Mix of players chasing Tiger Woods

January, 25, 2013

SAN DIEGO -- In Saturday's third round of the Farmers Insurance Open, Tiger Woods will be paired with Billy Horschel and Casey Wittenberg. Horschel is 2 shots back of Woods at 9 under. And Wittenberg is one of six players at 8 under.

Wittenberg, 28, played with Tiger most recently in the final round of the 2012 U.S. Open. Wittenberg, who was the U.S. Amateur runner-up in 2003, beat Tiger by 3 shots with a round of 70 last June at the Olympic Club.

Horschel, 25, has never played with Woods, but they have met. In 2009, Tiger gave Horschel a spot in his AT&T National event in Maryland.

But Tiger's biggest challengers are probably further back in the pack. They include Nick Watney, who is at 7 under, and the threesome of Charles Howell III, Harris English and K.J. Choi, who are 5 shots back at 6 under.

Cart before the horse

Phil Mickelson might want to spend more time working on his golf game instead of worrying about his taxes. For the second straight week, the 42-year-old San Diego native flirted with missing the cut. At the Humana Challenge last week, he had to birdie two of his last three holes to make the 54-hole cut by 2 strokes.

On Friday at the Farmers Insurance Open, Lefty made the cut on the number at 1 under par after shooting 71 at the Torrey Pines South Course.

Call 'im Cuz

Everybody on the PGA Tour him calls him Cuz, but his real name is Neal Lancaster. Back when the 50-year-old self-described hillbilly from Smithfield, N.C., joined the tour in 1990, he couldn't remember all the names of the caddies so he called them all "Cuz," which is short for cousin.

Cuz was in the field this week at the Farmers Insurance Open, where he made the cut after a 71 on Friday on the South Course for a two-round total of 1 under par.

Long before Tommy Gainey came on the scene, Lancaster was the tour's favorite blue-collar Southerner. With a slow-as-molasses drawl, Lancaster could keep a locker room in stitches with his homespun humor before chronic shoulder and neck problems forced him off the tour in 2009. Now after a ninth-place finish at the Champions Tour Q-school in December, he can take his fun act to the senior circuit.

No fear of Tiger

On Thursday after Rickie Fowler's ugly first-round 77, where he had six bogeys, a double and three birdies, I was sure that his poor play had something to do with being paired with Tiger Woods.

The last time they played together at the Memorial in June, Fowler shot 84 in the final round. On Friday, he handled himself like a man with no fear of the mighty Tiger Woods.

Fowler matched Tiger's 7-under 65 in a bogey-free round that included seven birdies. Now he's headed to the weekend with a 2-under total.

Compton's courage

Erik Compton was already the best story coming into this week at the Farmers Insurance Open. When you're a heart transplant survivor, on your third heart, you're a winner every time you get out of bed. But Compton is a golfer, too.

On Friday, he shot a 65 on the North Course for a two-round total of 8 under par, 3 shots off Tiger's 11-under lead.

"I've got to drive the ball a little bit better, and if I can get the ball on the fairway, then I feel good with the irons, and, hey, there is a lot of golf to play, so just got to take it one shot at a time," Compton said.

After finishing outside the top 125 on the PGA Tour money list last year, the 33-year-old Miami native regained his card at Q-school in December. A good check in San Diego could go a long way toward helping this survivor become a stable member of the tour.

Farrell Evans covers golf for ESPN and can be contacted at evans.espn@gmail.com.



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