Yeah, yeah - the PGA Tour season officially started three weeks ago in Maui. However, it really, really starts up this week for the Farmers Insurance Open at Torrey Pines, as big guns Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson make their 2011 Tour debuts.
With all eyes on Torrey this week, we caught up with PGA Head Professional Joe DeBock for a little insight. And, man, does he ever have some. DeBock has been around for 23 PGA Tour events at Torrey and a U.S. Open, to name a few.
PGA.com: Joe, as always, thanks for joining us. For years now, it seems like the unofficial start to the PGA Tour season happens at Torrey Pines. That's where all the stars come out for the first time and this year is no exception. Can you tell us a little about the field, including Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson?
DeBock: I think the field will be very good. It's a great mix of talent. You have Dustin Johnson, who just missed at the U.S. Open last year. Angel Cabrera and Lucas Glover are two other past U.S. Open Champions. Crowd-pleasing John Daly will be here, along with local favorite Phil Mickelson. Foreign players Camilo Villegas, Jesper Parnevik, Maruyama Shigeki, Vijay Singh and K.J. Choi always play good here at Torrey Pines. Plus, youngster Rickie Fowler, USA's 2012 Ryder Cup Captain Davis Love and defending champion Ben Crane will be playing as well. We also have Rocco Mediate, famous for the best battle ever here at Torrey Pines and, yes, Tiger Woods who has won this tournament six times. Do I expect a great battle between Phil Mickelson and Tiger Woods? Yes, this is the year.
PGA.com: Your defending champion at the Farmers Insurance Open is Ben Crane. Recently he's made a name for himself off the course with his unique and humorous workout videos. Have you had a chance to see them? If you have, what did you think about the comical side of Ben Crane?
DeBock: Yes, I have seen some of his stuff. They showed it here during Media Day. He definitely likes to have fun with it. I think it shows that he is a down to earth kind of a guy and maybe pokes fun at the people who take things way too serious. He's a first-class guy. During Media Day he personally talked with and teed everyone off the first tee himself.
PGA.com: With two courses in play this week for the first 36 holes - the North and the South - we've traditionally seen that players really need to get their work done on the North, scoring-wise. Is there an advantage to playing the North Course in the first round, or do you think it all evens out eventually?
DeBock: Yes, I think playing the North Course first is an advantage. Over the years it can play four shots easier then the South and if you're a little nervous to start it helps. You can make mistakes on the North Course and still make birdies and pars, the South -- with a mistake -- will usually cost you a bogey. The first-round leaders are always the professionals who play the North Course first.
PGA.com: Let's get back to Phil Mickelson for a minute. Last year after winning the Masters, it was revealed that he was suffering from some health problems. He really wasn't the same player after that came out. Now he says he's doing better and we know he thrives on the West Coast. What do you expect from Phil this week?
DeBock: I have always thought Phil could win this tournament every year he plays and he has won this tournament three times. With that being said, he has never won on it since Rees Jones redesigned it in 2001. Nonetheless, I've heard he's playing good and, as always, I expect him to win.
PGA.com: Final question for you, Joe. Do you have one of the top-5 PGA Head Professional jobs in golf? There are few places I've been that are more breathtaking than Torrey Pines.
DeBock: I think I do. I have experience with 23 PGA Tour events here, a Public Links Golf Championship, an LPGA event and of course the U.S. Open. It seems like I'm right in the nucleus of golf. Plus, you can't beat the weather here year round. It's 70 degrees and sunny most days. Most importantly, I work with and for great people.