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
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
The only rookie to win this event was Gene Littler in 1954. That’s so last century.
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.
Horses-for-Courses/Form Players/Long Shots
Yahoo! group in ( )
John Rollins (B): This will be his 13th consecutive start and 14th trip overall to the coast north of San Diego so his experience is a factor I like this week. I also like the fact that he’s finished second in 2009 and third in 2012 and has only missed four cuts (2011 last time). He’ll be overlooked in most formats this week because of his slow start to 2013-14 but his worst round of the new calendar year is just 72.
Cameron Tringale (C): The kid from up the street in Mission Viejo has been spinning his wheels to start the season but he’s familiar with golf on this coast. If you wanted a long shot, you’ve got it as he was T27 after a closing 75 last year and T4 in 2012.
Josh Teater (A): His three top 10s last year were T2 at Torrey, T6 at Riviera and T7 at Colonial so that tells me he enjoys ball-strikers courses. He’s a very solid ball-striker and an above average putter and should be excited to get back to the course that produced his best finish on TOUR, T2.
Pat Perez (C): If he could find a way to close, Perez would be in the previous column but that hasn’t been the case and his last three final rounds here have been 72, 73 and 74 last year. What’s the big deal? Well, those rounds have led to finishes of T20, T22 and T21. He’s THAT close. Oh, and he went to Torrey Pines HS and won a junior world championship here as well.
Brendon de Jonge (B): Here’s the trend I’m following: T37, T27 and T15 in his last three. He’s 20th in total putting and 46th in total driving. A pair of 66s to close last weekend shows me his game is also trending in the proper direction.
Justin Leonard (C): Super finish last week in the desert combines with recent successes at Torrey makes for an excellent roster fill this week. He was T8 in 2012 and fifth in 2008 but was T78 last year. #hothand
Ben Crane (B): The 2010 champ backed that result up with T14 and preceded his victory with T7 but he’s MC in his last two trips. He got off to an excellent 2014 last week in the desert with his first top 10 since THE PLAYERS last year. Crane made 1.6 million in 2011, 1.7 million in 2012 yet made less thank 800k in 2013 so a bounce back should be on the cards.
Marc Leishman (A): After back-to-back top 10s in 2010 and 2011, the Aussie will be looking for another solid performance this year following T58 and MC the last two years. His 2014 debut saw him finish solo fifth at the Sony. Ride that form!
Brendon Todd (C): Speaking of form, Todd’s excellent play found him in the final threesome on Sunday last weekend at Humana. He finished two-under 70 to claim his best TOUR finish ever, T6, so I’ll take a ride on the momentum bus this week. Todd only made two bogeys on the week; sadly both of them were on Sunday so his game is dialed in.
Brian Stuard (B): He’s made over 1.1 million this season and he hasn’t won. That some excellent and steady golf. His last three finishes on TOUR are second, sixth and fifth last week.
Aaron Baddeley (C): Time to get it while it’s hot Pt II. Badds has struggled a bit over the last few years but if there is one place he does NOT struggle, it’s on the coast of California. He’s constantly played well at Torrey, Pebble and Riviera over the last 10 years so if I’m going to look in his direction, it will be in the next month. His 68-69 weekend here last year saw him finish T6. That’s eight rounds in a row at par or better at Torrey.
Players I’ll watch from a distance
Geoff Ogilvy: He’s two from six and his best finish is T50 at FIO.
David Hearn: He’s 0-4 with one round in the 60s and he MC last week in the desert. He’s probably still frozen from the NHL game at Michigan Stadium on New Year’s Day.
Hideki Matsuyama: Coming off another WD and another injury, I’ll let the young Japanese star show me he’s fit and ready to go before I bite.
Gonzalo-Fernandez Castano: First-timer. No, thanks.
Victor Dubuisson: He’s on MAYJAH FIYAH world-wide but it’s his first-ever TOUR start. He’s 23. He needs to be on your radar, just not this week.
Jordan Spieth of the Week Last Week
The column was taken over and thrashed by the kid from Texas last year. Out of respect, I’m not changing the title of it for 2013-14. It will remind me just how good Spieth was in the last three months of the season. This year, we’ll still identify an up-and-coming player and/or rookie that fantasy players should have on their radar.
CIMB: Kiradech Aphibarnrat, 24, might have enough money after this week to earn Special Temporary Membership. Pay attention!
McGladrey: Scott Langley turned 24 last April and is in his second season on TOUR. He finished T22 last week and No. 124 last season. #slimpickinngsthisweek
OHL Mayakoba: Harris English turned 24 last July. He won.
HTOC: Er, Jordan Spieth, solo second.
Humana: Patrick Reed won. He’s 23. You need to pay attention.
SEASON TOTAL: $550,474
Frys.com: Gary Woodland, MC. Well, at least I don’t have to worry about when I’m using GARY WOODLAND again!
CIMB Classic: Let’s try this again: Hideki Matsuyama. There’s no cut. This pleases me. His T25 after 74 on Sunday does not please me. Oh well. Here’s $53,433 into the piggy bank.
WGC-HSBC: Martin Kaymer. There’s no other place I would consider using him and he’s the defending champ on this track. #hangsonfordearlife. Kaymer’s third round 62 dared me to dream but his T8 and $161,667 is a nice deposit.
The McGladrey Classic: David Toms. He’s finished T3 in 2010 and second last year. His recent form suggests he’s playing well and I don’t see another chance to burn him down the road. It was him or CH III. Well, BOTH of my selections finished T27. I should have listened to O…T27 was good for $39,050.
OHL Mayakoba: Brian Gay. When form meets course history… Well, that was a nice theory but it resulted in T45 and $18,060. I’m glad 2013 is now over.
HTOC: Martin Laird. Since I’m off to a woeful start I see no reason to burn a premium player. Chris Kirk was my second choice but nobody wins in back-to-back starts plus he’s just had another child. Laird is the horse-for-course. The Scot finished T20 in a 30-man field for $87,000.
Sony: Charles Howell III. He plays great in the early part of the season and his record at Waialae has everything BUT a win. If you notice, I saved most of my heavy hitters for the latter part of 2013 last year and that strategy worked out. Hey, a top 10 and $119,000! Feels like a winner!
Humana: Webb Simpson has been on fire to get 2013-14 started and going low has never been a problem. It’s time to start firing at ‘em. Sigh. Another week brings another disappointing selection as I add a whopping $57,000 to my morbid total.
FIO: Same as last year, Rickie Fowler. He’s working with Butch Harmon to get to the next level and he’s played SoCal courses plenty in his young life. He finished up last week at Humana 67-66 and he’s finished T5, T20, T13 and T6 last year in four career starts at FIO. I’ll save Woods and Mickelson for down the road for bigger winner’s checks. Snedeker and Walker were also considered and are solid options for this week.
GolfChannel.com Fantasy Golf
Farmers Insurance Open
Glass ($1,448,972; Rank: 13,012)
Group 1: Tiger Woods
Group 2: Bill Haas
Group 3: Pat Perez
Group 4: Martin Flores
Rob Bolton ($1,444,177; Rank: 13,895)
Group 1: Tiger Woods
Group 2: Jimmy Walker
Group 3: K.J. Choi
Group 4: Hudson Swafford
Ryan O’ Sullivan ($1,330,327; Rank: 16,067)
Group 1: Tiger Woods
Group 2: Bill Haas
Group 3: John Rollins
Group 4: Lucas Glover
Ned Brown ($1,564,960; Rank: 11,396)
Group 1: Tiger Woods
Group 2: Bill Haas
Group 3: Brian Stuard
Group 4: Camilo Villegas
Ned said, “…
Ned Brown is a long-time contributor for Rotoworld Golf. He’s had documented success in Yahoo!’s game for years. Even if you’re confident in your selections for that game, give his insight a read.
Tiger Woods-- He had a poor TOUR Championship to end the '13 season, but he played well in the off season with a T3 at the Turkish Airlines Open and second place at the Northwestern Mutual World Challenge. His history at Torrey Pines is the all-time best with eight overall championships, so this is not the place to take a stand against him.
Phil Mickelson-- It's a very tough call between Mickelson, Brandt Snedeker and Bubba Watson for the second slot. All three have great course history going for them, but Mickelson gets the nod due to his play last week in Abu Dhabi, where he really should have won.
Bill Haas-- He really played great last week at the Humana, where he tied for sixth place, and he has a great recent history at the FIO of three consecutive top 10s (T in '11, T4 in '12 and a T9 last year.)
Jason Day-- His off-season was excellent with a championship at the World Cup of Golf, a T6 at the Australian Open and a T9 at the NW Mutual World Challenge. His best finish at the FIO came last year when he tied for ninth place.
Hunter Mahan-- This is his first event on this year's TOUR, but he played well in the off-season events with a 12th place in the NW Mutual World Challenge and a T13 in the Thailand Golf Championship. His recent history in the FIO has been good, with a T6s in 2011 and 2012.
Brian Stuard-- Picking Ian Poulter here is perhaps the safer play, but Stuard has been on fire with a second place at Mayakoba, a sixth at the Sony Open and a fifth place last week at the Humana. His course history at Torrey Pines is average, so he is all about playing the current hot hand.
Nick Watney-- He was almost unusable for fantasy golf last summer, but he came alive in the FedEx Cup Playoffs, where he tied for ninth place at The Barclays and had a solo second place at the BMW Championship. He didn't do much in the off-season events, but his recent history at the FIO is very strong with five top 10s ( T9 in '07, Win is '09, T9 in '10, T6 in '11, T4 last year) is his last seven starts.
Jimmy Walker-- He won the Frys.com in the fall and validated it with a championship last time out at the Sony Open. Walker's recent history at the FIO is very good with a T8 in '12 and a T4 last year.
Points this season: 594
And the analysis doesn't end here. Rotoworld's Rob Bolton and I will be co-hosting a one-hour live chat WEDNESDAY at NOON p.m. ET. We will be breaking down the field at the FIO and answering your questions. Simply return to the golf home page to join in on the chatter.