Farmers Insurance Open experts' picks

January, 22, 2013

Each week of the season, our experts will 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: Farmers Insurance Open.

Horse for the Course

Michael Collins, senior golf analyst: Tiger Woods
In 2011, the last time he teed it up here, his T-44 was his worst finish ever at the event. Before that, 11 starts, six wins and five top-10s. If that's not a horse for the course, I quit!

Farrell Evans, senior golf writer: Tiger Woods
It's not a fair fight. Woods has eight wins at Torrey Pines -- a Junior World, the 2008 U.S. Open and six Farmers Insurance Opens.

Bob Harig, senior golf writer: Tiger Woods
Although he had a poor performance at Torrey Pines in 2011, it was the only time he's finished outside the top 10. He has six wins in the PGA Tour event and a seventh at the U.S. Open.

Kevin Maguire, senior golf editor: Bubba Watson
Sure, Tiger Woods is the easy pick here, but in an effort to go in another direction, the reigning Masters champ does own three top-10s in seven appearances, including a win back in 2011 at Torrey Pines.

Birdie Buster

Michael Collins: Rickie Fowler
In the three starts he's had as a PGA Tour member at Torrey Pines, he hasn't finished worse than 20th. He's coming off a sixth-place finish at the Hyundai, so expect no worse than a top-15 from the lil' orange crush.

Farrell Evans: Charles Howell III
The once can't-miss-kid out of Oklahoma State with the Iron Byron machine swing and Augusta roots is now a 33-year-old veteran with just two career wins. But after a tie for third at the Sony Open and a playoff loss at the Humana Challenge, Howell is having one of the best starts to a season in his 13 years on tour.

Bob Harig: Charles Howell III
Although he is coming off a playoff loss, Howell is off to a nice start this year, having gone T-3 and T-2 in his two starts. He missed out on a Masters invite but keeps climbing toward the top 50.

Kevin Maguire: Stewart Cink
Given his form of the past several years, Cink normally wouldn't qualify for this category. But after a strong showing at the Humana Challenge last week, the 2009 Open Championship winner appears to be on the upswing. It doesn't hurt that he has five top-25 finishes at Torrey Pines, not including a T-14 in the 2008 U.S. Open.

Super Sleeper

Michael Collins: Jason Kokrak
He barely kept his card last year by finishing 119th on the money list, but he's started his sophomore season better, already making his first two cuts in a row, including a tie for eighth last week. Power and now comfort are two dangerous things when it comes to whipping guys on the course. Kokrak has both of them now.

Farrell Evans: Brian Stuard
In Stuard's first turn at the PGA Tour in 2010, he missed 15 of 28 cuts and went back down to the Tour, where he finished 16th on the 2012 money list to regain his regular tour card. The 30-year-old Stuard has gotten off to a very hot start this year with top-10s in his first two starts.

Bob Harig: Ryo Ishikawa
The Japanese star who has been under some heat thanks to his recent Masters special invitation makes his PGA Tour debut this week as he plays as a full member this year. He tied for 13th at Torrey Pines a year ago.

Kevin Maguire: Seung-yul Noh
The 21-year-old is in his second season on the PGA Tour and finished T-27 at the Farmers Insurance Open in his rookie campaign.


Michael Collins: Scott Piercy
After a nice week off following two top-15 finishes in Hawaii, it's time for the Las Vegas native to make the next step up in tournament wins. He won in Reno, then in Canada, and now it's time to verify that top-50 OWGR with a win at Torrey Pines.

Farrell Evans: Phil Mickelson
After publicly bashing the tax code and then apologizing, the 40-time PGA Tour winner will add to his considerable tax burdens with his fourth win in his hometown event.

Bob Harig: Rickie Fowler
He struggled toward the end of last season with a back issue but appears to be good to go, with a tie for sixth at the season-opening Hyundai Tournament of Champions and three top-20 finishes so far in his career at Torrey Pines. A good place for victory No. 2 on the PGA Tour.

Kevin Maguire: Kyle Stanley
It would sweet revenge after Stanley collapsed so spectacularly last year at Torrey Pines, even though he went on to win the following week in Phoenix. What shouldn't be lost, though, is that he played this event almost flawlessly for 71 holes.





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