With the current absence of the game's greatest current star, there is no question who will be garner most of the attention this week at the Farmers Insurance Open. Certainly Phil Mickelson is used to getting plenty of attention when he plays in San Diego, it is his hometown after-all, but this year will most likely be a little different. The weight of the PGA Tour's profile rests on him with Tiger Woods out of action.
Not only are fans excited because Phil is making his season debut, he will be THE highlight of the field being that he is not only a 3-time winner at this tournament but he will also be the only top-ten player from the Official World Rankings competing. The only players close to him in the rankings that will tee it up at Torrey Pines will be top-20 golfers Robert Allenby and Phil Mickelson. Both will be considered threats but Mickelson is the odds-on favorite.
Lefty is coming off a 3-win season in 2009 where he did a fine job of dealing with family health issues off the course while still getting his work done on the fairways. His last appearance was a win at the World Championships HSBC Champions tournament in early November that he won with a score of 17 under par. It has been reported that he has been working hard on his game since then.
Among the 156 players scheduled to play this week will be Nick Watney, the defending champion. In 2009 Watney beat out John Rollins for the title. He had rallied from 5 shots back to win his 2nd PGA Tour title.
On top of not having Tiger Woods in the field for the 2nd year in a row this event has another big change, the name itself. Intended to be the San Diego Open this year after sponsor Buick declared bankruptcy in 2009, Farmers Exchanges stepped up just a week ago to sign a sponsor deal with the PGA Tour that includes a long term option. Buick had been the sponsor since 1992 and their deal was intended to run through 2010.
"Farmers Insurance has a proud 82-year history of strong leadership and charitable giving," said F. Robert Woudstra, Chief Executive Officer of Farmers. "Leaders step up and step in when opportunities arise and when needs are great. We clearly see this sponsorship as an extension of our ongoing commitment to Southern California, the San Diego area and all the communities across the United States in which we serve our customers."
"Although this has been finalized on such short notice, it represents a substantial investment on Farmers' part to help in the tournament's success," said PGA Tour Commissioner Tim Finchem. "We look forward to continuing our discussions with Farmers officials following the Farmers Insurance Open in regard to the possibility of a longer-term partnership."
Back on the golf course the players will have little interest in who is the event's actual sponsor but most will be relieved that this well-established event is still being played. For 2010 the winner will receive a check for (USD) $972,000 out of a $5.4 Million dollar purse.
Golf Channel will handle Television coverage for rounds 1 and 2 while they will share duties on the weekend with CBS.