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Monday, January 20, 2014

Farmers Insurance Open - Power Rankings

Sometimes a power ranking comes together in a nice and neat fashion, and that was the case for the Farmers Insurance Open. It helps that Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson and Brandt Snedeker all own sterling records at Torrey Pines. Perhaps the only real question this week will be the form of several of the top 12, as this is the first we've seen of some of them in 2014.

One other thing to note, I leaned on course history a little harder than form this week for a couple of reasons. This field is very top heavy, whereas the events in the Fall of 2013 and the first three events of 2014 really weren't. Also, Torrey Pines (South) will be the most difficult course to be played on the 2013-14 season to date, so don’t expect a birdie binge over the weekend like we've seen in virtually every other tournament this year. There won’t be a bunch of 8-under-par rounds in the finale.

That is why you won’t see Brian Stuard in my power ranking this week. I realize he’s finished inside the top 6 in his last three tournaments dating back to the OHL Classic at Mayakoba in 2013, but the South Course is about 500 yards longer than any course he played over that stretch and hosted a U.S. Open in 2008. 

Form on short courses like Waialae Country Club and the PGA West facilities doesn't really convert as well for a shorter player at Torrey.

Here we go:
  1. Tiger Woods – The clear number one, he’s played here 13 times and owns 12 top 10s to go with seven wins (eight if you count the 2008 U.S. Open). Anytime a player’s played a course 13 times and won more than half, he’s the clear number one. He won here last year after missing the cut in Abu Dhabi, so form doesn't matter when he steps onto the first (or 10th) tee at Torrey Pines. This is his first action of 2014.
  2. Phil Mickelson – This spot is essentially 2 and 2a between Mickelson and Brandt Snedeker, but Lefty’s play in Abu Dhabi last week (T2) gives him the edge. He’s made the cut here in 19/24 occasions, owns six top-three finishes and three wins. And let’s not forget, Phil always seems to pick off a win on the West Coast swing.
  3. Brandt Snedeker – Another guy with an excellent record here, and a noted poa annua green player, Sneds is 6/7 with a win to go with three other top threes at Torrey. If you’re counting at home, that means he’s finished inside the top three on over half (4) of his total (7) starts.
  4. Jimmy Walker – I can’t decide if he belongs in the bottom of the elite group of three or the top of the strong group that makes up the rest of the top 12. Either way, he’s the clear number four. He’s trending in this tournament with a T29, T8 and T4 in his last three trips to Torrey Pines. This will be his first start after winning Sony, so he’ll go for his third win of 2013-14 (and of his career) this week. If you still have a Walker one-and-done start, use it here or Pebble or Riviera.
  5. Bill Haas – Picked up a top 10 at the Humana Challenge last week and touts top-10 finishes in this event in each of the last three years. He’s only missed the cut here once in nine tries. Given his penchant for winning on strong courses of late (Riviera and Congressional), he would be a solid choice in any format.
  6. Hunter Mahan – Making his 2013-14 PGA TOUR debut, Mahan has finished inside the top 15 at Torrey in each of his last three trips. He’s a high-class player with solid history. The only other thing one could ask for would be some form to go off, but otherwise a solid pick.
  7. Nick Watney – Messed around with three middle-of-the-pack finishes in the Fall of 2013, but this is his first action of 2014. He’s a past winner at Torrey and has the game off the tee to contend. Overall, he has five top 10s in nine trips to just two missed cuts, so a relatively safe investment in most formats.
  8. Bubba Watson – Raise your hand if you were burned by Bubba’s late W/D here last year. Mine’s up. The 2013 season was a bit unremarkable by Bubba’s heightened standards, but a history that includes a win and three top 10s in seven starts here should kick his 2014 off to a steady start.
  9. Jason Day – While his T9 last year was his only top 30 in four starts at Torrey Pines, his game should line up well for Torrey. He’s long off the tee, shows up well in the all-around category and typically putts well. Don’t be surprised if he posts a career-best finish in this event this season.
  10. Graham DeLaet – His stats fit Torrey Pines to a tee. Just as encouraging, after missing the cut here in each of his first two stops, he converted on his potential with a T9 last year. The Canuck is on everyone’s short list to break through as a first-time TOUR winner this season. If this is the week, it would be against an elite field.
  11. Charles Howell III – Typical to every January stop, Chucky owns an impressive record at Torrey Pines. He’s made each of his 11 cuts, with seven top 25s, five top 10s and a pair of runners-up. It’s eerily similar to his Sony Open ledger. Dragging him down to this spot was a less-than-inspiring performance at Humana last week.
  12. Rickie Fowler – He’s played here four times and never finished outside the top 20. That’s the good news. The bad news is that he just isn’t passing the eye test in terms of form. If there is a place for him to get healthy, it stands to reason that this could be it.

Next 5: Keegan Bradley, Marc Leishman, Ian Poulter, John Rollins and Lee Westwood

We will return tomorrow with a look at the various games. Until then, best of luck!

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