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The Farmers Insurance Open: Plough in to good thing Bubba, says The Punter

Bubba Watson, The Punter's sole pick at the Farmers Open

“So far in 2013, none of my selections in any event have really got my juices flowing but I really fancy Bubba Watson this week at Torrey Pines.”

The PGA Tour moves on to Torrey Pines this week, where Tiger Woods is favourite for yet another course win. Our man's not keen on the chances of the world number two but he's excited about Bubba. Read his preview here...

Tournament History
The Farmers Insurance Open is the second event on the West Coast Swing. This will be the 61st staging 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, 6874 yards, stroke average in 2012 - 69.55
South Course, par 72, 7569 yards, stroke average in 2012 - 71.42

Both courses were designed by Billy Bell Jr. and were opened in 1957. The South Course was extensively revamped in 2001 by Rees Jones after it had been awarded the 2008 US Open (won by Tiger Woods). When betting in-running, bear in mind the differential in scoring, the shorter North Course usually plays a couple of shots easier.

Useful Sites
Event Site
Media Guide
Twitter Link
Course Details
Weather Forecast

TV Coverage
Live on Sky Sports, 8.00pm Thursday, Friday and Saturday and 6.00pm on Sunday.

Last Five Winners

2012 - Brandt Snedeker -16 (playoff)
2011 - Bubba Watson -16
2010 - Ben Crane -13
2009 - Nick Watney -11
2008 - Tiger Woods -19

What will it take to win the Farmers Insurance?

Given the South Course is the longest course on the PGA Tour rota, hitting it a long way is not going to inconvenience and you can get away with a degree of inaccuracy of the tee. First and second in 2011, Bubba Watson and Phil Mickelson, ranked just 45th and 65th for Driving Accuracy respectfully and when Tiger Woods murdered the field by eight shots in 2008 he ranked 59th for D.A. Hitting a lot of greens is key but if you don't you need a masterly shot game and scrambling is definitely a key stat. And finally, a good score on the easier North Course is important, the last three winners have all shot 65 or better there.

Is there an angle in?

Previous event form is important. The last ten winners had all recorded at least one top-ten at Torrey Pines in the two years prior to their win and debutants have a poor record.

Is there an identikit winner?
Winners at Torrey Pines tend to have a real touch of class about them and every year between 1996 and 2008 the event was won by someone that's bagged a major. The last four have bucked that trend but they're all still top drawer multiple winners and the last two winners have furthered their careers since successful here. Bubba has since won the US Masters and Snedeker the Fed-Ex Cup.

In-Play Tactics
The course differential has to be taken into account. Last year's winner, Snedeker, was down in a tie for 17th after day one but he'd equalled the best round of the day on the tougher South Course with an opening 67 and when the stagger unwound he was just one off the lead after day two.

Really low scoring is possible on the North Course, in 2008 that man Snedeker again played his first ten holes in ten under par and breaking 60 looked almost a formality but he slowed up after that an ended up shooting 'just' 61. Someone can make up an awful lot of ground with a second round score on the North Course and that's well worth monitoring if you're going to play in-running.

You may well remember Kyle Stanley's collapse at last year's event, after he'd led by five with a round to go and traded at 1.011/100 before making a complete hash of the 72nd hole but he's not the only third round leader to come a cropper - far from it. Tiger Woods had the event sewn-up in 2008 and was eight clear after 54 holes but you have to go all the way back to John Daly in 2004 to find the last third round leader, other than Woods in '08, to go on to win and even then he had to beat Luke Donald and Chris Riley, both of whom had closed from six back after round three, in a playoff.

Don't be surprised if someone from off the pace wins again, Sneds came from seven back last year, having shot a poor third round, but that's still not the biggest comeback win. Scott Simpson was eight back in 1998.

Market Leaders
Tiger Woods' is record at Torrey Pines is exceptional and he even managed to win the US Open here in 2008 on a broken leg! But does the new depleted Tiger bear any resemblance to the old one?

Paul Krishnamurty has covered this in depth here and I'm with him. I thought Woods looked rusty last week in Abu Dhabi and whilst I'd have clambered over broken glass to take half the price he is this week a few years ago, I'm not interested in him this time around, and like Paul, I much prefer the chances of the two players vying for second favouritism, Bubba and Sneds.

Selection
We're now well into the New Year and at last I'm really excited about a selection. So far in 2013, none of my selections in any event have really got my juices flowing but I really fancy Bubba Watson this week at Torrey Pines.

He's matured considerably since his success here two years ago and both his stats and form have a very consistent and strong look about them nowadays - he's even scrambling really well just lately.

In addition to his win here, he also has a 4th placed finish (2007) and a 7th placed finish (2009) to his name and his tied 13th when defending twelve months ago was far from a disgrace. He finished tied 4th at the Hyundai Tournament of Champions on debut a few weeks ago, despite being very poorly on the final day and I really like his chances this week.

Phil Mickelson always gets my attention on the West Coast Swing but I'm going to wait until kick-off with him. I backed him last year, thinking his pipe-opening run at the Humana Challenge would knock off any rust but he opened up with a round of 77. His stats weren't fantastic last week, when he finished tied 37th and I'm going to see how he starts. That said, if he drifts markedly before the off, which he can often do, then I may well take the plunge.

Others to catch my attention included John Huh and Jonas Blixt but again, I'm happy to wait with them too.

Farmers Insurance Open Selection:

Bubba Watson @ 17.5n/a

*You can follow me on Twitter @SteveThePunter

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22 January 2013

The Punter

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