By Tom LaMarre
Like the rest of the California events on the PGA Tour’s West Coast Swing, what is now the Farmers Insurance Open has always had a Hollywood flavor, with singer Andy Williams serving as tournament host for several years.
However, Tiger Woods is the name most associated with the tournament.
Tiger, who makes his 2019 debut in the event this week, has claimed a record seven titles in the tournament at Torrey Pines Golf Course www.torreypinesgolfcourse.com in La Jolla, where he also captured the 2008 U.S. Open in a dramatic 19-hole playoff against Rocco Mediate on the South Course.
Woods will headline a strong field this week that includes top-ranked Justin Rose of England, defending champion Jason Day (pictured) of Australia, seventh-ranked Jon Rahm of Spain, Jordan Spieth, Rory McIlroy of Northern Ireland, Xander Schauffele, Adam Scott of Australia, Tony Finau, Rickie Fowler, Patrick Reed, Marc Leishman of Australia, Patrick Cantlay, Danny Willett of England, Alex Noren of Sweden, Gary Woodland, Brandt Snedeker, Jimmy Walker and Hideki Matsuyama of Japan.
The 43-year-old Woods has not played in an official PGA Tour event since he ended a five-year victory drought and capped his comeback from four back surgeries by winning the season-ending Tour Championship at East Lake Golf Club in Atlanta in September.
That was his 80th victory on the circuit and he trails only Sam Snead’s 82.
Schauffele, the hometown favorite from La Jolla and San Diego State, claimed his fourth PGA Tour victory two weeks ago in the Sentry Tournament of Champions in Hawaii to open 2019, and is well on his way to joining an impressive list of golfing greats from the San Diego area that includes Billy Casper, Gene Littler, Phil Mickelson, Scott Simpson, Phil Rodgers, Mickey Wright and Craig Stadler.
Mickelson won this tournament in 1993, 2000 and 2001, but is skipping his hometown even for the first times in 29 years.
- Jason Day, Australia – The Aussie has a ways to go to equal Tiger Woods’ record of seven Farmers victories, but he won in playoffs at Torrey Pines last year and in 2015. Day also tied for second in 2014 and tied for ninth the year before. He started 2019 by finishing 13th in the Sentry Tournament of Champions, his third top-15 of the season.
- Justin Rose, England – The top-ranked player in the world shook off the rust with a tie for 34th last week in his 2019 debut at the Desert Classic. The reigning FedEx Cup champ tied for eighth in the Farmers last year and tied for fourth in 2017, his first top-10 results in nine tries. His latest victory came two months ago in the Turkish Airlines Open.
- Jon Rahm, Spain – Two years ago, Rahm became the first international winner of the Farmers since fellow Spaniard Jose Maria Olazabal in 2002. Has six victories around the world since beginning of 2017 and last week tied for sixth in his title defense in the Desert Classic, his fourth straight top 10, including a tie for eighth in the Sentry TOC.
- Xander Schauffele, United States – The hometown favorite leads the FedEx Cup standings after his victory in the Sentry Tournament of Champions to start the year, and also won the WGC-HSBC Champions in October. However, Schauffele has missed the cut in all three appearances in the Farmers, failing to break 70 in six rounds.
- Patrick Cantlay, United States – Lives not far away in Los Alamitos and is due to play well at Torrey, having tied for 51st last year and missed the cut in 2013. Tied for ninth last week in the Desert Classic after finishing 2018 with a runner-up finish in the Shriners Hospitals for Children Open and a tie for seventh in the WGC-HSBC Champions.
- Tiger Woods, United States – Makes 2019 debut in one of his favorite events, having won the Farmers seven times, the last in 2013, and also claimed the 2008 U.S. Open at Torrey. Hasn’t played an official event since winning the Tour Championship in October. In his prime, would pick up right where he left off the year before, but not so much now.
- Rickie Fowler, United States – Yet another SoCal favorite, Rickie has missed the cut four times in the Farmers, but also tied for fifth in 2010 and tied for sixth in 2013. Makes 2019 debut after tying for fourth in Shriners Hospitals for Children Open, tying for 16th on Mayakoba Golf Classic and tying for fifth in Hero World Challenge late last year.
- Rory McIlroy, Northern Ireland – Focusing on the PGA Tour this season, Rory makes his first start in the Farmers after opening 2019 with a tie for ninth in the Sentry TOC. Played well in 2018 FedEx Cup playoffs, with a tie for 12th in the Dell Technologies, a solo fifth in the BMW Championship and a tie for seventh in the Tour Championship.
- Jordan Spieth, United States – Like McIlroy trying to regain his best form, Spieth stumbled out of the gate in 2019 with a missed cut at Sony Open in Hawaii, although he shot 66 in round two. Missed the cut in two of his three starts in the Farmers, but tied for 19th in 2014. Last win came in 2017 Open, but is too good to stay down for very long.
- Brandt Snedeker, United States – Two of Sneds’ nine PGA Tour victories came in the Farmers, in 2012 and 2016, and he also finished second in 2010 and 2013 among four other top-10 finishes. Tied for 22nd in the Sentry TOC and tied for 16th in the Sony Open in Hawaii to open 2019 after tying for second in the Safeway Open late last year.
- Alex Noren, Sweden – A standout on the Euro Tour, Noren led into the final round of the 2018 Farmers in his Torrey Pines debut before losing to Jason Day in a playoff.
- Abraham Ancer, Mexico – Coming off a tie for 18th in Desert Classic after a T4 in Shriners and T5 in CIMB Classic late last year. Also tied for 20th in Farmers a year ago.
- Michael Thompson, United States – Tied for ninth last week in the Desert Classic after a T17 in Safeway Open late in 2018. Had T14 in 2017 Farmers and T11 in 2015.
- Adam Svensson, Canada – PGA Tour rookie has made some noise to start year, leading Sony with opening 61 before finishing 43rd, and tying for 18th in Desert Classic.
- Pat Perez, United States – San Diegan posted a T2 second in 2014 Farmers, T4 in 2017 and T6th in 2005. Had T6 in CIMB and a T7 in Mayakoba Golf Classic late last year.