The Farmers Insurance Open Preview

The PGA Tour travels to La Jolla, California to Torrey Pines Golf Course. Torrey Pines is a municipal golf course and one of the most iconic stops on Tour. There is a North Course and a South Course. The North Course will be played once, while the South Course will be played three times.

Rees Jones began a re-design on the South Course in 2019. The re-design was in preparation for the 2021 US Open. The South Course is a Par 72 and measures 7,765 yards, one of the longest courses on Tour. The North Course is a Par 72 but measures at 7,258 yards. The South Course is a real challenge and golfers will need to take advantage of their round on the North Course. The last 5 winners of this tournament have all scored well on the North Course.

My handicapping process began by reviewing the scorecards of the previous five winners. During this review I found that Approach, Tee-to-Green, and Distance will be imperative this week. Additionally, the last 5 winners have averaged 19.6 birdies and 7 bogeys. There will not be an overwhelming amount of birdie opportunities so golfers will need to play clean in order to win.

Correlated courses I looked at were Quail Hollow, Augusta National, and Bethpage Black. Bethpage Black is a Rees Jones design, and the other two courses are championship courses. These courses do not yield very low scores, requires length, and requires golfers to be extremely precise. All of these traits are essential at Torrey Pines.

Quail Hollow hosted the 2018 and 2019 Wells Fargo Championship, and the 2017 PGA Championship. Augusta National is the host of the Masters every year. Bethpage Black most recently hosted the 2019 PGA Championship, and the 2016 Barclays.

Overall, I will be targeting golfers who can “survive” the South Course, and take advantage of every opportunity they get. Historically, winners of this event tend to be class players who have had success on this course before, so I will not be looking for as many longshots as usual.

Key Stats: SG Tee-to-Green, SG Approach, SG Putting, Distance, Greens-in-Regulation, and Ball-Striking

Scoring: Par 5 Birdie or Better, Par 5 Efficiency (500-550) yards, Par 4 (450-500) yards, Par 3 Scoring Average, Birdie or Better Percentage, and Bogey Avoidance.

Farmers Insurance Open Tips

Rory McIlroy +875 (DraftKings)

            Rory is making his 2021 PGA Tour debut this week at Torrey Pines. Rory is coming off a great showing at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Golf Championship on the European Tour. Rory has played the Farmers twice, finishing inside the Top 5 both times. His last three appearances at Quail Hollow have resulted in: T8, T16, and T22. His last three appearances at Augusta National have resulted in T5, T21, and T5. Rory’s performance at Bethpage Black has also been impressive, finishing T8 and T31 the last two times that course was on Tour. Using 2020 ShotLink data, in this field, Rory ranks: 3rd Tee-to-Green, 3rd in Distance, 8th in Approach, 5th in Par 5 Birdie or Better Percentage, 18th in Par 3 Scoring Average, 16th in Par 4 Efficiency (450-500) yards, 15th in Par 5 Efficiency (500-550) yards, and 3rd in Birdie or Better Percentage. Rory has been playing very good golf recently and I expect to see him at the top of the leaderboard on Sunday afternoon.

Tony Finau 21-1 (Fanduel)

            Tony Finau once again found himself in the Top 10 last week at the American Express. The knock on Finau is that he can’t win. It’s an interesting debate only because Finau is consistently in contention. He’s a great golfer who puts himself in a position to win. Unfortunately, he has been unable to take advantage of these opportunities. That won’t stop me from picking him though, because with him you know what you’re going to get. He’s played Torrey Pines six times in his career and has never finished outside of the Top 25. He has three Top 10 finishes here in his last 4 tries. In this field Finau ranks: 7th Tee-to-Green, 10th Approach, 11th in Distance, 18th in Par 5 Birdie or Better Percentage, 4th in Par 4 Efficiency (450-500) yards, 10th in Birdie or Better Percentage, and 17th in Bogey Avoidance. I think Finau can break through this week and finally get his second PGA Tour win.

Jason Day 37-1 (Fanduel)

          The two-time former winner of this event, tees it up this week to start his 2021 campaign. The last time we saw Jason Day was in November at the RSM Classic. This long break might scare people off of him, but it is worth noting that when Day won this event in 2018, he hadn’t played an event since October of the previous year. Jason Day’s course history is a little confusing. In his last 6 appearances he has two wins and two missed cuts. When he makes the cut at this event, he will be at the very top of the leaderboard. His last 6 finishes at Torrey Pines has been: T16, T5, 1, MC, MC, 1. Day’s performance at correlated courses has also been stellar. At Quail Hollow, Day has a T24, 1st, and T9. At Augusta National, Day’s last three appearances has resulted in MC, T5, and T20. At Bethpage Black, Day has a T23 and T4. In this field, Day ranks 23rd Tee-to-Green, 16th in Scrambling, 16th Par 5 Birdie or Better, 6th Scoring Average, 17th in Par 4 Efficiency (450-500) yards, and 4th in Par 5 Efficiency (500-550) yards. These are good odds for a former champion whose game is clearly suited for this course.

Adam Scott 48-1 (Fanduel)

            Adam Scott played at the Sentry Tournament of Champions and at the Sony Open where he finished T21 and T41 respectively. Scott made his first appearance at the Farmers Insurance Open in 2019 where he finished 2nd. Adam Scott’s 6 most recent PGA Tour wins have all come in a situation where the winning score was in a range of -8 to -12. If Torrey Pines is playing tough and it does not become a birdie-fest then Adam Scott will have a chance to contend. In his last three appearances at Augusta National, Scott has finished: T34, T18, and T32. Scott is also a former winner at Augusta when he won the Masters in 2013. Adam Scott has performed well at Bethpage Black, finishing T8 at the 2019 PGA Championships and T4 the 2016 Barclays. In this field, Scott ranks: 16th in Distance, 21st Tee-to-Green, 17th in Par Scoring Average, 1st in Par 5 Efficiency (500-550) yards, and 10th in Bogey Avoidance. Torrey Pines will be a grind this week, and I like Scott’s chances to avoid big mistakes.

Gary Woodland 80-1 (Fanduel)

            Woodland ended 2020 with a lot of questions. He revealed he had been playing through a torn labrum in his hip, which would explain his poor performance in the fall. Woodland returned to action last week at the American Express where he notched a T16 finish. Woodland went under par every round, and he gained strokes Off-the-Tee, Tee-to-Green, Approach, and in Putting. Woodland seems to be healthy and returning to form. At Torrey Pines over the last 5 years Woodland has finished: MC, T9, T12, T20, and T18. Woodland has a T22 at Quail Hollow at the PGA Championship in 2017. Woodland had a T32 at Augusta in 2019, the last time he played their fully healthy. On Rees Jones’s Bethpage Black, Woodland has a T8 at the PGA Championship in 2019, and a T4 at the 2016 Barclays. In this field, Woodland ranks: 26th in Distance, 22nd in Ball-Striking, 4th in Approach, 22nd in Putting, 10th Par 5 Birdie or Better Percentage, 13th Par 3 Scoring Average, 18th in Birdie or Better Percentage, and 19th in Bogey Avoidance. Woodland’s game sets up well for this course, and if he can put it all together, he will find himself in the hunt come Sunday.

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