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Farmers Insurance Open Preview
by Matt Fargo - 01/26/2010
If you have never heard of the Farmers Insurance Open, don’t feel bad because you aren’t alone. The PGA recorded an eagle when it inked Farmers Insurance to be the title sponsor just last week which filled a five-month absence of a sponsor of this San Diego tournament formerly known as the Buick Invitational. Yes, the same Buick Invitational that Tiger Woods used to dominate before a busted left leg put him on the shelf last year and this year, well we all know what happened. Tiger will be missed as much as the famed cypress on the sixth hole of the North Course that was lost in a storm last month.
A different name and no Tiger does not mean this event is a dud. There are not a ton of big names but there are enough to get people interested and at the top of the list is Phil Mickelson, who is making his 2010 season debut. With the absence of his nemesis, the PGA Tour wants nothing more than the second most popular guy in golf to have a big season so viewership won’t fall off too badly but that may be inevitable. The Mickelson fan club will still be pretty big this year.
The tournament name may be different but the courses remain the same. Torrey Pines North and South courses are the hosts for the 42nd consecutive year and it really does not get much better than that. Torrey Pines is one of the few municipal courses on the schedule and still plays as one of the tougher stops on tour, namely the South course which is the sole course used on the weekend. The South ranked as the fifth hardest (out of 51) in difficulty while the North was 28th hardest.
Besides Mickelson, there are seven other Major winners in the field this week highlighted by last year’s U.S. Open winner Lucas Glover and another fan favorite Ernie Els. With Woods not in the mix, there are only three past winners of this event: Mickelson, John Daly who won in 2004 and Nick Watney who won last year. The fact that Woods has won here six times including four in a row from 2005-2008 is the main reason past champions are few and far between this week.
Mickelson is the odds on favorite this week at the course he basically grew up on and has played thousands of times. He will be making his 20th consecutive appearance in the tournament, which he won in 1993, 2000 and 2001. He has not had much success in recent years as his best finish over the last five seasons has been a T6 in 2008 and last year’s +2 total four-day score was the first time he has finished above par in 16 made cuts in the event. His last official PGA event was a win at The TOUR Championship last September.
Watney won in 2009 by a shot over John Rollins and two shots over Lucas Glover and Camilo Villegas as he carded a final round 68. This was Watney’s second top ten in three years at Torrey Pines as he finished T9 in 2007 followed by a missed cut by three strokes in 2008. He has made one start this season at the season opening SBS Championship where he finished T16 and has taken the last two weeks off. It should be worth noting that last year’s win followed a T12 at the FBR the previous week so two weeks off here may be an issue.
There are only five players in the event that has finished in the money in each of the last five years: Mickelson, Charles Howell III, Charley Hoffman, Kevin Sutherland and Ryuji Imada. Also, over the last five years, 16 players have at least two top 25 finishes here but only seven have two top tens: Mickelson (2008, 2006), Howell III (2007, 2005), Bubba Watson (2009, 2007), Rollins (2009, 2006), Glover (2009, 2006), Luke Donald (2009, 2005) and Watney (2009, 2007). Some are not household names but those are the players to keep an eye on as that is where the betting value lies.