The going gets tough this week as the PGA Tour stops at Torrey Pines, a former major championship venue, outside San Diego. To add to the excitement, Tiger Woods is back from injury and trying to tackle a course at which he's won a record 8 times.
The warm-up tournaments to begin 2017 are over and this week we step up big time as we head to a storied site in Torrey Pines Golf Course, host of the 2008 U.S. Open. Your winner then? Tiger Woods. It was Tiger's 14th and last major title and it is thus fitting that Tiger will make his long-awaited return at Torrey Pines to official PGA Tour competition off back surgery.
Tiger has won The Farmers seven times and a record eight times overall at the course when you include that U.S. Open. Will that success and familiarity with the golf course be enough to vault him to the winner's circle this week? Right now at BookMaker, Tiger is -120 to finish 51st or worse. He is 32/1 to win the tournament and 12/1 to finish in the Top 10.
Despite Tiger's affinity for the golf course, Torrey Pines is a very stern test of golf and it will be tough on him along with everybody else this week. Maxed out, the South Course can measure 7,700 yards. The fairways are on the narrower side but may hold more balls inside the first cut this week due to the extreme moisture the San Diego area has been experiencing this winter. Balls that don't hold the fairway however, will experience some nasty rough. Tour officials were brought in recently to bring the height of the rough down a notch because with it being so wet; any real length to the rough would have been a nightmare to play from. As it is now, it may be reduced to just a horror flick.
Each player will also play a round on the North Course, the more scenic of the two with remarkable views of La Jolla and the Pacific Ocean, but also the easier of the two at Torrey. The North typically plays about three or more shots easier than the South, but we'll see what happens this year as Tom Weiskopf was brought in to make some changes to the North Course. He has added 200 yards of length and swapped the nines, meaning the front is now the back and vice versa. Weiskopf removed many trees, making for more beautiful vistas, and he also removed some bunkers -- he also moved some bunkers into more penal locations. Most notably, he increased the size of the greens by almost double. They are now Bent Grass surfaces and are larger than the greens on the South. The South greens are Poa Annua but each are expected to run at a 12 on the Stimpmeter. Knowing Weiskopf, I think the North Course may be a hair more challenging since the changes but still not as difficult as the South. While the field takes turns playing the North and South on Thursday-Friday, the weekend is reserved for the South only. Interestingly enough, the winner at The Farmers the last six times has drawn the North Course round on Friday as opposed to opening with it.
Jason Day (+1150 via BookMaker): About the only thing that holds Day back is his health. He has taken a great bit of rest this offseason but returned to action to finish middle of the pack at the Tournament of Champions at Kapalua. He was cut last year here at the Farmers but won it the year prior and was 2nd the year before that.
Dustin Johnson (+825): DJ is coming off of a 2nd-place finish overseas at Abu Dhabi but will there be some lingering effects of jetlag back in the USA? In his last three trips to La Jolla, he's finished 18th, MC and 51st. He has all of the length needed and putts Poa Annua well as evidenced by his successes at Pebble Beach.
Hideki Matsuyama (+1250): Matsuyama was the hottest thing alive, finishing 5-1-2-1-1-2 dating back to The Tour Championship in September before slipping at the Sony two weeks ago in Hawaii to 27th. His record as of late here at Torrey Pines is MC-MC-16. The run he's been on the last four months has made him the 6th-ranked player in the world.
Justin Rose (+2700): Rose is one of the best in the world from tee to green but he has not seen much success here at the Farmers, finishing MC-MC-33 in his last three trips to town. His scoring average is good here and he's in good health, but I don't see much value in his price considering his less than stellar history in the tournament.
Brandt Snedeker (+2750): Snedeker was fortunate last year to win this event by catching a draw that allowed him to avoid the nasty weather, but let's not discount this too much as he has made the cut here 8 of 10 times, won twice and finished in the Top 10 six times.
Jimmy Walker (+3050): The final major champion of 2016 has an excellent track record here in San Diego, making the cut in 5 of 9 tries with four Top-10 finishes. He has plenty of length and putts extremely well. Accuracy off of the tee is always his nemesis, and with this week's rough, he'll need to keep it in the fairway.
The Long Shots
Gary Woodland (+4250 via 5Dimes): LONG shots indeed as all of these three can bang the ball out there off of the tee. Woodland has taken kindly to putting the Poa Annua greens at Torrey Pines too and has converted that into 18th-, 45th- and 10th-place finishes in his last three visits.
Charles Howell III (+5500): Howell has a tremendous history here and arrives in very good form. He has never missed a cut at Torrey Pines in 14 tries and has six Top-10 finishes. He is coming off of an 8th place at the Sony and a 12th last week at the CareerBuilder.
Marc Leishman (+8500): The Aussie drives it long and straight, which will be very important this week. He is coming off of a 20th at the Sony and finished 5th at the CIMB back in late October. He was cut at the Farmers last year but in 8 entries into the event, he has two Top 30s and two 2nd-place finishes.
Brooks Koepka (+2600 via BookMaker): Koepka is a first-class talent and has risen to No. 19 in the world rankings after a run that started last spring. After a 5th-place finish at the Match Play, Koepka finished 21st at the Masters, two straight 2nd-place finishes at the Byron Nelson and St. Jude and then 13th at The U.S. Open at Oakmont. He followed that up with a 4th at the PGA Championship at Baltrusol. Most recently, he finished second at The Shriners in Las Vegas in November. This will only be his second trip to Torrey Pines after finishing 41st in 2015, but I feel his ability to perform on the biggest stages, combined with his length off of the tee and skill with the putter, that Koepka will be able to capture his second PGA Tour victory.