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Farmers Insurance Open: Tiger Time at Torrey

Greg Vara

Greg Vara

Vara is the lead golf writer at RotoWire. He was named the 2013 FSWA Golf Writer of the Year. In addition to producing the weekly preview and the bulk of the draft kit content, Vara participates in Yahoo!'s "Experts Picks" where he routinely dominates. He also picks college football games against the spread in his "College Capper" article.

While many witnessed the incredible drama of the NFL playoffs last weekend, some followed the frenzied finish at the Humana Challenge. With Tiger Woods entering the picture this week, the "some" is about to grow significantly, but let's not get ahead of ourselves. To do so would be to diminish Brian Gay's victory at the Humana, and considering it's been three long years since he's hoisted a trophy, we should all take a moment and recognize that Gay can still play. Brian Gay can still play. In case you haven't heard, Tiger Woods is back on the PGA TOUR this week, and in case you were confused by the lack of network coverage last weekend, well that's no longer an issue either. In essence, the season really starts to pick up steam this week, and it's not just because of Tiger. It's because for the first time this season, the PGA TOUR is on the mainland with a strong field and a legitimate course. Don't get me wrong, I like scoring as much as the next guy. But when 20-under par doesn't crack the top-15, well, then the sport starts to resemble something different altogether. No worries, though; the "fluffy" part of the schedule is in the past and now it starts to get real. Starting this week, birdies are a bonus as the courses can fight back. Starting this week, it's the PGA TOUR's turn.

This week:
Farmers Insurance Open

Last Year:
Brandt Snedeker shot a final-round 67 on his way to a playoff victory over Kyle Stanley.

Players to Consider:

1. Tiger Woods

A handful of times each year you take a long hard look at Woods no matter the state of his game, and this is one of those spots. Sure, he hasn't actually won this event since 2008, but that was his fourth consecutive at the time, and he's only played here once since.

2. Brandt Snedeker

Not much has happened for Snedeker since he won here last year - just a Ryder Cup appearance, a Tour Championship title and, oh yeah, the FedEx Cup Championship. Needless to say, his game has only improved since he last teed it up here. Factor in a solid track record here (three top-3s), and you can bet that he'll be in the hunt come Sunday.

3. Rickie Fowler

Fowler looked sharp in his first start of the season at the Hyundai, and if his track record here is any indication, he'll pick up where left off this two weeks ago. Fowler has three starts here and three top-20s.

4. Charles Howell III

Howell III once again came up just short last week at the Humana, but playoff failure aside, he's playing well. Howell III usually does his best work on the West coast as his history here attests. In 10 starts here, Howell III has six top-15s including two runner-ups.

5. Nick Watney

Watney has cracked the top-10 here in three of his past four starts, which included a win in 2009. He didn't exactly start the year on fire at the Hyundai, but who can blame him? That week was full of starts and stops and horrible weather.

Players to Avoid:

1. Kyle Stanley

Stanley was at the top of his game at this time last year, but we've rarely seen that form since. A trip back to Torrey Pines could spark him, but it's not really worth the risk this week.

2. Geoff Ogilvy

Ogilvy is bound to find his game at some point this season, but it's not likely to start here. Even when his game was in good shape, he had trouble navigating the courses at Torrey Pines. Ogilvy's best finish here came last year when he finished T-50.

3. Jeff Overton

Four starts here and only one made cut. That weekend Overton finished +8 and tied for 81st. Overton's prospects look decent this year, but a short week looks more likely than not.

4. Charley Hoffman

Hoffman played well last week at the Humana Challenge, but that momentum won't likely carry over to Torrey Pines this week. Hoffman has missed the cut in more than half of his 15 starts here.

5. Sean O'Hair

O'Hair barely managed to break par last week, which speaks volumes to how poorly he played. Things aren't about to get better this week as he heads to Torrey Pines, a place where he's struggled mightily.

YAHOO! FANTASY GOLF

Group A

1. Tiger Woods
2. Brandt Snedeker

With three of my top-5 in Group A this week, I had the option to save a start from Tiger, but I can't pass him up at Torrey Pines. Snedeker should be on just about every team this week.

Group B

1. Nick Watney
2. Keegan Bradley
3. Dustin Johnson
4. Hunter Mahan

The sample size is small, but I think I've figured out the reason I've started so slowly the last few years - too many sleepers. Playing it close to the vest appears to be the way to go, at least early on. Anyhow, as you can see, another star-studded line-up in Group B this week. Only Watney is in my top-5, but each is capable of winning this week. Mahan has finished tied for 6th here two years running.

Group C

1. Rickie Fowler
2. Justin Leonard

While I'm playing it safe in Group B, I'm taking a bit of a risk in Group C, but there's a good reason. First, Justin Leonard has fared well at this event - two top-10s in his past two appearances - and second, I've got quite the safety blanket in Fowler. Even if Leonard falls flat, I'll surely have Fowler available all week.

Starters Round One

1. Brandt Snedeker
2. Nick Watney
3. Hunter Mahan
4. Rickie Fowler

Similar to last week, there are multiple courses in-play this week, but just two this week instead of three. Unlike last week, there is a major difference in the difficulty of the two courses. While the North Course is no slouch, it simply doesn't have the teeth of the South Course. The difference is so significant, that it requires you to set your line-up accordingly. Unfortunately, we're not yet privy to the tee times for Thursday and Friday. Once they are posted, I'll adjust my lineup. Listed above are my opening-round starters if all things were equal, which they are not, so stay tuned.

Round Two and Going Forward:

The course rotation ends Friday, so it's all about the South Course on the weekend. While the course will dictate the starters in the first two rounds, golfer history will come into play when setting the starting lineup on the weekend. Current form will also factor in, of course, but it's good to know certain things like Fowler has never broken 70 on the weekend here, while Watney has posted a score better than 70 in four of his last eight weekend-rounds here, including a 63 in 2011. As for Tiger, I'm going to wait and see how he comes out Thursday, and that will dictate where I go from there. If Woods is on the North Course on Thursday and Snedeker is not, well then, I'll have to adjust my plan. In other words, I'll start Woods on Thursday. If they are on the same course, same day, then it's Snedeker until Tiger shows some game.

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