Chris Riley might feel like he has the home-course advantage this week at the Farmers Insurance Open, though the former UNLV All-American won’t have the largest gallery at Torrey Pines Golf Club.
That honor will go to Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson, who will make their 2011 PGA Tour debuts Thursday. But Riley, who was born and raised in San Diego and grew up playing Torrey Pines, doesn’t mind.
“I don’t like all the extra attention anyway,” he said Tuesday before playing a practice round at the North Course. “I’m staying in my own little bubble. If I look around at all the excitement, I’m just going to get distracted.
“But it’s funny; you can tell Phil and Tiger are around just by all the extra security. I came out Monday and I couldn’t park in the players’ lot because I didn’t have the right credential.”
Riley, 37, should be well known by now. This will be his 14th time at Torrey Pines. His best finish came in 2004 when he tied for second with Luke Donald after losing in a playoff to John Daly when the tournament still was known as the Buick Invitational. He had two other top-10 finishes — a tie for seventh in 1999 and a tie for eighth in 2002.
“I know the greens like the back of my hand,” Riley said. “I grew up playing this course, and I’m very comfortable on it. I’ve had some success, and I think the experience I have of knowing the course will help me.”
He’s also coming to Torrey Pines with renewed confidence. After an excellent 2010 season in which he made $1,001,582 and had three top-10 finishes in 24 events, Riley began 2011 with a tie for ninth at the Sony Open in Hawaii on Jan. 9, which won him $143,000.
“I played solid,” Riley said. “I hit the ball well, and had I not missed a few putts, it would have been even better. But I wanted to carry the momentum I had built from last year into this year. I worked hard in the offseason to make sure I was ready.”
He took last week off from the Bob Hope Classic to make sure he’s ready to go at Torrey Pines.
“After the Masters, this is probably my favorite event on Tour,” Riley said of the Farmers.
Riley, who tees off for Thursday’s first round at 9:50 a.m. from the North Course’s No. 1 tee, won’t be the only former Rebel in the field. Fellow San Diegan Charley Hoffman is scheduled to play, as are Bill Lunde, Chad Campbell, James Oh and Tour rookie Andres Gonzales. Oh and Gonzales are in the same group, playing at 10:30 a.m. Thursday on the South Course’s first tee.
Woods is paired with Rocco Mediate and Anthony Kim and will tee off from No. 10 on the North Course at 9 a.m.
In the 2008 U.S. Open, Woods and Mediate staged a memorable showdown at Torrey Pines, with Woods winning the 18-hole playoff in sudden death despite a torn ACL in his left knee for what would be his 14th and last major to date.
Contact reporter Steve Carp at email@example.com or 702-387-2913.