SAN DIEGO — Breathtaking Pacific Ocean sunsets return to the PGA Tour this week as more than 150 golfers get set to tee it up at the Farmers Insurance Open at Torrey Pines. Here are some players to keep an eye on in San Diego:
Tiger Woods: Fresh off a missed cut in Abu Dhabi, the second-ranked golfer in the world returns to an event he's won six times. Woods ripped off four straight wins at Torrey Pines from 2005-2008, but he's played this event just one time since, when he finished T44 in 2011. Will he exhibit some rust early in the tournament, or can Woods conjure up the magic that helped create one of golf's signature moments, his 2008 United States Open victory here?
Charles Howell III: Hot out of the gate this season, Howell will be looking to ride the momentum of back-to-back top-3 finishes. At Torrey Pines, he's cracked the top 10 in four of 10 career starts, including two runner-ups. Howell currently leads the Tour in scoring average (68.068) and scrambling (82.86%) and has carded only seven bogeys through 144 holes. Yes, he stumbled in the playoff at the Humana, but no player in the field is hotter right now. Howell finished T43 in this event last season and hasn't found the winner's circle on Tour in six years.
Brandt Snedeker: The defending champion, Snedeker has notched three top-fives and four top-10s in six career starts at Torrey Pines, where he's averaging a lights-out 69.95 per round. Combine Snedeker's course history with his solid start to the 2013 season (only four bogeys in four rounds at the Humana Challenge) and you get a guy who should be in position to make a charge on Sunday. The 32-year-old from Nashville currently ranks fifth on Tour in Greens in Regulation (81.75%).
Nick Watney: He finished T13 at the Hyundai Tournament of Champions and won the Farmers in 2009 with an 11-under 277. Watney's posted four top-10s in his last six starts at Torrey, but he finished a disappointing T60 here in 2012. Now under the Nike flag, Thursday will mark just the fourth round for Watney since switching equipment. Remember, this guy shot 63 on Sunday at the Farmers back in 2011 to finish T6.
Phil Mickelson: Hot under the collar over Uncle Sam's piece of the pie, Mickelson returns to his hometown event looking to do something he's accomplished quite often at the Farmers: Pad his bankroll. Lefty finished second in this event back in 2011 and has cracked the top 10 seven times in 16 career starts. A missed cu t at Torrey last year should only help to fuel the fire.
Bill Haas: He's finished T11 or better in three of his last four starts at Torrey Pines, which includes a career-best T4 last season. That's good news for Haas, who has gotten off to a slow start in 2013 with a T23 at the Hyundai Tournament of Champions and a missed cut at last week's Humana Challenge. Over his last four starts at the Farmers, Haas has shot even par or better in 14 of 16 rounds.
INSIDE THE NUMBERS
Seven Ryder Cuppers (Keegan Bradley, Brandt Snedeker, Phil Mickelson, Dustin Johnson, Bubba Watson, Tiger Woods and Nicolas Colsaerts) and the last two FedEx Cup champions (Bill Hass, Snedeker) are in the field.
Want to win at Torrey Pines? You need to card a 10 under or better to even think about hoisting the trophy. The last time this tournament produced a champion who shot nine under or worse was back in 1979, when Fuzzy Zoeller fired a six-under 282 to win at Torrey. The event was known then as the Andy Williams-San Diego Open Invitational and has gone through nine name changes since.
Tiger Woods (1999) and George Burns (1987) hold the tournament scoring record of 22-under 266.
The last 10 winners of this event have combined to shoot 96 under on the par 5s at Torrey Pines, with no golfer claiming the title without scoring five under or better on the par 5s (Ben Crane, 2010). To put that in perspective, the 2012 field at the Farmers averaged -1.82 on the Par 5s.
Each of the last 10 winners has gone under par in his first round at the Farmers. Only John Daly (2004) shot above par (75) during the final round en route to victory.