Farmers Insurance Open experts' picks

January, 20, 2014

Each week of the season, our experts share their insights into which players fit the criteria for our four categories: Horse for the Course (a golfer who knows the track inside and out), Birdie Buster (a guy who could take it low this week), Super Sleeper (a player who could unexpectedly contend) and Winner.

This week's tournament: the Farmers Insurance Open at Torrey Pines' North and South courses in La Jolla, Calif.

Horse for the Course

Michael Collins, senior golf analyst: Brandt Snedeker
If not for that other guy who keeps winning it all the time, Snedeker would easily be the favorite at this course. Over the past four years, his worse finish was tie for ninth. Two runners-up and a win in the other three starts, I'd say this horses like to run on this track.

Farrell Evans, senior golf writer: Tiger Woods
His heroic win at the 2008 U.S. Open at Torrey Pines might go down as his greatest single accomplishment of a player. By the time he's done winning tournaments on the Torrey Pines South Course, the San Diego muni could come to be known as Tiger Woods Golf Course.

Bob Harig, senior golf writer: Tiger Woods
Eight victories, including seven in this tournament, says all you need to know about Woods and Torrey Pines. Amazingly, in his 13 previous starts in the Farmers Insurance Open, he has shot just three rounds over par.

Kevin Maguire, senior golf editor: Tiger Woods
Woods is 171st on the PGA Tour's career money list -- if all you include is his cash won at Torrey Pines ($8,195,096). Sure he owns eight victories there, but more telling is how only once did he finish outside the top 10 in 14 career starts. That's consistent even for Mr. Consistency himself.

Birdie Buster

Collins: Bill Haas
Even though he has never had a top-three finish in this tournament, he has also missed only one cut in nine tries and had six top-25s, including the past three starts, which were top-10s. He comes into the week after a T-6 finish at Humana.

Evans: Justin Leonard
It's nice to be able to show some love for the former Open Championship winner. The 42-year-old Leonard hasn't won since 2008 and he is one of the shortest hitters in the game, but he continues to grind on these long golf courses. Last week at the Humana Challenge, he finished in a tie for third after a pair of 65s on the weekend. It was his best finish since a second in the 2011 Children's Miracle Network Hospitals Classic.

Harig: Brian Stuard.
He is ranked ninth in the FedEx Cup standings after a strong start to the season that has seen him finish in the top six of his last three starts, including a fifth-place finish at the Humana Challenge

Maguire: Bill Haas
Haas owns top-10s in his past three starts at the Farmers Insurance Open. Toss in that he finished T6 last week at the Humana Challenge and hasn't posted anything outside the top 25 in the 2013-14 season and he could be talking a big jump up the money list for the five-time PGA Tour winner.

Super Sleeper

Collins: Nick Watney
Rory McIlroy wasn't the only guy to jump from Titleist to Nike. Watney made the switch as well starting in 2013 and also went winless for the year on the PGA Tour. Watney makes his first start of 2014 near his childhood home at a place he held the trophy in 2009.

Evans: Billy Horschel
Last year at Torrey Pines, the 27-year-old former Florida Gator played the last 36 holes with the eventual winner, Tiger Woods. Though Horschel struggled with nerves in those rounds, he gained some valuable experience through the tumult that would help him take his first career tour event in April at the Zurich Classic of New Orleans. Since his tie for 39th at Torrey Pines, he has earned nine top-10s.

Harig: Michael Kim
The former Cal golfer is making his pro debut at his hometown event. Could he be this year's version of Jordan Spieth?

Maguire: Max Homa
The medalist at last year's NCAA tournament, Homa has earned $171,450 so far in the 2013-14 PGA Tour season as a non-member. A strong finish at Torrey Pines could get him into the special temporary membership category where he could accept unlimited sponsor's exemptions.


Collins: Tiger Woods
Who wins at more than a 50 percent clip at a golf tournament? I'm mean seriously. Thirteen starts, seven wins and a runner-up. That's almost not fair. They might have to make Tiger start the tournament at +3 just so the rest of the field feels like they have a chance. They still don't.

Evans: Tiger Woods
Come Sunday night, the sports world will be talking about the significance of Tiger's 80th career PGA Tour win and analyzing what it signifies for his place in golf history. But Tiger has long stopped keeping score of regular tour wins. His goals are focused on the majors, yet he knows that a ninth win at Torrey Pines is an excellent way to start his 2014 season.

Harig: Phil Mickelson
Lefty hasn't won at Torrey Pines since 2001, his third victory in the event, but comes into the tournament with some positive vibes after a strong performance in Abu Dhabi, where one hole cost him the tournament.

Maguire: Brandt Snedeker
It was a toss-up with Snedeker and Tiger between winner and the horse for the course categories this week, but seeing as Sneds already knocked a little rust off in Hawaii and this is Woods' season opener, I'm going with the Vandy grad.





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