In 2013, on a weekly basis, we'll highlight 18 headlines from around the world of golf -- nine that developed throughout the week and preview the upcoming weekend, and nine coming out of the weekend's events on the various tours. After a one-day layoff between tournaments, here's this week's Front 9.
No. 1 - Tiger at Torrey -- As is his wont, Tiger Woods left Tim Finchem and the PGA Tour in the dark about his schedule, holding out until he was two weeks out to announce that he would make his debut at Torrey Pines in the Farmers Insurance Open. There are plenty of courses around the country where you could say Woods plays well, and Torrey is certainly one of those. He's won seven times there, including the 2008 U.S. Open. The announcement came through the typical channel, his own website:
"Obviously, I've had good success at Torrey Pines," Woods said. "I practically grew up playing the South and North Courses. The fans have always been supportive, and I look forward to returning."
Woods missed this event last season, but with the drought over and a three-win 2012 season behind him, he'll be the odds-on favorite to open his 2013 season with a win -- even with Phil Mickelson and Bubba Watson competing in a solid field.
No. 2 - Back-to-Back -- Can Dustin Johnson go back-to-back in the first full-field event of the season? Johnson ran away from Steve Stricker to close out the Hyundai ToC on Tuesday, and after a one day layoff, he'll go for two in a row on Oahu. Waialae is a dramatically different track than Kapalua and tests a different skill set. Kapalua typically promotes driver off every tee, favoring the bombers with wide fairways on lengthy holes. Johnson got into some trouble with two wild drives on Tuesday, but he was steady tee-to-green over the two-day 54-hole dash.
At Waialae, tighter fairways will test his accuracy off the tee, but DJ is still the favorite to bring it home. Many of last season's winners who were in attendance at Kapalua have made the trip over to the Sony Open, and Johnson will undoubtedly have to contend with that crop. But Johnson is probably the most talented of all the young Americans on Tour, and going back-to-back in Hawaii could certainly propel him to a dominant 2013. He'd be the first player in 10 years to win in consecutive weeks.
No. 3 - Infirmary -- While the Tour pros may be playing in paradise as the rest of us suffer in the cold, there is definitely a flu bug circulating around the locker room. Bubba Watson came down with an illness over the weekend on Maui, and Stephanie Wei of SI tweeted this week that Zach Johnson is now contending with it in Honolulu:
Flu going around in Hawaii. Haven't heard of so many people being sick since college. Zach Johnson looked deathly ill. Had to WD from pro-am— Stephanie Wei (@StephanieWei) January 9, 2013
Johnson, who is one of the most accurate players on Tour, was also one of the favorites at the Sony after consistently finishing in the top five last season. But the health report doesn't sound too promising for the former Masters champ.
No. 4 - Rookie Watch -- The Sony Open is usually the annual debut for rookies, and a chance for some young up-and-comers to make some noise early. In the past, guys like Jhonattan Vegas have used the time in Hawaii to establish themselves early before the West Coast swing. This year's rookies don't have the profile of a few of the groups in recent years, but Patrick Reed, Morgan Hoffmann, Russell Henley, and Luke Guthrie are certainly some names to watch. Reed became known for his ridiculous Monday qualifying success last season with his fiancee on the bag. Guthrie had a top five finish at the John Deere, while Henley is a former Haskins Award winner who has distinguished himself in two U.S. Opens.
No. 5 - Pairing creativity -- The USGA has done it for years -- finding any little goofy commonality to pair players together, whether it's nationality, rivalry, surname, or even paunch. The PGA Tour has also made a strong move towards creating exciting pairings, putting together superstars in pods on the golf course. A lot of the rookies will be playing together this week and they also got a little creative with the "Johnson" group of Dustin, Zach, and defending champ Johnson Wagner. Aside from the names, those three are also among the best players at Waialae, and it's a good bet the winner could come out of that group.
No. 6 - DLIII moves on -- Davis Love III had a busy fall, playing plenty of golf after his American team's disastrous meltdown at Medinah in the Ryder Cup. Despite his advanced age, Love is still solid on a weekly basis on Tour, playing competitively and contending with the younger guys. But Love said this week that two years' worth of preparation for the Ryder Cup affected his game, and with Medinah now behind him, he hopes to start a successful 2013 season at the Sony. Via AP:
"I felt at the end of the year, it hit me that I'd had a long year," Love said. "I kept saying that it was not distracting me from playing, but it was. It was more mental. I put so much thought into it, and then there's the media and business stuff the PGA of America puts on you."
Love has 20 career PGA Tour wins, and at age 48, he certainly has the ability to pick up some more.
No. 7 - Anchor update -- Ernie Els, who used an anchored putter to pick up his fourth major at Lytham last year, weighed in this week on the impending ban of the stroke. Els noted that anchored putters aren't exactly magic wands while speaking with the media before the Volvo Golf Champions. Els, a former winner at the Sony Open, is abroad this week, but plenty of other anchored putters are in attendance. Keegan Bradley and Webb Simpson continue to anchor, while experimenting and practicing with new strokes outside of tournament play. Vijay Singh, another anchorman, gave us a snapshot of one way these guys could be experimenting with the changes coming:
Vijay Singh practicing an anchoring stroke w/o anchoring.Just the beginning of odd strokes we will likely see. twitter.com/alexmiceli/sta…— Alex Miceli (@alexmiceli) January 9, 2013
No. 8 - Ben Crane's comedy career -- Crane was the organizer of the infamous "Golf Boys" music video. He's also one of the slowest players on Tour, the topic of his latest short:
It's good that he can poke fun at something that's always the elephant in the room. What about Kevin Na?
No. 9 - Rory watch -- The updates on the Rory McIlroy and Nike marriage are almost daily now, and the latest is that the Northern Irishman was spotted with Nike sticks in his bag (he's apparently keeping the Scotty Cameron, though). It doesn't appear there will be much drama surrounding the Jan. 14 announcement.