As the final groups during Sunday's final round hit the back nine at Torrey Pines, there are 17 players within two shots of the lead currently held by Pat Perez, Gary Woodland, Marc Leishman and an in the clubhouse K.J. Choi. The bunched up leaderboard can't make up for the absence of Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson, but ascendant American players like Jordan Spieth and Gary Woodland should yield an exciting finish.
While Mickelson is the most famous local favorite, Perez is also playing a home game at the South Course, where his dad has served as the starter for the Farmers Insurance Open. The precocious California native is used to putting on the sometimes temperamental poa annua greens, which should be a huge advantage playing late in the day and coming down the stretch. Perez has been known to lose his cool a bit, but he's obviously comfortable and in control at Torrey.
Woodland is one of the better athletes on Tour, a ripped Kansan who can bomb it as far as anyone. His short game around the green is definitely a weak spot, but he's been on a roll since the second half of last year and should be an American name pushing for a potential Ryder Cup spot. Given the talent around him on the leaderboard, and the respect that Torrey gets from the pros, a win here would be a huge boost at the start of a big season.
Chasing the trio of leaders are a couple big names that will be trendy major picks this season, most notably Jordan Spieth and Jason Day. A win for Spieth would make him the first player at his age with multiple victories on Tour since the early 1930s. Day, for all the money made and the impressive performances at the majors, has just one Tour win to his name. That's hard to believe, but he'll be a pick for many at Augusta in just a few months so getting a second win under his belt would be huge.
Here's the top of the bunched up leaderboard with just a couple hours left to go in La Jolla:
|T18||Charles Howell III||-4||12|
|T55||Tyrone Van Aswegen||2||12*|