Nick Faldo: ‘Feisty Season’ On PGA TOUR Tees Off At Farmers

By Dave Shedloski

Nick Faldo said that he expects a “feisty season” on the PGA TOUR.

“The competition among the top guys is going to be something worth watching,” said the six-time major champion who returns to the air at the Farmers Insurance Open after a five-month sabbatical. “Then you throw into the mix this young crop of players, and it’s going to be very interesting what goes on, who steps up. We’ll see if anyone can get a little separation on the crowd.”

Host of a tour event since 1968, Torrey Pines Golf Course, laid out along the cliffs of the Pacific Ocean, is the site of the Farmers Insurance Open. Three of the four rounds are contested on the more difficult South Course, which measures up to 7,698 yards, par 72. Each player also plays one of the first two rounds on the North Course, also par 72, but just 7,052 yards — though Tom Weiskopf will soon oversee a renovation.

Rees Jones oversaw a change to the South Course in 2001. It hosted the 2008 U.S. Open won by Tiger Woods, who also has captured the Farmers Insurance Open seven times. Woods is on the sidelines after undergoing back surgery in the fall, but defending champion Jason Day, the odds-makers’ favorite, and Rickie Fowler, who won last week at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship, head the field. They are No. 2 and 4 in the world, respectively.

Faldo, who begins his 10th year as lead golf analyst for CBS Sports, digs into the details of the fourth event of the new year.

Talk about the golf course, the South Course, obviously, which is long and can be very tough.

Nick Faldo: I think it’s a good test for the guys. That golf course has some tough shots. It has some awkward greens, holes like 14 and 15 with slopes and back pins that work away from the hole. Torrey Pines is some work. But it’s fun. It’s a great spot along the Pacific. Generally, the weather looks fantastic. I love it there. I haven’t seen any real golf for five months, so I need to catch up with the golfers.

Jason Day and Bubba Watson, who is not in the field, are recent winners. Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson have done well there. The playoff last year included other big hitters, J.B. Holmes and past champ Scott Stallings. Is this a power hitter’s paradise?

Nick Faldo: Well, you certainly have to drive well. But you can’t just hit it out there. Bunkers are in the right place. The rough is up. They present the golf course really well. You have to hit it solid. You have to do everything right.

What did you make of Mickelson’s performance last week and his swing changes?

Nick Faldo: The last few years I could see it a mile off all his playing angles and how they weren’t quite where they needed to be, so he sounds like he’s on the right track. He didn’t have nice clean routes, which made playing very difficult for him unless his timing was good. He’s 45, and it’s hard work when you’ve been on tour for 25 years to make changes.

Can Rickie Fowler transition from Abu Dhabi in a week?

Nick Faldo: That’s going to be a challenge, but Rickie played well over there in the desert. We have a really impressive Big Four now, I think. In my days, we had Greg (Norman) and (Nick) Price and (Fred) Couples, and you always were wondering which of the guys was going to play well next. He (Fowler) goes on quietly, doesn’t he? He just kind of plays his game, and he’s moving up. He’s got four majors this year. If he got one of them, the conversation is going to get more interesting.

Australian Ryan Ruffels, 17, is going to make his professional debut. What do you know about him?

Nick Faldo: I don’t know him, but he’s obviously talented. I’ve been talking about this for five or 10 years or more. The knowledge golfers have now is factual. There’s no guesswork. The physical side is different. It’s science. You got doctors out there. They know how to build a golfer. That’s huge now. The mental side, if you need a sports psychologist, is there, too. And there are nutritionists. Golf is for real athletes now. If you have talent and commitment and the knowledge, you’ve got to be better than the 17-year-old golfer from 30 years ago. The young guys come out ready to play, and all they need is a little experience.

Give us favorites and dark horses?

I think Day hasn’t played very much lately, but he’s worked very hard on his fitness, and you would think he’ll play well again at Torrey Pines. Dustin Johnson would be a great choice. Justin Rose would be a decent choice. If I were looking at other players, Patrick Rodgers is going to win out here very soon. He’s one of those young guys we’ve been talking about.

CBS Sports tees off the 2016 season at the Farmers Insurance Open on Saturday, January 30 (3:00-6:00 PM, ET) and Sunday, January 31 (3:00-6:30 PM, ET), live from Torrey Pines Golf Course in La Jolla, California.

CBS Sports continues its extensive golf coverage, offering viewers the most comprehensive golf lineup in the history of network television. The network will broadcast 21 golf tournaments this year, totaling more than 155 hours of coverage. Highlights will include The Masters and PGA Championship, as well as the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am, Wells Fargo Championship, WGC-Bridgestone Invitational and at least seven golf specials.

Journalist and author David Shedloski of Columbus, Ohio, has been covering golf since 1986, first as a daily newspaper reporter and later as a freelance writer for various magazines and Internet outlets. A winner of 23 national writing awards, including 20 for golf coverage, Shedloski is currently a contributing writer for Golf World and GolfDigest.com and serves as editorial director for The Memorial, the official magazine of the Memorial Tournament in Dublin, Ohio. He is the author of three books and has contributed to three others, including the second edition of “Golf For Dummies,” with Gary McCord. He’s a fan of all Cleveland professional sports teams, the poor fellow.

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