By Seth Kerr (Cooper)
The PGA Tour continues its West Coast Swing with a stop in La Jolla, California for the Farmers Insurance Open at Torrey Pines. Bubba Watson, returns as defending champion headlining a strong field at one of the most famous municipal golf courses in the world. Most of the top Americans are in the field and will be looking to test their game on two very different courses.
The North course, which is played once by the field on either Thursday or Friday, is the shorter of the two courses, with the back tees being approximately 6,874 yards. The South course, the longer and more difficult of the two, is approximately 7,568 yards from the tips and is the only course played on the weekend.
The Farmers is the first tournament of the year for several players, and is J.B. Holmes’ first tournament since since undergoing brain surgery on Sept. 1 for a rare condition called Chiari malformation. Holmes believes he is only 85 percent back, and is still missing about five mph of swing speed. But the long-hitting Holmes is still hitting drives over 300 yards, and said is looking forward to returning to competitive golf.
Holmes isn’t the only player with questions looming about his game on the eve of the Farmers. Phil Mickelson is coming off a disappointing 2011 that raised questions about whether he can win another major. After a poor performance at Humana last week where he barely made the cut, he will be looking to start fast and gain momentum as he prepares for The Masters. Gary Woodland is also in the field in his first event since he began working with Butch Harmon.
Who can forget the finish last year, with Bubba Watson getting up and down from what looked like an impossible bunker shot on No. 18 for birdie and Phil Mickelson asking Bones to tend the flag from 66 yards and then almost holing out for eagle to force a playoff? In a Ryder Cup year, points are all the more important and players like Rickie Fowler, who has recently switched to Cobra, will be looking to move up the rankings.
The tournament is thought of as a bomber’s paradise with Mickelson, Watson, Woods, Watney, and Daly all having won at Torrey Pines. However, Ben Crane showed in 2010 that an “average” hitter who can keep the ball in the fairway and hit Torrey Pines’ small greens has a chance to win.
The tournament will air on Golf Channel on Thursday and Friday from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. EST, and on CBS from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday and Sunday.