This year, the Waste Management Phoenix Open and the Farmers Insurance Open flip-flopped on the calendar, which creates a different buzz than usual – as the Farmers is usually the first marquee field of the year. But because of the move back in the calendar, it actually seems to have a stronger field than usual.
Predictions are going to be a challenge with notables like Jason Day, Justin Rose, Jordan Spieth, Rickie Fowler, and Phil Mickelson all teeing it up at Torrey Pines. We are losing Matt Kuchar, Bubba Watson, and Patrick Reed for the week, but getting the first start from Jimmy Walker since he defended his title in Hawaii, and the first start from Dustin Johnson since he allegedly did not leave the tour because of a cocaine problem…
But Torrey Pines is best known as the course(s) that Tiger has repeatedly slayed throughout his career (this tournament is actually played on two courses – Torrey Pines North and South, but it was just the South course when Tiger won the U.S. Open here). Now, Torrey Pines will welcome a Tiger Woods coming off a Friday 82, a missed cut, and who is dealing with the biggest uncertainty his game has ever had. Once again, we are not ready to pencil Tiger into our picks.
Some of the “course favorites” in this tournament include Jason Day and Marc Leishman, two Aussies who have combined for 5 top 10s in the past 5 years here; Brandt Snedeker, who followed up a playoff win in 2012 with a runner up to Tiger in 2013; Nick Watney, who won in 2009 and has posted three top 10s since; and Rickie Fowler, who has a pair of top 10s in the past 5 years, and aside from missing the cut last year, never finished worse than T20 in that span. Once again, Pat Perez seems to be an automatic made-cut in this tournament, and finished last year in a tie for runner-up. And finally, an interesting storyline could develop around Justin Thomas, who actually finished in the top 10 last year as an amateur, and now returns a midst a red-hot rookie campaign.
When in doubt about making picks, it’s best to just dive right in and go with your gut, so here we go:
Jordan Spieth. Spieth is definitely in the category of guys worth multiple picks in a season, because of his ability to get into contention seemingly more times than not. He’s turned into a consistent performer early in his career – you already know this – and he is riding the momentum of a 65 last Sunday before attending the Super Bowl. Nothing but positive vibes are radiating off this guy.
Jason Day. This will be Day’s first start since Hawaii, which included a T3 at the Tournament of Champions. That is a good enough indicator to us that he is fully healthy. A fully healthy Day is a Day that you want to pick early and often.
Marc Leishman. We are going with multiple Australian golfers this week – if only Adam Scott was joining the party! Seriously though, we mentioned above that Leishman is a borderline horse for the course pick. His consistency has been on point at Torrey Pines, and there’s no reason that should change when the rested Aussie makes his first PGA start since the Sony Open.
Nick Watney. Watney rounds out a group of very chalky picks. Watney has been in the top 10 three times, with no missed cuts in the past five years here, and won the thing in 2009. He has underwhelmed fans and fantasy players throughout his career, but undoubtedly has the skill to break through at any moment.
Jordan Spieth. In the top tier, it basically came down to doubling up on either Spieth or Day. Based on consistency and momentum, we decided to stick with Spieth.
Brandt Snedeker. Leishman was available to make our lineups virtually identical, but we decided to stray and go with Sneds, another horse for the course pick, and a guy we think should be on track to rise again to the greatness that saw him earn four wins in two years between 2012-13. Coming off a top 10 in Scottsdale supports our theory that he is capable.
Nick Watney. Watney in the third tier was too tempting to pass up. Sure, he could doubly burn us, but with his record on these tracks, and his skill, we’re willing to risk it.
Aaron Baddeley. As always, the fourth tier gives you the option to try and be “clever,” or to take a complete flier. Baddeley falls somewhere in the middle, we think. D.A. Points may have been the cleverest pick – he’s making his first PGA start of the year, but had three top 10s in a row between 2010-12. Baddeley, on the other hand, does not have much history here outside of a T6 finish in 2013, but like we said, we like our chances with Australian golfers this week as there always seem to be at least two Aussies in contention here.