What to Watch For: Friday at The Buick Invitational

Phil Mickelson, still. He’s a hometown guy, he’s got a great track record here and he played pretty well most of Thursday with one or two glitches that kept him from taking a respectable two-under 70 even lower. And that 70 is better than you think, since he played the South Course, where scores were 3.5 strokes higher than on the easier North Course. So Phil shot the equivalent of 66.5 if you look at it that way. Like a staggered start of a 440 race, you don’t know who’s really leading until after the second round here and everyone has played each course once. Cloudy skiesI’d vote San Diego the best climate in the U.S., hands down, but the weather even here can turn to crap this time of year, as we used to note when the World Match Play was held at La Costa, which was usually flooded this time of year. Several cold fronts are blowing through. One rolled in mid-afternoon Thursday with some light rain. A second, more severe front is scheduled for Friday afternoon. Will it hold off until play is done? Maybe. This front could bring an inch of rain—that’s a veritable monsoon in these desert climes—plus possible thunderstorms and, according to the report I read, possible waterspouts. I’d like to see a waterspout—from long distance, that is. Conditions could get dicey as the bad weather persists into Saturday. Friday is the big day. Tour officials can’t resort to lift, clean and place rules in the second round because playing conditions on the two courses have to be the same for everyone, so if the downpour hits early today, suck it up and play on, fellas. Camilo VillegasHis opening 63 was head and shoulders above the rest of the field as he took advantage of the North Course. He also finished just in time. The first sprinkles started just after he teed off on the 18th hole. The South Course will play tougher and longer in today’s windier, wetter conditions. It’ll be a real slog. Factoring in that 3.5-shot differential, Villegas shot the equivalent of 66.5, too, just like Phil. That can’t be right, you say? Yeah, that’s some pretty fuzzy math. But it’s already starting to look as if those two wins at the end of last season weren’t flukes for Villegas. His putting and short game continues to look markedly better than earlier in his career. He may be for real. Let’s see how he survives the South. Tommy BahamaThe Hilton, adjacent to the 18th hole on the South Course and next to the Torrey Pines Lodge, had a sign in the lobby Thursday with an arrow pointing toward a Tommy Bahama Sample Sale. I missed out, so I’ll be looking today to see if it is a two-day event and whether there’s maybe, uh, some kind of media discount. -- Gary Van Sickle

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