5 to watch at Torrey Pines

Brandt Snedeker
USA Today Images
Brandt Snedeker won at Torrey Pines in 2012 and finished runner-up in 2010 and 2013.
By Mark Aumann

Series: Golf Buzz

Published: Monday, February 02, 2015 | 3:43 p.m.

Torrey Pines may fall under the jurisdiction of the San Diego Parks and Rec Department, but this isn't your typical muni.

At 7,628 yards, the South course is the longest course on the regular PGA Tour schedule. Credit Rees Jones, who in 2001 redesigned Torrey Pines to prepare the course to host the 2008 U.S. Open. The Farmers Insurance Open may just be part of the western winter swing, but nobody in this weekend's field will consider it a breather. 

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A check of the previous winners bears out that contention: Arnold Palmer, Jack Nicklaus, Gary Player, Billy Casper and Tom Watson were all victorious at Torrey Pines. Phil Mickelson has three wins. Tiger Woods has seven.

There are amazing coastline views from some of the holes, but the golfer who loses any concentration while checking out the view will find that reflected on his scorecard. Scott Stallings birdied four holes on the back nine -- including the 18th -- in the final round last year to win by a stroke.

With that, here are five players to watch this week.

5. Dustin Johnson
2014 Farmers Insurance Open: Did not play
Reason to watch: Since taking a six-month leave of absence from the PGA Tour after the RBC Canadian Open in July, Johnson has a new son, a new life coach and a new attitude. Living closer to father-in-law Wayne Gretzky couldn't have hurt, either. The NHL's all-time leading scorer knows a little bit about putting the biscuit in the basket, and according to a story on SI.com, Johnson recently shot a course-record 61 at Sherwood Country Club.

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Is he ready for the return to tournament golf? If Tiger Woods at TPC Scottdale last weekend is any indication, Johnson could be rusty. But the fact that the eight-time winner wants to get his comeback under way, that's a good first step in the right direction.

4. Pat Perez
2014 Farmers Insurance Open: Tied for second
Reason to watch: Perez's only PGA Tour victory came at the 2009 Bob Hope Classic, but that's not really indicative of his potential. And, as you'll hear constantly throughout this weekend, he went to Torrey Pines High School, worked at the golf course range -- and beat Tiger Woods in the Junior Worlds at Torrey Pines his senior year. It's possible Perez has more rounds of golf there than anyone else in the field. It's time for him to use that local knowledge to his advantage.

Plus, how can you not like a guy who can pull off a prank like this?

3. Phil Mickelson
2014 Farmers Insurance Open: Withdrew with injury
Reason to watch: Just like last week at Phoenix, Lefty is a multiple winner of this event (1993, 2000, 2001). Mickelson's return to his ASU roots didn't go so well, as he missed the cut after rounds of 69-76 at TPC Scottsdale. So instead of hanging around for the Super Bowl, Phil headed back to his hometown.

"I will maybe get even a little extra practice round in or two over at Torrey and get ready," Mickelson said. "See if I can get my short game sharp."

If Mickelson finds that elusive short game -- ask Tiger Woods about that -- he could be a factor come Sunday.

2. Brandt Snedeker
2014 Farmers Insurance Open: Missed cut
Reason to watch: Sneds had an uncharacteristically lousy 2014, going winless for the first time in three seasons and finishing 86th in the FedExCup standings, just two years after winning it all. Perhaps injuries -- cracked ribs, muscle tightness, a left knee injured in a Segway accident -- caught up with him.

But he's off to a good, if not great, start to 2015. He posted three consecutive top-10 finishes in the final three events of the fall schedule. And he knows how to contend at Torrey Pines. In addition to his 2012 victory, he finished tied for second in 2010 and 2013.

1. Hideki Matsuyama
2014 Farmers Insurance Open: Tied for 16th
Reason to watch: Matsuyama's putter failed him at the worst possible time Sunday at TPC Scottsdale, dooming him to a runner-up finish behind Brooks Koepka, despite shooting 63-67 on the weekend. That included this amazing hole out for eagle on the first hole Sunday -- from a sand-filled divot, no less.

He has five top-25 finishes in seven starts already this season, and the win at The Memorial last year proved he can compete on the PGA Tour -- not that top-10 finishes in the U.S. Open and Open Championship hadn't already cemented his status as Japan's best young rising talent. In fact, the San Diego Union-Tribune pretty much had it pegged back in 2013

And he won't turn 23 until the end of the month.

Here's how T.J. Auclair's five to watch fared at the Waste Management Phoenix Open:

5. Gary Woodland -- Missed cut
4. Rickie Fowler -- T46
3. Jordan Spieth-- T7
2. Bubba Watson -- T2
1. Phil Mickelson -- Missed cut