This Week in Golf -- January 26th through January 29th

PGA TOUR - FARMERS INSURANCE OPEN - Torrey The PGA Tour heads to beautiful Torrey Pines this week.

This event used to signal the start of Tiger Woods' PGA Tour campaign, but more on that later.

Phil Mickelson, a three-time winner, is on hand fresh off his uninspiring tie for 49th at the Humana Challenge. He was involved in last year's thrilling finish.

With Mickelson two behind, but in the 17th fairway, Bubba Watson waited to tee off on the par-five 18th hole at the South Course at Torrey Pines. It was a wise move by Watson. Mickelson knocked his approach to four feet, so Watson waited for the gallery to settle before he hammered one down the 18th.

Mickelson holed his birdie putt to get into a tie for second with Jhonattan Vegas, the PGA Tour rookie who won the Humana the week before. Vegas was first to hit in the 18th fairway, but his approach sank just short of the green into the water.

Watson short-sided himself in a greenside bunker and that was no guarantee of an up-and-down birdie. Mickelson popped up his drive into the left rough, but still had enough to get home in two.

Watson played his bunker shot well left of the flagstick. The ball rolled down to 12 feet, but it was far from a gimme birdie.

Mickelson made a curious decision. Instead of waiting for Watson to putt, which would have let Mickelson know if he needed eagle or just birdie to tie, Mickelson laid up in the fairway.

Watson poured in his birdie shot to sign for his 67 and move two in front of Mickelson. Vegas bogeyed 18 to get in at 13-under, so it was down to Mickelson, a man known for his gambling style and interesting theater.

Knowing he needed to hole out for eagle, Mickelson sent his caddie "Bone" the 72 yards to the hole to tend the flag in case his ball flirted with the hole.

His pitch landed just long of the cup and began to spin back, but it was not enough. Mickelson's approach stayed above ground and that gave Watson the title.

Watson is back to defend and Ernie Els, Ryo Ishikawa and Rickie Fowler are making their season debuts on the PGA Tour.

Golf Channel has the action for the first two rounds, then CBS takes over on the weekend.

Next week is traditional event opposite the Super Bowl, the Phoenix Open, which was won last year by Wilson.


ABU DHABI HSBC GOLF CHAMPIONSHIP - Abu Dhabi Golf Course, Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates - There is quite a formidable field scheduled for Abu Dhabi this week.

Tiger Woods will make his 2012 debut after his victory at the end of last season at the unofficial Chevron World Challenge. He is 25th in the world rankings, so he is way behind some of the others in the field.

Luke Donald, Lee Westwood, Rory McIlroy and Martin Kaymer will open their seasons this week. The four are the four highest-ranked players in the world, adding some serious star power to the European Tour's event.

Kaymer has to be considered the favorite and can make history this week. Kaymer is the two-time defending champion and earned his first European Tour victory at this tournament in 2008. The one year he didn't win from 2008-2011, he tied for second in 2009.

Kaymer can join a select group of European Tour players who have won the same tournament four times.

Kaymer cruised to an eight-stroke win last year and set a new tournament scoring record, finishing at 24-under-par 264 to break the old mark by three shots. The victory 12 months ago moved Kaymer to No. 2 in the world rankings, dropping Woods to three. Kaymer eventually became the world's best.

Masters winner Charl Schwartzel and British Open Champion Darren Clarke are both in the field. With reigning U.S. Open winner McIlroy also playing, PGA Champion Keegan Bradley is last year's only major winner not in this week's field.

Kaymer deserves to be the favorite based on his pedigree at the Abu Dhabi Championship, but the hottest player in the world will also tee it up Thursday.

Branden Grace won for the second week in a row last week at the Volvo Golf Champions event. After his breakthrough victory at the Joburg Open, Grace topped two of his fellow countrymen, Els and Goosen, in a playoff at Fancourt.

Golf Channel will carry the action all four rounds.

Next up for the European Tour is the Qatar Masters, which was won last year by Thomas Bjorn. Hunter Mahan, K.J. Choi and Jason Day are scheduled to play as well.