LA JOLLA, Calif. -- As might be expected, the lion’s share of the pre-tournament attention was focused squarely on Tiger Woods, who is making his 2011 debut this week at a course where he has won seven times.
Throw Rocco Mediate into his pairing for the first two rounds, and the storyline got even more interesting. After all, Woods beat Mediate in a 19-hole playoff at the 2008 U.S. Open in his last appearance at Torrey Pines.
The third member of their threesome, though, is getting the best of the two veterans. The trio has just made the turn on the North Course and Kim is 3 under, Woods 1 under and Mediate 1 over. Kim is tied for fifth right now, two shots off the lead held by Sung-hoon Kim. – Helen Ross
It took all of about 40 minutes for Tiger Woods to make his first birdie of the 2011 season with Woods sticking his approach shot on the par-3 12th hole on Torrey Pines’ North Course to set up an easy tap-in.
The early leaders? John Daly, who of course got his last career victory here in 2004 when he beat Luke Donald and Chris Riley in a playoff, and Bill Haas, who is coming off a playoff loss at the Bob Hope Classic. Both are at 3 under.
As for Woods’ playing partners, Anthony Kim is also 1 under, while Rocco Mediate is 1 over.
The tee times are now available for the first two rounds of the Farmers Insurance Open, with several intriguing groups you should keep an eye on Thursday and Friday. ( Click here for complete first-round tee times )
TIGER WOODS, ROCCO MEDIATE, ANTHONY KIM
Thursday: Noon ET off 10th tee (North Course); Friday: 1 p.m. ET off 1st tee (South Course)
Tiger and Rocco together again at Torrey Pines. Let's hope they can match the entertainment value from their Monday duel that decided the 2008 U.S. Open. And let's not overlook Kim, who's seeking to rebound from an injury-filled 2010.
PHIL MICKELSON, DUSTIN JOHNSON, JUSTIN ROSE
Thursday: 1:10 p.m. ET off 1st tee (South Course); Friday: Noon ET off 10th tee (North Course)
Last September, Phil was asked about Johnson, one of his frequent practice partners. "He's an incredible talent, and he's got a lot of moxie to him," Mickelson said. "He's got a real ability to take things head on, to try shots, to challenge himself. He's not afraid of failure, and that's going to lead to further success for him." Yes, that sounds like Phil describing, well, Phil.
DAVIS LOVE III, STEWART CINK, BUBBA WATSON
Thursday: 1 p.m. off 1st tee (South Course); Friday: 11:50 a.m. ET off 10th tee (North Course)
Davis was just named the 2012 U.S. Ryder Cup captain. Cink has been on five Ryder Cup teams. Watson has been on one. With Love wearing a microphone on Thursday for the Golf Channel, anybody want to go out on a limb and say these three guys might discuss something Ryder Cup-related?
JHONATTAN VEGAS, CHARLEY HOFFMAN, NICK WATNEY
Thursday: 11:50 a.m. off 10th tee (North Course); Friday: 12:50 p.m. ET off 1st tee (South Course)
Hoffman is a San Diego native who has played this course often. "I have no clue the number of rounds I've played," he said. Watney won at Torrey Pines in 2009. Wonder if the rookie Vegas, last week's winner of the Bob Hope Classic, might pick their brains a time or two.
RICKIE FOWLER, MARC LEISHMAN, CHARLES HOWELL III
Thursday: 1:10 p.m. off 10th tee (North Course); Friday: Noon ET off 1st tee (South Course)
Fowler was named the PGA TOUR’s Rookie of the Year in 2010. Leishman won the award the year before. And Howell won the award in 2001. Big things are expected from Fowler in his sophomore season, but Leishman played well at Torrey Pines last year (tied for second) and Howell usually plays well here.
KAPALUA, Hawaii -- A few weeks ago at the South African Open, Ernie Els made several lengthy putts en route to shooting 25 under to win the event for the fifth time in his career.
Considering the condition of what he called "ridiculously terrible greens" at the Durban Country Club, Els left his native country feeling pretty good about his putting stroke going into this week’s season-opening Hyundai Tournament of Champions.
"The greens were worse than these fairways," Els said Friday after the second round at the Plantation Course at Kapalua. "To shoot 25 under par on greens like that, you know, I thought that was quite nice.
"I've just go to to it on perfect greens like we have here."
He didn't do it in Thursday's opening round when he shot a tentative 1-under 72. But he made up for it on Friday with a 9-under 64 that has him in great shape at 10 under going into the weekend.
Els said a lengthy session on the putting green following Thursday's round helped iron out some kinks in his stroke. After needing 34 putts on Thursday, he reduced that to 29 putts on Friday.
"Yesterday, my ball position was too far back in my putting stance," Els said. "I was shoving them a little bit and I have to try and release the putter.
"So I just went back to get this feeling that I'm supposed to have, I guess, and it kind of worked today."
Els was scheduled to play with Camilo Villegas, but the Colombian was disqualified after a rules violation resulted in signing an incorrect first-round scorecard. So Els got to play with Rocco Mediate, who was initially supposed to be a single in the first group of the day.
Els said there were five greens on Friday in which he managed to get a read from a Mediate putt that was on the same line. The final time came at the 17th green when Els rolled in a putt from 27 feet, 7 inches after Mediate missed from 33 feet.
Mediate, ever the jokester, couldn't contain himself any longer, giving Els some good-natured grief about all the help he was providing.
"When I made that putt (at 17), it was all over," Els said with a smile. "You can imagine with Rocco ... I'm supposed to buy him beers right now."
If Els continues to keep a hot putter, he might very well be buying beers for a lot of people after Sunday's final round. -- Mike McAllister
KAPALUA, Hawaii -- The 2011 PGA TOUR season has officially started, with Arjun Atwal hitting the opening tee shot off the No. 1 tee at the Plantation Course at Kapalua.
His playing partner, Rocco Mediate, immediately followed. Both players found the fairway of the par-4 520-yard hole.
Thursday’s early-morning rains at Kapalua have subsided and should not be a factor the rest of the day, with the forecast calling for partly cloudy skies by noon. There is a chance of isolated showers, however. Winds could gust up to 25 mph, which is not a surprise at this course.
Atwal, by the way, is playing in his first Hyundai Tournament of Champions. He qualified for the champions-only event by winning the Wyndham Championship last year. He’s one of 13 players who are making their first appearances as this event. – Mike McAllister
Four holes. In essence, that’s what won Rocco Mediate the Frys.com Open, giving him his first victory since 2002 nearly 200 starts ago.
Mediate finished at 15 under, shooting a final-round 71 that was highlighted by an eagle hole-out from 116 yards on the par-4 17th. It was his fourth hole-out from the fairway and fourth eagle of the week, meaning that eight of that 15-under total came in a span of four holes.
Bo Van Pelt and Alex Prugh each birdied the 18th hole -- Van Pelt curled in a long one from just inside 38 feet -- to put pressure on Mediate, who had a little over 4 feet left for his first win in eight years. Mediate made it and with it got the win.
Four eagles. That’s what Rocco Mediate has this week, all coming from off the green. The latest came from 116 yards on the drivable par-4 17th hole, which is drivable for most players except Mediate, who is not exactly the longest player in the field. It didn’t matter. He hit right over the flag and the ball spun back a few inches and into the cup. The shot may have also won Mediate the golf tournament. He now has a two-shot cushion with play all but over.
On a side note, Mediate’s hole-out was nearly trumped moments earlier when Alex Prugh almost aced No. 17 with a drive that went just past the cup. Prugh made eagle, too, and didn’t gain an inch on Mediate.
Saturday, Mediate jarred one from 111 yards on the par-5 15th. A day before that he holed out from 160 yards on No. 4, and on Thursday he had a hole-in-one on No. 3.
With five players bunched within two shots atop the leaderboard, the drivable par-4 17th could determine who wins this tournament.
That said, Rickie Fowler just hammered a drive on No. 17, hitting it to 22 feet, 9 inches to set up an eagle attempt. Fowler missed the eagle on the Kodak Challenge hole, but he made an easy birdie to get to 13 under and into a tie for the lead.
Meanwhile, Rocco Mediate just made his first birdie of the day, rolling in an 18-footer to also get to 13 under and into a tie for the lead.