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2014 Farmers Insurance Open: Five Players To Watch

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Farmers Insurance Open Power Rankings

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He’s back.

This week’s PGA Tour stop is, for my money, in one of the most picturesque locations in the entire country. Torrey Pines Golf Course, located just about a half hour north of downtown San Diego in La Jolla, Calif., the property edges the Pacific Ocean and is lines by bluffs and cliffs that not only guarantee incredible views, but also can lead to some wildly varying weather conditions. Morning tee times will be playing in a damp marine layer, while the later starters will deal with clearer skies, but winds coming off the ocean.

Torrey Pines is one of the more accessible venues on the Tour schedule, one of only a few tournament stops that is also open to the public. Home to two courses, Torrey has been on the Tour schedule since the San Diego Open moved there in 1968. The North course is actually one of the shorter tracks on Tour, coming in at just 7,052 yards, but making up for length with challenging fairways and greens that average just 4,800 square feet. The South course hosted the 2008 U.S. Open and will be home for three of this week’s rounds. Coming in at nearly 7,700 yards, it is the longest one on Tour and will test every player’s decision making.

Oh, and speaking of that U.S. Open, who’s back, you ask? Of course, that would be Tiger Woods, who won his last major championship here that season. But this field is about more than just the World No. 1. Ten of the top 30 players in the Official World Golf Ranking will be teeing it up this week. It’s a strong field at a challenging site, so let’s take a look at who could leave the Farmers Insurance Open with a little extra hardware.

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5. Jordan Spieth

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Jordan Spieth was admittedly a tough pick to put in the top five. Torrey Pines was the first start of his year, and while he came in with no official status and missed the cut, we all know how he ended up the year. He's just a completely different player than he was at this time last year, and he's got the game to compete anywhere in the world. He chews up the par-4's, having led the Tour in birdie-or-better percentage on those holes in 2013.

Spieth missed the cut at the Sony Open in his last start, but I expect this to be a bounce-back week for the sophomore star.

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4. Bubba Watson

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2013 was an up-and-down year for Bubba Watson, but this is the type of tournament that could get the new year off to a great start for him. Watson won this tournament in 2011, followed it up with a tie for 13th in 2012, but skipped it last season. He's off to a great start in 2014, with a T-8 at the WGC-HSBC Champions and a tie for third at the unofficial World Challenge. Watson will need to use his distance advantage off the tee to eat up the par-fives.

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3. Brandt Snedeker

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Something about that Pacific Ocean air has been very good to Brandt Snedeker over recent years. I mean, it's good for everybody, but he hasn't finished outside the top ten here in his last four starts, including a win in 2012 and two runner-ups. He hasn't quite seemed to be fully recovered from injuries over the last couple of events, but Snedeker should be just fine at Torrey Pines this week.

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2. Phil Mickelson

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Welcome home, Phil. Unlike Snedeker, Mickelson hasn't had the best of luck in San Diego lately, as he missed the cut in 2012 and finished tied for 51st last year. Of course, he's still won there three times and is coming off a T2 from Abu Dhabi last week. He's bound to go on a hot streak sooner or later, and this is just the start of his road to the Masters in April. Don't count out Lefty, even with No. 1 on this list in the field.

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1. Tiger Woods

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You knew it was coming, and you'd be a fool to think Tiger Woods is anything but a massive favorite this week. His record at this event alone would make for a solid career for almost anybody else. 13 starts, seven wins, and he's the defending champion. He's the best player ever at Torrey Pines, and that's saying something when the bronze plaques outside the clubhouse have names like Arnold Palmer and Jack Nicklaus etched on them, too.