Tiger Woods makes his 2019 debut this week at the Farmers Insurance Open. Here's everything you need to know.
What a difference a year makes.
Twelve months ago, Tiger Woods arrived at the Farmers Insurance Open with so much uncertainty. He had played exactly one, limited-field golf tournament since undergoing spinal fusion surgery. He had no idea how many tournaments he'd be able to play, let alone how he would actually fare on the course. This latest comeback was in its fledgling stages, and no one had the slightest clue what the year ahead had in store.
Alas, here's where we stand: Tiger Woods is the No. 13 player in the world. He finished second in the FedEx Cup standings last year. He made the U.S. Ryder Cup team. He had two legitimate opportunites to win major championships. Most importantly, he's healthy.
Woods makes his season debut this week at Torrey Pines, where he's won eight times as a professional—seven Farmers Insurance Opens as well as arguably the signature win of his entire career, the 2008 U.S. Open—plus the 1991 Junior Worlds as a 15-year-old. As ever, all eyes will be on the 43-year-old this week, though it's not to see whether his body can handle lashing at balls in that dewy Southern California rough. It's to see the state of his game, with the Masters just 11 weeks away.
Though media coverage might suggest otherwise, Woods isn't the only player teeing it up outside San Diego this week. Five of the world's top 10 and 12 of the top 20 are in the field this week, laying the foundation for a stacked leaderboard come Sunday afternoon.
Here's everything you need to know about the Farmers Insurance Open.
The first two days are split betwen Torrey Pines's North and South courses, with each player playing a round at each before the 36-hole cut. After the field is trimmed, the final two rounds are held at the South course.
The South is the more famous and higher-rated of the two, frequently ranking as one of the nation's top public courses, and it's the one that hosted that legendary 2008 U.S. Open championship. Originally designed by William Bell but redone by Rees Jones in 2001, it sits on a picturesque, seaside property perched on a cliff in La Jolla, Calif., just outside San Diego. After its beefing up in ancitipation of the '08 U.S. Open, the course measures a monstrous 7,698 yards from the back tees, and it won't play particularly firm this week—the San Diego area in January is chilly, at least by Southern California standards, often covered by fog, and the ground is frquently wet, particularly in the mornings. As far as layout goes, it's classic American: defined fairways, very large greens, big bunkers and thick rough. Its signature hole is either the 18th, which is where Tiger holed that putt, or the downhill par-3 third, which offers one of the prettier vistas on the PGA Tour.
The U.S. Open will return to the South course in 2021.
The North course will play as the easier of the pair, but the difference will be less pronounced than it was before a 2016 redesign by Tom Weiskopf. Last year, the North course averaged 71.41 while the South was at 72.14. That gap used to be around three strokes year after year. Weiskopf enlarged the greens, took out 18 bunkers and added length to the course, which now measures more than 7,200 yards. He also flipped the nines, so the old front, which features better ocean views, is now the back.
Here's a brief preview of the views you'll see on TV this week.
Prepare to see a really solid and deep field this week. Tiger Woods obviously grabs the headline, but he's joined by world No. 1 Justin Rose, who is coming off a meh T34 at the Desert Classic. The second-highest ranked player in the field this week is Xander Schauffele, who at No. 6 sits above Jon Rahm and Rory McIlroy (who are both also playing). Tony Finau will be there, as will the defending champion, Jason Day. Jordan Spieth will try to kick-start his year and escape his extended slump. Rickie Fowler will make his first tournament appearance since switching balls from Titelist to Taylormade. Fresh off his Cinderella win at the Desert Classic, Adam Long is back in action. More notables teeing it up: reigning Masters champion Patrick Reed, an in-form Marc Leishman, Gary Woodland, Patrick Cantlay and Alex Noren, who lost in a playoff to Day last year.
Here are some notable groupings for the first two days. All times are EST. Here's a full list of tee times.
Brandt Snedeker, Jason Day, Jon Rahm — 12:30 p.m.* (NC) on Thursday/1:30 p.m. (SC) on Friday
Justin Rose, Billy Horschel, Jordan Spieth — 12:40 p.m.* (NC)/1:40 p.m. (SC)
Rickie Fowler, Rory McIlroy, Adam Scott — 1:30 p.m. (SC)/12:20 p.m.* (NC)
Tiger Woods, Xander Schauffele, Tony Finau — 1:40 p.m. (SC)/12:30 p.m.* (NC)
* denotes 10th-tee start.
All times EST.
Thursday, Friday — 3-7 p.m., Golf Channel
Saturday — 1-2:45 p.m., Golf Channel and 3-6 p.m., CBS
Sunday — 1-2:45 p.m., Golf Channel and 3-6:30 p.m., CBS
2018 — Jason Day (-10)
2017 — Jon Rahm (-13)
2016 — Brandt Snedeker (-6)
2015 — Jason Day (-9)
2013 — Tiger Woods (-14)
2012 — Brandt Snedeker (-16)
2011 — Bubba Watson (-16)
2010 — Ben Crane (-13)
2009 — Nick Watney (-11)
Jon Rahm +1000
Rory McIlroy +1400
Jason Day +1400
Justin Rose +1400
Tiger Woods +1400
Tony Finau +1800
Xander Schauffele +1800
Marc Leishman +2000
Patrick Cantlay +2200
Rickie Fowler +2500
Charles Howell III +2800
Gary Woodland +2800
Jordan Spieth +2800
Cameron Champ +3500
Cameron Smith +3500
Patrick Reed +3500
Alex Noren +4000
Brandt Snedeker +4000
Abraham Ancer +5000
Emiliano Grillo +5000
Hideki Matsuyama +5000
J.B. Holmes +5000
Keegan Bradley +5000
Every fiber of my being wants to pick Tiger, but you don't make money picking who you want to pick. It's no surprise to see Rahm as the favorite here, given his three-shot win in 2017 and his T4-1-T8-6 form. Jason Day jumps off the page as a potential winner, as he's won this event twice and his game suits Torrey well. I'm going to go with another long hitter in Tony Finau (+1800), who has been on the precipice of his second Tour win for a solid year now. Finau is rested—he hasn't played since the first week of December—and had a fantastic fall season, finishing solo second at the WGC event in China and the Hero World Challenge. He also plays Torrey Pines particularly well, with a fourth-place finish in 2017 and a T6 in 2018. A couple of other long shots worth a play: Brandt Snedeker (+4000), who has won this event twice and is playing solid if unspectacular golf, and Jordan Spieth (+2800), beacuse you might not get the chance to take Spieth at 28-1 for quite a while.