SAN DIEGO – Last April, the PGA Tour quietly deviated from a random draw and began arranging one to four Thursday-Friday pairings in an attempt to create more interest. It was a wise choice, and the concept is getting attention this week at the Farmers Insurance Open at Torrey Pines.
In the first two rounds, the two protagonists from the 2008 U.S. Open here, Tiger Woods and Rocco Mediate, are paired together, along with Anthony Kim. Woods, winner of his past five starts at Torrey Pines, is making his first appearance here since beating Mediate in that Open playoff.
Two players known for sending tweets on Twitter, Stewart Cink and Bubba Watson, will be paired, along with newly named Ryder Cup captain Davis Love III. Love will wear a wireless microphone.
Phil Mickelson will go off with his pal Dustin Johnson and Justin Rose.
The plan also called for three men who shot 59 – Stuart Appleby, David Duval and Paul Goydos – to be grouped together, according to Tour executive Ty Votaw, but that didn’t work out because of logistical reasons.
Expect more of the same in coming weeks and probably all season. Such pairings will be done in one to four groups in the winners’ category.
“I think you’ll see it more often,” Tour commissioner Tim Finchem said of the Tour’s taking a page from some major championships. “We are going to do it at a fair amount during the course of the year. It does help our television product. We also think it creates a little bit more interest.
“So yeah, we like it. We’ll test it out here the first few weeks and see what happens. Most likely, we’ll continue during the course of the year.”
The PGA Tour and PGA European Tour are together in “questioning” the rule that has led to two disqualifications this season, PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem said Tuesday at the Farmers Insurance Open.
The Tour asked the U.S. Golf Association to review the rule a “few years ago” and has “re-articulated” its concern to the USGA in recent days, Finchem said. He said he will meet with the USGA Executive Committee late next week to discuss his desire for a “full and thorough review.”
“We felt that perhaps the penalty was out of sync with the infraction in some of these situations,” Finchem said. “So that continues to trouble us. … (The DQ penalty) troubles a lot of people, in terms of how it shakes out from time to time.”
Padraig Harrington was disqualified before the second round of last week’s Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship after he was judged to have illegally moved his ball during the first round. A viewer emailed to say Harrington replaced his ball on the green and, as he took the coin away, his hand moved the ball. Because the ball was not replaced, Harrington incurred a two-stroke penalty not reflected on his scorecard.
Likewise, Camilo Villegas was DQ’d for signing an incorrect first-round scorecard at the Hyundai Tournament of Champions after a viewer called in. As his chip on the 15th hole rolled back to his feet, Villegas used his club to sweep away some turf debris caused by his divot.
“The suggestion has been made that perhaps it would be adequate to have an additional two-stroke penalty (rather than DQ) on the player who had no knowledge that he violated a rule,” Finchem said. “There’s a lot of discomfort with this whole situation.”
Tour 10-year veteran Ben Crane, Farmers defending champion, seconded the motion.
“I kind of like the two-stroke-penalty thing,” Crane said. “No DQ. Just make it a two-stroke-penalty situation, especially if there was no intent to break the rule.”