Farmers Insurance Open experts' picks

January, 25, 2012
01/25/12
11:02
AM ET

The PGA Tour heads to Torrey Pines this week for the Farmers Insurance Open. Although much of the talk will be about who's not there -- one Tiger Woods -- there will be plenty of star power with the likes of Phil Mickelson and Dustin Johnson competing on the North and South courses.

Each week of the season, our experts will share their insights into which players fit the criteria for our four categories below: Horse for the Course (a golfer who knows this 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: Farmers Insurance Open in La Jolla, Calif.

Want another opinion? Check out ESPN.com's FOREcaster page.

Horse for the Course


Michael Collins, ESPN.com senior golf writer: Nick Watney
Expect him to shoot between 10- or 11-under for the week and, if he shoots the latter, he'll probably win or be in a playoff. That's because he's done it the past three years he has played the tournament.

Farrell Evans, ESPN.com senior golf writer: Bubba Watson
When the pride of Bagdad, Fla. won in San Diego last year, he led the field in driving distance (316.0 yards), greens in regulation (82 percent) and proximity to the hole on approach shots (25 feet 10 inches).

Bob Harig, ESPN.com senior golf writer: Charles Howell III
This will be Howell's 10th consecutive appearance in the event, and he has never missed the cut and has posted four top-10s.

Kevin Maguire, ESPN.com senior golf editor: Ben Crane
Given that seven-time winner at Torrey Pines -- one Tiger Woods -- is out because he's playing on the European Tour this week, Crane will have to do. He's playing well so far in 2012 (T-9 at Hyundai, T-8 at the Humana Challenge), and, the past three times he has played in La Jolla, Crane went T-7 (2009), win (2010) and T-14 (2011).


Birdie Buster


Michael Collins: Phil Mickelson
He hasn't missed a cut at this event since 2002. Last year, he hit 39 percent of the fairways but 76 percent of greens in regulation, letting you know this course is right up the three-time champions' alley.

Farrell Evans: Harris English
You're going to hear me saying this 22-year-old Georgian's name a lot this year. He has a complete game. Last week, in just his second PGA Tour start, he had a tie for 19th that included a 62 in the second round.

Bob Harig: Ernie Els
He's going a long way to get to Torrey Pines, but Els is coming off a playoff loss in South Africa, where he shot 67 on Sunday.

Kevin Maguire: Brandt Snedeker
Four of the six times he has played Torrey Pines, Snedeker has finished inside the top 10, including the 2008 U.S. Open, when he posted a T-9. Even though he's just returned from hip surgery, Snedeker proved his game is back with a T-8 finish this past week at the Humana Challenge.


Super Sleeper


Michael Collins: Anthony Kim
Seems strange calling him a super sleeper, but, after a disappointing 2011, the title fits. Especially when, inexplicably, the native Californian has played this event only three times in his career ('07 MC, '08 T-67, '11 T-6).

Farrell Evans: Bud Cauley
The 21-year-old former University of Alabama star earned his PGA Tour card without having to go through Q-school, earning $735,150 in eight starts. He was the first player to make it onto the tour straight out of college since Ryan Moore did it in 2005. Cauley has made both his cuts this season.

Bob Harig: Anthony Kim
The former U.S. Ryder Cup and Presidents Cup player needs to get going to get into the major championships. Last year, he had one of his rare top finishes when he tied for sixth at Torrey Pines.

Kevin Maguire: Ted Potter Jr.
About the first 30 times he is seen on TV, one story will be told about the left-hander: how he missed every single cut in 2004 on the Nationwide Tour. Great story, for sure, but that golfer and this one are the same person in name only. He's 2-for-2 in his rookie campaign at making cuts on the PGA Tour.


Winner


Michael Collins: Bill Haas
What, you thought that, after winning the Tour Championship and FedEx Cup, he'd be sitting on a beach in Bora Bora? Doesn't make sense that a Bermuda grass guy plays so well on poa greens, but you didn't pick him to win FedEx Cup, either, did you? Hello, Ryder Cup!

Farrell Evans: Phil Mickelson
The three-time major winner will be playing this week in his hometown. Last week at the Humana Challenge, he played very poorly in his opening round but rebounded after that with three solid under-par rounds. In these early days of the season, he's feeling out his game, but he knows Torrey Pines well enough to win on past experience.

Bob Harig: Rickie Fowler
Making his season debut, getting his inaugural PGA Tour victory would be a huge boost for him -- and golf.

Kevin Maguire: Rickie Fowler
Going back to 1998, Torrey Pines has produced 14 winners, and 10 times that champion owned a California connection. Yes, Tiger skewed that number a bit, but also remember Watney, Mickelson and even Scott Simpson. Fowler is another California kid who'll claim that first PGA Tour victory on a course he played as an amateur in the 2008 U.S. Open and made the cut.

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