The Goose is loose: Retief's '18 debut

The Tour heads to Torrey Pines for this year's Farmers Insurance Open and Tiger Woods' 2018 debut. Woods headlines a high-powered field that includes Jon Rahm, Hideki Matsuyama and Jason Day. Full field

Last year

Jon Rahm made a 60' eagle putt on the 18th hole to nail down his first PGA Tour win by three shots over C.T. Pan and Charles Howell III. Rahm sprinted across the finish line making two eagles in his final six holes, for a back nine 30 and final round 65. In winning, Rahm became the youngest winner in tournament history.

Screen Shot 2018-01-24 at 1.19.53 AM.png

A what if...

The long-time host of the Farmers is Torrey Pines. The tournament's first two rounds are played on the North and South course, then both rounds of weekend action take place on the South.

The North Course debuted an overhaul last season, and Tom Weiskopf's work received rave reviews from players. It's shorter, wider and far more scoreable than the South course.

The widely-acclaimed South course was built in 1957 by William F. Bell, son of the great architect William P. Bell who aided George Thomas in the construction of LACC, Riviera, and Bel-Air. The course underwent a redesign by my pal Rees Jones in 2002. Rees narrowed fairways, deepened bunkers in preparation for the 2008 U.S. Open. At the time, Rees was known as "The Open Doctor" for his propensity to turn golf courses into excruciatingly difficult tests of golf, ideal for U.S. Opens. Ball-striking is a prerequisite to having success at Torrey. The rough is thick and damp this time of the year so driving it straight is crucial.

The South Course draws rave reviews because of its gorgeous setting and championship pedigree. I admire its daily fee structure where San Diego residents can play for less than $50 and out of towners get gouged with $200+ rates. What bugs me about it is the golf course falls far short of the views. The Reestoration has produced a boring and challenging golf course. It's monotonous. Long par four after long par 4 with narrow fairways that make a phone booth feel roomy. With the U.S. Open coming in 2022 and a stacked tee sheet, day in and day out nothing will change. The South Course will remain a shell of what it could be.

Storylines

He's back
Tiger makes his 2018 debut at a course he has dominated at over the years. He will tee it up on Thursday at 10:40 PST on the South Course with Patrick Reed and Charley Hoffman. Tiger has won the Farmers an astounding seven times and also added a U.S. Open title at Torrey in 2008. After finishing runner-up to Tiger in 2005, Charles Howell III talked about why Tiger was so dominant at Torrey:

"The course requires a lot of drivers, so his length is an advantage. Also, you're just not going to hit every green out there, because [Torrey Pines South] is such a ball-buster — it's so long and tough, and that's where his short game comes into play. The course sets up perfect for him and his scoring ability — the guy can get the ball up and down and make par from nowhere. He's always hanging in there, and he has that ace in the hole: his putter. The greens are always bumpy, but it doesn't matter."

Expectations are across the board for Tiger; oddsmakers set him at 22 to 1 to win. The same odds as Jason Day and Marc Leishman who both rank in the top 13 in the world. I am predicting a cut Tiger but one sloppy round that puts him in the 30-50 range in the finish. I expect to see flashes of his old self, but competitive rust is tough to shake without as Tiger would say "reps."

Rahm's defense
Heading into Torrey Pines last year Jon Rahm was the 137th ranked player in the world, with no wins. Now he is 2nd in the world rankings and owns two PGA Tour titles and two European Tour Rolex Event titles. His ascension and consistency have been remarkable, and he is inching his way into the discussion of the best player in golf. Rahm achieved this rapid rise despite playing most of the PGA Tour stops for the first time. If Rahm wins this week, he will move to number one in the world rankings.

The Sponsor's Exemptions
The Farmers Insurance officials used their sponsor exemptions on some of the brightest young talents in the game. Teeing it up this week will be young pros Sam Burns, Maverick McNealy, Will Zalatoris, Cameron Davis as well as Oregon Sophomore Norman Xiong. While not quite as young as those above, 26-year-old American Julian Suri also received an exemption. Suri has been lighting it up on the European Tour, finishing in the top 10 in four of his last five starts. It's great to see an event invest exemptions in spots with young players who have a chance to contend in the event.

The coverage
CBS gets its first start of the year and announced that there will be many "enhancements" to 2018's golf coverage. Notably, the broadcast giant touted shot tracer on all 18 holes! It's great to see the 30 billion dollar company embrace the technology of the 21st century.

Paulie's Picks

With the tough Torrey Pines setup, Paulie likes a few under the long radar hitters.

Preview Podcast

Paulie and Kyle Nathan joined the podcast to breakdown Tiger's return and Rahm's ascendence as well as players to watch at Torrey. Listen to the podcast on the websiteiTunes, and Stitcher.

In Dubai

The European Tour continues their jaunt through the Middle East with the Omega Dubai Desert Classic. Last year, Sergio Garcia took home the title in Dubai and returned this week fresh off a win in Singapore. Joining Garcia as headliners for the event are Rory McIlroy, Tommy Fleetwood, and Henrik Stenson. Also teeing it up this week is Euro Tour legend, Colin Montgomerie.

Quick hooks

The world's top-ranked amateur, Joaquin Niemann shoots a final round 63 to win the Latin American Amateur and earns an invite to the Masters.