If this doesn’t get you geeked up, I’m not sure what will (play this while you read – it sets the tone)….
The Farmers Insurance Open (San Diego Open for traditionalists) sprawls out across the North and South Courses at Torrey Pines on Thursday and Friday before settling on the much more difficult and defined South Course for the weekend. Torrey remains one of the most beautiful and scenic courses in the world, despite the fact both courses get over 92,000 (!) rounds per year each. The South is a big ballpark (think Petco Park) at 7,643 yards, while the easier North plays to a meager 6,874. Little known fact about the course is that it overlooks the largest nude beach in the country (the link is safe, no nudity). The man-made canals of last week’s cookie-cutter Palmer Private Course at PGA West give way to breathtaking views of the shores of La Jolla, which signifies the start of the real PGA Tour season.
The South Course famously played host to the 2008 US Open, Tiger’s one-legged triumph over Rocco, so it has a legacy to match the scneic views. Fresh off last week’s avian genocide (birdies galore), it’s going to be a little weird seeing guys pumped to make par, especially on the weekend. The main scoring opportunities on the South Course are the four par-5’s, but measuring 560, 613, 541, and 572 yards, respectively, they possess plenty of girth and certainly aren’t auto-birdies.
The winning recipe is to get as fat as possible on the North Course, where the par-5’s are extremely vulnerable (listed at only 520, 548, 507, and 485 (!!!) yards, respectively) and the 326-yard, par-4 2nd played as the second-easiest par-4 on Tour last year. Then you strap up and go about your business on the South Course, constantly picking your spots and taking care not to make big numbers.
Once the tournament hits Saturday it becomes a veritable BSD ball-striking convention. Tiger has won the event seven times in thirteen starts, while Lefty has three wins in his career (though nobody likes to mention his last win came way back in 2001). More recently, in non-Tiger years, heavy-hitters like John Daly (’04), Nick Watney (’09), and Bubba Watson (’11) have captured the hardware, though Ben Crane (’10) and Brandt Snedeker (’12) have proven distance isn’t a definite requirement.
Tiger, Phil, Jason Day, Hunter Mahan, Graham Delaet, Bubba, Westwood One, and Nick Watney are among the pros who haven’t seen much action, if any, in the young season. Between this beefed-up field and the aforementioned all-star track, this event always feels important, even if it’s only late January. After a couple of low-wattage events in a row (“the tour needs ditch-diggers too” – Finchy), the expectation is for a top-shelf leaderboard and subsequent champion.
Tiger did his thing and coasted to a four-shot victory (272, -14) that was never really in doubt, despite some wayward drives coming in during his six-hour round on Sunday (it took 3 hours and 45 minutes to play the last 11 holes!). Although his 69% GIR and 0.649 strokes gained putting per round are fairly unassuming, Tiger played the par-5’s 12-under for the week and made a total of 21 birdies and 2 eagles.
We wonder, does the City of San Diego levy property taxes against Tiger?
As was indicated above, this is our first big-boy event of the year. Most of the field probably has a mindset going on…
Top players in the field: Tiger, Phil, Day (Jason, not Glen), Poulter, Snedeker, Spieth, Keegan, Westwood, and Billy Haas (Member FDIC).
NLU Favorites (legit): Horschel, Spencer Levin, Rocco, Andres Romero, KFS, Matsuyama, Woodland
Fantasy/Gambling Insight (odds according to Ladbrokes)
From a pure fantasy perspective, this is a week to unload the heavy artillery. Tiger, Phil, Sneds, Haas, Day, Mahan, etc. Get the big-boys locked and loaded across the board. This isn’t a week to go mining for value.
Horses for Courses:
Tiger (5/2). Almost impossible not to take The Cablinasian here. Don’t load up on the dogs too hard.
Snedeker (20/1). T2 in 2013, WIN in 2012, T9 in 2011, T2 in 2010. The guy gets around Torrey Pines like one of those hang-gliders that Golf Channel will show roughly 2,314 times this week.
Haas (25/1). Three straight top-10’s in this event. Four top-25’s in four starts this year. Should be there on Sunday.
Day (33/1). Didn’t miss a cut on Tour last year, including a T9 at this event. Shot a final round 66, which was lowest on the South Course. First PGA Tour start of the year after a nice silly season down under. Extreme big-game hunter and YOTTO candidate. Would be a worthy champion.
Westwood (33/1) Solo 3rd at the 2008 US Open, hasn’t played here since. Solid early season player. The level of talent you’re getting here at 33/1 is worth the gamble.
Value Fliers (‘value’ being relative due to nature of top-flight champions):
Billy Horschel (50/1). Last year opened 66-69 before fading to T39 with a 76-75 weekend. If he found something in that 64 to close the Humana, watch out.
Gary Woodland (50/1). Ranks 2nd in total driving, 2nd in ball striking, and 7th in par-5 scoring. If he can put together a good putting week (ranks 153rd in strokes gained on the year), he’ll be on the front page come Sunday. Finished T27 here last year after fading a bit with a 74 in the final round.
Kyle Stanley (80/1). We absolutely believe that at some point KFS is going to confront his epic 2012 collapse here and win this event. Outside of the majors, this has to be at the top of his to-do list. His ballstriking stats remain top-shelf, dude just needs a spark with the putter and he’ll be in business.
Spencer Levin (100/1). We’re irrational in our affinity for Spencer, so take this one with a grain of salt. That being said, he’s banked a few top 25’s here and prior to his health issues last year (missed all of ’13 after injuring his thumb in a belly-putter accident…seriously) posted a first round 62 in ’12.
When the big guns come out, so do the galleries. The wayward drives may actually hit people, and you’ll be able to hear real applause and legit cheers for the first time in 2014. CBS will sprinkle in the sights and sounds of SoCal at every turn (aforementioned hang-gliders galore, surfer bros/chicas wandering the premises stoned to the bejesus and decked out in their Billabong duds and hater-blocker sunglasses), making everyone wonder at least a few dozen times why the hell they don’t live in San Diego (where you could play Torrey South for $61 on weekdays as a City resident). This is essentially a tune-up for next week’s all-out desert rager over in Phoenix. Most notably, this is the first of many times this year that we’ll hear Jim Nantz greet us with a “Hello, friends.”
- A hearty welcome back to Peter Kostis, who is officially cancer-free, and will be on the telecast providing pithy, on-point commentary. Kostis’ baby is the Konica Minolta BizHub SwingVision feature, which is essentially a public service at this point, and should be respected as such – this will get you reacquainted.
- This event has been renamed 13 times! Notably, from 1968 to 1980 it was named the Andy Williams-San Diego Open Invitational. Still trying to figure out how a tournament can be an “invitational” but yet be “open”? It went on for 13 years under this title from 1968 to 1980.
- Shouts-out to Victor Dubuisson, who is making a cameo appearance on the US tour (to my knowledge he’s never played an event in the US). Aside from sporting world-class lettuce, Dubuisson captured copious amounts of NLU respect when we heard he maintains a crib in Cannes (his hometown), despite having switched his permanent residence to the microstate of Andorra (most likely for tax purposes). The guy oozes playboy vibes, and he’s long off the tee to boot. Is it bad that part of me wants him to miss the cut and just pimp hard down in San Diego all weekend? That hair plays anywhere, but especially in San Diego
- Speaking of lettuce – not sure about anyone else, but a part of my soul dies every time I see Charley Hoffman’s new ‘do. I feel like he sold out to “The Man.”
- Can we petition Golf Channel to get Steve Sands back out on-site and reign-in Todd Lewis? I miss Sands. And Lewis is like a homeless-man’s Tom Rinaldi (who’s a poor-man’s Jimmy Roberts, and I really don’t even like Roberts).
- Is Mickelson redesigning the North Course or what? How has this not been green-lighted yet? The two drivable par-4’s he proposed are obviously NLU-approved.
- Bubba, Mickelson, and Day are paired together the first two days. We love JDay, but shame on Finchy for missing a golden opportunity to shoehorn Weir into a gloriously diverse left-handed combo platter.
- Favorite group for the first two rounds is the trio of Tiger, Spieth, and Jimmy Walker. There’s a definite master/apprentice feel to this one, and Walker is certainly in form and no slouch himself.