What to watch for today at the Buick Invitational

What to watch for today at the Buick Invitational

Phil Mickelson, for starters. The man known as Lefty had a shocking start to his season, badly missing the cut in Phoenix.

The good news is, he’s got a new driver ready to go, a Callaway FT9. He couldn’t use it at the FBR Open because the USGA hadn’t approved its use yet. Luckily, the USGA expedited its process and ruled it conforming, allowing Phil to put it in play this week.

I look for Phil to have a good week. Phil tees off Thursday afternoon at 1:10 EST on the South Course.

The Crowds: Are there going to be any? Tiger Woods isn’t here and it seems like he’s won this tournament every time it’s been played, ever. There will be no reprise of the U.S. Open. Not even an encore performance by Rocco Mediate, who withdrew Tuesday after needing arthroscopic surgery on an undisclosed body part.

The same question that lingered last year — Is there golf without Tiger? — will be on tour officials’ minds this week. Will there be big crowds and big TV audiences? We’ll see.

Padraig Harrington: The British Open and PGA champ will make his first start in the U.S., the beginning of a run-up as he prepares for the Masters. He likes to play in clumps of three tournaments in a row, so he hopes to have his game honed by the time he gets to Los Angeles for the Northern Trust Open at Riviera, a course he loves and thinks he can win on. Padraig is cautiously optimistic after a modest showing in the Middle East last week, and is concerned about some unusually wayward shots he’s struck the last two days.

“Instead of going out there and especting something, I’m really going out there hoping that it is all together,” Padraig said. “That isn’t a great way but it’s all I’ve got.”

He can handle it.

A Local Hero: I already wrote a piece on Bill Lunde, a Poway High grad (that’s inland, just north and east of San Diego) and his comeback story. He slid off the Nationwide Tour, missed at Q-school and spent 18 months in a couple of real jobs, one in the mortgage business. When that didn’t pan out, he gave golf another try and made it to the PGA Tour with a good showing on the Nationwide last year.

He’s a 33-year-old rookie and a nice guy with no ego. He’s someone to root for. Lunde is off the tee at 12:20 EST on the North Course.