Farmers Insurance Open: It's Tiger time again, says The Punter

Tiger Woods – can he win for a 9th time at Torrey Pines?
Tiger Woods – can he win for a 9th time at Torrey Pines?

Our man takes a detailed look at this week's PGA Tour action where Tiger Woods makes his first appearance of the year but will it be a winning one? Read what Steve thinks here...

“Looking at the event in the most simplistic statistical way imaginable, Tiger Woods should be an odds-on shot and although I know it doesn’t work like that and that I have my reservations, I’ve decided to play him at 3.7511/4.”

Tournament History
It felt as though 2014 kicked off properly on the European Tour last week, with Rory McIlroy and Phil Mickelson battling out for the title in Abu Dhabi, before Pablo Larrazabal denied them both, and with Tiger Woods making his first appearance of the year stateside, we're starting to get into gear there too now.

This will be the 62nd staging of the Farmers Insurance Open and as always, it's staged over two courses for the first two days, with the final two rounds being played out on the tougher South Course.


Venue
Torrey Pines, La Jolla, California


Course Details
North Course, par 72, 7,052 yards, stroke average in 2013 - 70.67
South Course, par 72, 7,698 yards, stroke average in 2013 - 72.66

Both courses were designed by Billy Bell Jr. and were opened in 1957. At a couple of paces short of 7,700 yards, the South Course is the longest played on the PGA Tour rota. It was extensively revamped in 2001, by Rees Jones; after it had been awarded the 2008 US Open which an injured Tiger Woods went on to win in a playoff over Rocco Mediate.

The North Course differs quite significantly to the South. It's 646 yards shorter and the greens are smaller and slower. The South average 5,800 square feet and will run at around 12 on the stimpmeter whilst the North are only 4,500 sq ft and will run at around 10.5.


Useful Sites
Event Site

Course Site
Course Details
Tee Times
Twitter Link
Weather Forecast


TV Coverage
Live on Sky Sports all four days - 20.00 on Thursday and Friday and 18.00 on Saturday and Sunday.


Last Five Winners
2013 - Tiger Woods -14
2012 - Brandt Snedeker -16 (playoff) 
2011 - Bubba Watson -16
2010 - Ben Crane -13
2009 - Nick Watney -11


What will it take to win the Farmers Insurance Open?

Nothing leaps our stats wise but length off the tee is a big plus and appears more important than driving accuracy. Tiger Woods ranked second for driving distance last year, as did Kyle Stanley twelve months earlier when he gifted the title to Brand Snedeker and the 2011 winner, Bubba Watson, drove it further than anyone else the week he won.  Shorter hitters can contend but with the rough reportedly not too penal this year, big-hitters may well come to the fore once again.

How relevant it is I'm not so sure but the last three winners have played the par 3s really well - ranking 1st or 2nd.

As is the norm, the South Course played two shots harder in 2013 and you need to make a really good score on the North to contend. The last four winners have all shot at least 65 (-7) there.


Is there an angle in?

With a ridiculously impressive record in the event, Tiger Woods skews things somewhat but course form is a big plus and debutants have an awful record.


Is there an identikit winner?

It's very tempting just to write Tiger Woods here but even if you discount the great man, there's no doubt about it, the cream rises to the top at Torrey Pines. From 1996 to 2008, every single winner of the event was a major champion and although the next four winners hadn't bagged a biggy, Bubba subsequently won the US Masters and Nick Watney and Brand Snedeker have come close at majors before. Ben Crane is probably the weakest winner in many a year but he's far from an ordinary player. 

So you need to be straight out of top-drawer, and the chances are you need to be American too. Gary Player (1963) and Jose Maria Olazabal (2002) are the only overseas winners in the event's 61 year history.


In-Play Tactics

When betting in-running, make sure you bear in mind the differential in scoring between the shorter North Course and the longer South. It's usually well and truly factored into the market now so there's little chance of getting an edge but there's plenty of chance of rushing in on someone high up on the leaderboard only to realise they've just finished playing the North and not such a great price after all.

Three of the last five winners have trailed by at least five strokes after day one, having played the South Course first, so ground can easily be made up here and it's far from a frontrunners gaff. I've gone back to 1996 and there's not been a single wire-to-wire winner and since the course was toughened up, Tiger (2008 and 2013) is the only halfway leader to convert. And third round leaders even struggle...

Having hit the front at halfway, Woods was never headed last year or in 2008 and he was in front after round three in 2003 but the only other third round leader to go on to win this century was John Daly in 2004 and he needed to win a three-man playoff in the end. 

Kyle Stanley was matched at 1.011/100 before his late collapse in 2012 and even Tiger dropped four strokes in his last five holes last year. This is definitely an event to take on the leaders.


Market Leaders

The big question this week is are you with Tiger Woods or against him? At less than 4.03/1, plenty of layers will be getting stuck right in, pointing to the fact that he hasn't played for six weeks, that he hasn't won first time out for a few years and that he missed the cut in Abu Dhabi on his first effort in 2013. And most salient of all, that he's far from the in-contention beast he once was.

The counter argument is that he's won the event seven times in 14 starts and that he's finished outside the top-five just twice (10th in 2004 and 44th in 2011), and that he also won the US Open here. In fact, he's bidding to become the first person in history to win nine PGA Tour events at the same venue - although that could bring additional pressure.

Second favourite, Phil Mickelson, provided the entertainment in Abu Dhabi last week, when he left his brains on the 13th tee and did this. It was a typical lunatic Lefty lapse and it cost him the event but he's done worse before and I suspect he won't sulk over it for too long. He does have to travel back to the States and deal with the disappointment though and he hasn't the greatest of records here since the course was strengthened...

He won this title back-to-back at the turn of the century but his runner-up finish to Bubba three years ago is his only top-five finish in his last ten attempts and all things considered, he looks short enough to me at around 13.012/1.


Selections

Looking at the event in the most simplistic statistical way imaginable, Tiger Woods should be an odds-on shot and although I know it doesn't work like that and that I have my reservations, I decided to play him yesterday at the 3.7511/4 available on the Sportsbook - albeit modestly.

With regards to me reservations, I'm not too worried about the lack of a recent outing. He's the consummate professional and he may not have blasted out off the blocks first time out in recent years but he's hardly been at his best and last year in Abu Dhabi was just weird. With Rory McIlroy switching clubs, the whole event felt like one big Nike advert and I do wonder how much Rory's bizarrely poor showing had an effect on Woods.  He certainly put it behind quickly because he hacked up here the following week.

My biggest concern is his increasingly weak in-contention play but even that's not too much of a worry. The market still loves Tiger and I won't have any problem laying him back if he's in-the-mix, so all things considered, I felt he was worth siding with.

My only other selection is my sole pre-event selection from twelve months ago - Bubba Watson. He withdrew before the start last year but I mention him merely to highlight his price from last year , which was just 17.5. 

The 2011 winner put up a reasonable defence in 2012 (13th) and finished last year in decent order with a top-ten finish at the HSBC Champions in China and a 3rd place at the World Challenge. In addition to his victory at Torrey Pines, he's also finished 4th and 7th and I couldn't see any conceivable reason why he was as big as 40.039/1.


Selections:
Tiger Woods @ 3.7511/4 (Sportsbook)
Bubba Watson @ 40.039/1

Don't forget that the Qatar Masters starts in the early hours of tomorrow so I'll be back at some point tomorrow with the In-Play Blog and if you haven't sorted out your fancies there yet and you think it might help, here's my preview.


*You can follow me on Twitter @SteveThePunter


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