Inside the Ropes
The Farmers Insurance Open will use two courses this week:
Torrey Pines Golf Course -- South Course (Host Course)
Par 72 (36-36)
Rough: 3.5 inches
5,800 square foot (on average) greens
Stimpmeter rolling 12 feet
One water hazard
Course Architect: William P Bell (1957); Rees Jones (2001)
Notes: Final round will be held here.
Torrey Pines Golf Course -- North Course
Par 72 (36-36)
4,500 square foot (on average) greens
Stimpmeter rolling 10.5 feet
Two water hazards
Course Architect: William P. Bell (1957); Harry and David Rainville (1975)
Notes: Last year, the North Course played almost two full shots easier.
FedExCup Points: 500 (winner’s share)
Winner’s Share: $1,080,000
Defending Champion: Bubba Watson lead the field in GIR and Driving Distance as he outdistanced himself from Phil Mickelson on Sunday winning by one shot.
Notes: The first two rounds will be played on both the North and South Courses. Each player will play either course the first two days. The final two rounds will take place on the host course, the South Course.
Date: Jan. 26-29, 2012
The North Course, even though it plays almost two shots easier than the South Course, has ranked in the top five in fairways most difficult to hit the last five years on Tour. In 2011, it was first on that list with players only hitting the fairway 39.8% of the time. On top of that the North Course also ranked second (behind Royal St George’s) on Tour in toughest green side bunkers. If that’s not enough, the North Course ranked fourth-toughest in highest percentage of three-putts in 2011 as well. Yet, it was only ranked 38th hardest of 51 played on Tour.
The South Course was the longest course on Tour last year at 7,698 yards. This year, they have shaved it down to 7,598 yards. Gee, thanks. The South Course ranked fourth most difficult in scrambling so if GIR ain’t your game, you better be an ace around the greens. The South Course was second on Tour in longest distance to the pin after scrambling at 10’8”. Hardly gimme range that. The South Course ranked 11th hardest of 51 played on Tour in 2011.
Thirteen of the last 16 winners at Torrey Pines have been Major champions.
The last three champions at Torrey Pines have not won majors, but all had previously won on tour.
No rookie besides amateur Gene Littler, in 1954, has won this tournament. He did it in its third year of existence.
The last player to win his first Tour event at Torrey Pines was the man with three first names, Jay Don Blake, in 1991.
Bubba Watson, who grew up in Florida and played his college golf in Georgia and Jose Maria Olazabal, from Spain (waaaaaaaaaaay East), are the only players east of the Mississippi to have won this tournament since 1999.
So What? So Let’s Dance!
Looks like another week to leave the new breed behind. The new generation is fearless and can play some fantastic golf, but I’m looking at the guys who have been there, done that this week to hit the top 10 or win.
The last two winners, Bubba Watson (2011) and Ben Crane (2010) have both led the field in GIR. The year before that, 2009, Nick Watney won without three-putting.
Speaking of putting, this is the first time putting on poa annua and bentgrass greens this year. The last three stops have been Bermudagreens. This should favor the West Coasters who are most used to playing and practicing on this surface.
For the first time this year we have to take a look at rough. It’s 3.5” around the greens and growing rapidly due to wet conditions early in the week. Once the sun comes out this weekend, look out. If greens are missed, guys are going to have to grind out of the rough to save par. We’ll take a look at who scrambles well in addition to solid iron players.
And they’re off!
In honor of Del Mar being right up the street, here’s my top five projected finish for the Farmers Insurance Open, in order, horse racing style:
Nick Watney: The native Californian and 2009 champion has a fantastic record at Torrey Pines. He’s made four of his last five cuts with his worst finish in that period being T9. Got off to a slow start in his only outing this year, Kapalua, but rallied to shoot 10-under-par in the final two rounds. Last year shot 28 (course-record) on the back nine on the South Course en route to a final round 63, one off Tiger Woods' course-record 62. An excellent putter (no three-putts in his win in ’09), scrambler and an above-average ball striker will always get my attention. Can run all day.
Phil Mickelson: Well, where should we start? Three career victories (1993, 2000 and 2001), eight top-fives, including 2nd alone last year. It’s the course he played in high school and he’s making his 22nd appearance. He shook off the rust last week with four rounds in the desert. His second last year was just one shot back of champion Bubba Watson. Ready to fire.
Brandt Snedeker: His first start back from hip surgery in November was absolutely solid last week at Humana. He made 23 birdies and an eagle to finish T8. Reached 20-under in the final round but he knocked it in the drink on number seven which knocked him out of contention. In his five starts here he’s made four of five cuts with T9 last year, preceded by T2, T42, cut and T3. In the first round of his first start here in 2007, he tied the North Course record of 61 by Mark Brooks. In 2011, he ranked in the top 25 in scrambling and Par-5 scoring. If he’s healthy, he’s on my list. Gamer.
Ben Crane: Also started the year with some questions about his hip being an issue. Went the non-surgery route, unlike Snedeker, but like Snedeker, it looks like he’s just fine to start the season. He finished T9 at Kapalua and T8 last week at Humana. His four career starts at Torrey Pines have resulted in T14 last year preceded by WIN, T7 and T67. Form and history play here.
D.A Points: Fantastic start to his 2012 season with two top-12 finishes in Hawaii, including four rounds under 70 at the Sony. He’s made four of five cuts here lifetime including fifth alone last year and T9 in 2010. This is where he started his hot, three tournament swing last year (5th, T18 WMPO, WIN AT&T). Points is looking to join two other winners this year with Illinois ties on Tour. Mark Wilson resides in Elmhurst, IL and Steve Stricker went to the University of Illinois. Points grew up in Pekin, IL and also played at the University of Illinois. Coincidence? I don’t think so. The Ryder Cup is being played in the Chicago suburbs at Medinah and Points is making his argument early to be included. Real chance.
Stalking the Field:
Show bets as followed for those I think who will also hit the top-25 leaderboard
Bubba Watson: The defending champ played almost flawless golf here last year en route to a 16-under-par victory. He led the field in GIR, Driving Distance, Proximity to the Hole, Par-5 Scoring Average and Par-5 Birdie or Better Percentage. He won by one shot. It’s not easy to repeat here unless your name is Tiger, Phil or J.C. Snead. Three top-sevens in six career starts will have me overlook a slow start in Hawaii. In 2011, Watson made 19 of 22 cuts which won him just enough money to buy this. That’s our Bubba!
Charles Howell III: Charlie Three Sticks takes up his weekly position in this section. His record early in the season has been fantastic and there’s no point hopping off him now after a T2 at Sony and a decent 10-under last week. History at Torrey is excellent with nine-for-nine in cuts made, including four top-10’s with two seconds. That record is too good to dismiss this week. This is a recording…Driving at the end.
Hunter Mahan: Made five consecutive cuts here after missing three straight to start his career. Played 22 events last year and made 19 cuts while registering nine top 10s. The only thing he didn’t do last year on Tour was secure a victory. Looking for a big 2012. Primed.
Ernie Els: Lost in a playoff last week in South Africa. Top 10 in GIR last year on Tour and in his only two starts here he’s finished T5 in 2010 and T6 in 2005. Oh, and he won the World Juniors here when he was 14 so that was what, 1980-something? Man, I’m getting old…Experienced.
Robert Garrigus: He finished T2 last week with a brand new putter, 30 birdies and a flirtation with 59 all after shooting 41 on his first nine. He’s in shape and was in it last week until his eagle putt barely missed on the 72nd hole. How’s that for a start to a new season? Cut here three times in six appearances including his last two. Form play.
John Mallinger: Speaking of healthy, Mallinger’s shoulder is finally tested and ready to go. Irons and putting were well above average last week as he finished second at Humana. Has the pedigree but has not won yet on Tour. Being a California native helps and I’m playing off his hot finish last week -- only three bogeys in his final three rounds --from last week. Step up in class.
Geoff Ogilvy: Per Twitter, Ogilvy is playing his first round at Torrey Pines since the 2008 U.S. Open where he finished T9. Not a huge fan of taking guys making their first start of the season. He missed the cut in his last two appearances at Torrey in this tournament. Fear factor: He’s rocking a moustache and we have seen what they have done already in 2012! Steady.
Pat Perez: Closed with a nine-under 63 last week at Humana after having a clanger on Saturday with two-over 74. He’s using a belly putter, has a new swing coach and is developing a new swing, all on top of getting divorced. His record here is spotty at best, but did finish T20 last year. Some thrive in chaos and a final round 63 with 10 birdies is hardly an accident. Keep an eye out.
Rickie Fowler: The Southern California native makes his first start of 2012 this week and he’s doing it with brand-new Cobra woods and irons. In his only two starts here he T20 last year and was T5 in 2010. He has immense talent that just hasn’t broken through in victories yet. Again, no first time winners here since 1991 but has shown he’s comfortable here. Lurking.
Brendon de Jonge: In his two starts of 2012, he’s finished T10 at Sony and T12 at Humana. Our friend Johnny Mac reminded me of his final round scoring average (130-something) on Twitter at the Sony as de Jonge was struggling on Sunday. That was not the case last week at Humana where de Jonge made 10 birdies on his way to 64 and T12. He led the field in GIR as well. His story at Torrey is not so hot with only one cut in three chances (T37 in 2010) and has never won on Tour. Too hot to throw out.
Camilo Villegas: Finished 2011 on an upswing with six consecutive top-25 postings. First event out of the gate in 2012 and he bags another top-25, finishing 19th at Humana. His first time in the desert makes it seven top-25’s on the trot. Three cuts made in five career starts including his last three. T44 in 2011, T3 in 2009, T13 in 2008. In the money.
Justin Rose: New dad tees it up for the first time in 2012. Two top-25’s in his last two starts at Torrey Pines. Two top-10’s in November at HSBC and Barclays Singapore Open. Played four events on the West Coast last year and had all top-25’s. Might actually get some sleep this week away from the baby! Stretching.
Gary Woodland: According to the experts, Woodland has made 14 straight cuts, the most by any player in the field. He’s long and a GIR machine but tends to struggle with the putter. Butch Harmon is his new swing coach. His history (two events, T58, T81) here doesn’t help nor did his first outing (24th of 27) at Kapalua. Too much game to dismiss altogether.
Dustin Johnson: Per Twitter , Johnson remarked that his #kneehab was going great. Er, that’s delicious and all, but what about the BACK injury that forced the WD last week? No mention of that? Not for me this week. UPDATE: Per Twitter Tuesday morning, Johnson claims “#kneehab is just fine and my back is good to go!! #nonissue.” I’m staying away. I haven’t seen more than 27 holes without a WD yet so I am still skeptical. Remember, you’re picking Johnson to WIN or hit the top five, not to just make the cut.
Bill Haas: After a blazing start to 2011, Haas is looking for his first top 10 of the eason. He was quiet at Kapalua with a T20 (in a 27 man field) and an even quieter T64 at Humana. Looking back to 2011, Haas finished T42 at the HSBC in November and T13 (out of 18) at the Chevron World Challenge. That’s four in a row. Tune in next time.
J.B. Holmes: I think I speak for all golf fans when I say we’re all happy just to see J.B. Holmes entered in the tournament this week. After having brain surgery September 1, he has struggled to regain club head speed and is struggling with his distance control. J.B., great to see you healthy again and I’ll hop back on after you’ve made a few starts. Recovering.
Aaron Baddeley: Cut in his last two outings here. Up and down start at Kapalua, his only this year, with two rounds over par on the easiest course on Tour. Keep him on your radar for Scottsdale and defending his championship at Riviera.
Bryce Molder: Cut his last four appearances here. Cut at Humana last week. His finish to 2011 was impressive. I’ll wait to see some more evidence of that game reappearing before taking another look.
Two Dollar Tickets:
Long shots who could surprise
Kevin Sutherland: Sixteen straight made cuts at Torrey Pines. Sixteen. He’s definitely worth a look as four of his last five appearances have landed inside the top 15. Two dollars well spent on this Sacramento native and resident.
Spencer Levin: Another Sacramento native who has hit the top 22 in his last two starts here. He made the weekend in eight consecutive tour events. Levin ranked third in birdies, second in par-5 scoring and made 25 of 31 cuts with six top-10’s in 2011. His T23 at Sony and T64 last week might scare some off. What’s in the water in Sacramento? Viable long shot.
Ryuji Imada: Before being cut last year, Imada had four top-19’s in his previous four starts, including T9 (2010), T19 (2009), second (2008) and T16 in 2007. Shot 81 last year in the second round after an opening 67. Two bucks for this track record is worth a punt.
Sang-Moon Bae: Led the Japan tour in money in 2011 and backed that up by finishing 11th at Q-School qualifying. Bae has 11 international victories and has made an above average start this year on Tour with T29 at Sony and T14 last week at Humana. He’s currently ranked 34th in the OWGR. I doubt your friends in your league take him seriously. You might want to start.
SPECIAL EURO-TOUR SEGMENT:
Had some nice folks ask me for my thoughts on the big one in the bigger desert.
I’ll give you a six pack of choices, two winners, two creepers and two sleepers.
Well, I may look stupid, but I ain’t dum.
Martin Kaymer has won this thing in three of the last four years. The other year he finished second. If there is a picture of “Horse for Course” in the dictionary, I’m guessing the 2010 PGA Champion is on display. No worse than 23rd in his last four events worldwide, including a victory at the HSBC Champions in November.
Tiger Woods won with a birdie-birdie finish at the Chevron World Challenge in December for his first win in 39,345 years. Or so it seemed like. If he’s healthy, which I’m assuming he is, there is no better golfer on the planet. I haven’t read or heard anything about him in 30 days besides he’s playing at the AT&T Pebble Beach. The sound of silence is like the old days. Bet against him at your own risk.
Francesco Molinari is six-for-six making the cut, including T8, T13 and T10 in his last three. His last time out he finished sixth at the Dubai World Championship in December. I was shocked to see he only has two career wins on the European Tour.
Branden Grace has won the last two events on the European Tour. Based on his form, I believe he’ll give the big boys a sniff this week as he’s been no worse than 14th in his last four starts.
Marcus Fraser lost to Greg Chalmers in a playoff in the Australian PGA and three weeks later finished second alone to Ian Poluter at the JB Were Masters. Recorded two of top-11’s before that. Take a look.
George Coetzee had eight top-10’s in 2011 and was 15th at the Open Championship. Could surprise.
Golf Channel Fantasy Challenge: Farmers Insurance Open
Team Name: Mike Glasscott
Group 1: Nick Watney
Group 2: Brandt Snedeker
Group 3: D.A. Points
Group 4: Kevin Sutherland
Ned Said, “…
Nick Watney: He got off to slow start on Maui, but he rallied on the weekend to play the final two rounds in 10-under-par. He has a very strong recent record at the Farmers with four top 10’s in his last five starts including a championship in '09.
Phil Mickelson: Phil had to rally with a 6-under-par third round to make the cut last week at the Humana. He has a long record at the Farmers of 10 top 10’s in 21 career professional starts including championships in '93, '00 and '01.
Charles Howell III, Camilo Villegas, Robert Garrigus
D.A. Points: He's off to a fast start this season with T12 at Hyundai and T6 at the Sony. Points also has a very good recent record at the Farmers, with a T9 in '10 and T5 last year.
Brandt Snedeker: He started the season with a smokin’ hot round of 8-under-par at the Nicklaus Course at the Humana. His T8 last weekend would have been higher if it wasn't for an ill-timed double-bogey in his final round at the par-4 seventh hole. Like Points, Snedeker has a strong recent history at the Farmers with T2 in '10 and T9 last year.
Ernie Els: Els opened his '12 season last week at the Volvo Golf Champions, where he lost in a three-way playoff. He has played the Farmers twice, finishing T6 in '05 and T5 in '10.
Bubba Watson: He is the defending champion at the Farmers, but looking back over his history, Watson either plays well or poorly. Those that want to fade him might look at Rickie Fowler or Hunter Mahan.
Rickie Fowler, Hunter Mahan, Justin Rose, Mark Leishman, Ryan Moore, John Rollins
Ben Crane: Crane is off to a fast start this year with a T9 at Hyundai and T8 last week at the Humana. He has a strong recent history at the Farmers, with a T7 in '09 and championship in '10.
Matt Every: Every looked good at the Sony where he tied for sixth place. He has only one career start at the Farmers, with a very respectable T15 in '10.
Pat Perez, Bud Cauley, Ricky Barnes, Harris English
“And Another Thing”
The analysis doesn't end here. Rotoworld's Rob Bolton will be co-hosting a one-hour live chat with GolfChannel.com's Ryan Ballengee on Wednesday at 1:30 p.m. ET. PLEASE NOTE THE TIME CHANGE! They will be breaking down the field at the Humana and answering your questions. Simply return to the golf home page to join in on the chatter.