Tiger Woods is playing at one of his favourite locations this week in the Farmers Insurance Open. He has won seven tournaments at Torrey Pines where this week’s event is being played on the North and South courses. The event has a history of producing multiple winners and over the last 11 years three players, including Woods, have been the champion more than once. Jason Day has won two renewals in the last four years and Brandt Snedeker was the winner in 2012 and 2016. Jon Rahm can become another multiple winner this week after prevailing in 2017.
Play is rotated over both courses in the first two rounds and then the weekend 36 hole action takes place on the South course. The North course is short for a par 72 and the average score was usually more than three shots lower than the longer South course. Both courses have bent grass greens which are below average size, particularly those on the North course. The South course is more the severe test, especially when the wind blows and the pins are tucked away leading to even higher scores. The closing hole tries to tempt the long hitters to go for the green over water and some fail.
The North course has been lengthened by 206 yards but it is still by far the easier track. The 7,689 yards South course is one of the most difficult on Tour but the scoring difference has fallen from more than three shots to about 1.50. The fairways on both courses are difficult to find and greens in regulation becomes a more difficult skill. The Farmers Insurance Open is rare in that it requires distance and accuracy and maybe that’s why the best player of the modern era has such a good record in the event. Woods also won the US Open at Torrey Pines in 2008.
Clearly the former world number one has a game suited to the courses but this will be the first time in years that he returns to the game after a break injury and pain free. Woods won the Tour Championship at the end of last season and contended in two majors in 2018. It’s the start of a huge year in which Woods must play regularly without any health worries. Another aborted season for an injury could spell the end of the career for the second most successful golfer in majors in the history of the sport. Rahm is a viable alternative to Woods this week.
The champion two years ago was one shot off the pace after 36 holes in his defence last year. However, he faded over the last two rounds and finished tied 29th. In his last four starts Rahm has won once and not finished outside the top eight. The Spanish player beat Woods in the Ryder Cup singles last September so it would be appropriate if he became a multiple champion on courses where Woods has won so many times. Rahm can record his third win on the PGA Tour this week.
The Dubai Desert Classic on the European Tour often attracts a decent field. There is a lucrative prize fund and great playing conditions for this time of the year. The Emirates Golf Club is an American-style course with water in play on 10 holes. The fairways are fairly generous and the greens are large, fast and very flat. Louis Oosthuizen is a player in form suited to the demands of the course. He finished third in the event 11 years ago and can go two better in the UAE this week.