Happy to see Jason Dufner back as a winner on the PGA Tour as he took last week's CareerBuilder Challenge by beating David Lingmerth in a playoff. It was Dufner's fourth career victory but first since the 2013 PGA Championship when he looked poised to join the elite talents in golf. Dufner is one of the good guys on Tour and is very popular among players.
Dufner and Lingmerth both finished 72 holes at 25-under, four clear of the rest of the field. Dufner beat Lingmerth with a par on the second extra hole after Lingmerth's approach landed in the water. Dufner caught a huge break on his 71st hole as he saved par on the par-3 17th with a stellar chip out of the rocks adjacent to the island green at PGA West's Stadium Course.
"It was probably like one in like 50 million that that ball ends up there," said Dufner, who also needed to drain an 11-foot par putt on the first playoff hole to stay alive.
Dufner had more missed cuts (seven) than Top 10s (six) in the past two seasons. He was down to No. 120 in the world rankings entering last week and has jumped to 60th. Meanwhile, it was Lingmerth's second playoff loss at the tournament. Perhaps the biggest overall story, however, was Phil Mickelson finishing T3 in his first start of the year and since changing swing coaches. It was his first Top 10 anywhere since last summer in Memphis. He had just three bogeys overall, tied for the second-fewest in the field.
I didn't address Dufner at all last week other than taking him head-to-head over Robert Streb. My pick to win was the favored Patrick Reed, but he was just T56. Missed on him and Ryan Palmer (T17) for a Top 10 but did hit on Bill Haas at +260. I took Kevin Na over Mickelson but they tied for a T3. Also got Haas over Zach Johnson and Brendan Steele over Marc Leishman.
This week the Tour heads to a favorite spot of many golfers: Torrey Pines outside San Diego -- so basically a home game for Lefty -- for the Farmers Insurance Open. Torrey probably will always be remembered most for Tiger Woods' last major title when he beat Rocco Mediate in a 19-hole Monday playoff with Woods playing on a broken leg. The South Course is a monster par 72 at 7,698 yards but the players will each play one of their first two rounds on the much shorter North Course.
It's certainly the best field of 2016 in the USA thus far even though No. 1 Jordan Spieth is taking some time off after playing last week in Abu Dhabi in a star-studded European Tour event. Rickie Fowler won that, and he's in this field. Mickelson always plays at Torrey. Aussie Jason Day is the defending champion as he beat J.B. Holmes, Harris English and Scott Stallings in a four-man playoff in 2015. The latter two were eliminated on the first playoff hole, and Day beat Holmes with a par on the second one.
Golf Odds: Farmers Insurance Open Favorites
Day is the +650 favorite to repeat . Doing that isn't anything new here as three guys have done it: J.C. Snead, Mickelson and Tiger (four in a row starting in 2005). Day took a lot of time off late last year to be with his wife and newborn. He debuted a few weeks ago at the Hyundai and finished T10. Day was also part of a runner-up group here in 2014.
Fowler is +1100, and I don't like him off the bat simply because it's so tough to win back-to-back weeks, much less in different hemispheres of the world. Fowler was 61st here last year and missed the cut in 2014.
The favorites are rounded out by Dustin Johnson (+1600), Brandt Snedeker (+1600) and Justin Rose (+2000). Snedeker finished in the Top 3 in both Hawaii events. He won here in 2012 and has been a runner-up twice. Johnson should thrive at this lengthy track but hasn't played well here since a third in 2011. Rose makes his first start of the year and has no Top 10s in six tries here.
PGA Tour Picks: Farmers Insurance Open Expert Betting Predictions
For a Top 10, I like Day at -150, Snedeker at +135, Mickelson at +175 and Charles Howell III at +350. Head-to-head, go with Day (-130) over Fowler (even), Howell III (-115) over Holmes (-115), Snedeker (-120) over Johnson (-110), Haas (-115) over Hideki Matsuyama (-115), Rose (-125) over Reed (-105), and Gary Woodland (-105) over Graham DeLaet (-125).
Take Matsuyama at +135 as the top Asian, Shane Lowry at +550 as the top European and Rory Sabbatini at +275 as the top South African. I might throw some long-shot money on Howell III at +4000 to win. He has been runner-up here twice and was fifth last year, his third Top 10 since 2010. But Snedeker is my guy.
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