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Farmers Insurance Open Preview and Picks

   by Matt Fargo - 01/22/2012

The PGA Tour stays in California this week for the Farmers Insurance Open from La Jolla, California. Last week, Mark Wilson made a 10-foot birdie on the final hole to win the Humana Challenge by two strokes over Robert Garrigus, John Mallinger and Johnson Wagner. It was Wilson's fifth career title with all five of those wins coming in January or February. 156 golfers will be eyeing the $6,000,000 purse this week in what is the biggest field of the young PGA Tour season.

Torrey Pines North and South courses are the hosts for the 45th 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 11th hardest (out of 51) in difficulty while the North was 38th hardest last season including 14th out of 21 par 72 layouts in non-majors.

Scoring low on the North course is imperative because the South will not give in. The South Course is the longest course on Tour at 7,698 yards but that does not mean big hitters will dominate. Expereience is the biggest factor this week as a mix of small greens with Poa annua can cause havoc for many. Only the U.S. Open has gone longer than the Farmers in a first timer winning as you have to go back to 1957 when Arnold Palmer captured the tournament in his first trip here.

One notable absentee this week is Tiger Woods, who has won seven times on this track, as he opted to open the season at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Golf Championship. A rather large appearance fee was the reason for that. There are still a plethora of big names in the field this week highlighted once again by Phil Mickelson who has won here three times and finished second last year. Lefty is coming off a disappointing T49 last week.

Bubba Watson is the reigning champion and while he did lead the field in driving distance, he also led the field in greens hit and that was the ultimate difference. He won by a shot over Mickelson thanks to a final round 67. He did miss the cut here two years ago but that was more of an aberration than last year's win as he also has finishes of T7 and T4 back when it was called the Buick Invitational.

Nick Watney (+1,500) is the favorite along with Mickelson and justifiably so. He is coming off a T12 in his first event this season at the Hyundai Tournament of Champions but don't think the time off between then and now will hurt this early in the season. He has finished T6 and T9 the last two years here which came after his breakthrough win in 2009. He closed with a Sunday best 63 last year.

Charles Howell III (+2,500) was a bit of a disappointment last week with his T49 finish which came after a T2 at the Sony but Torrey Pines is one of his favorite stops. He has never missed a cut in nine starts here and he has six top 15 finishes to his credit including a T14 last year and a T9 in 2010. He has 14 top tens going back to 2010 and his three-plus year winless drought could finally come to an end here.

Brandt Snedeker (+2,500) was in the running last week but a final round 71 left him five shots off the winning score. Still, it was a good result in his first event of the season and like Howell III, he lovers it here. He has not played here as much but in five career starts, he has a T9 last year, a T2 in 2010 and a solo third in 2007. He missed the cut only once in 2008 and his game sets up well once again here.

Ben Crane (+2,500) is another that is lumped into this price range and he is a past champion that is currently in excellent form. He is coming off a T8 last week at the Humana after a T9 at the Hyundai Tournament of Champions. His victory at Torrey Pines in 2010 was surrounded by a T7 in 2009 and a T14 last year. In total, he has five top 25 finishes in seven career starts.

For a longshot we will take a look at Marc Leishman (+6,000). The Aussie is making his first start on the tour this week but he has had some good success here. His first start at Torrey Pines was in 2009 when he finished T26 and since then he has a T2 and a T9 the last two years. He because a father for the first time on January 10th which was the reason for his delayed start and it should be added inspiration.

Recommended Tournament Win Five Pack at the Farmers Insurance Open

Nick Watney (+1,500)

Charles Howell III (+2,500)

Brandt Snedeker (+2,500)

Ben Crane (+2,500)

Marc Leishman (+6,000)

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