Farmers Insurance Open
By Lewis Pacelli
Last week at the Humana Challenge Brian Gay walked away as the winner after a 3-way playoff, with Scott Stallings bottling a 5-shot lead going into the last day. It was a remarkable tournament, with many high scores and places changing every half-hour. Our top selection Robert Garrigus was always in and around the top 20, eventually finishing T16th.
However, onto this week. The tournament formerly known as The Buick Invitational arrives once again at the famous Torrey Pines course for a mouth-watering four days of golf. Some of the biggest names will be challenging a notoriously difficult South Course, alongside 1 round at the somewhat easier North Course.
The yardage at the South will be playing at 7,600, whilst the fairways are relatively tight and tough, as is the rough stuff. The greens are on the small side, which means accuracy and length with the irons is imperative, whilst scrambling will come into play, due to how difficult it is going to be hitting the greens regularly. Most players won’t be hitting the fairway from every tee shot, so talent at recovering from difficult situations and in the rough are going to be key attributes. The greens are fast Poa Annua. Basically, it is an incredibly difficult course – the fairways consistently rank inside the top 10 for most difficult to find off the tee.
Whilst the North is a staggering 800 yards shorter than its sister course and the last 3 winners have posted low scores here, showing how vital it is to find those birdies in that 1 round. With Bent/Poa mixed greens, it is ranked as the 3rd easiest course on the PGA Tour.
Bubba Watson (14/1 Paddy Power)
Bubba Watson is a superb talent, culminating in the stunning performance at The Masters last year. That shot around the trees from a precarious position sums up one of the reasons we are picking him this week. At Torrey Pines, accuracy is key just as much as recovering from those shots that stray a tad. And this is the perfect man for those situations. So far he is 2nd GIR % this year and 2nd last season. His 14th GIR from positions other than the fairway, where he was 1st last year, is the most striking stat and as we all know, this boy can strike a ball a ridiculous distance. Which will come in handy on The South, whilst he could really hit low scores on the North with wider fairways and bigger greens to aim for.
One of the most important factors for all serious contenders this week will be their course history. Every one of the past 11 winners have recorded a top 10 a previous year, so course form is imperative.
Tournament Record –
Rickie Fowler (28/1 Paddy Power)
One of our top ‘players to watch’ this year has made a superb start to the season after a T6 at the Hyundai Tournament of Champions a few weeks ago. His form last year did dip dramatically, but his 2 tournaments in December brought about 2 top 10’s, which is a sign of bright things to come.
His driving distances were poor at Kapulua, however his iron play was exciting once more, having hit 42 out of the 54 holes played and 78% of his shots off the fairway found the green.
His form here also makes interesting reading, with his 3 appearances bringing 3 top 20’s. We feel his Californian roots have helped him on greens he would have been used to growing up and it should certainly aid him this week again.
All in all, he has too much talent to not win big tournaments and majors and this is certainly a cracking place to get his 2013 properly started.
Charles Howell (28/1 Paddy Power)
Charles Howell iii was a player who used to grace every tournament with efficiency, even reaching the top 15 in the world, yet his form seriously dipped for a few years, but we feel a renaissance is on the horizon after 2 relatively consistent seasons. He ended last season with 4 consecutive top 20’s and has started 2013 in stunning fashion, with a 3rd and 2nd after a playoff defeat last weekend, already earning him nearly as much dollar as last season.
He currently lies in 43rd for GIR % and 7th GIR % from places other than the fairway and with average driving distance coupled with lying 1st in scrambling, he has plenty of attributes to achieve a high finish.
His form at Torrey Pines is exemplary, being the 5th highest all-time earner there – the highest amongst non-winners. Yes, he has not won on the tour since 2007, but surely, his time must come soon and this would certainly fit the bill.
Camillio Villegas (100/1 Paddy Power)
Our long shot this week goes to a man who has had more turbulence over the years than Denzel Washington experienced in the whole of his new movie, Flight.
After some inconsistent years on the tour, the Colombian has begun to reverse his fortunes, having not missed a cut in 7 outings and 3 67s to close out last weekend is very encouraging. Even though there was a T47 finish, signs are evident he could go much higher this week.
Known for being devlish with his irons, finishing 4th GIR % last year and 3rd from anywhere but the fairway GIR %, he is a man with the accuracy to tackle this course. Yet, even when his accuracy fails, his scrambling abilities show Villegas has scored a par or better on 11 out of the 14 greens missed. With average driving distance and accuracy, he will be relying heavily on his approach play.
Form here doesn’t jump out at you, but is certainly intriguing, with some very impressive performances, especially the T3 in 2009. Worth an e/w punt at those prices for sure.
Hunter Mahan (35/1 Paddy Power)
Hunter is another golfer whose renowned iron work, could come in handy when challenging the leaderboard this weekend. He ended 2012 with a T8 and T9, followed by a T26 at Kapalua. He has impressed at majors before and is always in and around the places come Sunday at big tournaments. With very good driving accuracy – 16th last season alongside 13th GIR %, he has the talent to grind his way to a good score. Whilst his form here, proves he enjoys the courses and would also tie in to the running theme of previous winners, having finished inside the top 10 last season.
John Rollins (50/1 Paddy Power)
Last week Rollins finished T16 after recording a remarkable 28 birdies. It was his 2nd top 20 in a row after what was a disappointing end to 2012. He averages over 300 yards from the tee, which is exciting when you consider 60% of the fairways have been found. He has also hit 111 out of the 144 greens so far this season, a considerable improvement on last and one of the brightest signs that this is a player on the move.
Once again form here is eye-catching, with a 2nd and T4 before his 3rd place last year. If he has the confidence back, without doubt he could challenge at the top.
Every week we will be giving you our top picks from both European and PGATours, in a double where the odds are always very attractive!
For our first ever DownThe18th Double we will be suggesting you put your hard earned money on Henrik Stenson and Bubba Watson e/w with odds of 315/1 (Paddy Power) Would be rude not to….