There could be fireworks on and off the course at this week’s Farmers Insurance Open -- what with Tiger Woods hoping to put that two-stroke embedded-ball penalty and missed cut in Abu Dhabi behind him, Phil Mickelson teeing off on taxes, and the players huddling with USGA honcho Mike Davis to chat about the proposed anchored putting ban.
And, oh yeah -- somewhere during a very busy week, a golf tournament may break out at Torrey Pines, where Woods and Mickelson will headline a field that includes five of the top 20 golfers contending for a $6.1 million purse.
Woods has seven wins as a pro at Torrey Pines, but his last victory at the San Diego-area track was also his last major win -- the legendary 2008 U.S. Open, when he hobbled on a broken leg to a playoff triumph over Rocco Mediate. Tiger skipped this event last year to play in Abu Dhabi and his last competitive outing at Torrey Pines in 2011 resulted in a share of 44th, his worst finish ever at the venue.
Still, Woods won three times last year. If it wasn't for that rules issue, the world’s No. 2 might have contended in Abu Dhabi, given some inspired play down the stretch of his second round. With Torrey Pines one of his favorite courses, expect Woods to be favored to win this week.
Dustin Johnson will make a comeback from the flu, which forced him to withdraw from the Sony Open a week after starting his season with a win at the weather-delayed Tournament of Champions. Reigning Masters champ Bubba Watson and Keegan Bradley are also on the roster of 156 players that includes FedEx Cup winner and defending champion Brandt Snedeker.
Off the course, Mickelson celebrated his T37 finish at last week’s Humana Challenge by suggesting that rising taxes could force him to quit golf -- or even worse, move to Canada!
“I’m not going to jump the gun and do it right away,” Lefty told reporters following his final-round 6-under 66 at La Quinta Country Club, “but I will be making some drastic changes.”
Lefty also said he would have more to say on the subject from the podium at Torrey.
"I'll probably be in the media center and I'll probably be a little more open to it because San Diego is where a lot more things, it's where I live, it's where the Padre thing was a possibility, and it's where my family is," Mickelson said. "And it just seems like a better fit than right here off of 18 on Palm Springs."
In the meantime, Mickelson on Monday issued a statement clarifying and apologizing for his previous opinions, which, in turn, were attempts at explaining comments he made earlier in the week during a pre-tourney conference call. Got that?
Also on the docket this week is an all-hands-on-deck mandatory players meeting where Davis will speak as a guest of tour commissioner Tim Finchem.
"It's just part of the process, to explain the anchoring, talk a little bit about our rationale and explain how the rule operates," Davis, referring to the USGA and R&A’s proposal to prohibit the way Bradley and others maneuver their long putters, told the Associated Press on Friday. "I'm going to do that and answer some questions. And then Tim is probably going to toss me out of the room and he'll talk to the players."
While golf’s governing bodies established a 90-day comment period before officially adopting the rule, the tour may decide to enact a ban prior to the proposed Jan. 1, 2016, date so that the issue does not dog players using what traditionalists consider unsightly long wands or become a three-year distraction.
Bradley, Webb Simpson, and Ernie Els all used belly putters on their way to winning three of the last five major championships, and Bradley has already been the target of hecklers for his flat stick of choice.
Davis, who told the AP he would play no role in whatever the tour decides, also said he anticipated no outright protests to break out during the meeting. Should make for some lively discussions, though.