Cue the ‘Jaws’ theme music. There’s an animal lurking back on the PGA Tour this week. We can hear him closing in.
But unlike in ‘Jaws,’ this one isn’t a shark. It’s a tiger … as in Tiger Woods. Different species, same result: Sheer terror for those he’s hunting.
It’s time to put Tiger Woods back into the mix as we try to go through the numbers at this week’s Farmer’s Insurance Open being held at Torrey Pines in San Diego.
We’re coming off a birdie barrage in the desert at The American Express last week. This week, it’s likely to be more of the same as Justin Rose got it to -21 to win last year. So we’re not letting off the gas pedal in search for low scores in our formula for picking a winner.
But, as usual, it still comes back to Woods. He’s finished strong in his last few outings, including a victory in the ZOZO Championship, but there is still a question mark. Did he sit out all of Saturday at the Presidents Cup because of injury, fatigue or a combination? We will probably never know the full answer because getting any kind of information from Woods’ camp is nearly impossible.
In fact, we move on 132 miles from the LaQuinta area to Torrey Pines with rounds coming up on the North and South courses. And here’s where we run into trouble making picks. There are two distinctly different courses this week. The South is definitely the tougher of the two courses as it reaches 7,698 yards. The North, at just 7,258 yards, will likely give up many more birdies.
The first two rounds will see players tee it up once on each course, the normal format. But, the weather can make all the difference in the world. If your half of the draw is battling inclement weather on the South course the day you’re playing while the other half of the field tees it up the next day on a calm South course, well, that’s trouble for your half of the field.
It’s a problem that can be almost impossible to overcome. Just look at last year’s early numbers. After the opening day of the tournament, 11 of the top 14 players on the leaderboard had played the North course. That included champ Rose who opened with a 63.
This week we also have to focus on the big names in the field as Woods, Rose, Rory McIlroy, Jordan Spieth, Jason Day and a few others join the 2020 action.
Exciting? Absolutely. Must-see viewing? Yep. Tough to bet? Not this week. Throw a dart at the first page of the odds board and you’re likely to hit a name with a good chance to win.
But the player we’re going to pick has a decided edge here. We’re going back to the Gaming Today column we wrote last April when we said the moon and stars would align and we would see Woods in the winner’s circle at The Masters.
Well, buckle up as it’s about to happen again.
Woods, 12-1 this week, was giddy when the U.S. won the Presidents Cup. His overall attitude has changed dramatically and he seems to have a much more even keel when it comes to mixing life and golf. It’s great to see him smile but it’s not a smile players want to see on Sunday. That usually means things are going well for him.
He’s also back on turf that he owns. He’s played this event 17 times and has an impressive seven victories. Add in a win here at a U.S. Open and he’s always right at home.
And don’t forget: Woods needs just one more victory to reach 83 and break the tie with Sam Snead for No. 1 all-time. Why not start his 2020 season with a win and add yet another record to his resume?