in the last two months. You know, different spots, but, I mean, it's fun. I'll be all right."

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Twitter spat turns into fundraising opportunity

By Rex HoggardMay 25, 2018, 6:30 pm

Country music star Jake Owen, along with Brandt Snedeker, has turned a spat on Twitter into a fundraising campaign that will support Snedeker’s foundation.

On Thursday, Owen was criticized during the opening round of the Tour’s Nashville Golf Open, which benefits the Snedeker Foundation, for his poor play after opening with an 86.

In response, Snedeker and country singer Chris Young pledged $5,000 for every birdie that Owen makes on Friday in a campaign called NGO Birdies for Kids

Although Owen, who is playing the event on a sponsor exemption, doesn’t tee off for Round 2 in Nashville until 2 p.m. (CT), the campaign has already generated interest, with NBC Sports/Golf Channel analyst Peter Jacobsen along with Tour player Zac Blair both pledging $100 for every birdie Owen makes.

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Noren so impressed by Rory: 'I'm about to quit golf'

By Golf Channel DigitalMay 25, 2018, 5:33 pm

Alex Noren won the BMW PGA Championship last year, one of his nine career European Tour victories.

He opened his title defense at Wentworth Club in 68-69 and is tied for fourth through two rounds. Unfortunately, he's five back of leader Rory McIlroy. And after playing the first two days alongside McIlroy, Noren, currently ranked 19th in the world, doesn't seem to like his chances of back-to-back wins.

McIlroy opened in 67 and then shot a bogey-free 65 in second round, which included pars on the pair of par-5 finishing holes. Noren walked away left in awe.

"That's the best round I've ever seen," Noren said. "I'm about to quit golf, I think."

Check out the full interview below: