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Torrey Pines to tax some of the world's best golfers

Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson give the Farmers Insurance Open buzz, with Bubba Watson, Rickie Fowler, Brandt Snedeker and Keegan Bradley providing depth.

January 23, 2013|By Chris Dufresne
  • Tiger Woods gets his putter from caddie Joe LaCava after hitting an approach shot during the pro-am round at the Farmers Insurance Open on Wednesday at Torrey Pines.
Tiger Woods gets his putter from caddie Joe LaCava after hitting an approach… (Donald Miralle / Getty Images )

LA JOLLA — The field for this week's Farmers Insurance Open at Torrey Pines is so deep and rich you could really say it's in another tax bracket.

It's a treat to get Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson on this kind of track, in this seaside setting, in general agreement on California's income-withholding policy.

Rory McIIroy, the world's No.1 player, is not here, but the tournament already seems so stuffed that his absence will hardly be noticed.

Rickie Fowler, who opens Thursday play paired with Woods, seems an adequate replacement in the youth demographic department.

"A victory here would be awesome," Fowler and his hair commented Wednesday.

The tournament has a little something for everybody. It's big and broad, played on two courses until the weekend gives way to the prestigious South Course, stretched out over 7,698 yards.

The field features six-time winner Woods, making his PGA Tour debut after missing last weekend's cut in Abu Dhabi.

Mickelson won this hometown event in 1993, 2000 and 2001 and has already amplified this year's opening ceremony with newsmaking remarks about, of all things, income taxes.

It was a misstep for the multimedia-manicured Mickelson, who mostly interjects himself into the mainstream as a corporate sponsor or in support of the latest arthritis medication.

Mickelson compared his tax-comment blunder to pulling out a driver on the final hole of the 2006 U.S. Open at Winged Foot. Mickelson hit his shot left into the tents and ended up with a double bogey.

"I'm such an idiot," Mickelson said then after handing the U.S. Open trophy to Geoff Ogilvy.

Mickelson's defense Wednesday was that he has been making goofy comments for years. Didn't anyone remember his comments stating that Tiger was using inferior equipment?

"What a dumb thing that was," Mickelson reminded everyone.

Mickelson starts play Thursday at 9:30 on the North Course, in a power grouping that includes Brandt Snedeker and Bubba Watson.

Snedeker is the defending champion, and Watson, the reigning Masters champion, won at Torrey Pines in 2011

Other notable names in the field include John Daly (the 2004 winner, here on a sponsor's exemption), 50-year-old Vijay Singh, Dustin Johnson and Keegan Bradley.

Bradley is one of the game's bright young stars and a living lightning rod for the proposed rule changes that would ban the "anchoring" of a putter against a player's body in 2016.

Bradley, at the 2011 PGA Championship, became the first player to win a major using a belly putter. Webb Simpson (U.S. Open) and Ernie Els (British Open) have since followed with anchored wins in majors.

Woods and Mickelson, who share common ground on the subject of taxes, part ways on the belly-putter debate.

Woods is in full support of the rule change, but Mickelson disagrees.

"It should not have been allowed 30 years ago," Mickelson said. "But once it was allowed, I don't know how you change it."

The tethers of Torrey Pines keep people and players coming back. The par-five, No. 18 finishing hole has kept fans riveted for years.

At the 2008 U.S. Open, Woods forced a playoff when he sank a 12-foot birdie putt at the buzzer.

Last year, Kyle Stanley endured one of the game's most ignoble finishes when he took a three-shot lead to the final hole and promptly lost it. Stanley laid up his second shot but spun his third off the green into the water, leading to a triple bogey that led to a playoff loss to Snedeker.

Stanley insisted he is not haunted by these grounds.

"I think it was really good for me," he said after a Wednesday practice round. "It made me tough."

It helped that Stanley rebounded the next week by winning in Phoenix.

Stanley's collapse handed the Torrey Pines victory to an unsuspecting Snedeker, who used the momentum on his way to a spectacular year that ended with a $10-million payout for winning the FedEx Cup.

"I obviously didn't want Kyle to have to go through that, but I had a great benefit from it," Snedeker said.

"And I appreciate the fact that he did do that for me. And I hope I never return the favor, but you never know in this game, you might."

chris.dufresne@latimes.com

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