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Phil Mickelson & Bubba Watson favourites at Torrey Pines
January 25, 2012

With Tiger Woods a notable absentee from this week’s Farmers Insurance Open at Torrey Pines, American left-handers Phil Mickelson and Bubba Watson can expect to capture much of the spotlight.

Mickelson, a three-times winner of the PGA Tour event, lives in nearby Rancho Santa Fe and always attracts hordes of fans while Watson, one of the biggest hitters in the game, will command extra attention as defending champion.

Watson held off a late charge by Mickelson to claim last year’s title by one shot and used that victory as a springboard for the most successful campaign of his career.

“I’m feeling good,” Watson told reporters at a sun-splashed Torrey Pines on Tuesday while preparing for Thursday’s opening round. “I’ve played well here a few times, so it’s always nice to come back here.

“I think I’ve top 10’ed here three times… it’s the North course that I usually don’t shoot very low on, but last year I shot low on it, so that helped me out a lot.”

The first two rounds are played over the North and South courses at Torrey Pines before the weekend action shifts entirely to the more difficult latter layout.

“The South course has always been one of my favourites,” Watson added. “I’ve shot a couple of low rounds there… so I’m looking forward to it. I’m feeling good.”

Following his Torrey Pines victory last year, Watson went on to win the New Orleans Classic before ending the season with career-high earnings of $3,477,811 after missing just two cuts in 22 starts.

“The last two seasons were my best two seasons ever, and last year I beat my season before,” the 33-year-old said. “So hopefully we keep moving up.

“Every year I’ve improved so that’s what we’re looking for. If that means a major or if that means no wins, I just need to keep improving.”

Woods, a six-times winner of the PGA Tour event at Torrey Pines, is conspicuously absent this week having opted instead to compete in the European Tour’s Abu Dhabi Championship, where he is reportedly receiving $1.5 million in appearance money.

The 14-times major champion had previously made a habit of launching his PGA Tour season at Torrey Pines, which was also the scene of his remarkable playoff victory at the 2008 U.S. Open.

“Obviously it’s a little different feel this week because year-in and year-out, Tiger’s been here,” San Diego native Charley Hoffman said. “But I think the buzz is still up.

“There’s a new tournament director and (sponsors) Farmers have done a great job getting the community behind this event.”

Hoffman, who won his second PGA Tour title at last year’s Deutsche Bank Championship, was fulsome in his praise of the North course which he played in practice earlier on Tuesday.

“It’s in excellent shape, a little soft from the rains the last couple days,” the long-haired American said. “But it’s in as good of shape as I’ve seen it pretty much ever.

“I haven’t been out on the South course yet but my expectations are pretty high. I hit the ball real well last week.”

American world number nine Dustin Johnson is the highest-ranked player in this week’s field which has also attracted three-times major winners Ernie Els and Vijay Singh, and 2006 U.S. Open champion Geoff Ogilvy.








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