Farmers Insurance great test for Woods
Tiger Woods returns to the PGA Tour this week having slipped to the number three position in the world but having perhaps his favourite venue to try and get things headed back in the right direction.
Torrey Pines in La Jolla near San Diego has been the has been site of many Tiger Woods victories – both at amateur and professional level – but more than two years ago it was the scene of perhaps his greatest. Effectively playing on one leg, Woods holed a 14 foot putt at the 72nd hole of the 2008 US Open to force a playoff against Rocco Mediate and then go onto beat him in an 18 hole playoff the final day.
Woods has also been a six time winner of this event or its equivalent and won a Junior World Championship over these layouts in 1991. I say layout as this event is played over the North and South Courses at Torrey Pines with the weekend reserved solely for the more demanding South course.
Woods has not played a tournament since the Chevron Challenge in mid December but he played so well there and so well over the final round of his previous start in Melbourne that there appeared to be good signs developing for Woods heading into 2011. provided he has been able to build on that momentum in the past few weeks then he should be right in the thick of things on Sunday.
Woods and Phil Mickelson will both be keen to restore some of the ground they have lost in the past twelve months. at number two and six respectively in world rankings they are the leading world ranked players in this event and the only two from the top ten so there is an opportunity for them to get things headed in the right direction again this week.
Mickelson is another who enjoys this venue having won the tournament on three occasions earlier in his career. Mickelson started his season in Abu Dhabi last week and was hardly convincing in his 37th place finish. he plays a US event for the first time since the Tour Championship in late September and back on very familiar ground will improve sharply.
Charles Howell 111 has not won this event but he has a great record having been twice runner-up and I like his chances. he has put together some encouraging tournaments of late.
Dustin Johnson was one of the finds of the PGA Tour in 2010 and while he has not played this venue as well as he has the other iconic West Coast seaside layout further north at Pebble Beach, he is such an improved player he could do well. Johnson played his first tournament of 2011 at the Hyundai three weeks ago and did well enough when 9th.
Rickie Fowler has yet to win on the PGA Tour but he has been four times runner-up. at some stage he will breakthrough and although he has not played a tournament in two months he did play this event well last year in his only previous start.
Ben Crane was perhaps a surprise winner of this event last year and three starts ago won a PGA Tour event in Malaysia. in addition to his win last year, Crane has produced several other good finishes at Torrey Pines and should be at least considered as a chance to win.
Nick Watney is another with a good record at Torrey Pines having won in 2009 and recorded two other top tens in a total of six starts. Watney played well towards the end of last season and if he can find that form again quickly in 2011 he has a good chance of extending his record here.
Australians Michael Sim and Marc Leishman finished joint runner-up last year in this event and although neither really carried on with the great start in 2010, both could do well again.
Robert Allenby is the leading ranked Australian in the field and he too had a good tournament in this event last year, finishing 10th after a strong start. Allenby played solidly enough towards the end of 2010 and although he missed the cut two weeks ago in Hawaii he is expected to improve considerably.
Other Australians in the field are Stuart Appleby, Aaron Baddeley, Steve Bowditch, Greg Chalmers, Nathan Green, Matt Jones, Jarrod Lyle, Nick O’Hern and John Senden.
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