Farmers Insurance Open: 6 guys to watch
LA JOLLA, Calif. – Tiger and Phil make their 2011 PGA Tour debuts this week at the Farmers Insurance Open. The presence of the Tour's two biggest stars is definitely newsworthy. But let's not forget that there's 154 other players in the field. Here's a half-dozen players not named Tiger or Phil I'm looking forward to seeing this week:
• Nick Watney: This could be a breakout season for Watney, who turns 30 on April 25. It could start at Torrey Pines, where he was victorious in 2009, and has finished in the top 10 three of the past four years. Last year, Watney finished in the top 10 in of the Masters and British Open, and held the 54-hole lead at the PGA (where a final-round 81 dropped him to 18th). He had eight top 10s in '10, and 15 top 25s, in 24 starts.
• Anthony Paolucci: Paolucci is the No. 1 player in the Golfweek/Sagarin Junior Rankings and was last year's AJGA Player of the Year. The USC signee moved to the San Diego area a few years ago after growing up in Dallas, where he became good friends with Jordan Spieth, the teen who finished 16th at last year's Byron Nelson. Paolucci will be looking to repeat Spieth's feat. (Spieth is No. 2 in the Golfweek/Sagarin rankings, behind Paolucci.)
• Justin Hicks: Hicks, 36, is playing his first event as a PGA Tour member, 13 years after turning pro. He's one of the oldest rookies on Tour. He has experience at Torrey Pines, having held the 18-hole lead at the 2008 U.S. Open here.
• Michael Sim: Big things were expected from the 26-year-old Australian after he set a Nationwide Tour earnings record in 2009 and finished 18th in that year's U.S. Open. Sim missed two months of last season because of a right shoulder injury. In 20 events, his best finish was a runner-up at this event last year. He also collected two third-place finishes since last August. If healthy, Sim could have a big year.
• Bill Haas: Watney and Haas look so much alike that they're often mistaken for each other. I expect them to have similar PGA Tour seasons, as well. Haas, the consensus college player of the year in '04, is starting to fulfill his potential. He has finished first or second in three of his past six PGA Tour starts, including last week's playoff loss at the Hope.
• Josh Anderson: The Pepperdine junior is playing this event for the second time in three years. He got in the field each time by winning a one-spot amateur qualifier. Anderson missed the cut by a single stroke in 2009 after three-putting his 36th hole. Anderson qualified for this event by shooting 68 in the qualifier late last year, despite being involved in a car accident on the way to the course. Anderson is a former high school teammate of Rickie Fowler and California Amateur champion.