Stars still expected at Torrey Pines event


Mickelson, lesser-knowns lead charge

The PGA Tour’s annual stop at Torrey Pines Golf Course has finally arrived, and after many months of chatter related to tournament sponsors and Tiger Woods, the event is schedule to tee off for the first of four rounds today.

Yes, the tournament will be subsidized by a title sponsor (thanks to an 11th-hour deal with Farmers Insurance), and no, Woods, who has dominated at Torrey Pines throughout his remarkable career, will not be here (thanks to a tumultuous two months related to his admissions of marital infidelity).

There will be, however, plenty of star power at Torrey Pines this week.

Leading that charge is Phil Mickelson, the world’s No. 2-ranked golfer, a San Diego native and a fan favorite. Mickelson has won 37 times in his career, including three wins in this tournament (1993, 2000 and 2001). He is making his 2010 debut this week after winning three times last season.

Other past champions in the field are defending champ Nick Watney and John Daly, who won the Buick Invitational in 2004. He got into this week’s field on a sponsor’s exemption and always draws a large crowd.

Of the players who have won the three PGA Tour tournaments played this year, two are in the field at Torrey Pines — Ryan Palmer won the Sony Open in Hawaii, and Bill Haas captured his first PGA Tour win, which ended on Monday after a rain delay, in La Quinta at the Bob Hope Classic.

Haas is the son of Jay Haas, who won at Torrey Pines in 1978, back when the tournament was called the Andy Williams San Diego Open Invitational.

Bill Haas said on Monday that he felt a sense of relief from earning his first victory, but that it wouldn’t change his approach at Torrey Pines.

“I’m very fortunate, and I don’t take it for granted,” he said. “I’ve got to still work hard. And (this week), I’ll be grinding away in the practice round, and everybody starts at even.”

Golf for healthy babies

Farmers Insurance Group of Companies, the title sponsor for this weekend’s PGA tournament at Torrey Pines, will donate $100 for every birdie made, $1,000 for every eagle made, and $100,000 for every hole-in-one made to the March of Dimes during Saturday’s and Sunday’s tournament play.

The donation, on behalf of Farmers Insurance and the Century Club, adds to Farmer’s track record as the second largest fundraiser for the March of Dimes nationwide. The company raised $4.8 million in 2009.

Gregory Ball covers sports for La Jolla Light. He can be reached at ballgregory@yahoo.