Torrey Pines in La Jolla
By James Dalthorp III
BEAST DOME NATION.
Unlike last week, this event will not yield low scores and it will not be a place where short hitters have a chance. We know Torrey Pines as a place where bombers and legends get busy. Tiger Woods in majors comes to mind – as well as maybe Brandt Snedeker if you’re looking for a player who fits a bit more of an everyman stereotype who have collected fat checks here. The common trait: both players putt well on poa annua greens. These types of greens get slow and bumpy in the afternoon so not just anybody will be able to make putts. Usually, it’s the guy who rams the ball in the back of the hole instead of finesses it. That’s how Brandt and Tiger putt – usually (at least on the short ones). And as for the course itself – it’s golf’s Southern California jewel. Bring your best shoes to handle the thick stuff and don’t be afraid to lay up.
1. Xander Schauffele –
It’s time for Xander’s game to truly shine. I think without fans, it might even be easier for Xander to lock in this year. Talent wise, I think he’s still underrated. And this event is not only in his backyard – it’s on a course that should play to all his strengths. Length off the tee, being patient and tactical. And playing with the mentality of a major champion – not making big mistakes and sinking putts when you’re not expected to. Xander’s stock is hotter than Gamestop in my mind.
2. Mackenzie Hughes –
Coming off as solid of a season as he had, Hughes seems to have mastered these mid market events on difficult tracks. I don’t think he’s my favorite poa annua putter, but I would expect his game to translate well here. He is a grinder and he hits the ball just far enough and straight enough that this course will always have his full attention.
3. Jason Kokrak –
One of the longest hitters on Tour, Jason is always a sneaky pick on the West coast swing. Last year, for instance, his best season on Tour, he really got the party started here at this event with a top 25 finish. For his caliber heading into last season, a top 25 finish was really a decent week. I think he’ll be looking to up the ante now with a win and some serious coin under his belt. Like last years winner, Leishman, Kokrak has the game to eat this course alive if he’s on top of things. He seems to be in good form.
4. Brandon Hagy –
I’ve been picking Hagy for quite a while now and last week he showed the promise I’ve been waiting for. He hits the ball a long way. He isn’t the greatest of putters. He has laser like precision. He’s also from Southern California. For those reasons, this one should fit well on paper. My only concern is that his first round lead last week and his relative experience have all been mostly on courses in the desert. But I’m betting on the fact that he’s still just finding his swag on Tour. Talent wise, this course fits the bill. On day 1, he’ll play the North course (and he played Jack nIcklaus’ North course in round 1 last week too, shooting 64… only two hours up the road.)
5. Jon Rahm –
I think theres an added challenge that presents itself to Jon Rahm this week that will excite him. Firstly, he’s returning to the site of his first win on Tour. Secondly, without fans – I think there’s less pressure to get the job done on a big stage. Thirdly, Rahm is using new equipment this year. I think he’ll be quite capable of conquering a familiar layout with new technology that he’s had enough time to break in. Doing it in San Diego, where all the major companies are based, would be the ultimate statement. Plus, heading into a new season, this is the type of event a player like Rahm wants to capitalize on. Finally, he’s coming off a week off due to tweaking his back. I think the time off and recovery week will lend itself well. He’ll need the rest here. And the Amex is not an event that will get him ready for majors anyway.
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