The tour heads to San Diego and the historic Torrey PInes South Course for the Farmers Insurance Open.
The defending champion is Brandt Snedeker. Sneds shot 69 on Sunday in basically a monsoon to capture the title for his 8th tour victory and 2nd at the Farmers. He also won in 2012.
Tiger Woods returns to the tour after a 17 month layoff. He did play in his own Hero World Challenge where he finished 15th out of 17 golfers, but did lead the field with 24 birdies along with Hideki Matsuyama. His last PGA round was at the 2015 Wyndham Championship in August where he tied for 10th. He has won 8 times at Torrey, including 7 Farmers and his dramatic 2008 U.S. Open when it was heroic shot making after heroic shot making in which he played with a broken leg and torn ACL. Pretty miraculous. But it's been a long time for Woods, and the competition has even gotten more fierce with these 20 something studs along with the established players like Jason Day, Dustin Johnson, Sneds, etc... All three of those guys are in the field this week.
Torrey South is a 7,698 yard, par 72 layout. It was opened in 1957 and designed by William Bell. In 2001, Rees Jones redesigned it which allowed the course to get its first major in 2008. Torrey South will also host the 2021 U.S. Open.
Last week, Hudson Swafford won the Career Builders Challenge at the Stadium Course on PGA West in La Quinta, California. Also, Adam Hadwin became the 8th player in PGA history to break 60. Justin Thomas did it at the Sony Open in Hawaii two weeks ago, shooting 59 in the first round.
Thomas leads the Fed Ex Cup rankings. He is followed by Hideki Matsuyama, Pat Perez, Brendan Steele and Mackenzie Hughes, all winners this season. Swafford moved to 6th and Hadwin, who finished second last week, is now 10th in the standings.
Players will each play a round on the North Course on either Thursday or Friday. While the North is easier, it has been lengthened and with the 15 inches of rain the courses have gotten in January, it'll play a lot tougher The South could be a beast. Staying out of the rough is critical. The tour will rule tomorrow whether the first two rounds will be lift, clean and place because of the wet conditions.
***PGA rules officials have ruled that the players will play the ball up, and preferred lies will be in play, so the players get somewhat of a break with the soggy conditions.
The marquee hole on the course is the 18th, a 572 yard par 5. If a player cuts it too much off the tee, he'll land in a trap leading to a very tough time at reaching the green in two. If a player hits it left, he'll have to contend with trees and will have to lay up too. When players go for it in two, provided they're in good shape off the tee, they'll need to clear a lake on the front left of the green. If they spin the ball too much on the green, it could go right back into the lake. It makes for some serious dramatics on Sunday and can lead to some thrills and some heartbreak for the players. Kyle Stanley had a three shot lead over Snedeker in 2012 heading into the 18th, but hit it into the water twice and ended up triple bogeying the hole allowing Sneds to get in a playoff with him, which Snedeker won.
Key tee time:
12:40 PM CT/1:40 PM ET: Woods, Jason Day, Dustin Johnson
Weather, very good. Sunny 58-65 Thursday through Sunday. Winds anywhere from 11-15 MPH all four days, so the wind could cause some problems.
TV: Thursday-Friday, Golf Channel, 2-6 PM CT/3-7 PM ET; Saturday, Golf 12-1:30 PM CT/1-2:30 PM ET, CBS, 2-5 PM CT/3-6 PM ET; Sunday, Golf Channel, 12-1:30 PM CT/1-2:30 PM ET; CBS 2-5:30 PM CT/3-6:30 PM ET.
Phil won here in 2000 and 2001 and finished -11 last week, T-21, at the CareerBuilders. He still can go deep with the driver, so if he's accurate off the tee, and putts well, he's got a good shot.
Dustin finished second last week at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship in the United Emrites, so he's playing well. He had a long flight to get back to Torrey Pines, but he's leading the tour in driving distance at 319. If he's accurate and gets hot with the flat stick, he could very well win.
Harold Varner III
Lengthy off the tee, 307, and led the CareerBuilders after day 1 last week, but dropped off. Like his potential at winning in the next year or so.
I'm going with a guy who's 10th on the tour in driving distance at 309. This course is already long enough at nearly 7,700 yards, and with the 15 inches of rain this month, it will be extremely lengthy this week. The rough is very thick, so length and accuracy are at a premium. The 27 year old from Salt Lake City won at Puerto Rico last year for his breakthrough victory. When he's on with his putter, he's exceptional. I like him this week.