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Farmers Insurance Open preview

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The moment we have been waiting for, a fully fledged, top-class field event on the PGA Tour in 2014. Don’t get me wrong I have enjoyed the last couple of weeks, last week more so (thank you Patrick Reed), but these are the fields I like the most, especially with Tiger Woods in it.

It may seem strange that I am looking  forward to Woods playing this week, considering his complete dominance in this event, however an event seems complete to me when he’s in the field, especially here at Torrey Pines. Woods has won 7 times, come 5th once, and 10th in 10 starts, pretty unreal numbers, even by his standards.

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What this does do though, is open up value for the rest of the field, and although it is literally impossible to rule Tiger out, I do think certain players can push for the win this week.

There are two courses here at, Torrey Pines, the North and South, and the North is significantly easier. The North course played roughly two shots lower than the south last year (North Course, stroke average in 2013 – 70.67) whilst the South Course stroke average came in at 72.66.

This suggests that if you want to win this week, you’re going to have to take full advantage of your round on the North. Each golfer plays one round on the North and one on the South, before completing the final 36 holes on the South course. The South is 7,698 yard, par 72, whilst the North, still a par 72 only stretches 7,045, so you can see why it’s easier to score round the North, and big-hitters may come into their own against the competition over the weekend.  All in all, to play well here you need to hit plenty of greens, and that can be made easier from hitting long drives of the tee. If a player is not a long hitter, it may be worth checking both their par-5 performance, and long approach statistics , to see if they can make up for the lesser distance off the tee.

As expected Woods is the favourite this week, by a long way at 5/2, and next in the betting is Phil Mickelson at 12/1. Making up the rest of the top-5 in the betting is Brandt Snedeker 20/1-22/1, Bill Haas 25/1 and Jason Day at 33/1. There are some seriously talented players outside of these at the head of the market, and although I will be backing one from this list, I am happy to oppose the rest.

Here are my picks for the 2014 Farmers Insurance Open.

 

Brandt Snedeker 22/1 (Coral, SpreadEx) 2pts e/w: People that followed my articles from the start last year, will not be surprised to see Brandt Snedeker headline my selections this week, and dare I say he will be a regular fixture once again in 2014.

Quite simply Snedeker is one of my favourite, if not my favourite player to back on the PGA Tour, and despite his collapse at the Masters last year (I have forgiven him) I really do expect him to be a profitable selection throughout the year. If he can put his injuries behind him, from last season he can have another great year, and I expect him to compete for majors once again.

The injuries he did suffer, especially the ongoing one with his ribs did not put a halt to his winning ways though, as he finished the year with two PGA Tour wins, firstly at Pebble Beach, and then followed by the RBC Canadian Open. “I feel as strong as I ever have since my rookie year.” Snedeker said in an interview at the start of this year, and if that proves to be true, he can be a real force again this year.

On to this week, and why do I particularly think he has an opportunity to win here? Well for starters, he’s already done it once, winning here at Torrey Pines back in 2012. He did have a collapse from Kyle Stanley to thank for that, but on the most part he played his part, putting the pressure on, and he certainly showed a liking for the course(s).

He’s backed up the win here in 2012, with a 2nd place finish, only to Woods last year and had a host of good finishes here prior to his win. In 2011 he finished 9th, after another 2nd placed finish in 2010 and the numbers are hard to ignore. He finished 3rd here on debut in 2007, and followed that up with a top-10 (9th) in the U.S Open in 2008.

In terms of stats, Snedeker doesn’t really stand out as a typical selection for this course. He doesn’t hit it far off the tee, far from it and he doesn’t excel in the Greens in Regulation but his game all-round, topped with excellent putting all comes together, especially at this course. He makes a great case for being the best putter in the world, and he will look to prove that, even against World No.1 Tiger Woods,a  great putter himself.

His price is very appealing this week, and I would honestly put him above current 2nd favourite Phil Mickelson in the betting. This isn’t a course Mickelson performs regularly at, and although he can win wherever he wants, whenever he wants, I would rather be backing Snedeker at this event, even if they were an identical price.

Nick Watney 40/1 (General) 1.5pts e/w: Nick Watney, another player I like to back, and he for me is a very fair price this week.

If you can cast your minds back to my preview of this event last year (I don’t want you to re-read it) I tipped Watney at 25/1 and he duly delivered, coming in 4th place. At 15pts bigger I couldn’t resist going in again, and I will be fully expecting him to go well again, even if he’s coming in, with indifferent form.

He hasn’t played since November, and in the first three events of this wraparound season, he has finished T48, T35 and T31, all average, but steady results. These results follow, what was a superb finish to 2013, and the way he ended the year was more of the Watney we’ve come to expect in recent years.

His last four events of last year, starting at The Barclays were, T9, T35, 2 and T14 and it was his 2nd place finish at the BMW Championship that serves the best memory for me. He was 110/1 that week, and as I thought that was such a ridiculous price I backed and tipped him, and once again he delivered. He may not of won an event since the end of 2012, when he did indeed win The Barclays, but I have no doubts he will win again in the near future.

I see absolutely no reason, other than the obvious (Woods) why he can’t start his 2014 with a bang, winning here at Torrey Pines. It wouldn’t be a dissimilar situation for him, after winning here in 2009, and considering he’s finished 9th,6th,60th and 4th since, I cannot see much to put me off this time around. Yes he had that disappointing finish in 2012, but he bounced back from that at the first time of asking and I see him continuing his good form at Torrey.

Watney stopped working with long-time coach Butch Harmon during the 2013 season, and began working with Todd Anderson and there was a sudden incline in his results. It may not all be down to the technical side of the change, as Harmon is a well respected coach, and all of his wins came prior to their split, but he may of needed a fresh start, and it certainly looked to pay dividends towards the end of the year.

Simply put, his course form is excellent, and he is a proven winner on Tour, so I struggle to find any reasons not to back him this week.

Jordan Spieth 40/1 (General) 1.5pts e/w: Yes that’s right, Jordan Spieth is back out to a big price, and for me, it could be a big overreaction to a missed cut last time out, and a missed cut at the course 12 months ago.

Spieth missed the cut at the Sony Open two weeks ago, but it’s not a situation he’s familiar with and I’m looking for him to put it straight behind him this week.

We all know Spieth is an extraordinary talent, and when he played here in San Diego last year it was his first start on tour. Since then he has gained Special Temporary Membership, won the John Deere Classic, thus giving him full status on tour, and has finished runner-up on three separate occasions at big events. He lost in a play-off at the Wyndham Championship to Patrick Reed, finished runner-up to Henrik Stenson at the season finale, the Tour Championship finished 2nd again three weeks ago in the Hyundai Tournament of Champions.

There, at the moment looks to be no ceiling to his potential, and it really is hard to gauge how good he can be. Many expect him to go and win major championship right away, but for me, a successful season for him this year would be a further win on Tour, joining that elite list of multiple winners under the age of 25 on the PGA Tour.

He did miss the cut last time he played around Torrey Pines, but he’s come a long way since then and I truly believe the course could suit him. He is certainly no slouch off the tee, quite the opposite and when he’s in form he has a great touch around the greens, so if he’s learned anything from last year, he will know where the bad missed are and will tried to avoid them this time.

This is a price based pick, as there’s little-to-no form to go by at the course, and he did miss the cut on his last start, but I know, as well as everyone else that he’s more than capable of bouncing back, quickly.

He can only improve on his last performance here, and I am sure he has put the practice in, over the last two weeks to make sure he’s suitably prepared for the challenge this week.

John Peterson 125/1 (General) 1pt e/w: I backed John Peterson to get his first full PGA Tour season off to quick start, at a much shorter price, and this week I couldn’t resist getting involved again at three-figure odds.

Peterson expressed his frustrations last week via Twitter, as he was desperate to get away from the previous birdie-fest tournaments, and this week should be more up his street. Although you do have to make birdies here, the winning score is typically between -10 and -16, with a couple of abnormal results.

He has not played Torrey Pines before, or at least not in a PGA Tour event, and although debutants have been known to struggle, he’s the type of player who I think can figure it out pretty quickly.

He is well known for his T4 finish at the U.S Open back in 2012 and he will be keen to get a run of form going, before trying his luck again, this time at Pinehurst. That finish at the U.S Open proves he is extremely talented, and I do not expect it to take long, before we see Peterson in the winners’ circle.

He played great on the Web.com last season, and finished the year winning the Web.com Tour Finals so he will no doubt be full of confidence, and I hope that transpires into a good performance here this week.

Points Staked on the PGA Tour this week: 12

Total Points Staked this week (inc European Tour): 22

Profit/Loss for 2014: +115.75

Obviously we had a great result last week, thanks to 100/1 Patrick Reed blitzing the field over the first three days last week at the Humana Challenge, and suitably holding on in the final round, and I hope this continues on weeks to come. The PGA Tour really gets going for me this week, as we see more of the top players enterting the fray, a la Mahan, Mickelson, Watson and Woods, and these additions should make for an exciting week.