Mickelson the early favorite at Torrey Pines
SAN DIEGO - The 2012 Farmers Insurance Open is missing Tiger Woods, but the field still is very strong, with Phil Mickelson as the headliner.
Mickelson, a San Diego native, will be playing in his 22nd Farmers at Torrey Pines. With three victories early in his career here (1993, 2000 and ’01), Mickelson has struggled to win his fourth, but came close last year, finishing runner-up by a shot to Bubba Watson.
It was Lefty’s first top 10 here since he finished sixth in 2008.
In last week’s Humana Challenge, Mickelson’s 2012 debut, he played the first 23 holes at 5 over par. His first-round 74 at La Quinta was only his second over-par round in the former Bob Hope Classic since a third-round 76 in 1994.
Mickelson, who started his second round of the Humana on the back nine at PGA West’s Nicklaus course, finally found his form. He was 3 over through five holes before playing his next 37 holes in 14 under - 15 birdies and a bogey.
He was unable to sustain that momentum and tied for 49th at 10 under, his worst finish at Humana since a missed cut in 1994.
“I think I was overexcited to start the year,” Mickelson said. “I had been playing really well heading in the couple weeks prior. I think I was just a little over amped and didn’t focus the best the first round and a half. But I kind of slowed things down and got it turned around.”
Mickelson showed some of his old putting touch last week in the desert, making 30 of 33 from 6 feet and in, and also was 10th in the all-around ranking last week.
It would be hard not to pick Mickelson this week in his hometown event, but his play last week in the desert was so topsy-turvy that it might be prudent to look for an alternative.
With that in mind, Nick Watney, Charles Howell III, Bubba Watson and Brandt Snedeker look like good alternatives.
Watney won here in 2009 and has four top 10s in seven appearances. He took the past two weeks off after a tie for 12th at the winners-only opener at Kapalua. He will be sporting a new driver shaft that has added distance via 5 mph in swing speed and a tighter dispersion off the tee.
With Watney well-rested after some time off for surfing, the Californian would be a good pick this week.
Howell has had a lot of success at Farmers, with two runner-up finishes (2005 and ’07) and four top 10s in nine appearances.
Howell has had a strong start to 2012, with a second-place finish at Sony before slipping to 49th at Humana with a final-round 71.
Howell has gone winless since the 2007 Northern Trust, but his game showed significant signs of its past form in 2011, and 2012 offers real promise.
Watson always looms as an interesting fantasy player. With his length, he can light up any course on the PGA Tour. But that same prodigious length also can get the left-hander in trouble.
Snedeker was a runner-up here in 2010 and has recorded three top 10s in five appearances at Torrey Pines. Last week, the Vanderbilt product finished eighth after a mediocre 71 in the final round at Humana.
Any of those five players would be good picks this week.
OTHERS WHO DESERVE MENTION
• D.A. Points – (five appearances, including two top 10s) fifth in 2011
• John Rollins – (11/3) Runner-up in 2009
• Ernie Els – (2/2) Fifth in 2010 and sixth in 2005. Els lost in a playoff last week in South Africa. He had a long way to travel to be competitive this week but has great history here.
• Mark Leishman - (3/2) Ninth in 2011, second in 2010 and 26th in 2009.
• Ben Crane – (7/2) Winner in 2010, eighth last week at Humana
• Brandt Jobe – (11/2) This is a ball-striker’s golf course, and Jobe is one of Tour’s best
• Chris Riley – (14/3) Missed cuts in his past four starts, but is a hometown guy and knows the course well.
ROOKIES TO WATCH
Sang-moon Bae – 14th last week at Humana; No. 34 in the Official World Golf Ranking.
Harris English – 19th last week at Humana; made the cut in his first two events.
ODDS TO WIN
- Matt Kuchar. . . 15/1
- Phil Mickelson. . . 15/1
- Dustin Johnson. . . 20/1
- Bill Haas. . . 20/1
- Charles Howell III . . . 25/1
- Bo Van Pelt. . . 25/1
- Martin Laird. . . 25/1
- Zach Johnson. . . 30/1
- Anthony Kim. . . 30/1
- Brian Gay. . . 30/1
- Kevin Na. . . 40/1
- Ryan Moore. . . 40/1
- Brandt Snedeker. . . 40/1
- Carl Pettersson. . . 40/1
- Ben Crane. . . 40/1
- Camilo Villegas. . . 40/1
- Bryce Molder. . . 40/1
- Trevor Immelman. . . 40/1
- John Senden. . . 40/1
- Bud Cauley. . . 40/1
- Rory Sabbatini. . . 50/1
- Chris Kirk. . . 50/1
- Spencer Levin. . . 50/1
- Harrison Frazar. . . 50/1
- Johnson Wagner. . . 50/1
- David Toms. . . 50/1
- Jhonattan Vegas. . . 50/1
- Michael Thompson50/1
- John Rollins. . . 50/1
- Jason Dufner. . . 50/1
- Chad Campbell. . . 60/1
- Charley Hoffman. . . 60/1
- Nick O’hern. . . 60/1
- Greg Chalmers. . . 60/1
- Brendon De Jonge. . . 60/1
- Kyle Stanley. . . 60/1
- Jeff Overton. . . 60/1
- Ryan Palmer. . . 60/1
- D.J. Trahan. . . 60/1
- David Hearn. . . 60/1
- Kevin Streelman. . . 60/1
- Robert Garrigus. . . 60/1
- Pat Perez. . . 60/1
- Scott Piercy. . . 60/1
- Steve Marino. . . 80/1
- Seung-Yul Noh. . . 80/1
- Chez Reavie. . . 80/1
- Ricky Barnes. . .100/1
- Danny Lee. . .150/1
- Field (All Others). . . 3/1