GOLF: Frys.com Open is a ‘can’t-miss event’

Trevor Immelman hits his drive off the 14th tee Wednesday at the

SAN MARTIN – There is a PGA Tour event taking place in our
backyard. Bask in that splendor for a moment. One hundred and 32
professionals are in town for the spectacular, which carries a $5
million purse, and $900,000 to the winner.
Frys.com Open preview
SAN MARTIN – There is a PGA Tour event taking place in our backyard. Bask in that splendor for a moment.

It’s a busy weekend for Bay Area sports; the Giants open the National League Championship Series on Saturday and the Sharks begin the home portion of 2010-11 campaign on the same day.

But there is plenty of time to watch those games after spending a glorious afternoon outside on the links surrounded by golf’s best.

The Frys.com Open, the Silicon Valley’s first PGA Tour event, tees off Thursday at CordeValle in San Martin.

One hundred and 32 professionals are in town for the spectacular, which carries a $5 million purse, and $900,000 to the winner.

Among some of the recognizable names such as the always-entertaining John Daly, David Duval and Justin Leonard, is 21-year-old tour rookie Rickie Fowler, who has taken the circuit by storm in 2010 and is one of the biggest draws of the tournament, coming off of his performance in the 2010 Ryder Cup. Fowler, a captain’s pick for Team USA, is 32nd on the money list heading into the week.

“I like it. It’s a good driving course,” Fowler said of the CordeValle course after getting his first look during Wednesday’s Pro-Am. “There’s possibilities of a lot of birdies out there but you’ve got to drive the fairway.”

Fowler’s second PGA event was the 2009 Frys.com and his return marks a whirlwind year for the rookie.

“Obviously, I wanted to be in this position at some point, and I want to be the best I can be,” Fowler said. “We’ve taken quite a big step in the past year. It’s definitely a cool position to be in. I love it. It’s awesome to be able to give back to Frys, in a way, to play this event. I’m excited to be here playing again. It’s a great tournament to be involved with.”

Also in the field are Bay Area residents, Erick Justesen (Sacramento), John Ellis (San Jose), Joseph Bramlett (Saratoga), Isaac Weintraub (Santa Cruz), Kevin Sutherland (Sacramento) and Kevin Chappell (Fresno), sprinkling the tournament with some local color.

Ricky Barnes, a Stockton native who has six top-10 finishes on the PGA Tour in 2010, said he expects a large contingent of family and friends following his rounds.

“Anywhere within about two hours of Northern California feels like home,” he said earlier in the week. “I played here last November and it was softer. I heard that it’s running out a little bit. You can either challenge it or kind of lay back.”

The Frys.com Open tournament committee’s concerted effort to bring the fans close to the action has added exciting dynamics while still maintaining the professional etiquette expected at a golf tournament.

The weather is perfect, and the course at CordeValle Golf course is in pristine condition.

“It’s such a pretty place in such a unique area. It really does stand out,” 2009 Frys.com runner-up Jaime Lovemark said Tuesday following a practice round.

Lovemark is currently No. 1 on the money list on the Nationwide Tour and was involved in a three-person playoff with Fowler and defending Frys.com champion Troy Matteson in 2009.

“I’m not sure what the winning score might be, maybe 15, 16-under,” he said.

The low scores expected this weekend will provide spectators plenty of opportunities to break away from the classic “golf clap” and erupt into an all-out roaring cheer.

The 17th hole will be a main attraction all week. A drivable par 4, the 17th hole is also the site of Birdies for Beers. A tent located off of the 17th green will offer discounted beers for five minutes following a birdie on that hole. It isn’t a new concept, but is one the players get a kick out of as well.

“They have done that at a few Nationwide events,” Lovemark said. “We had one in San Francisco where it was an eagle for free beers for a half hour, or something like that.

“I made eagle on nine, I holed-out from the fairway and the crowd went nuts. We enjoy it, but if you miss a putt, you get booed off the green.”

Tickets are still available at a single-day price of $35 – that isn’t asking too much. This is a can’t-miss event.

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