Charles Howell III, Part of Our 5 To Watch For the Farmers Insurance Open

chowell_walks.jpgThe PGA TOUR moves to beautiful Torrey Pines in La Jolla, California this week for the Farmers Insurance Open. This is the third full-field event of the year as the TOUR is just now starting to warm up a bit for what should be an interesting 2012.

The discussion of this week's field likely needs to start with who's NOT scheduled to compete. With the Abu Dhabi HSBC Golf Championship pulling most of the world's top-ranked golfers including Luke Donald, Lee Westwood, Rory McIlroy and Tiger Woods to the Middle East, the normally attractive stop at Torrey Pines has only one player from the the OWGR top 10: Dustin Johnson.

Not to fear, though. There are still plenty of big and "soon-to-be big" names battling it out on the picturesque cliffs of California this week.

Here are five players to keep an eye on, both for fantasy purposes and just for pure enjoyment:

Phil Mickelson: It would be silly not to begin our discussion with the man who has won this event three times. Mickelson, a Southern Cal native, obviously feels comfortable in this part of the world. His length off the tee and familiarity with the greens should also help the cause. The big left-hander is coming off a T49 finish last week at the Humana Challenge where he rebounded from an opening-round 74 to post 69 - 66 - 69 in the final three rounds. Look for Phil to heat up this week as he tries to get an important year moving in the right direction.

Charles Howell III: After a couple of down years, Howell rebounded in 2011 with a solid campaign. The Oklahoma State grad posted seven top-10 finishes including two third-place finals at the FedEx St. Jude and AT&T National. Howell also finished with a T6 at the TOUR Championship in September. Now in 2012, Howell is already off to a good start with a T2 at the Sony Open. At 32 years-old, the Augusta, Georgia native is settling into his game and the expectations of greatness that marked the beginning of his career. Expect another solid showing this week at Torrey Pines.

Spencer Levin: When most golf fans scan the leaderboards, there are always a few names that seem to get overlooked in the hunt for how the "big dogs" finished. Spencer Levin is one of those names. Levin, a Northern California native and Univ. of New Mexico alum, is coming off a solid 2011 with 25 made cuts, six top-10s and a runner-up loss in a playoff at the Mayakoba. Levin also finished T20 at the Farmers last year. Spencer finished 11th in Scoring Average in 2011, ahead of many of those aforementioned "big dogs", as well. When scanning the leaderboard this weekend, linger for a moment when you find Levin's name near the top.

Brendon de Jonge: The 2008 Nationwide Tour Player of the Year is coming off his best season on the PGA TOUR last year. With 22 made cuts and three top-10 finishes, de Jonge finished 46th on the regular season FedExCup points list. Like Levin, de Jonge has one of those names that gets skipped over when perusing down the leaderboard. But that's the point. In 2011, de Jonge's name was on the first and second pages a lot. He's already posted a T10 at the Sony Open and a T12 at the Humana Challenge this season. Expect another high finish from this Zimbabwe, South Africa native and Virginia Tech grad this week.

Rickie Fowler: In an odd way it's sort of "put up or shut up" time for Fowler in 2012. Currently known more for his fluorescent outfits than winner's trophies, the young Oklahoma State alum would like nothing more than to flip that script this season. The Farmers is his first event of this year after a 2011 campaign that included one runner-up finish and four top-10s. In October, Fowler was able to card his first professional victory, albeit at the Kolon Korea Open. Born in California, the 23-year old would love to get his first PGA TOUR victory this week and end the "when are you gonna win?" discussion right now.

OTHER NOTABLES: Gary Woodland - looking to make that next big "leap" into superstardom; Bud Cauley - the TOUR rookie is already making waves after two top 30 finishes; Geoff Ogilvy - a very solid showing at the President's Cup in November could catapult the '06 US Open champ into a nice 2012.


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