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Teeing Off: The Coral Golf Blog

World number one Tiger Woods makes his first start of the year this week as he competes at one of his favourite courses, Torrey Pines, in the Farmers Insurance Open. A typically strong field are in action in San Diego with Phil Mickelson also featuring after his near miss in Abu Dhabi. Players will look to take advantage of the easier North course because the South, which will host three rounds, is a much tougher and longer par 72 test at 7,698 yards.

There are some places where you just can’t ignore Woods and this is undoubtedly one of them. I am normally reluctant to back the 14-time major winner but whenever he tees up at Torrey Pines the smart money is to lump on Woods. His last major win came at this very track back in 2008 despite playing with a fractured leg. His victory last season was his eighth at the venue where he has completely dominated.

Woods landed five wins in 2013 so he is still a player who is prolific in PGA Tour events even if the majors have proved a much tougher task in the last five years. His strike rate in this particular tournament is seven victories from 13 starts with just three rounds over par. That is an astonishing return and makes Woods a confident bet at 12/5 to clinch a record ninth title at Torrey Pines.

If you don’t want to back a player at such short odds, then there are some each way alternatives which could also bring in the profits. Bill Haas has become a consistent performer in America where he has won five titles. His record shows victories at classic courses such as Riviera, East Lake and Congressional so Torrey Pines would certainly continue this trend of previous triumphs.

Haas has shown a real liking for this layout with three consecutive top tens coming into this year. His best effort was in 2012 when an opening 63 helped him into a tie for fourth place. The 31-year-old looked in decent shape last weekend in the Humana Challenge where he shot 23-under-par for a top-six finish. Haas will head into this week with plenty of positive vibes and looks a lively contender at 25/1 each way.

Jimmy Walker was a player best avoided when in contention but he has looked a completely different player since his maiden PGA Tour win in his eighth season and 188th start. He finally got the gorilla off his back with his breakthrough title at the Frys.com Open back in October. This success has elevated Walker to a new level and his soaring confidence was evident earlier this month when he landed a second victory at the Sony Open.

Walker’s stats this season really are eye catching and demonstrate just how well he is playing. The 35-year-old is third for driving distance and strokes gained putting while he is second in birdie average. All aspects of his game are on song and he will relish returning to a track where he has excelled recently. Walker tied for fourth place last season and also finished in the top ten in 2012 so, in his current form, has to be a decent proposition at 33/1 each way.

It could also be worth backing Brandt Snedeker in the top ten market. The American absolutely loves Torrey Pines where he dramatically won in 2012 after a collapse from Kyle Stanley. Snedeker produced an excellent title defence 12 months ago when he tied for second behind Woods and has finished inside the top ten for the last four seasons. Bank on Sneds to deliver again at 15/8.

Follow Simon’s bets on Twitter @watfordtipster