Farmers Insurance Open preview, picks + predictions, plus the Driver-Off-The-Deck BOLD Play of the Week #OhHelloStackedField

With no offense to the Hawaii events or the Bob Hope Classic….er, I mean the Humana Challenge, The Farmers Insurance Open at Torrey Pines always feels like the real start to the PGA Tour season.  It’s when many of the big dogs make their first appearances stateside for the season (Tiger, Phil etc…) and certainly the most prolific and notable track that the Tour plays during the month of January.

In addition to Eldrick and Lefty, Brandt Snedeker, Bill Haas, Keegan Bradley, Jordan Spieth, Jason Day, Hunter Mahan, Bubba Watson, Lee Westwood, Jimmy Walker, Nick Watney, Ian Poulter and others will be teeing it up this week SoCal style.

The Torrey Pines South Course is recognizable for its stunning ocean views, and in addition is memorable for its beefiness as it plays 10,984 yards from the tips.  Ok yes, I made that number up, it “only” plays 7,698 yards (when fully tipped out), but at sea level that can make it seem like it plays miles longer.  Its little sister, the soon-to-be-made-over North Course (Phil Mickelson is heading the redesign) plays just 7,052 yards, so a gaping difference between the two (for now) to be sure.

SoCal has been in a drought for the past couple months, so the turf is extremely dry.  But, that doesn’t mean that there won’t be rough to contend with this week, as early reports have the rough running at a thick and nasty 3.5 inches on both courses, so driving accuracy will certainly play an important role this week.

Now, let’s hop into some picks (last week I continued my solid run by picking Palmer + Stuard, who finished 2nd + 5th respectively):

LOCKZILLAS (Last Week: Webb t-23rd, Kokrak MC)

Rickie Fowler
Rickie Fowler
– I’m not a big fan of 25-year-olds who still tuck their ears under their hats, but I am a fan of them when they turn to Butch Harmon for swing advice.  For the ridiculous amount of fanfare that Rickie has received thus far in his PGA Tour career, he’s been mostly a bust as anyone could agree that now in his 6th season as a pro and at age 25 that to only have one win is a big disappointment.  But, the tides are turning, and his motivation is growing working with the game’s best instructor.  Throw in finishes of t-5th, t-20th, t-13th and t-6th here at Torrey the past 4 years and his sneaky solid 67-66 on the weekend in Humana and he’s primed for another top 10 finish this week.

Jimmy Walker
Jimmy Walker
– Speaking of Butch Harmon, this previously winless 35-year-old suddenly has two PGA tour wins already this season, including winning his last start- the Sony Open.  Throw in that Jimmy finished t-8th and t-4th the last two years here and he’s a must pick this week.

SEMI-FLIER (Last Week: Stuard 5th)

Brian Stuard
Brian Stuard
– Flew pretty good on this Semi-Flier last week, as I rolled with Brian Stuard right to a solo 5th place finish.  So, this week I’m going with…yep, you guessed it- Brian Stuard.  Three consecutive top 6 finishes on Tour, hits a ton of greens and is a straight driver off the tee.  Love his chances to continue his top 6 streak this week….and yet somehow he’s still very under the radar.

HOSEL-ROCKET BUST (Vegas 84th)

Ian Poulter
Ian Poulter
– His first start of the 2014 calendar year and his first start at Torrey in nearly a decade, as I expect some extreme rust and choppiness from the rough en route to a MC and subsequent surefire twitter excuse fest from the flashy Brit.

DRIVER-OFF-THE-DECK BOLD PLAY OF THE WEEK (Palmer 2nd)

Brendon Todd
Brendon Todd
– A faulty putter let him down during the stretch on Sunday at the Humana, but his t-6th finish was still his best ever PGA Tour finish.  Combine the Web.com and PGA Tour finishes and he has a whopping 17 top 10 finishes in just the past 11 months (9 Web.com, 8 PGA).  I like him to keep rolling this week.

#isitThursdayyet

Joel Harrington
@joel4deepgolf

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