Farmers Insurance Open
Torrey Pines South (Host Course) & North
La Jolla, Calif.
South Course (Host)
Par: 72 (36-36)
Greens: Poa annua; 5,860 square feet on average
Rough: Kikuyugrass and Bentgrass at 3.5”
Water Hazards: 1
Course Architect: William Bell (1957); Rees Jones (2001)
Winner’s Share: $1,098,000
FexExCup Points: 500 to the winner
Defending Champion: Tiger Woods ran away with the title for the seventh time as he defeated Brandt Snedeker by four shots.
Dates: January 23-26
Format: 156 players; 72 holes, stroke play
Notes: Each player will play one round on the North and one round on the South before the top 70 and ties play the entire weekend on the South course. Gamers, the North course is Humana Challenge easy so make sure your line up is in order this week. The South course was the 16th most difficult on TOUR (of 43 played) in 2013.
Par: 72 (36-36)
Greens: Bentgrass & Poa annua; 4,500 square feet on average
Water Hazards: 2
Course Architect: William Bell (1957)
Notes: Ranked No. 35 out of 43 courses used on TOUR in 2013, the North course played 1.33 shots under par.
Recent History Lessons
Make it nine titles in nine events to start 2013-14 on TOUR for the red, white and blue as Patrick Reed joined the party last week at the Humana. Reed also joined Harris English and Rory McIlroy as the only three players on TOUR with multiple wins under the age of 25. Reed joined Jimmy Walker (2), Webb Simpson, Ryan Moore, Dustin Johnson, Chris Kirk, English and Zach Johnson holding trophies so far this season. Only Reed and Walker are in the field this week.
After racking up 12 first-time winners in 2013, only Jimmy Walker has broken his maiden in the first nine events of 2013-14.
Jimmy Walker (34) started the season out on the right foot for the Prime Time guys and was joined by Ryan Moore (30) in Malaysia and Zach Johnson (37) at Kapalua. Walker added title No. 2 to catch the youngsters last week but that lasted one week. Reed, 23, joins Chris Kirk (28), Webb Simpson (28), Dustin Johnson (29) and Harris English, (24) as the twenty-somethings on the board. The Young Guns now have five of nine wins to start the season. The Old Guys were led this week by 1997 Open Champion Justin Leonard, 41, as he shared third with 2007 Masters champ Zach Johnson. Leonard is in the field this week at Torrey Pines.
Pay Attention: It’s FREE
Since Peter Jacobsen’s win in 1995, only three winners have NOT been major champions. Nick Watney (2009), Ben Crane (2010) and Brandt Snedeker (2012) are the three players on this very short list.
If you are looking for youth to prevail, please remember that the last person to win on their maiden voyage on this track was Jay Don Blake in 1991. Yes, that Jay Don Blake.
The only rookie to win this event was Gene Littler in 1954. That’s so last century.
Tiger Woods won last year for the seventh time in this event. He’s won on this course eight times (2008 U.S. Open). Only Phil Mickelson and J.C. Snead have joined Woods in repeating as champion.
The only multiple winners of this event entered this week are Woods and Mickelson.
The OWGR sends 19 of their top 50 to the southern California coast this week.
The only foreign-born player to win in recent memory was Jose-Maria Olazabal in 2002.
Past Champions in the Field
2013: Tiger Woods (also 1999, 2003, 2005-2008)
2012: Brandt Snedeker
2011: Bubba Watson
2010: Ben Crane
2009: Nick Watney
2001: Phil Mickelson (also 2000 and 1993)
Inside the Ropes
Some people and experts argue that this is the true beginning to the golf season as the TOUR finally plays a course that is not a resort set-up. This week, smooth rolling Bermudagrass greens will be replaced by Poa annua and Bentgrass combos. The weather, which was non-existent in Hawaii and Palm Springs, will factor as morning tee times will be a bit chilly; afternoon tee times will have to deal with the Poa pimpled up as the sun cooks throughout the day. Last year, a Monday finish was necessary because of dense fog on Saturday morning. Desert golf, whether it was at Abu Dhabi or Palm Springs will be put on hold until the TOUR heads to the TPC Scottsdale NEXT week. This week, small greens, rough and Poa annua will be on the menu.
Torrey Pines South plays at almost 7,700 yards but it is a par 72. Last year, Woods, who has mastered this venue, played the par fours over par (+2) while playing the par threes under par (-4) and destroying the par fives (-12). The South course, with its decent rough off the fairways and around the greens, has placed in the top half of the most difficult courses on TOUR over recent years but it will not be set up U.S. Open-style to the delight of most of the field. Remember, three of the four rounds will be played on this track and only Tiger Woods (-14), Brandt Snedeker (-10) and Josh Teater (-10) were double digits under par last year. The average winning score since 1999 has hovered around 15-under-par. Tiger Woods, in 1999, set the South Course record with 62.
Torrey Pines North, the second of two municipal courses in play this week, has registered in the bottom third of the easiest courses on TOUR annually. The pros will have to make hay on this layout if they are going to be a factor on the weekend as the South Course can be a difficult place to make up shots. Mark Brooks and Brandt Snedeker share the course record on this track with matching 61s. Yes, that’s 11-under.
Bombers and ball-strikers have the advantage this week so that’s the direction I am heading. Guys who can stripe irons will have better chances holing putts on these greens; same for the guys who get up-and-down around the greens. And if those guys can also putt, even better!
The players that should be on your fantasy rosters and should be making the most noise come the weekend. Yahoo! gamers, each player’s Yahoo! group is in ( ).
Tiger Woods (A): His personal life seems to be in working order. He has no physical problems. The only reason I’m NOT playing him in one-and-done is because this is his first start of the season. He has THREE rounds over par here in his career. He’ll be in the PGA TOUR game, the Golf Channel game and the Yahoo! game. I will NOT talk you out of him in OAD, either. Woods has played this event 12 times and has 11 top 10s. He’s won on this course eight times in 13 tries.
Phil Mickelson (A): The three-time winner at Torrey should have a W under his belt already in 2014 but a triple bogey on Sunday in the UAE desert saw him come second instead. We all know that Mickelson grew up playing this course and even helped with the redevelopment of the North course. I don’t care that Mickelson has finished MC and T51 in his last two starts; he has 10 top 10s in 23 career starts. His driver warmed up as the week continued at Abu Dhabi and that club could be his key this week.
Bill Haas (B): He’s a wonderful ball-striker that has seen the weekend in eight of nine appearances. In his four of his last five he’s finished T11, T9, T4 and T9. He spent his recent time in the desert tuning it up with his pops, Jay Haas, and that led to another top 10 last week at Humana.
Jimmy Walker (C): From the hunter to the hunted, Walker is the only player on TOUR this season with two wins this season as he returns to a tournament that he’s had recent successes. After MC in his first three events at FIO, Walker has rebounded with finishes of T29, T8 and T4 last year. Not a bad three-year run! His length will help this week and so will his confidence on these tracks.
Hunter Mahan (B): Another California native (three in the top five) who knows how to roll it on Poa and has no trouble getting around the Torrey Pines setup. He’s seven-for-seven in his last seven events at FIO and he’s been T15 or better in four of his last five. I’ll gladly take Mahan’s ball-striking weekly and if his putter cooperates, he’ll be knocking on the door on Sunday. Unless Woods is already eight shots ahead…Only two of his last 12 rounds here have been over par.
Jason Day (B): One of the reasons I like Day every week is that he’s a grinder that never mails it in. Perfect evidence of that was his final round 66 here last year to peg a top 10 (T9). Day won the ISPS HANDA World Cup of Golf trophy in late November at Royal Melbourne after losing eight family members in typhoon earlier that month in the Philippines. He also posted two top 10s during the “off” season so he should be ready to fire. I prefer using Day on more difficult layouts than in birdie fests because of his ability to grind and make pars.
Nick Watney (C): In nine starts at FIO, Watney, the 2009 champ, has also racked up a pair of T9s, a T6 and T4 last year. Whoa. His ball-striking is the strength of his game and the longer and more demanding the course, the more and more I like him. Jason Day and Watney were my “man-crushes” on TOUR before Jordan Spieth came along but I’m hardly kicking t qhem to the curb. Watney’s top 10s last season were at Torrey, Quail Hollow, Liberty National and Conway Farms.
Bubba Watson (A): Another long and strong ball-striker, it’s no surprise that Watson has had plenty of success in these parts. The 2011 champ backed up his victory with T13 in 2012 and has a previous T7 and T4 to show for his work. He’ll paint fairways and greens and will enjoy playing a course with four par fives. His last two outings in December saw him finish no worse than T8.
Brandt Snedeker (A): The North Course co-record holder and 2012 champ has five top 10s in this event in seven trips. He’s missed only one cut and gives the “non-bombers” in the field hope every year. Snedeker’s improved ball-striking can only help this week because his putter usually excellent. His last four starts here are T2, WIN, T9 and T2.
Rickie Fowler (A): After opening with 77 here last year, Fowler rallied to play his final three rounds 13-under to finish T6. That was the fourth year in a row that he’s made the cut and he’s finished in the top 20 in all four of those starts.
Jordan Spieth (B): I have a hard time ruling him out of any tournament that where he’s teeing it up. Usually, experience is a factor that I depend on highly when looking at this tournament but I cannot dismiss Spieth’s talent, demeanor and ability to strike the golf ball. He opened his season at Kapalua, where first-timers NEVER play well, with a solo second and MC at the Sony firing 70-71. Choo Choo!
Keegan Bradley (B): He’s long, he kills the par fives and six of his 10 rounds here have been under par in three starts in La Jolla. It’s hard to leave out the man who was fourth in the all-around in 2013 and hasn’t finished worse than T33 since the John Deere Classic in July. He’s a premium player and he fits the winner’s profile here.
Charles Howell III (A): Tis’ the season for CH III! He loads up on the courses that he loves during this time of the year and Torrey Pines is high on his list. In 11 times at the FIO, he’s made every cut and found the top 10 in almost half of those appearances (five), including being runner up twice. He’s long, finds plenty of GIR and can really putt it. He’s also seven-for-seven this season. #hot
Graham DeLaet (B): The last two times he teed it up on TOUR he finished T7 and T6. He’s proven that, when healthy, his game travels and he can get results anywhere. He was T9 here last year and if his putter warms, he’ll be right back into the top 10 again this year.