It doesn't matter if you're a rookie or a veteran of Yahoo!'s golf game, it's worth the space to remind you to shape your roster in the first two rounds for golfers that play Torrey Pines North.
Unlike last week, when we knew that La Quinta would play to a marginally higher scoring average than both tracks at PGA West -- and it did -- for years, Torrey North has averaged well more than one stroke lower than Torrey South. I was stung by the law of averages at the Humana Challenge as avoiding La Quinta cost me dozens of points, but the margin for error this week is minimal.
Meanwhile, look for an elevated importance on hitting fairways on both courses. According to retiring tournament director, Tom Wilson, the grass has been significantly fertilized in the weeks leading up to the event, and rain early this week will help in rapid growth of the rough. "It was topped at 2-3 inches and they're letting it grow now," he told The San Diego Union-Tribune last Saturday. "It will be 4-5 inches by the time the tournament starts Thursday."
If greens are soft because of the rain early this week, they'll hold approaches from anywhere, but no additional precipitation is forecast. That could lead to harder surfaces on the weekend, which is music to the guys that make their living in the fairway.
My picks in the inset for Yahoo! are subject to change once the tee times are announced. The start of the Matchups game on Facebook remains TBD. I will post my picks here once it begins.
Power Rankings Distribution for Yahoo! (rank)
Group C ... Ben Crane (5)
Sleepers Distribution for Yahoo! (rank)
Group A ... none
|Rob's Yahoo! lineup|
On a Roll (Yahoo! Group)
Keegan Bradley (A) ... Followed a solo 16th at Kapalua with a T13 at Waialae. His long, high ball flight gels with Torrey Pines South's length and smaller greens as targets. Placed T25 in his debut here last year.
Brendon de Jonge (B) ... He's opened 2012 with a T10 at the Sony Open and T12 at the Humana Challenge. The better news is that he poured in 10 birdies in his final-round 64 at PGA West's Palmer Private Course. Gamers have loved everything about this guy the last two years, but he needs to go lower on Sundays.
Matt Every (C) ... Four top-six finishes in his last seven starts (the first six of which were on the Nationwide Tour). Took a week off after a share of sixth place at the Sony Open, where he held the outright lead at the midpoint and shared it after 54 holes. Finished T15 in his one previous appearance here in 2010.
Bobby Gates (C) ... Carded a pair of bogey-free rounds en route to a share of eighth at the Humana Challenge. The big hitter also ranked T8 in greens hit last week.
Horses for Courses (Yahoo! Group)
Rickie Fowler (B) ... The California native is making his 2012 debut this week. He's finished T5 and T20 in his previous two appearances at this event.
Justin Rose (B) ... First start since his wife delivered the couple's second child on New Year's Day. Top 25s here the last two years.
Marc Leishman (B) ... Making his 2012 debut. Closed out last year with a T6 at the Australian PGA Championship, his first top 25 anywhere in eight months. Superb record at the Farmers with a co-runner-up in 2010 and T9 last year.
Kevin Sutherland (C) ... Owns one of the most impressive track records you'll find without a victory. He's played in the last 16 editions, has made the cut in each and posted nine top-15 finishes including the last two years.
Leaking Oil (Yahoo! Group)
Briny Baird (B) ... Has started 0-for-2. Played his final three holes of the Humana bogey-par-par to miss that cut on the number. First appearance at Torrey Pines since 2009. Overall, he's 3-for-9 with just one top 35 (T4, 2003).
Matt Bettencourt (C) ... Missed the cut on the number at the Humana Challenge where he bogeyed four of his last five holes. Also missed the cut at the Sony Open by five. He's 1-for-3 at the Farmers with a T63 in 2009.
John Merrick (C) ... The native and current resident of Long Beach, Calif. has missed his first two cuts by an aggregate three strokes. Just 1-for-3 at Torrey Pines with a T60 in 2007.
Arjun Atwal (C) ... Same aggregates in the first two events as Merrick. Also, like Merrick, Atwal has also missed the cut in his last two trips to Torrey Pines.
Danger (Yahoo! Group)
Aaron Baddeley (C) ... I'm very high on him long-term but he's missed the cut here the last two years. Also placed a disappointing 21st at the season-opener at Kapalua.
Bo Van Pelt (B) ... Not necessarily a slow starter but tends to play his best golf deeper into the season. Shared fourth place here in 2004 but has missed three cuts and placed T67 since. First appearance since 2008.
Jhonattan Vegas (A) ... Failed to break 70 in his title defense of the Humana Challenge and missed the cut by two. It was merely an extension of inconsistent play dating all the way back to last winter. Gamers must not forget, however, that he is still cutting his teeth. While he finished T3 here last year, this week's event will be just his 32nd career PGA TOUR start.
Charley Hoffman (B) ... The hometown favorite is making his 15th appearance at this tournament. He has just two top 30s and has missed the cut the last two years, but he's considered employing a belly putter this week to solve a faltering game on the greens, although it's a long shot. "You've got to try what the young guys are doing," he told The San Diego Union-Tribune. "You see people beating you with it and you've got to give it a shot. I'd be very surprised if [the belly putter] gets the start (at Torrey Pines). It hasn't really panned out for me."
Medic! (Yahoo! Group)
Dustin Johnson (B) ... Before his return at last week's Humana Challenge, the Farmers was set to host his return to competition after surgery on his right knee. He has a pair of top 20s in four starts at Torrey Pines including a T3 last year. He's been nothing but positive on Twitter since Saturday.
J.B. Holmes (A) ... Making his first start anywhere since having brain surgery on Sept. 1. For the record, he's 5-for-6 with no top 25s at this event, but even if he owned a sparkling resume, you have to use this week as one to observe only.
Y.E. Yang (A) ... Back in action after calling it quits after just four holes of the Dubai World Championship on Dec. 8 with a sore shoulder. Has made the cut in all three starts at Torrey Pines but hasn't cracked a top 40.
Scott Stallings (B) ... Withdrew after one round of the Humana Challenge due to an intercostal rib injury, according to his blog. His daily entry on Tuesday stated the following: "We are trying to get him in for some tests tomorrow afternoon to eliminate some doubt he is having."
Marc Turnesa (C) ... Out since his notorious back injury bumped him from the final stage of q-school after just three holes. If he doesn't withdraw, it will be his final start on a Major Medical Extension. For the details, please click here.
Rory McIlroy (B) ... In the field in Abu Dhabi. Making his first start since withdrawing from the Asian Tour finale in Thailand due to a virus and fatigue. He's expected to make his 2012 PGA TOUR debut at the World Golf Championships-Accenture Match Play Championship on Feb. 22.
Henrik Stenson (C) ... In the field in Abu Dhabi. Out since having planned knee surgery to remove part of the meniscus in early December. He shared the following with Reuters early this week: "While I want to be competing in Abu Dhabi later this week, in an event with such a great field and huge world ranking points, I won't be tempted to rush back onto the tour and will consult with specialists before deciding to tee up." He's scheduled to play all three events on the European Tour's Desert Swing.
Notable WDs (Yahoo! Group)
Fredrik Jacobson (B) ... Second straight week that he's withdrawn early from a tournament. Dealing with torn ligaments in his left thumb, he'll try again at next week's Waste Management Phoenix Open where he submitted a verbal agreement weeks ago.
Jeff Overton (C) ... He's 1-for-4 with an MDF at this event. This was his first early withdrawal since Disney in 2010.