With the Wrap Around Season behind us and the New Year kicked off, The 2017 PGA Tour season is underway. The warm ups in Hawaii and Palm Desert 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. And it is that 2008 United States Open that is significant this week because your winner that year was none other than Tiger Woods. His last Major Championship victory to date, and it is this week, at Torrey Pines, that Tiger will make his long awaited return to competition, having only played two events in the last year and a half.
Tiger has won The Farmers seven times and has won at this course eight times when you include his U.S. Open victory. 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.eu Tiger is -120 to finish 51st or worse. He is 32-1 to win the tournament and is 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 everybody else this week. Maxed out, The South Course can measure 7700-yards in length. 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. The PGA Tour was brought in recently to actually 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 out of. 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 courses 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’s added 200-yards of length, swapped the nines, meaning the back is now the front and visa-versa. Weiskopf removed many trees, making for more beautiful vistas and he also removed some bunkers – but he has also moved some bunkers into more penal locations. Most notably however, 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 Course 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 The South on Thursday-Friday, the weekend is reserved for The South Course only. Interestingly enough, the winner at Torrey, the last six times, has drawn The North Course round as their Friday round as opposed to opening with it on Thursday.
Jason Day (+1150 via Bookmaker.eu) About the only thing that holds Jason Day back is his health. He has taken a great bit of rest this offseason but returned to action only 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 via Bookmaker.eu) DJ is coming off of a 2nd place finish at Abu Dhabi but will there be some lingering effects of jetlag here back in the states? His last three trips to La Jolla, he’s finished 18th, Cut, 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 via Bookmaker.eu) 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 Cut-Cut-16. The run he’s been on the last four months has made him the 6th ranked player in the world.
Justin Rose (+2700 via Bookmaker.eu) Justin 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 Cut-Cut-33 in his last three trips to town. His scoring average is good here and he’s in good health. He was 2nd at The Sony two weeks ago but I don’t see much value in backing him considering the price and his lack of success in the tournament historically.
Brandt Snedeker (+2750 via Bookmaker.eu) Snedeker was fortunate last year to win this event by catching a draw that allowed him to avoid the foul 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 via Bookmaker.eu) The last 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 Bookmaker.eu) 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 via 5Dimes.eu) 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 in Palm Desert at The Career Builder Challenge.
Marc Leishman (+8500 via 5Dimes.eu) Leishman 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 here at The Farmers last year but in 8-entries into the event, he has two Top-30’s and two 2nd place finishes.
Brooks Koepka (+2600 via Bookmaker.eu) The 2014 winner of The Turkish Airlines Open, Koepka is a first class talent and has risen to number 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 The St. Jude, and then took 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 Shriner’s in Las Vegas in November and later that month won in Japan. 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, Koepka will be able to capture his 2nd PGA Tour victory this week in Southern California.