Watch out for Oberholser on the West Coast
Tiger Woods will make his 2006 debut at this week's Buick Invitational, a tournament he has won three times in eight career starts. Woods has never finished outside of the top 10 at Torrey Pines, so if you've already fallen $1 million behind in your fantasy league and can use Tiger just once, this wouldn't be the worst week to do it.
Despite the lengthening of Torrey Pines several years back, recent leaderboards have featured a nice mix of playing styles. Woods, Luke Donald (a pair of runner-ups the last two years) and Phil Mickelson (three wins) all are fairly obvious choices, but I like Arron Oberholser, who finished T-4 here in 2003 and T-6 in 2005.
In three seasons on tour, Oberholser, a California guy, has played most of his best golf on the West Coast. He's still looking for his first tour win, having come close a couple of times, and I think he'll get it done in 2006. This week offers a good chance -- Oberholser is a strong iron player whose poor putting shouldn't hurt him as much on greens that he's putted well before.
Excluding the Chrysler Classic of Tucson -- a bottom-rung event played the same week as the WGC-Accenture Match Play -- we haven't had a first-time winner on the West Coast since Matt Gogel (Pebble Beach) in 2002. That amazing streak has to end sooner or later, which is another way of saying Oberholser represents a hunch parlayed with the laws of probability.
John Hawkins is a senior writer for Golf World magazine.