Our golf scribe gives his tips for the 2017 Farmers Insurance Open, which gets underway this Thursday.
At the risk of overstating the extremely obvious, it’s all about one man this week. Tiger Woods - the granddaddy of modern golf - makes his long-awaited return to the PGA Tour this week, at the scene of his last major victory: Torrey Pines. Those who witnessed his long awaited return at the Hero Golf Challenge were pleased to see that there were signs of that old genius, especially in the iron play that long separated him from the rest. But in an age where Justin Thomas broke the 72 hole PGA record just a week before Adam Hadwin broke 60, you wonder where Tiger will find himself this week?
It’s easy to forget that 11 of the world’s top 25 players will be teeing it up this week; such is the grandeur of the narrative Tiger. Players such as Dustin Johnson and Ricky Fowler will have to combat huge jet-lag coefficient upon their returns from Abu Dhabi. World number one Jason Day will attempt to eradicate any doubts that perhaps his powers have diminished in the last year. Defending champion Brandt Snedeker is also in fairly decent form while Hideki Matsuyama is currently one of the hottest players in the world.
The first two days of the competition will see the players alternate between the North Course and South Course of Torrey Pines. The final two days will see the remaining players descend on the South Course. At just under 7300 yards, the North course is both shorter and considerably easier than the championship South Course. The South Course is perennially ranked inside the top five most difficult courses on tour, and with a prodigious length of a fraction under 7700 yards, you can see why.
Farmers Insurance Open | Thursday 26 January - Sunday 29 January | Torrey Pines - North and South Courses
2016: Brandt Snedeker (-6) | 2015: Jason Day (-9)*playoff | 2014: Scott Stallings (-9) | 2013: Tiger Woods (-14) | 2012: Brandt Snedeker (-16)*playoff
To Win Outright
Dustin Johnson 9/1 | Jason Day 10/1 | Hideki Matsuyama 14/1 | Brooks Koepka 25/1 | Ricky Fowler 25/1
Brandt Snedeker - To Win 25/1 & To Place 11/2
The defending champion clearly has an affinity for Torrey Pines, also winning the event in a playoff in 2012. He has also had two 2nd place finishes here along with a 3rd placed finish. The excellent putter has done a lot of work with Butch Harmon on ironing out some of the creases that have hampered his swing in the last few years. He had three top 14 finishes prior to the Sony Open, indicating that the defending champion is well positioned for a defence of his title.
Phil Mickelson - To Win 35/1 & To Place 15/2
Coming off a solid tie for 21st last week at the CareerBuilder Challenge. Coming off the back of a sports hernia operation, I find it fairly incredible that old lefty is priced outside of Woods this week. He is a three-time winner here, and he also finished 2nd in 2011. He hasn’t replicated anywhere near that type of form in his last few outings here, but don’t write the proud San Diego native off too easily.
Scott Stallings - To Win 90/1 & To Place 99/5
You have to think that a former champion is always worth a pop at 90/1. He caused a huge shock here by winning in 2014, but defied the sceptics by making it through to a playoff the very next year. He also can supplement that historical data with recent form. He finished in a tie for 8th at the CareerBuilder Challenge, but perhaps of more consequence was the fact that he played the tricky host course better than anyone else, which could bode well for playing the infamous South Course at Pines.
The Man to Beat
Jimmy Walker - To Win 30/1 & To Place 19/1
This part of the world could just as easily be known as Jimmy’s World. He loves the Californian coast with Poa Annua greens. He is a four-time top-ten finisher at both Pebble Beach - where he won in 2014, and here at Torrey Pines. He has also twice finished in a tie for 4th at Riviera CC. Additionally, all four of his top ten finishes here have come in the last five years. Walker is now a bonafide contender every week, having picked up his maiden Major at Baltusrol, and I expect him to be hugely formidable this week.