In 'nice surprise,' Phil Mickelson commits to playing at Torrey Pines
Phil Mickelson has committed to the 2021 Farmers Insurance Open, possibly setting himself up for playing five weeks in a row.
If Phil Mickelson has any thoughts of paring back his PGA Tour schedule after turning 50 last June, that’s not going to happen much early in the 2021 calendar year.
Farmers Insurance Open officials confirmed on Friday that Mickelson has committed to play in his hometown event at Torrey Pines, to be held Jan. 28-31. “A nice surprise,” said Marty Gorsich, the executive director of the Century Club of San Diego, which stages the event.
A surprise because Mickelson already had committed to playing in the Saudi International in Saudi Arabia, Feb. 4-7. That’s the week after the Farmers Open, and it was thought that Mickelson might do the same as he did in 2019—skip both the Farmers and Waste Management Phoenix Open (directly opposite the Saudi event) because of the rigors of the schedule. The Farmers also comes directly after The American Express in La Quinta, Calif, of which Mickelson is the host.
Now, it appears that Mickelson could play as many five straight weeks—a stretch that likely includes him competing at Pebble Beach, where he's won five times. The Genesis Invitational at Riviera in Los Angeles, which would be the final event in the string, has been mostly on Mickelson’s schedule, though he intended to skip it after the Saudi trip in ’19, but chose at the last minute to play. Last year, Mickelson missed the cut at Riviera, as he did at Torrey Pines.
The site of three of Mickelson’s wins earlier in his career, Torrey Pines has not been fertile ground for the San Diego native and resident since his win there in 2001, completing a back-to-back feat, was followed by architect Rees Jones’ redesign of the South Course to prepare it to host the 2008 U.S. Open.
Mickelson has no wins at Torrey since, and he famously chose not to use a driver for the first couple of rounds in the Torrey Open of ’08—then the longest course in tournament history— and ended up tied for 18th. Wielding a driver, he scrambled up the leader board with a 68 on the final day to finish seven shots back of playoff participants Tiger Woods and Rocco Mediate.
The U.S. Open returns to Torrey Pines in June and Mickelson is trying to win his first title in the major to complete his Grand Slam. In 2020, Mickelson got into the U.S. Open at Winged Foot because the USGA had to change its criteria due to not being able to stage qualifying events. It raised the ceiling to the top 70 in the Official World Golf Ranking—instead of 60—and Mickelson eked in at No. 61. He then missed the cut.
Currently, Mickelson stands at No. 66 in the World Ranking and a couple of strong showings on the West Coast Swing could give him a boost toward automatically qualifying for the Open. If he’s outside the bubble, there will be some interesting decisions to make—try to qualify through sectionals or possibly accept a special exemption from the USGA—if it chooses to offer one—even though Mickelson hasn’t had the warmest relationship with the governing body.
The Hall of Famer with 44 tour wins will have other choices to make as the year wears on. Mickelson won in his first two outings on PGA Tour Champions, and it remains to be seen what his enthusiasm is for regularly playing on the older tour.
The 2021 U.S. Senior Open, by the way, is scheduled for July 8-11 at Omaha (Neb.) Country Club. The Open Championship at Royal Birkdale is set to be played the following week.