Gonzales to join giants this week

January 25, 2011 

All eyes in the golf world will be on San Diego's Torrey Pines this week as the PGA Tour comes to town.

You saw the story, something like, “Woods, Mickelson, Gonzales to headline field at Torrey Pines.”

As the pros played their way through the five rounds of the Bob Hope Classic last week in La Quinta, Calif., the field began taking shape for the Farmers Insurance Open at Torrey Pines, beginning on Thursday.

Andres Gonzales was the first alternate, which usually means a guy will get in.

By early Sunday afternoon, Gonzales texted that he was “In as of right now. Someone has to top ten at the hope that is not already in San Diego to knock me out.”

Nobody knocked him out. So by late Sunday afternoon, after Jhonattan Vegas outlasted Gary Woodland and Bill Haas in a playoff in La Quinta, Gonzales needed only official confirmation, which came before first light Monday, that he was in the Farmers field.

Such is life for a tour rookie like Gonzales, rather than headlines like the one above, which didn’t in reality have his name in it.

Gonzales, a Capital High graduate, earned full-time tour status by tying for 22nd place at the Tour Qualifying School tournament last month. But until he can begin playing regularly and earning his way into tournament fields by his performance on the course, he hangs around and waits to hear.

For example, a top-10 finish in any tournament gets a player in the following week. A win in any event gets him in the rest of the year. Being in the top 125 on the money list at the time of any of its periodic reshuffles gets him in. Generally speaking, if guys ahead of him in priority don’t play, he should get in.

Gonzales talked by telephone Sunday from San Diego, where he was staying at the home of his wife Kristin’s college roommate.

“I’m ready to go,” he said. “I’ve been working hard, and I’m playing well.”

Kristin went to work as usual at her job in Olympia early this week, but she will join her husband in San Diego on Wednesday.

Gonzales knows San Diego pretty well, from frequent visits to Kristin when he was at UNLV and she was at Point Loma Nazarene University.

But until Monday, he’d never played Torrey Pines. He got in a practice round on the site of the 2008 U.S. Open, experiencing its poa annua greens, the same as most courses in Washington state, where Gonzales learned the game.

One year, during their college days, Kristin bought him tickets to the Torrey Pines tournament.

“I got to watch Charley (Hoffman, a UNLV alum and two-time tour winner) in his rookie year out there,” Gonzales said. “That was awesome.”

The headline referenced at the top of this story (sans Gonzales) led the golf news last Wednesday. It has something to do with the fact that Woods, who’s won the Torrey Pines event six times, and Mickelson, who’s won it three times, will be making their first PGA Tour starts of the 2011 season. Both have local ties. Woods grew up in nearby Orange County and played often on the San Diego course. Mickelson grew up in San Diego and Torrey Pines was virtually a home course. Between the two, they’ve won eight of the past dozen tour events in San Diego.

Woods, of course, is the No. 1 topic, the No. 1 enigma, still the one guy whose announcement that he’s playing an event is the No. 1 headline that day.

But now, in the season after the Season After, he’s not the No. 1 player in the world. He’s not even No. 2, after Martin Kaymer’s win at Abu Dhabi on Sunday bumped Woods to No. 3.

Mickelson, who could have supplanted Woods at the top at several points last year, but never did, has slipped from No. 4 to No. 6 on the world list.

No matter the numbers, Tiger and Phil are first-name-only stars and generally considered the top two players of their generation.

Torrey Pines will be Gonzales’ first time playing against those guys.

“They’re probably a little scared that I’m playing,” Gonzales said facetiously.

In seriousness, he said, names like Mickelson and Woods in the same tournament field let him know he’s there among the best players in the world, that he earned his way there and that he belongs.

The headlines will take care of themselves.

Olympia freelance writer Bart Potter can be reached at greygoatee06@comcast.net

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