Farmers Insurance Open
South Course (host)
La Jolla, California
Yards: 7,698 as per the scorecard
Par: 72 (36-36)
Greens: Poa annua (5,850 square feet on average)
Rough: Perennial rye grass, Kikuyugrass & fescue at 3.5”
Water Hazards: 1
Course Architects: William P. Bell (1957); Rees Jones (2001)
Winner’s Share: $1,134,000
FexExCup Points: 500 to the winner
Defending Champion: Scott Stallings, as most winner before him, came from three strokes behind on Sunday to win for the third time on TOUR.
Dates: February 5 – February 8
Notes: Field of 156; top 70 and ties play the weekend; stroke play
Notes II: Gamers, please take note of how easy the North Course plays and set your daily lineups accordingly.
Yards: 7,052 as per the scorecard
Par: 72 (36-36)
Greens: Poa annua (4,500 square feet on average)
Rough: Perennial rye grass, Kikuyugrass & fescue at 3.5”
Water Hazards: 1
Course Architects: William P. Bell (1957); Henry and David Rainville (1975)
Notes: Only the courses at Humana and Kapalua were easier last year.
After 28 wins in 45 events last season Brooks Koepka joined Bill Haas, Jimmy Walker and Patrick Reed join the 2014 portion winners Charley Hoffman, Bubba Watson, Ryan Moore, Robert Streb and Ben Martin as the USA have won nine of the first 11 events. Sang-moon Bae (Korea) and Nick Taylor (Canada) are flying the flag for the rest of the world.
In the first 10 events Bae, Martin, Moore, Walker* and Haas have closed their 54-hole leads. *Walker is the only person on BOTH sides of his list as he couldn’t close out his Monday lead at Kapalua. Only four players since 2000 have closed out the 54-hole lead here (Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson and John Daly) and they’re all major champions. Don’t give up!!
After 13 first-time winners in 2013 there were only 10 last year. After 11 events in 2015, Koepka joins Martin, Streb and Taylor in making the breakthrough.
And Now, the Particulars
Last week, the Arizona desert saw almost as much rain as the San Diego area has seen in almost two years. The combo of Kikuyugrass, rye and fescue have posed problems over the last two years and Arron Oberholser tweeted on Monday he heard you could lose a small dog in it this year. Also, the change from Bermudagrass to Poa annua two years ago have given yardage books some new notations as the ball just doesn’t roll as smoothly. Guys who grew up on Poa > guys who didn’t unless it’s “your week”.
The South Course was the fourth most difficult played on TOUR last year and was only bested by “new” Doral, Augusta and Pinehurst No. 2. Being the host course, the pros will have to navigate three of their four rounds in, around and through this behemoth. Remember, the USGA doesn’t just randomly pick tracks and venues to host U.S. Opens. Torrey Pines hosted the 2008 U.S. Open (South Course only) so that’s all the pedigree gamers need to know. Sure, it’s a “muni” but so is Bethpage Black.
The South Course gave up 66 as the low round of the week last year and that was to K.J. Choi on Sunday. Ball-strikers, due to the sheer length, tight fairways and smallish greens, will excel this week for the most part. If length ain’t the strength, then I look to the short-game wizards who can save pars when they aren’t finding fairways and greens. The South is a straight grind, the TOTAL opposite of what gamers have seen at Kapalua, Waialae and TPC Scottsdale. Players AND Caddies who understand that they need to be patient have had success here. Oh, hey EIGHT par fives!!!
That being said, it’s imperative that the players post a number on the much easier North course. Only Kapalua and all three courses at Humana played easier than this track last year. The North Course annually rates in the top third of easiest courses on TOUR. This will all change after NEXT YEAR’S event as they’re ripping it up to add sprinklers and USGA greens. The North plays at just over 7,000 yards and it a par-72 so birdies, birdies and more birdies can provide a nice cushion heading to the South.
The average winning score here since the turn of the century has been hovering around 15-under.
Notice a trend?
2014: Scott Stallings -9
2013: Tiger Woods -14
2012: Brandt Snedeker -16*
2011: Bubba Watson -16
2010: Ben Crane -13
2009: Nick Watney -11
2008: Tiger Woods -19
2007: Tiger Woods -15
2006: Tiger Woods -10*
2005: Tiger Woods -16
*Won in a playoff
**Not playing this week
Stallings, Snedeker, Crane and Watney make it four of the last six winners who are NOT major champions.
Jay Don Blake is the only first-time TOUR winner at this event. That was 1991. Definitely NOT a trend!
This is the 63rd TOUR event in San Diego.
This will be the 48th event at Torrey Pines.
Woods won four in a row and five events in a row if we count the 2008 U.S. Open. He was unable to drive for five because he won the U.S. Open with a broken knee and missed out the following winter due to rehab.
Gene Littler in 1954 is the only amateur to win here.
No rookie has ever won this event.
Ryo Ishikawa made 20 birdies here last year to lead the field. He finished T7.
Justin Thomas, in his maiden voyage at the FIO, made 19 birdies and finished T10.
Marc Leishman, T2 last year, made only five bogeys plus led the field in GIR.
Stallings led the field in SGP last year.
Two years ago they grew up the rough and swapped out Bermudagrass out for Poa annua and the scores (high) have reflected its difficulty. The rough off the fairway and the greens can be difficult and these are some of the hardest fairways on TOUR to hit.
Hard courses = premium players in my book.
Tournament and Course Records
George Burns (1987) and Tiger Woods (1999) both fired 22-under 266.
62: Tiger Woods, 1999 (South Course)
Bizarre Stat of the Week:
In 2013, three players hit double-digits under par; last year, the winner was nine-under.
This fella is playing the first five weeks in a row (Kapalua/Sony/Humana/WMPO)
Matt Jones (T11/70th/T41/T59)
In order, these are the players that I believe project the best this week (Yahoo! group in parentheses)
Jimmy Walker (B): Throw out last year’s MC as he had the flu all week as Walker absolutely loves golf in California. The two years prior at Torrey he was T8 in 2012 and T4 in 2013. After MC he rebounded last year to win at Pebble Beach and had a six shot lead on No. 13 on Sunday. Gamers might also want to note that he’s said, multiple times, that Riviera is his favorite course. Gamers will want to REMEMBER that he’s hit the top 10 in his last three at Pebble. I’d expect a massive three weeks from the FedExCup leader. Oh, he won his last time out and was T2 the event before that!
Hideki Matsuyama (B): There’s a multitude of reasons to be on board with the young Japanese and I just might list all of them here. Ok, I won’t. He’s 10th in total driving, ninth in strokes gained: tee-to-green and eighth in the all-around ranking. His putting numbers are improving and this excellent news for gamers. His worse two finishes in the last five months were backed up with a WIN (Dunlop Phoenix after T41 WGC-HSBC) and T2 last week after T78 at Sony, so be patient. He fired 72-70-69, better each round, on this course last year in his first attempt.
Jordan Spieth (B): While Matsuyama was lifting the trophy at the Dunlop Phoenix, Spieth was T3. He won the following week at the Australian Open in tough conditions and then blasted the field at Isleworth in December. His layoff resulted in a T7 finish last week at WMPO as he racked up 19 birdies and only six bogeys on a course he’s never played. Last year, in his first attempt at the FIO he lit up the North Course with the low round of the week, 63 and was the 36-hole leader. His 75-75 weekend on the South Course will give veteran gamers pause but his recent form is a bit different than last year when he arrived on MC. He finished T19 here and backed that up with T4 at Pebble Beach and T12 at Riviera. Looks like he has no problem on some of the classic courses on the West Coast!
Jason Day (B): He took October and November completely off to rest, heal and get ready for the 2015 portion of the season. He closed with 62 at Kapalua to finish T3 and put all four rounds in the 60s at Sony to chalk up a T17. He’s right on schedule and loves Torrey Pines as he was T9 in 2013 and T2 last year. It’s hard not to like a guy who smokes it off the tee and the short game of a surgeon. Gamers know the drill: If he’s in the field, he’s in this column IF HE IS HEALHTY. #BoxesChecked
Justin Rose (B): He got NO LOVE from CBS on Sunday as the highest ranked player in the OWGR was left off a “notable players in the field” graphic. Follow his caddy, https://twitter.com/Fooch1993 for the picture that he snapped during the telecast. CBS might have forgotten about him but gamers cannot. I guess Rose slides under the radar when four of his last five finishes are T13 or better. In 2015 he’s finished T12 at Abu Dhabi and T13 in Qatar so there won’t be any rust to worry about this week as he’s been in the States prepping.
Brandt Snedeker (B): The 2012 champ also has a pair of T2s, a solo third and a T9 in five starts. He slammed the trunk last year on the back of 77-72. In his last four starts on TOUR he’s posted T10 three times and MC on the easiest courses on TOUR at Humana. Gamers were thrilled to see his short game pop up last week plus he only made three bogeys. He closed with 66 last week to secure that top 10 so it’s go time.
Marc Leishman (B): The big, strong Aussie is playing his seventh consecutive FIO and has hit the top 10 three times including T2 twice (2014 & 2010). He only made five bogeys last year and has the length to grind out plenty of pars. He’s shown his chops in weather and on tough courses.
Graham DeLaet (B): The Canadian ball-striking stud has played his last nine rounds at 70 or better so the rust is gone and he should be ready to fire. He finished T9 here in 2013 and T2 last year so his eye obviously fits the course. His 69-68 weekend last year on the South Course should reinforce this belief. His T7 last week plus his course form will see him dot multiple rosters this week, deservedly so.
Brooks Koepka (A): There’s no point rewriting The Takeaway from Sunday night here. Koepka is flying and has destroyed golf on the West Coast over the last four months. There shouldn’t be much doubt on where Koepka stands but another top 10 on a course he’s never seen will put him in some big-time company for the rest of the season. I’ve probably overrated him here off a win but he’s earned the look based on his play over the last year.
Rickie Fowler (B): Ok, gamers have let last week slide because of the travel back from the Middle East and a so-so record at TPC Scottsdale. The Murrieta, Calif., native hadn’t finished worse than T20 in four events before 77-70 MC in 2014. He was T5, T20, T13 and T6 in the four prior at Torrey. He opened with 67 with Abu Dhabi but finished T66. He returned to the desert in Arizona and closed with T46 shooting 67. Now, nine of his last 11 finishes worldwide have been in the top 10.
Keegan Bradley (C): Bradley opened with 65, closed with 67 and saw his beloved Patriots win the Super Bowl all in four days last weekend. He has shown time and time again that the tougher the track, the tougher he gets. Throw in four par fours this week and he should be ready to bust out. He’s three out of four at Torrey and all of those checked in T25 or better. He hits it a ton, is an excellent ball-striker and scrambles when necessary.
Justin Thomas (C): He fired his first round over 71 in five tournaments last week at WMPO. He finished T17. His worst finish in his last five was T23 and he’s hit three top 10s. He’s 15th in the all-around ranking, 13th in scoring average and T34 in strokes gained: tee-to-green. Oh, he was T10 here last year for his first top 10 as a pro. Remember, this was the fourth-hardest course on TOUR last year. #LEEEGITTTT
Pat Perez (C): The Torrey Pines HS grad has played a few rounds on this track and should be an annual roster addition. He beat Tiger Woods by eight shots at the Junior Worlds on this track. That will win you a bar bet this week. His worst round in his last 12 was his closing 71 at WMPO last weekend. He's made his last four cuts here (nothing worse than T22) including T2 last year.
Gary Woodland (B): T76, T58 and T10 last year after leading after 54 holes. He doubled No. 17 both Saturday and Sunday. He lost by three shots. He might fall off the radar this week after his MC last week but I’m bullish on the powerful ball-striker to jump right back into the action.
Dustin Johnson (B): Contrary to popular belief JOHNSON is the biggest risk-reward play this week, not Woods or Mickelson. He’s healthy. He uber-talented and he can get it around 7,600 yards no sweat. He won’t have the press hounding him because he’s already spilled his guts to Golf.com. He’s been destroying Sherwood Country Club, if you believe the article, so it’s not like they brought him out of cryogenics for this. The best part is he resides in Group B so he can be surrounded with three MOAR studs and the risk drops even more.
Jamie Donaldson: His only finish outside the top 25 in his last six was last week at TPC Scottsdale (T46) on a course he’s never played. He should be acclimated to the States and his ball-striking on a difficult layout should see a much better finish. Remember, the only time he saw Kiawah Island, at the PGA Championship, he finished T7. That course was 10 miles long as well.
Martin Laird: He led after 36 and 54 holes last week and was tied for the lead on No. 17 on Sunday. After two bad tee shots, one right and one left that led to a bogey-double T5 finish, he should be chomping at the bit to get after again this week. His course form here is quiet but he’s a seasoned ball-striker who’s won on tough tracks at Valero and Bay Hill.
Russell Knox: It feels like he’s in this column every week. His three starts of 2015 have resulted in T13, MC and T15 in the last three weeks. His T10 here last year in only his second start is running me off. Remember, if it’s not Scottish, IT’S CRAP! (see: Laird, Martin as well)
Charley Hoffman: The San Diego native will tee it up for the 18th time at the FIO. His only top 10s have come last year and in 2009 but his excellent start to 2014-15 pushes him up the board this week. He won at Mayakoba to end calendar 2014 and was T2 at Humana two weeks ago. He’s pleased with his driving and ball-striking and that will help on this monster layout. With two big finishes under his belt already he should be relaxed in front of the home crowd.
K.J. Choi: His last four at Torrey have seen him peg T15, T29, T9 and T2 in the last five years. His 66 on the South Course on Sunday last year was the low round of the week. His back-to-back finishes in his last two suggest he’s cracked the code after 13 tries. He was T44 to open at Sony and T22 last week so he’s also trending in the proper direction.
Brendan Steele: I hopped off him last week because the course form-recent history-play has burned me enough but will look again this week. He hits it a mile (T10) and is in the top 30 in ball-striking and all-around. I have no problem with bomb-and-gouge on this layout, especially with his ability to get low (North Course).
Scott Piercy: If normal San Diego weather is on the cards this week, I’m right back on Piercy after 71-75 MC in the wet and chilly Scottsdale desert. He’s played well at sea level this year finishing second at Sony and T30 at Humana.
Shane Lowry: The Irishman hasn’t missed a cut on the European Tour since, ironically, the Irish Open in the middle of June. In his next 15 events he’s posted 10 top 25s and six top 10s. He hasn’t teed it up since the Nedbank in December but he’ found time to practice in Barcelona and most recently Orlando so he won’t be fighting the jet lag.
Colt Knost: Every time I hitch my wagon, the wheels fall off but I’m back for more! He’s 29-under in two events this calendar year and closed with 63 his last time out at Humana. Don’t look at his record at Torrey if interested this week. Remember, CURRENT form is the angle here.
Daniel Berger: With T13 at Waialae and T10 last week at TPC Scottsdale, the youngster has shown his mettle on resort courses. This week we’ll see if he makes the leap but has PLENTY of length to have a puncher’s chance. His confidence is growing and he’ll slide under the radar with Spieth, Matsuyama, Koepka and Thomas grabbing the attention for the youngsters.
Tony Finau: After bursting on to the scene last fall with four top 15s in five events, Finau has been looking to rekindle that magic in 2015 during his first year on TOUR. He opened MC at Sony by firing 70-69 and followed that up with T59 at Humana. I thought he was toast last week after opening with 72 but he bounced back to play the rest of the WMPO eight-under, including a closing 67. He should have a very nice value in all formats this week and his length off the tee could create some separation.
Horses for Courses
Phil Mickelson: He’s won here three times. He helped with the redesign. He’s abandoned the pencil grip from outside 10 feet. He MC last week at TPC Scottsdale. He has one top 10 in his last six here, second in 2011.
Nick Watney (A): He’s played 10 tournaments at FIO and has five top 10s including four of the last six dating back to his win in 2009. The reason he’s down here is because his solo 14th at Humana was followed up by MC at WMPO. Sadly, that’s summed up Watney for the last couple of years. My man crush has faded.
Luke Donald: After a rousing close to end 2014, Donald is playing courses again where he had successes back in the early 2000s to start 2015. He hasn’t played Torrey since 2010 but he has four top 10s in seven trips. I wouldn’t build my team around him this week but if course horses are a preferred angle, he’s worth a look.
Seung-yul Noh: In three trips he’s posted 11 of 12 rounds at par or better that have resulted in T27, T27 and T10 last year. His recent form resembles his early career with some really solid play and some really uneven play but he’s shown a penchant for getting it around this track.
Charles Howell III: Gamers who haven’t spit out the hook after T26, T56 and T71 to open 2015 can swallow it again this week at Torrey. CH3 has five top 10s in 12 tries here including two in his last five. Hey, if you take him every week for five straight weeks he has to hit at ONE of these places, right? Er, right…
Ryo Ishikawa: T13 in 2012, MC in 2013, T7 last year looks great but be careful as he’s began 2015 MC MC.
Off the Radar
Outside of the OWGR top 100; AKA “long shots”
D.A. Points (371): Mr. Illinois loves the West Coast and rattled off consecutive top 10s here from 2010-2012. He won at Pebble with Bill Murray during that stretch as well.
Stewart Cink (201): The Kitchen opened with 64 on the North Course last year to lead after one round but stunk it up with 79 on Saturday eventually finishing T28. He was T13 in 2012 so he’s had some recent successes, relatively speaking, around here.
John Peterson (260): In two events in 2015 he’s opened 65 (Sony) and 64 (Humana). He faded to finish T37 and T20 but there’s enough pedigree here to pay attention and catch him on the upswing. Shhhhhhhhhhhhh.
Freddie Jacobson: At No. 102 he qualifies and he’s found a way to get it around Torrey over the years even though he’s not a renowned ball-striker. He’s hit the top 25 in three of his last six visits and was T7 last week. Nice value.
Luke Guthrie (288): His recent form includes nothing inside the top 35 in his last eight stretching back to last summer. He’s also missed two cuts to open this year but, hey, we’re panning for gold here, right? He’s played four of six rounds at the South Course UNDER par. He was T21 in 2013 and T23 last year. He was T8 at Memorial last year and that’s a long, difficult course as well.
Lucas Glover (563): He’s hit the top 10 here three times in 10 tries. He’s made three cuts on the bounce and is a fantastic striker of the golf ball. That’s pretty good for a long shot, I’d say!
Not this week for these guys…
Tiger Woods: After last week, no chance. When Woods turns it around, it will smack gamers directly in the face and we will have MULTIPLE OPPROTUNITIES to cash in. I’m electing to be patient; his record on this track allows you to swallow the hook. Choose carefully, my friends.
Chris Kirk: By his own admission he hasn’t been very consistent to start 2015. Again, patience this week on the course is huge and it’s huge EVERY week when putting rosters together.
Cameron Tringale: His solo second at The Barclays is fading into the rear view mirror. Season-long gamers are in the cat bird seat here; weekly gamers proceed with caution.
Bill Haas: He told us after his victory at Humana that he was surprised with the result. He didn’t break par on a resort course last week.
Billy Horschel: He looks the perfect fit here but his last four rounds on the weekends here have been 75-76-77-71.
Rookie/Up-and-Comer of the Week Last Week
Once called the “Jordan Spieth” of the week, I had to retire that name after his last two seasons on TOUR. Now, we’ll keep a broad view of newer names/faces that gamers should pay attention to as the season moves on. Some former graduates of this column include Hideki Matsuyama, Patrick Reed and Chesson Hadley.
Shriners: Tony Finau, T7
McGladrey: Robert Streb, WIN
CIMB: Cameron Smith, T5
HTOC: Nick Taylor played his sixth event as a pro. He’s won 1/6 of the events he’s entered. That’s worth keeping an eye on for the foreseeable future.
WMPO: Koepka won so he graduates from this column like Reed, Spieth and Matsuyama before him. Justin Thomas is now the current mayor. Daniel Berger was T10, Thomas T17 and Finau returned with another top 25.
Coming Later TUESDAY Afternoon
Playing the Tips will be up and running this and every Tuesday afternoon and will list all of the Rotoworld experts picks in the GolfChannel.com game, the Yahoo! Fantasy Golf game, DFS plus the European Tour! Oh, and my One-and-Done feature. Look for it around 4ET every Tuesday for the rest of the season.
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 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. Don’t forget to follow Rob (http://twitter.com/RobBoltonGolf) and Glass (http://twitter.com/MikeGlasscott) on Twitter.