The PGA Tour hits California again, and Torrey Pines - one of the more scenic stops of the season - takes centre stage for the Farmers Insurance Open. This is the toughest test of the early calendar year and Players will play 54 holes at Torrey South while enjoying a breath of fresh air at the easy Torrey North on either the Friday or Saturday. 2014 saw the smallest gap in scoring average between the two due to weather conditions but the South Course is generally brutal.
Jordan Spieth - 13.00 - and form man Jimmy Walker - 15.00 - lead the market though two names grab the attention right away: Tiger Woods - 51.00 - is the biggest price he's been for as far back as I can remember. There's a lot of debate on the Twittersphere as to whether he will or won't make the cut. Bear in mind that Torrey Pines - along with Firestone and Bay Hill - are the tracks where Woods has done the most damage over the years. Dustin Johnson - 34.00 - makes his comeback from a 6 month lay off and is another with the attributes to go well at Torrey. It will be interesting to see how he gets on with much of the media focus expected to be on the big man.
The course(s) - Torrey Pines North and South
The general rule around Torrey Pines is to shoot the lights out around the easy, circa 7,000 yard, Torrey North to give yourself shots in hand to defend around the US Open style South Course. Playing the longest on Tour, potentially stretching approximately 7,700 yards, Torrey South is a beast of a track taking major championship form. Fairways and greens are the brief and errant shots from the tee will reportedly find deep, thick rough just feet from the landing areas this year. Greens are large and emphasis is on two-putt pars (and good scrambling) rather than birdie making to keep your position on the leaderboard. The par fives though are where you must take advantage and make your score: It's no coincidence that Tiger and the likes of Bubba Watson and even big John Daly have thrived here in the past - they simply minced the long holes while scrambling efficiently on the others.
Three from the pack
When asked if he'll be teeing it up at Torrey Pines, Graham DeLaet - 34.00 or 6.00 - simply said: "I'll be there, Love that place". Hardly surprising given his tee to green competency, and following the Canadian on shot tracker last week, it seemed he hit nearly every fairway or first cut en route to a T7. Indeed DeLaet hit 75% of fairways at an average distance of 300 yards and sat 13th in ball striking for the WM Pheonix Open. This followed on from a top 30 at Humana and Graham can keep the progression going and hopefully go one better than last year's runner up at Torrey Pines.
Fast becoming a player with a reputation for the big events, Marc Leishman - 46.00 or 10.00 - was on the radar here last year and he started fast. Leish eventually recorded a runner up spot which adds to two other top 10s here (another 2nd included). Leishman finished T4 at the Masters in '13, and if you look at his recent events, the Aussie's best finishes have been in the WGCs and majors: 9th at the HSBC, 3rd at Bridgestone and 5th in the Open Championship. Leishman also finished in the top 10 at the difficult Congressional. Marc's season opener in Hawaii included a second round 62 and he should go well again at Torrey.
KJ Choi has been appearing on leaderboards of late and showing a resurgence of form. It's progressive 44-22 finishes in his last two outings for Choi and it could have been a lot better at Sony if not for a poor final round. Despite that, KJ has hit 6 of his last 8 rounds in the sixties (scoring av. 69) and the Korean also owns progressive 29-9-2 form at the Farmers Insurance Open. Choi trades at 67.00 for the win or 14.00 the place.
Charles Howell - 101.0 or 15.00 - openly loves Torrey Pines and I've dug out some interesting stats as to possibly why: I mentioned two-putting for par as a big factor here and a new stat has been added to the PGA Tour site re lag putting (approach putting). Charles Howell sits 4th in this stat from over 1000 attempts throughout 2014, while he finished 7th in par five scoring average. There was another interesting one during Sony when Jimmy Walker was said to have made the most birdies (by a stretch) since the PGA Tour introduced the new wrap-around schedule, but the man second to Jimmy was indeed Charles Howell, so he's well equipped to go low around the North Course. "Chucky" has multiple top 10s here and two runner up finishes, both times looking up at Tiger Woods.