SAN DIEGO (AP) Hunter Mahan looks forward to the return of Tiger Woods, although he believes the landscape will have changed. Mahan said Wednesday the intimidation factor was gone even before Woods was caught in a sex scandal.
"We stopped being intimidated by him," Mahan said. "No one is scared of him. We saw Y.E. Yang play with him and flat-out beat him at the PGA last year. I think people have figured out he's just a human being."
The difference, Mahan said, is that Woods achieved so many "unhumanlike things" on the golf course.
He is among those who wonder if Phil Mickelson can fill the void until Woods returns from his indefinite break.
"I think he sees this an opportunity to step up and kind of be the man a little bit," said Mahan, who has been Mickelson's partner at a Ryder Cup and Presidents Cup.
It's also a chance for other players to take advantage of Woods' absence and show there's more to golf than one player.
"It's an opportunity to step up and show this is not a one-man tour," Mahan said. "Hopefully, Tiger will come back and be part of it, not the centerpiece."
WEDGE GAME: Phil Mickelson has been one of the strongest critics of the USGA's new regulation that bans square grooves, so it was not surprising that he became the latest player to put the Ping-Eye 2 lob wedge in his bag.
The Ping wedge, which has square grooves, is not affected in this new era of V-shaped grooves because of a lawsuit Ping filed against the USGA that was settled 20 years ago. Under the settlement, any Ping-Eye 2 made before April 1, 1990, is allowed.
Some have said players using the Ping wedges are violating the spirit of the rule.
Mickelson doesn't buy it.
"I've sent in grooves that are legal but have not been approved for play," he said. "And I feel like the Eye-2 grooves are not legal, or don't conform, but they are approved for play. And after talking about it to the tour and the USGA, the only thing that matters is, 'Are they approved for play?'
"So I don't feel that there's any problem if I were to play those clubs or if anybody else were," Mickelson said. "All that matters is that it is OK under the Rules of Golf."
Mickelson isn't alone. John Daly has been collecting Ping-Eye 2 wedges over the last few months and used them in Honolulu. Ditto for Dean Wilson. Among other players using the Ping wedges are Brad Adamonis and Hunter Mahan, whose caddie found the beryllium copper wedge that Mahan is using at Torrey Pines.
Mickelson had several wedges from when he played Ping clubs at Arizona State as a freshman. He is only using the lob wedge, which he had Callaway bend from a 60-degree to a 64-degree club.
Lefty said he believes he will pick up even more spin this year in his other wedges because he said Callaway was "fractionally more aggressive" with the V-grooves, and he is using a slightly softer ball.
WIEBE'S WILD RIDE: The Century Club of San Diego, which runs the Farmers Insurance Open, for years has held one spot in the field for an amateur qualifier in San Diego. This year it went to Gunner Wiebe, son of former PGA Tour player Mark Wiebe.
And it was not the ordinary qualifier.
For starters, Wiebe hit a 3-iron to 4 feet on the 18th hole for an eagle to get into a playoff. His opponent? Tim Mickelson, not only the brother of Phil Mickelson, but Wiebe's golf coach at the University of San Diego.
The playoff went four holes before darkness kept them from continuing. Instead of resuming a sudden-death playoff, they agreed to play 18 holes. Wiebe won by one shot.
"I was a little concerned since he controls the lineup and kind of controls my fate for the rest of the spring that maybe he'd pull me out of an event, maybe the first one, just to take a little jab at me," Wiebe said. "But coach was great. He handled it very well, really polite, and congratulated me on the win. And he has been nothing but nice since."
The unusual circumstances didn't end with the playoff.
After his press conference Wednesday, Wiebe had a pair of three-hour classes to attend at San Diego.
"Then I'll wake up and play Torrey South tomorrow morning," he said.