Tournament: Famers Insurance Open, January 24-27, 2019
Course: Torrey Pines GC (South), 7,698 yards, par 72. Also utilized the first two days will be the South Course, 7,258 yards, par 72. Pros will play each of the courses the first two days before a field cut to top 70 plus ties after the second round, and the final two rounds played on the South course.
Defending Champion: Jason Day. In yet another playoff, Ryan Palmer, Alex Noren, and Day went extra holes late Sunday last year. It was a tough day, as at least 8 players shot 79 or worse. But these three tied at 10 under par total. Palmer was eliminated early before Noren and Day matched birdies and pars, eventually succumbing to lack of daylight. They tried again Monday morning and only lasted 1 hole - Noren found the water while Day had a tap-in birdie for the win.
Fun Fact: Tiger Woods has 8 victories on this course, but the last was 2008... his 14th and last major win (US Open). He will begin the current season this week, on this course which he knows so well. Tiger will be paired with two young American stars, Xander Schauffle and Tony Finau.
How to Watch: Thursday-Friday, 3-7 p.m. (Golf Channel). Saturday, 1-2:45 p.m. (GC), 3-6 p.m. (CBS). Sunday, 1-2:45 p.m. (GC), 3-6 p.m. (CBS). Golf is finally returning to CBS after the conclusion of the NFL playoffs. Jim Nantz may not be in the booth, as he pulls duty for college basketball, NFL, and golf this time of year.
Dawgs in the Field: 7 . Harris English, Brian Harman, Chris Kirk, Keith Mitchell, Sepp Straka, Hudson Swafford are entered. Tour rookie Joey Garber was 6th alternate, but is now in the field according to my #sources. Garber has something of a conditional status on Tour from last year’s Web.com Tour promotion. With big names in the field this week like Rory McIlroy, Justin Spieth, Jason Day, and Tiger Woods, some folks get left out. But if any drop out prior to their Thursday tee time, the alternates (if present) can take that spot.
The PGA Tour packs it up and heads west, well, the hour+ west it can go before hitting the Pacific Ocean. From Palm Desert and Coachella Valley, the pros tee it up in sunny San Diego and the famous Torrey Pines golf complex.
This has become a very good early season test on the Tour schedule. Most of the winter events are at resorts in Hawaii, Palm Desert, and the scoring is relatively easy. So the hot hand/putter making bunches of birdies takes the prize. Last week the winning score was 25 under par... that will not be the case this week.
Pros alternate playing the North Course and the South Course the first two days. In years past, golfers had to feast on the easier North Course and just try to survive on the long and difficult South. But after a redesign a couple of years back, the North Course is now much more technical, lengthened slightly, and plays almost as tough.
The field is pretty strong too. Normally this tournament is where the top pros begin their season in earnest, some having skipped the long travel to Hawaii, and some skipping the pro-am formats of the Bob Hope. And with the new Tour rule that players must include a tournament every three years (instead of cherry-picking their schedule), we are getting some big names in San Diego for the first time in a long time. Rory McIlroy will see Torrey Pines anew, and Jordan Spieth (who is in a relative slump) is on board, and we will get our first look at the 2019 version of Tiger Woods.
But I know you came here for the Bulldogs, so we’ll jump right in.
Harris English is #318 in the Official World Golf Rankings (OWGR), and 111th in FedEx Cup points. He doesn’t have a finish higher than T22 this season, but he also hasn’t missed a cut.
Chris Kirk is 173 OWGR, and 167 FedEx. He’s only scored over 70 four times in his last 17 rounds, but he’s also missed the last two cuts. A bad opening 78 last week doomed him.
Brian Harman is 60 OWGR, and 150 FedEx. He paired with Patton Kizzire to win an unofficial team event in early December, but has only broken par once in 2019. He seems to have lost a lot of hair on his head in the off season, and I hope his golf game didn’t go with it.
Keith Mitchell is 147 OWGR, and 68 FedEx. His 2019 season is pretty solid, with 3 top 25 finishes (including T16 at the Sony 2 weeks ago), and making 4 of 5 cuts.
Sepp Straka is 445 OWGR, 195 FedEx. The rookie season looked promising, with a T46 in his first PGA Tour start. But 4 missed cuts since then brought him back to earth. No matter - a top 50 here and he will gain those valuable points to retaining his privileges.
Hudson Swafford is 223 OWGR, and 49 FedEx. He’s already cashed over $450k this season, having made all 7 cuts so far (and 11 straight if my math is correct). The only finish that stands out is his tie for 3rd at the Sony in Hawaii a couple of weeks back, but that goes a long way.
And Joey Garber, also in his first PGA Tour campgain, is 446 OWGR and 199 FedEx. He missed his first 3 PGA Tour cuts, but has made his last two. And he was in contention last week at the Desert Classic until a final round 76 dropped him about 35-40 spots on the leaderboard. Still, it was a good showing and glimpses of good things to come for the 27 year old.
So that’s who to root for. There’s no football to compete with (the Pro Bowl isn’t really a thing anymore, is it?), so college basketball is filling my TV screen guide. If you’re like me, you’ll look for something different, and why not flip it over to Golf Channel and CBS this weekend to catch ‘Dawgs chasing little white balls.
And as always...