Times Staff Writer

Five things to look for on the professional golf scene:

1. George Lopez knows enough about golf that he played host to the Bob Hope for a couple of years, plays in a bunch of PGA Tour pro-ams, and even has a favorite player.

Rory Sabbatini.


"He's kind of annoying," Lopez said. "There's not enough of that."

You could also say there's not enough giving back, which is one of the reasons why Lopez is launching the first National Kidney Foundation of Southern California celebrity tournament Monday at Lakeside Golf Club in Toluca Lake. Lopez, 47, received a kidney transplant from his wife, Ann, in 2005. They've since served as spokespersons for the National Kidney Foundation.

"I think we will prove golf is more than just a sport, it can be a force that helps good causes," Lopez said. "I want to help as many people as I can. Health is what we preach and we're just trying to raise awareness."

The celebrities on board to play include Ray Romano, Don Cheadle, Andy Garcia, Kevin Nealon, D.L. Hughley and Oscar De La Hoya.

An astute observer of the pro golf scene, Lopez said the U.S. Open at rugged Torrey Pines could have an upset winner, even though Tiger Woods is expected back.

"I think you've got to like Tiger, but I've got my guys like Andres Romero, Angel Cabrera. Any Latino, anybody with a card."

2. Phil Mickelson is getting ready for another of his marathon jaunts across the PGA Tour landscape -- five tournaments in seven weeks.

He's at the Wachovia this week (where he tied for third last year), then defending his title at the Players. After a week off, Mickelson is playing the Colonial and the Memorial back to back, then taking another week off before the U.S. Open at Torrey Pines.

If that sounds like sort of a grind, it is, but Mickelson is used to it. He played five straight weeks to start the year.

Mickelson said he spent the last two weeks working on his short game, including using a longer-shafted putter that makes its length 35 inches.

Short-game guru Dave Pelz helped him with a laser designed to improve his putting.

"Face angle means a lot more than stroke, and my face angle wasn't lined up," Mickelson said.

3. While Woods hasn't shed any light on when he'll be healthy enough to play again after knee surgery (the Memorial, May 29? The U.S. Open, June 12?), he's sitting out the Wachovia, where he is the defending champion.

And the last PGA Tour player who didn't defend his title?

It was Woods, at the 2007 Buick Open.

4. Adam Scott is still flying high after his victory last week at the Byron Nelson, and he's talking about the challenges of taking on Woods.

"I said if I played my best golf, it would be five years before I could be No. 1," Scott said. "I wasn't planning anything. I'd have to play well for five years to catch Tiger, which I think is still the case. I'm no closer."

5. Lorena Ochoa didn't win last week (maybe it's because she didn't play) and Annika Sorenstam won instead at the Stanford International Pro-Am.

It's too soon to know whether that sets up any sort of reheated rivalry because Sorenstam isn't playing this week at Broken Arrow, Okla., where Ochoa will be going after her fifth consecutive LPGA Tour victory.

The last LPGA Tour player to win five straight was Sorenstam in 2004-05.



So far this year, 10 PGA Tour players have needed 100 putts or fewer in a tournament, the fewest being 95 by Jesper Parnevik, above, at the Verizon Heritage with Adam Scott's 97 at the Nelson the next fewest. Of those 10 players, Scott is the only one who wound up winning the tournament.



Boo Weekley, on whether he sees himself as a leader if he makes the U.S. Ryder Cup team:

'I ain't going to be no leader now. I don't mind leading, but if they need me to lead it, I'll take the jump. This dog can hunt. He ain't afraid.'



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