Unlike last week's Humana Challenge in partnership with the Clinton Foundation, the host courses for the Farmers Insurance Open demand your all-in investments if you play daily games. I laid out the broad strokes in the Power Rankings on Monday, but let's take a deeper look at the chasm between the scoring averages at Torrey Pines North and South.
Both are par 72s, so the math is simple; that is, we can compare aggregates over score in relation to par. All 156 golfers will play the North either in the first or second round before the South takes over for all 36 finishing holes. So, for the purposes of this comparison, I've looked at only the first two rounds in each of the last seven editions of the tournament to coincide with the FedExCup era.
Of the 28 rounds in question -- that's 14 splits from each course -- the top-13 lowest scoring averages belong to the North. This set ranges from the opening round in 2007 (68.18) to the opening round in 2009 (71.73). The outlier on the North is the second round in 2009, but it still averaged under par at 71.88 and ranked 15th overall. The only average on the South that penetrates the North's dominance for low scoring is the opening round of 2013. Checking in at 71.73, it's the only time that the South averages under par. The remaining 13 range from 72.35 (second round in 2010) to 75.37 (opening round in 2009).
If those gaudy numbers don't convince you, consider that the smallest different in scoring averages on the same day is 1.67 (opening round in 2013). On 10 occasions, the gap has been greater than two strokes. Five times it's been 3.00 or higher. The largest difference occurred in the second round in 2007 when the South scored 73.93 to the North's 69.15, or 4.78 strokes higher.
You can find my selections for PGATOUR.com's fantasy game Expert Picks.
Power Rankings Wild Card
Rickie Fowler ... The local product possesses a standout record at this event with top 20s in all four appearances. Last year's might be the most revealing as he famously reeled in a T6 after opening with a 5-over 77 on the South Course. He then suffered just one hiccup -- a double-bogey 6 at the 12th hole in his third round -- the rest of the way while picking off 15 birdies. In what is one of the deepest fields of the season thus far, he didn't break into the Power Rankings because he's coming off a T33 in La Quinta, Calif., last week. Consider this a heavy endorsement nonetheless as he concluded 2013 with a solo second at the Australian PGA Championship and a T8 in Thailand.
Billy Horschel ... Tied for sixth in his first look at Kapalua, and then share 25th place at the Humana. Just 1-for-3 at Torrey Pines but the lone cut made (T39 last year) occurred post-injury and post-semi-regular status. Of course, he's been on a rapid rise since. Ranks third in fairways hit, 19th in greens in regulation and 23rd in strokes gained-putting.
K.J. Choi ... One of many in the field with positive, converging trends. He's survived the cut in his last three starts at Torrey Pines, including a career-best T9 a year ago. Focusing only on recent form, he's riding a consecutive cuts made streak of 11 worldwide and finished inside the top 25 in his last four starts. He's a superb complement in two-man one-and-done formats.
Justin Leonard ... A T3 at the Humana was his best finish since a solo second at Disney to conclude the 2011 season. Currently 19th on TOUR in strokes gained-putting, 15th in adjusted scoring, fourth in scrambling and first in par-3 scoring average. Also has a pair of top 10s in his last three trips to Torrey Pines, the more recent of which was a T8 in 2012.
Charley Hoffman ... The local native is celebrating the 20th anniversary of his PGA TOUR debut at Torrey Pines in 1994. He's managed only two top 25s in 15 return visits, but his current form is attractive. Perfect on the season in five starts with two top 10s, including a T9 at last week's Humana. Zero weaknesses throughout his bag right now.
Ben Crane ... It never hurts gamers when a former champion (2010) strides into town with some confidence from success the previous week. So goes the original Golf Boy who finished T9 at PGA West on Sunday. Five of his cuts made in nine appearances at Torrey Pines are top 25s.
Marc Leishman ... Leads the PGA TOUR in strokes gained-putting and sits 38th in adjusted scoring. Tied for second at Torrey Pines in 2010 and backed it up with a T9 in 2011. Extended fabulous form that led to a T11 and a T7 in two events in Australia in December to a solo fifth in his last start at Waialae two weeks ago.
Ryo Ishikawa ... With a T25 at the Humana, he's just one top 25 shy of matching his career high for one season on the PGA TOUR. Ranks T9 in distance off the tee, fourth in greens in regulation and fifth in proximity to the hole. Even though a T13 at Torrey Pines in 2012 doesn't hurt, the 22-year-old just may be fulfilling the mad promise he brought with him from Japan all those years ago.
Will MacKenzie ... Terrible record at the Farmers notwithstanding -- 1-for-5 with a solo 80th in 2005; let course-history buffs divest -- there's simply no debating the kind of steady success he's enjoy for nearly 11 months now. The two-time PGA TOUR winner sat outside the top 800 in the Official World Golf Ranking in March of last year; he's currently 296th thanks in part to four top 15s this season. Sits No. 1 in the all-around ranking.
Lee Westwood ... First appearance since his debut at Torrey Pines in 2004. He competed in the 2008 U.S. Open on the South Course and finished third -- six years ago, mind you -- but he has just one top 20 in his last nine starts with full fields.
Robert Garrigus ... Better classified as a Wild Card but this is a conservative projection. The aggressive among you would be playing for the flier. Tied for sixth at last year's Farmers but missed four of his previous five cuts in the tournament. After finding a groove with three top 25s to begin this season, he's missed two cuts that bracketed the holiday break.
Nicolas Colsaerts ... Just one top 40 (T25, World Cup of Golf) in his last five starts worldwide. Length aided a T44 in his debut at Torrey Pines last year, but he also ranked 76th in strokes gained-putting for the week.
Chesson Hadley ... Since a take-notice T5 at the Shiners, the rookie has missed four consecutive cuts. Of the nine rounds during the drought, he's carded no lower than 70 and scored over par seven times.
Brad Fritsch ... Low rookie here in 2013 with a share of ninth place. More recently, a nagging back injury (bulging disc) has limited not only his mobility but his ability to put four rounds together. Just 1-for-4 this season with a T48 at the Humana.
Danny Lee ... His victory at the Johnnie Walker Classic in 2009 seems like a lot longer ago. The Web.com Tour Finals grad is a mere 2-for-6 with no top 30s on the PGA TOUR this season. He's missed his last three cuts. Still only 23 years of age, however.
Bud Cauley ... He's missed five consecutive cuts and hasn't logged a top 30 on the PGA TOUR in his last 16 starts.
Kevin Tway ... He's 0-for-4 since opening the season with a T40 at the Frys.com.
Keep an Eye On
Martin Laird ... Top 25s in his last three starts worldwide, but recently admitted in Golf World magazine that golf is not a priority since his wife is pregnant with their first child. She's due in March. Who knows, perhaps a laissez-faire approach has rid him of whatever demons limited his 2013 season to three top 25s, albeit with a victory in San Antonio among them.
Luke Guthrie ... Off to a spirited start to 2013-14 after missing six of his last seven cuts in 2013. Among his four cuts made in five starts this season, he has a T5 at the Shriners and a T18 at the Humana, both desert shootouts. It's the inability to ignore that parallel that lands him here instead of in Tuesday's Sleepers.
Michael Kim ... Making his professional debut during what would have been the midpoint of his junior year at the University of California. The graduate of Torrey Pines High School won the 2013 Jack Nicklaus Award and secured conditional status on the Web.com Tour for 2014. In two starts on the PGA TOUR, he tied for 17th at the U.S. Open at Merion, and then trailed it with a T38 at The Greenbrier Classic. Expect a tactician, not a destroyer.
Returning to Competition
Hideki Matsuyama ... This is already the third time he's rebounding from an assortment of maladies this season. He was first struck with an illness that forced him to withdraw at the last minute in Vegas. Two weeks later, he called it quits in China due to a back injury. Finally, at least let's hope so, a wrist injury knocked him out of the Sony Open in Hawaii early that week. Despite all of that, he managed to claim victory No. 4 in 2013 at an event on his home circuit in Japan. Aside from his envious talent, we are compelled to monitor his entry by the hour at Torrey Pines.
Andres Romero ... First start anywhere since withdrawing after two holes of the OHL Classic at Mayakoba due to an illness. He owns the second-lowest round of the year when he opened the Shriners with a 61 only to miss the cut following a second-round 81. He's rarely a short-term go-to, so stick with his complementary value in full-season formats.
Patrick Reed ... Cited displaced ribs. As if his wire-to-wire title at the Humana Challenge in partnership with the Clinton Foundation wasn't impressive enough, he may have conquered the field and entered the record books with an injury.
Also Briny Baird, Brian Davis, Matt Every, Jeff Overton and Scott Piercy.
If you're sitting dead on Sunday red, I'm not going to try to dissuade you from burning the defending champion this week. All of the usual arguments simply don't apply to Tiger Woods, but that's nothing you don't already know. The only practical fact is that the Farmers Insurance Open features a purse of $6.1 million. Of the other 14 stroke-play starts he made in 2013, 13 distributed more prize money. Woods is the only golfer where this dynamic is a legitimate talking point.
Moving on, Phil Mickelson is the obvious alternative but you might as well just wait until the U.S. Open where he'll be chasing the career grand slam. It's the kind of gaming opportunity that comes around so close to the frequency of never that it's worth the fun. And it's not like he's never had success at Pinehurst No. 2.
With the behemoths aside, the field of possibilities is still deep, so I'm going to burn Bill Haas. He's 8-for-9 at this event with top 10s in each of the last three editions. I'm unabashedly bullish about what the entire season brings for him that I don't expect a poor showing at any time. That confidence in conjunction with a season-best T6 at PGA West and his success at Torrey Pines closes me.
If you subscribe to my approach to holster Woods due to potential earnings alone, then you're probably holding off on the likes of Hunter Mahan, Jason Day, Keegan Bradley and Bubba Watson to name a few heavyweights with success in larger-scale events. That's fine because Jimmy Walker sits No. 3 in my Power Rankings. I love myself some converging trends and he's darn near the top of that club with a victory in his last start (Sony Open in Hawaii) and a T4 at Torrey Pines a year ago.
I mentioned K.J. Choi above as a nifty second in a two-man format, but also consider Brian Stuard while he's red-hot.
Humana Challenge: Webb Simpson; T23; $57,000.00; 47.500 FedExCup points
Overall Record: 8-for-9
FedExCup points: 544.833
Top 5s: 1
Top 10s: 4
Top 25s: 6
Missed Cuts: 1