Posts Tagged ‘Farmers Insurance Open’

Hard not to like a guy named Bubba being branded a winner.

Sure beats a Tiger cashing the winning check at the Farmers Insurance Open.

The hometown gallery at Torrey Pines would have preferred that a different lefty – Phil Mickelson – prevailed. But there’s nothing wrong with left-hander Bubba Watson having his name forever stenciled into the record books as the winner of the PGA Tour’s 2011 stop in San Diego.

Watson made his clutch birdie putt on 18 to wrap up a 5-under-par 67 final round and walk away with a check worth more than $1 million for his second career victory.

Good ol’ Bubba has a reputation as a likable player and I saw glimpses of that when I covered the 2008 U.S. Open at Torrey Pines. As he walked down the fairway on the picturesque course, people were repeatedly yelling to him. He seemed to have a lot of fans for someone who had never won a tournament and would miss the cut of the prestigious tournament.

Or perhaps people just find it fun to yell ‘Hey, Bubba!”

Bubba got that elusive first career win last year so he’s becoming a real pro now at walking off with the winner’s check.

Perhaps that’s why he didn’t turn it into a boring golf answer when a scribe asked him if he looks at himself any differently now.

“Oh, I’ve lost some weight,” Bubba said before laughing. “I thought you were talking about me. Do I look any different? Do I look any different at what?”

Now that’s exactly the type of answer you expect from a 32-year-old man who goes by the name of Bubba.

And he was just getting the comedy show warmed up. And, no, he doesn’t look at himself any differently as a player since getting that first career win.

“No, I still think I’m goofy Bubba Watson from Bagdad, Florida that hits a ball every once in a while with a pink shaft real far,” Watson said. “I don’t see myself as a rock star or fan favorite. I see myself as Bubba Watson from Bagdad that loves to play the game of golf.”

And that’s why Bubba is popular on the golf course. He’s a regular guy, not a prima donna like Tiger Woods. He’s a guy people can relate to and compare themselves with.

Bubba may be hitting golf balls around the course for four days but he also spends a lot of time doing what your average person in a golf gallery does too.

“I’m looking at people flying around in kites,” said Watson, referring to the hang gliders departing the nearby Torrey Pines Gliderport. “I’m looking at how beautiful the water is. I’m scared of heights so I’m looking at the cliffs. So I’m looking at stuff I shouldn’t be looking at while I’m trying to play golf.”

Yeah, there’s nothing corporate about this down-home Bubba.

Watson was a one-shot winner over Mickelson with Jhonattan Vegas and Dustin Johnson tying for third. Mickelson was the favorite on the course he used to play on as a kid and the hometown vibe grew a few octaves with his wife, Amy, attending the tournament. Amy Mickelson was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2009 and has endured a rough stretch over the last 18 months.

Woods, meanwhile, finished 15 shots off the lead in a tie for 44th place. This after a week’s worth of hype that Torrey Pines could re-start Woods’ sagging career.

Instead, Woods left the shores of La Jolla on another down note. To add insult to poor play, an amateur named Anthony Paolucci from nearby La Jolla Country Day School beat Woods by two shots.

But overall the week will be known for this – the time when a Bubba upstaged a Tiger.

Nothing wrong with that.

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The annual PGA event at Torrey Pines Golf Course is usually a big deal nationally for one reason only — Tiger Woods plays in it.

Not this year, of course, after Tiger had a different 18-hole event (pun intended) to play in. Without Woods, the PGA Tour stop on the cliffs of Torrey Pines — the event’s name has changed from the Buick Invitational to the Farmers Insurance Open — is about as interesting as a Flintstones’ episode without Barney Rubble.

The first-round leader is someone named Scott Piercy, a second-year player so lacking in notoriety that I wasn’t even aware he attended San Diego State. Nice round and all — Piercy shot 8-under-par 64 on the easier North Course — but I’m sure more San Diegans would line up to watch former Ratt lead singer Stephen Pearcy shank golf balls all over the course before they would salivate over watching this Piercy dude play a round.

But with no Tiger, there’s no roar to this tournament. Woods is allegedly dealing with his demons — reports say he’s at a sex addiction clinic in Mississippi — instead of knocking down birdie putts or hitting impressive irons.

I’ll never forget covering his immaculate performance at the 2008 U.S. Open at Torrey Pines. He staged an incredible 91-round war with Rocco Mediate despite having a fractured leg that would have sidelined a mere mortal. Legendary stuff with Woods prevailing while walking upwards of five miles a day on his injured leg.

I’ve covered three Super Bowls but that U.S. Open is right up there with any of the Super Bowls as the top event I’ve ever covered. Certainly beats helping out on the 1998 World Series coverage (seeing George Steinbrenner in the clubhouse was interesting), the 2004 U.S. Olympic swimming trials (sorry Michael Phelps and Natalie Coughlin) or any of the six exciting NCAA basketball tournaments (where is Saint Joseph’s Marvin O’Connor on a Friday?) that I’ve covered. 

Just an unbelieavble five days at Torrey Pines. But without Tiger prowling the course this week, Torrey Pines isn’t the least bit relevant.

Local boy Phil Mickelson is the favorite at any event now that Woods is away. While I’m sure Mickelson thrives on the competition of trying to match Tiger, it’s time for him to step up and start dominating while Woods is dealing with his issues.

Mickelson is the No. 2 golfer around but it seems like there’s a mighty huge difference between himself and Woods. Mickelson doesn’t always deal well with pressure — we don’t need to go through his meltdowns, do we? — and that’s why he’ll always be second fiddle to Woods.

But the tourney must go on and someone has to win it with Woods away. It will probably be some unknown golfer — had you ever heard of Nick Watney before he won last year’s event at Torrey Pines?

Unless there’s some really compelling element that prompts me to watch Sunday’s final round, I’ll be skipping the tournament. With no Tiger stalking the course, there’s just no reason to spend some weekend hours watching the event.

That’s how the golf world goes without its meal ticket. And I’m just not hungry for a helping of Woods-less PGA golf.