Maybank Malaysian Open - R1
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Tiger may not be ready

By Neville Leck Last updated: 28th January 2013


Tiger Woods - how ready is he?

Tiger Woods - how ready is he?

Not too long ago, nobody would have had second thoughts about making Tiger Woods the odds on favourite to win the Farmers Insurance Open this week.

Now the people who like t obet on golf are not so sure (view odds).

Back then, Woods, a six-time champion at Torrey Pines, this week's US PGA Tour stop in San Diego, seemed to be nigh invincible on this famed Southern Californian club's cliff-top courses.

Nobody, it seemed, could beat him there.

His triumphs at Torrey Pines included his heroic 14th major victory in the 2008 US Open which he won despite the onset of serious leg injuries

Unbeknown to him and the world of golf at large, the injuries would combine with a sensationalized marriage breakup to ground him for many, many months and bring to a halt his run of major victories.

He hasn't won a major since, hasn't won at Torrey Pines again - and for a long time couldn't win any full-field tournaments anywhere,

That was until last year when, now aged 34, he hit back with a vengeance to win three of the big ones, the Arnold Palmer Invitational, the Jack Nicklaus-hosted Memorial and the AT&T National.

His AT&T win helped him claim his 74th PGA Tour title and surpass Nicklaus as he moved up into second place behind Sam Snead on the list of most PGA Tour wins. It also helped him climb back to number two on the World Rankings list.

This year there have been rumours that he is trying to get back together with his ex-wife and his missed-cut in his season-opening title tilt in Abu Dhabi last week seemed to underline the possibility that he may not have been full focused on the task at hand.

And that seems to have been enough to cause a general review of his position this week and to bring other leading Americans into the picture as pre-tournament favourites.

They should include Brandt Snedeker, last year's FedEx Cup winner and the defending champion here this week - he won the play-off last year after runaway leader Kyle Stanley blew himself out of the water with a triple bogey at the very last hole.

Another high-profile golfer you might want to put on your list of favourites is the reigning Masters champion, Bubba Watson, the 2010 Torrey winner whose power of the tee was of great benefit on the daunting South course which, in the past, has played as long 7,698 yards.

Big hitting Dustin Johnson, the early-season, in-form winner of Tournament of Champions in Hawaii some three weeks back, looks another good fit for Torrey Pines, especially as he can boast of a third place finish there in 2011.

And then, when looking at the game's biggest bombers, we shouldn't forget Belgium's Nicolas Colsaerts, who is having his first crack at the riches on offer on the US Tour this year.

That he'll be playing at Torrey Pines for the first time may, however, be a disadvantage - even if he is aware of the tournament's open secret that its vital to shoot low on the easier Torrey Pines North course where one of his four Farmers rounds will have to be played.

That's a must if he is going to win.

We saw that last year when Snedeker shot a 64 there and before that in 2010 and 2011 when respective winners Ben Crane and Watson each posted North Course 65s on their way to victory.

In contrast to Torrey North, Torrey South is all about survival; about course management and keeping the ball in play.

Anyone who knows it well will tell you how difficult is to save par from off the green.

Of course, not everyone who has won at Torrey Pines smashes the ball more than 310 yards every time he picks up his driver.

Phil Mickelson, who grew up in San Diego, has won there three times and has had 10 top 10s in 23 appearances at Torrey Pines, one of them a runner-up spot as recently as 2011.

He started his 2013 season a little slowly at the Humana Challenge last week where he finished 37th, but he did seem to be finding some of his better form in the latter part of the tournament, shooting 17-under in his last three rounds, and it might not be wise to write him off.

Nor should you write off former PGA champion Keegan Bradley, the most efficient driver at Torrey last year when he finished 22nd, or someone like Hunter Mahan, who has tied for sixth in his last two starts here, this largely thanks to some classy iron play, a critical factor on a course as difficult as the South course is.

Fortunately, the weather won't be too much of an enemy this week.

Golfweather.com forecasts that there is a 30% chance of mild rain on Friday and a 10% chance of it on Sunday, but the wind won't be much of a factor until Sunday when it is expected to get up to something like 14 mph.

Neville Leck

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