The PGA is headed to Torrey Pines this week for the Farmers Insurance Open and its biggest tournament of the new year. This is the toughest course the PGA has visited so far in 2021 and undoubtedly features the deepest field of world-class golfers. Torrey Pines hosts this event every year, and this year it also will host the U.S. Open in June for the first time since 2008. Tiger Woods won both events that year at Torrey Pines, an indication even today that this tournament provides a decent measuring stick for golfers before the USGA makes the course as difficult as possible for the Open this summer.
Course Breakdown and Weather
Unlike the U.S. Open, which will take place exclusively on the South Course at Torrey Pines, the Farmers Insurance Open will utilize both the North and South courses the first two days. The North Course is the easier of the two and plays roughly 450 yards shorter.
The forecast calls for rain on Friday afternoon, which could be beneficial to those playing the easier North Course in the difficult conditions. The rain also could soften up the South Course for the weekend, allowing golfers to be more aggressive with their approach shots in the hopes that the greens will hold better.
The favorite this week is Jon Rahm (+700), who withdrew from the field last week before his fellow golfers teed it up in the American Express that was won by Si Woo Kim. Next is Rory Mcllroy (+800), who finished third on the European Tour last week in Abu Dhabi, followed by Xander Schuaffle(+1400) and Tony Finau (+1800).
Schuaffle has made just one cut in five tries at Torrey Pines, so stay away from him. Finau’s game fits Torrey Pines very well. But with his continuing trend of not being able to finish the job for a win whenever he’s in contention, look to bet Finau for a top-10 or top-5 finish instead of winning. Since the 2016-2017 season, Finau has zero wins and 35 top 10s. Finau has played this event six times and has finished in the top 25 each time.
That leaves plenty of other options in the talented and deep field to pick as the winner, and get great value while at it. The first name to fit that bill is Hidkei Matsuyama (+2800), who finished tied for 19th at the Sony Open two weeks ago. Matsuyama is one of the best ball strikers on the tour and while he is known for being an abysmal putter, he actually has become slightly above average on Poa Annua surfaces.
Best Value Plays
The middle tier of possible contenders features defending champion Marc Leishman (+3300). The Aussie missed over half the fairways last year in his final round, but he nonetheless rode a hot putter to the victory. Si Woo Kim (+4000) won the American Express last week and very possibly ride that momentum and play well again. But if it was easy to win two tournaments in a row on the PGA Tour, it would happen more than once or twice a season.
The first name to target in this range is Cameron Davis (+6000), who finished third last week at the American Express. Davis was consistent off the tee last week, but he simply could not come back from an abysmal second round that led to him making the cut on the number. He was terrific on the weekend and will be looking to build on that. Davis already has collected two top 10s on the season and is playing the best golf of his young career.
The next name to look at is former U.S. Open champion Gary Woodland(+6500). Woodland spent the offseason cutting weight and getting in the best shape of his life. While he has made some adjustments to his swing and struggled with consistency late in 2020, he finally started looking comfortable last week, finishing tied for 16th. Woodland is +650 to finish inside the top ten this week and with his confidence building, that number is worth a play.
The longshots with a chance to win this week are limited due to the difficulty of the course, but that does not mean the value is gone. Dylan Frittelli (+9000) finished fifth at the Masters over two months ago and showed the vast improvements he has made to his golf game. In 2019, Fritelli’s average drive was 291.3 yards. Last season that number jumped up to 312.8 yards.
Next is Max Homa (+12500), who was tied for the lead entering Sunday at the American Express and shot a final round 76 to finish outside of the top 20. Homa has not been one to dwell on bad finishes throughout his career and expect nothing but a strong performance from the California native and former Cal star this week. In the loaded field, take Homa +1100 to finish inside the Top 10.
Two matchup plays offer great value at the Farmers Insurance Open, the first being Bubba Watson over Louis Oosthuizen. Watson finished sixth at this event last year and won it back in 2011. The lefty has played here plenty of times and has the length to take advantage of the few opportunities to score that the difficult South Course offers. Oosthuizen has played Torrey Pines once in his career and failed to break 70 in all four rounds.
The next matchup play is Jason Day over Corey Conners. Day is making his first start of the year, but rust should not be a concern because he has won this event twice in the past following similar layoffs. Day seemed to be getting in a groove at the end of last season and there is no reason to suspect he will not be playing at a high level this week. Corey Conners makes sense on paper here because of his ability to mash the golf ball. But the Canadian tends to compound one mistake into another around the green at difficult golf courses. Conners ranked 151st of all Tour golfers at strokes gained around the green in 2020, and 181st in strokes gained putting, according to pgatour.com. Take the superior golfer in Jason Day, as he is better in every aspect of his game.