Brandt Snedeker banks on Torrey Pines factor
While Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson will feed off a huge Torrey Pines comfort factor at this week's Farmers Insurance Open, defending champion Brandt Snedeker can also point to an impressive track record at the venue.
In 2007, American Snedeker tied the North Course record here with a blistering 11-under-par 61 in only his third start as a PGA Tour member.
He went on to finish third that year, three strokes behind winner Woods, and has since added a further three top-10 finishes at the event, including a playoff victory over compatriot Kyle Stanley 12 months ago.
"This is a place that's very near and dear to my heart," Snedeker told reporters while preparing for Thursday's opening round. "This is kind of where my career started and I've had a lot of success here. I love coming here."
However, Snedeker readily admits he was fortunate to triumph last year after Stanley had stunningly squandered a three-shot lead with a triple-bogey on the final hole in regulation.
"You have those opportunities maybe once or twice in your career, and to take advantage of it was great," smiled the fast-talking Snedeker, who sealed victory by knocking in a five-foot par putt at the second extra hole, the par-three 16th.
"I obviously didn't want Kyle to have to go through that, but I had a great benefit from it... and I hope I never return the favour, but you never know in this game, you might.
"The golf course is in great shape and my game feels really good, so I'm excited to see what the week holds. Hopefully I can do a good job of trying to defend."
Snedeker's victory at Torrey Pines last year paved the way for a stellar PGA Tour campaign, which culminated with another win at the season-ending Tour Championship where he clinched FedExCup honours, along with its $10 million bonus.
He firmly believes the biggest lesson he learned along the way was the virtue of patience.
"If you look at the guys who are the best at what they do, it's amazing how patient they are with themselves and how they keep fighting and hanging in there in golf tournaments," Snedeker said.
"I'm still learning it. I'm way better this year than I was last year, and last year was the first year I put a big emphasis on it."
Among those 'patient guys' put on a pedestal by Snedeker are 14-times major champion Woods and Mickelson, a four-times major winner, who between them have piled up nine career victories at the Farmers Insurance Open.
"I feel comfortable here, there is no doubt," American world number two Woods said ahead of his opening round on the South course, one of two layouts co-hosting this week's event.
"There are few courses that are like that where I've had my share of success... where either I've won or been in contention to win.
"Firestone, Augusta (National), I just feel comfortable on those venues," Woods said of the permanent homes of the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational and the Masters. "My record over those three courses has been pretty good."
San Diego native Mickelson has triumphed here three times, although the most recent of those dates back to 2001.
Also competing this week are long-hitting American Dustin Johnson, 2006 US Open champion Geoff Ogilvy of Australia and Belgian Nicolas Colsaerts, who will make his first start as a full PGA Tour member.
"These are pretty exciting times," said Colsaerts, nicknamed the 'Belgian Bomber' because of his length off the tee. "I've been looking at playing on the PGA (Tour) for a couple of years, and it hadn't really turned out the way I wanted.
"It's pretty cool to have that possibility (now). It's a big change for us Europeans, but at my stage of my life, we found out that it was the perfect timing to do so."
The first two rounds are played over the North and South courses at Torrey Pines before the weekend action shifts entirely to the more difficult latter layout.