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Sunday, January 19, 2014

Farmers Insurance Open - Preview

With the birdie binge of the Humana Challenge behind us, let's begin our deep dive into the Farmers Insurance Open with our weekly preview.

While the last two tournaments have reeked of a crapshoot, the return to Torrey Pines for the Farmers Insurance Open offers the comfort of a strong field where elite outcomes have become the norm. The "chalk" is clear, and it includes names like Woods, Mickelson, Snedeker and now Walker. In fact, going back to 2005, the winners are Tiger Woods (five times), Nick Watney, Ben Crane, Bubba Watson and Brandt Snedeker.

A list of winners that strong speaks directly to the quality of the course. As most of you will remember, Torrey Pines (South) hosted the infamous 2008 U.S. Open. You know...the one where Tiger won his most recent major on one leg over Rocco Mediate.

So let's look at the course. Actually, courses.

The first two rounds will be spread across two courses. Torrey Pines North and Torrey Pines South. Yahoo! gamers will want to make note that Torrey Pines North is much shorter and much easier. The final two rounds are played on the South Course. Essentially, splitting the first two rounds over two courses is the only way a full field can get two rounds in in two days due to daylight.

  • Torrey Pines (South) is a 7,698 par-72 layout featuring four par 5s and four par 3s. 
  • Torrey Pines (North) is a 7,052 par-72 layout featuring four par 5s and four par 3s. 
One other note, the greens are poa annua. It's a grass that tends to putt very bumpy and worsens as the day goes on. It's a frustrating grass to putt, and nothing outside of about 24 inches is a gimmie. There are few guys that putt that grass well, with Brandt Snedeker leading the charge in a big way. That Woods guy has been known to be an elite putter, too. Jimmy Walker seems to show up on poa annua courses as well. Because those four footers aren't "good," lag putting to stone dead is a premium. That said, if you want to make an eight-foot birdie putt, you better give it enough speed not to bump off the line. See why it's maddening?

So, what do the stats say?
  • It could be inferred, given the length of the South Course, but long is better than short, and it's also better than straight to a degree.
  • There are two ways to look at putting. One is that everyone not named Brandt Snedeker is going to suck on the greens this week, so bad putters get a little bit of a hall pass. The other is that it takes a highly skilled putter to leave lags in the correct spots, while still being aggressive enough to make birdies.
  • The recipe should probably involve a gander at proximity, as it's easier to one and two putt from close range than it is from far. 
  • This is also a good tournament to look at the all-around ranking. Maybe total driving with a tilt towards distance over accuracy as well.
We'll begin working on our magic formula (the one that didn't include Patrick Reed last week) and return with power rankings tomorrow.

Until then, happy research!

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