Steve Bamford

Steve Bamford's Farmers Insurance Open Tips 2019

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The Desert Classic has always generated some incredible winners and in 600/1 shot Adam Long the tournament didn’t disappoint again last week. The sight of World Number 417 Long, whose PGA Tour experience read MC-63-MC-MC-MC before winning at PGA West, seeing off 43-time PGA Tour winner Phil Mickelson and course expert Adam Hadwin, just shows how whacky golf betting can sometimes be. I did say in last week’s Golf Betting System podcast that 40/1 was an excellent price for Mickelson – so my notes for the 2020 Desert Classic read: go for well-priced course specialists to at the very least cover the week.

Before we talk my Farmers Insurance Open tips, we always have new visitors to Golf Betting System as the golfing year kicks off. Welcome to you all and let me point you in the direction of our weekly Golf Betting System podcast (published Tuesday) our Golf Betting Show on YouTube and our hugely popular private group on Facebook – you can Join Here.

This week is the ‘real’ start of the PGA Tour in many fans’ eyes as we return to La Jolla, just North of San Diego, for the Farmers Insurance Open at the iconic Torrey Pines. A high-class field including Justin Rose, Jon Rahm, Rory McIlroy, Jordan Spieth, Patrick Reed, Rickie Fowler, Tony Finau and defending champion Jason Day have been attracted to the classical Torrey Pines course on the Pacific coastline. But naturally the full focus on the golfing media and betting public will be on the 2019 return of Tiger Woods.

Course Guide: The Farmers Insurance Open is played on the South and North courses at Torrey Pines. The mammoth 7,698 yard South Course, which was re-designed in 2001 by Rees Jones prior to the 2008 U.S. Open, hosts 3 rounds in total with each entrant also playing 18 holes on the North Course on either Thursday or Friday. The world-famous South Course, which runs above the Pacific Ocean, is a classical design that plays as the longest course on the PGA Tour. Penal rough, specialised Kikuyugrass fairways and green complex designs that repel approach shots makes scoring particularly difficult. The North Course, which received a Tom Weiskopf-inspired renovation prior to the 2017 renewal, is a relatively short Par-72 which continues to set up for low scoring which can prove pivotal in tournament play. To add to the complexity, the South Course features Poa Annua greens whereas the North features freshly installed pure Bentgrass greens.

Torrey Pines South Course, San Diego, South California: Designer: Bell 1957, Rees Jones re-design 2001; Course Type: Coastal, Classical; Par: 72; Length: 7,698 yards; Holes with Water Hazards: 1; Fairways: Kikuyugrass; Rough: Kikuyugrass 3.5″; Greens: 5,800 sq.ft average featuring Poa Annua; Tournament Stimp: 11.5ft; Course Scoring Average 2012: 72.36 (+0.36), Difficulty Rank 21 of 49 courses. 2013: 72.66 (+0.66), Difficulty Rank 16 of 43 courses. 2014: 73.80 (+1.80), Rank 6 of 52 courses. 2015: 73.52 (+1.52), Rank 6 of 52 courses, 2016: 74.50 (+2.50), Rank 2 of 50 courses. 2017: 72.77 (+0.77), Rank 14 of 50 courses. 2018: 72.81 (+0.81), Rank 8 of 51 courses.

Torrey Pines North Course: Designer: 1957, Tom Weiskopf re-design 2016; Course Type: Coastal, Resort; Par: 72; Length: 7,258 yards; Holes with Water Hazards: 0; Fairways Bermudagrass, Perennial Rye, Kikuyugrass mix; Rough: Perennial Rye with Kikuyugrass 3.5″; Greens:6,400 sq.ft average featuring Bentgrass; Tournament Stimp: 10.5ft; Course Scoring Average 2012: 69.55 (-2.45), Difficulty Rank 47 of 49 courses. 2013: 70.67 (-1.33), Difficulty Rank 35 of 43 courses. 2014: 70.24 (-1.76), Rank 44 of 48 courses. 2015: 70.23 (-1.77), Rank 46 of 52 courses. 2016: 70.93 (-1.07), Rank 38 of 50 courses. Re-Design 2017: 71.28 (-0.72), Rank 32 of 50 courses. 2018: 71.41 (-0.59), Rank 28 of 51 courses.

Fairway Widths (yards): Below are the fairway widths for Torrey Pines South Course and how they compare to recent courses that we’ve seen on Tour:

  • Torrey Pines South: 250 yards from the tee: 27 yards wide; 275:27; 300:26; 325:25; 350:24.
  • TPC Stadium: 250 yards from the tee: 29 yards wide; 275:28; 300:28; 325:27; 350:25.
  • Waialae: 250 yards from the tee: 35 yards wide; 275:32; 300:33; 325:37; 350:34.
  • Plantation Course: 250 yards from the tee: 53 yards wide; 275:58; 300:63; 325:58; 350:62.
  • Seaside Course: 250 yards from the tee: 39 yards wide; 275:38; 300:33; 325:29; 350:23.
  • TPC Summerlin: 250 yards from the tee: 32 yards wide; 275:30; 300:26; 325:25; 350:24.
  • CC of Jackson: 250 yards from the tee: 28 yards wide; 275:27; 300:28; 325:28; 350:24
  • Silverado: 250 yards from the tee: 27 yards wide; 275:27; 300:24; 325:25; 350:24.
  • East Lake: 250 yards from the tee: 27 yards wide; 275:25; 300:24; 325:23; 350:22.
  • Conway Farms: 250 yards from the tee: 33 yards wide; 275:29; 300:29; 325:26; 350:28.
  • TPC Boston: 250 yards from the tee: 34 yards wide; 275:34; 300:32; 325:31; 350:32.

Course Designer Links: For research purposes, other Rees Jones and Tom Weiskopf designs (including re-designs/renovations) include:

Rees Jones

  • GC of Houston – Houston Open
  • Aronimink GC – 2010,2011 A&T National
  • Blue Course, Congressional CC – 2011 U.S. Open + 2012-2014 & 2016 National
  • Blue Course, Royal Montreal GC – 2014 RBC Canadian Open
  • Hazeltine – 2009 PGA Championship
  • Highlands Course, Atlanta Athletic Club – 2011 PGA Championship
  • Baltusrol – 2016 PGA Championship
  • Bethpage Black – 2009 U.S Open + 2012/2016 The Barclays
  • Dubsdread, Cog Hill GCC – 2009,2010,2011 BMW Championship
  • East Lake GC – Tour Championship
  • Bellerive CC – 2018 PGA Championship (re-design)

Tom Weiskopf

  • Stadium Course, TPC Scottsdale – Waste Management Phoenix Open

Course Overview: I’ll talk about the classical and sometimes brutal Torrey Pines South Course which hosts 54 holes of action this weekend in a short while, but it’s worth recognising that the North Course received a Tom Weiskopf re-design which was played for the first time in 2017. The course was effectively lengthened, re-routed and now features new pure Bentgrass green complexes. Scoring has undoubtedly increased as players become accustomed to the new nuances of the course, especially the greens, and it’s true that the North Course is no longer a total pushover. However if you want to contend, you need to make a score on the easier course. Expect scoring still to be considerably lower on the North Course.

Rees Jones’ South Course is naturally the star of this tournament. The longest course on the PGA Tour schedule features six 450+ yard par-4s whilst 3 of its 4 par-5s are over 550 yards. The course is tree-lined and features Poa Annua greens, the likes of which are only found on the West coast and North East of the United States plus Canada. Both courses also feature Kikuyugrass rough, the likes of which are only seen here and at Riviera each year on the PGA Tour. Re-seeding of the rough prior to the 2014 renewal has seen recent winning totals slump and has added significantly to the difficulty of the task. Longer and thicker Kikuyugrass rough means that the South Course is now extremely difficult in terms of proximity to the hole from the rough. Given firm conditions which we should see this week, Greens in Regulation percentages have also slumped since the re-seed, with the South Course ranking 7th (2018), 11th (2016), 5th (2015) and 4th (2014) toughest for Greens in Regulation Percentage, compared to 26th (2013), 34th (2012), 13th (2011) and 28th (2010).

However the true differences between the South and North courses are quite stark. Birdie or Better Conversion on the South Course last year ranked 6th toughest on the PGA Tour as a whole, compared to 31st toughest for the North Course. It’s also imperative to note that the South Course’s Poa Annua greens are notoriously difficult to putt on, so look for those who have done well here previously, or at Pebble, Bethpage Black plus the recent U.S. Open hosted at Oakmont (2016) and Shinnecock Hills (2018).

farmers insurance open tips

Winners: 2018: Jason Day (-9); 2017: Jon Rahm (-13); 2016: Brandt Snedeker (-6); 2015: Jason Day (-9); 2014: Scott Stallings (-9); 2013: Tiger Woods (-15); 2012: Brandt Snedeker (-16); 2011: Bubba Watson (-16); 2010: Ben Crane (-13).

Published Predictor Model: Our published predictor is available here. You can build your own model using the variables listed on the left hand side. Top 10 of my published predictor are Jason Day, Tony Finau, Justin Rose, Ryan Palmer, Jordan Spieth, Rickie Fowler, Brandt Snedeker, Danny Lee, Jon Rahm and Marc Leishman.

Recent Player Skill Rankings: These rankings are based on an 8-tournament window that stretches back to the Shriners Open and Turkish Airlines Open, which includes PGA Tour and European Tour events. Players must have played in a minimum of 2 Tour events to be included and rankings are based on performance relative to the rest of the field:

  • Driving Accuracy: 1) Ben Silverman; 2) Keegan Bradley; 3) Jason Kokrak; 4) Jason Day; 5) Billy Horschel; 6) Joel Dahmen / Jon Rahm; 8) Satoshi Kodaira / Denny McCarthy; 10) Kiradech Aphibarnrat / Alex Noren / Xander Schauffele; 13) Bronson Burgoon; 14) Brice Garnett; 15) Kevin Streelman; 16) Kramer Hickok / Hank Lebioda; 18) Ryan Moore; 19) Tyler Duncan / Russell Knox.
  • Greens in Regulation: 1) Patrick Cantlay / Jon Rahm / Cameron Smith; 4) Ryan Moore; 5) Emiliano Grillo; 6) Billy Horschel; 7) Kevin Tway; 8) Charles Howell III; 9) Jason Day / Xander Schauffele; 11) Keegan Bradley; 12) Hideki Matsuyama / J.J. Spaun; 14) Marc Leishman; 15) Rory McIlroy; 16) Alex Noren; 17) Satoshi Kodaira / Patrick Reed; 19) Dylan Frittelli / Danny Lee.
  • Putting Average (Putts per GIR): 1) Alex Noren; 2) Xander Schauffele; 3) Jason Day / Cameron Smith; 5) Marc Leishman; 6) Aaron Wise; 7) Kiradech Aphibarnrat; 8) Brandt Snedeker; 9) Tony Finau; 10) Rickie Fowler; 11) Wyndham Clark / Jon Rahm / Richy Werenski; 14) Patrick Cantlay; 15) Rory McIlroy; 16) Scott Langley; 17) Jordan Spieth; 18) Harold Varner III; 19) Justin Rose; 20) Gary Woodland.

Winners & Prices: 2018: Day 22/1; 2017: Jon Rahm 55/1; 2016: Snedeker 18/1; 2015: Day 14/1; 2014: Stallings 250/1; 2013: Woods 15/2; 2012: Snedeker 22/1; 2011: Watson 66/1; 2010: Crane 80/1. Past 5 Renewals Average: 72/1; Overall Average: 59/1.

Historical Weather:

  • 2018: Thursday: Mostly cloudy. High of 60. Wind W 10-15 mph. Friday: Sunny. High of 62. Wind NW 10 mph. Saturday: Sunny. High of 68. Wind NW 10 mph. Sunday: Sunny. High of 80. Wind NNE 12-18 mph, with gusts up to 25 mph. Monday: Sunny and 70. Wind light and variable.
  • 2017: Thursday: Mostly sunny, with a high of 58. Wind NW 8-15 mph. Friday: Sunny, with a high of 61. Wind NW 8-15 mph, with gusts of 20 mph. Saturday: Sunny, with a high of 64. Wind NW 8-14 mph. Sunday: Sunny, with a high of 67. Wind NW 8-15 mph.
  • 2016: Thursday: Mostly sunny. High of 67. Wind WNW 7-12 mph. Friday: Mostly sunny. High of 66. Wind WNW 8-12 mph. Saturday: Mostly cloudy, with a high of 61 degrees. Wind WSW 12-15 mph. Sunday: Overcast, with heavy rains off and on throughout the day. Strong SW winds were sustained at 15-25 mph, with gusts to 45 mph. Play was again suspended at 1:57 p.m. A total of 49 players were left on the course. Monday: Partly cloudy, with a high of 60 degrees. NW wind sustained at 15-30 mph, with gusts to 35 mph.

Weather Forecast: The latest weather forecast for La Jolla, California is here. Similar to last week in Palm Springs, the weather this week in California looks excellent for January. 30mm of rain over the latter part of last week and the weekend is likely to have softened Torrey Pines for tournament week. We may still see some cut in the fairways and receptive greens as play starts Thursday, but with no rain forecasted across the tournament expect conditions to continually firm. Wind looks light throughout and sunshine looks assured, with temperatures at 21-22 degrees Celsius. We may well see scoring dip into the double digits under par in 2019.

Tournament Trends & Key Factors: Analysing the final stats of the winners of the Farmers Insurance since 2010 gives us a little more insight into the requirements for this classical test:

  • 2018, Jason Day (-9). 319 yards (2nd), 53.6% fairways (26th), 68.1% greens in regulation (11th), 36’6″ proximity to hole (22nd), 65.2 % scrambling (17th), 1.63 putts per GIR (4th).
  • 2017, Jon Rahm (-13). 297 yards (16th), 60.7% fairways (19th), 73.6% greens in regulation (12th), 28’11” proximity to hole (3rd), 68.4 % scrambling (10th), 1.72 putts per GIR (10th).
  • 2016, Brandt Snedeker (-6). 289 yards (45th), 41.1% fairways (57th), 66.7% greens in regulation (14th), 32’9″ proximity to hole (4th), 62.5 % scrambling (5th), 1.70 putts per GIR (16th).
  • 2015, Jason Day (-9). 309 yards (1st), 46.4% fairways (49th), 70.8% greens in regulation (10th), 42’5″ proximity to hole (61st), 71.4 % scrambling (8th), 1.76 putts per GIR (33rd).
  • 2014, Scott Stallings (-9). 292 yards (24th), 50.0% fairways (45th), 66.7% greens in regulation (23rd), 42’0″ proximity to hole (64th), 62.5 % scrambling (24th), 1.69 putts per GIR (10th).
  • 2013, Tiger Woods (-15). 307 yards (2nd), 57.1% fairways (17th), 69.4% greens in regulation (34th), 38’0″ proximity to hole (45th), 59.1% scrambling (42nd), 1.66 putts per GIR (1st).
  • 2012, Brandt Snedeker (-16). 285 yards (47th), 58.9% fairways (13th), 70.8% greens in regulation (33rd), 34’10” proximity to hole (27th), 71.4% scrambling (6th), 1.69 putts per GIR (8th).
  • 2011, Bubba Watson (-16). 317 yards (1st), 50.0% fairways (29th), 81.9% greens in regulation (1st), 25’10” proximity to hole (1st), 46.2% scrambling (54th), 1.73 putts per GIR (26th).
  • 2010, Ben Crane (-13). 273 yards (51st), 67.9% fairways (10th), 87.5% greens in regulation (1st), 30’8″ proximity to hole (6th), 44.4% scrambling (46th), 1.79 putts per GIR (42nd).

Tournament Skill Average:

  • Driving Distance: 21st, Driving Accuracy: 29th, Greens in Regulation: 15th, Proximity to Hole: 26th, Scrambling: 19th, Putting Average 17th.

Strokes Gained Tournament Trends:

  • 2018, Jason Day (-9). SG Off the Tee: 8th, SG Approach: 50th, SG Around the Green: 23rd, SG Tee to Green: 24th, SG Putting: 31st.
  • 2017, Jon Rahm (-13). SG Off the Tee: 1st, SG Approach: 4th, SG Around the Green: 38th, SG Tee to Green: 1st, SG Putting: 37th.
  • 2016, Brandt Snedeker (-6). SG Off the Tee: 55th, SG Approach: 17th, SG Around the Green: 19th, SG Tee to Green: 26th, SG Putting: 30th.

Strokes Gained Tournament Skill Averages:

  • SG Off the Tee: 21st, SG Approach: 24th, SG Around the Green: 27th, SG Tee to Green: 17th, SG Putting: 33rd.

Let’s take a view from players as to how the Farmers Insurance tournament sets up and what skill sets the course favours:

Jason Day (2018): “I don’t know, it’s really bunched up there. It’s weird. Yeah, I remember looking up and I was tied for the lead at 10-under I think, and like you said, there were six guys. It’s one of those courses where it’s really hard to extend the lead. You can’t really run away with a lead here because it is so tough. I mean, driving, it’s so demanding on the driver, you have to get yourself in position. If you’re not and with how the greens are starting to bounce, it’s very difficult to get yourself back into position leaving yourself in the right spot to get up and down. Adds a little bit with how the greens – obviously with poa annua, it adds a little bit more, I guess, a nervous feeling when you hit certain putts. I think with a course like this it’s always tough. We’ve had a lot of history here with leads being really bunched up like we have had, and I think if you can get anywhere between 10 and 13 tomorrow, you’ve got a good chance at winning the tournament.

Brandt Snedeker: “I love, what I love most about poa annua is you have to be aggressive and you have got to hit a putt almost perfect. You got to give it a chance to go in, you got to get it rolling hard on the green. And I think that’s what my stroke does best, because I hit them aggressive, get the ball rolling really fast. When you do that, the ball holds its line. If you miss a putt a little bit, or hit a weak putt, it’s going to bump off. And I love it because it eliminates half the guys, like Kevin Kisner. Because they don’t like it and they don’t want to be on it. So, it makes my putting even better. Because they don’t want to be a part of it and if they get a bad bounce they think the greens are awful, I’m never coming back here, whatever, which helps me.

Dustin Johnson: “The golf course I think sets up well. It sets up good to my eye. Just got to go out and execute. But around here, too, it’s all about where you leave your ball, controlling your ball, leaving yourself uphill putts so you can be aggressive with it. If you’re putting downhill all day, it’s hard to make putts, it just is. I don’t care how good a putter you are, it’s just tough. So controlling the golf ball, controlling your distance, and leaving yourself in the right spot is a big key.

Phil Mickelson: “I think the length is a challenge and the firmness of the greens is a challenge. I think that patience is going to be a big challenge, because when you tuck the pins here, every green repels from the outside to the centre. So, every ball’s working to the centre of the green and it’s very difficult to get it close to a lot of the tough pins. So, you have to be patient. You have to accept 30, 40 footers, that you just can’t knock it too close, and you have to make some putts. I think that patience will be the key.

Jimmy Walker: “Yeah, you said it, it’s tough. So any time you shoot under par out here is pretty good on the South Course. Even with light winds, it’s still really tough. They tuck the pins, greens have got a little firmness to them, so it’s tough to get it close. You want to throw the ball behind the hole and spin it, but it just won’t do it.

J.B. Holmes:The rough probably plays worse than it did at the U.S. Open when they had it here in 2008. The Kikuyu rough was nasty, but you could also get it where it would set up on a tee. It would either drop down to the bottom and you couldn’t hit anything or it was up on the tee. So it was kind of 50/50. Where, this week, if you hit it in there, you just have a bad lie. So you’re not going to be able to hit it very far. Most of the ones I hit in the rough have been bad lies. I’ll get a decent one every now and then, but I wouldn’t say I really got a good lie in the rough this week yet.

Jason Day: “You know what, it’s just, it’s a lot of a patience game out there. Especially with how this course is, how tough it is around here now. It feels like a U.S. Open. If you’re not hitting fairways, the rough is so brutal that where the pins are tucked, you hit it to 30, 40 feet. If you miss a lot of fairways and you’re hitting it to 30, 40 feet, it’s very difficult to hole those putts. So, it’s just about just getting it on the green, maybe snagging a long putt here or there, and really trying to capitalize on the good drives off the tee which give you the shorter club in and an opportunity to get at the flags. Because the pins are very difficult today. The greens are very firm and fast. So with a wedge they’re still bouncing a good five to 10 yards. So, it’s very difficult. It’s a fun challenge.”

Path to Victory: Below are the end of round positions for the last 9 Farmers Insurance Open winners:

  • 2018 – Jason Day: Round 1: 113th, Round 2: 6th, Round 3: 5th.
  • 2017 – Jon Rahm: Round 1: 77th, Round 2: 21st, Round 3: 13th.
  • 2016 – Brandt Snedeker: Round 1: 90th, Round 2: 57th, Round 3: 27th.
  • 2015 – Jason Day: Round 1: 95th, Round 2: 6th, Round 3: 8th.
  • 2014 – Scott Stallings: Round 1: 63rd, Round 2: 11th, Round 3: 6th.
  • 2013 – Tiger Woods: Round 1: 20th, Round 2: 1st, Round 3: 1st.
  • 2012 – Brandt Snedeker: Round 1: 17th, Round 2: 2nd, Round 3: 6th.
  • 2011 – Bubba Watson: Round 1: 54th, Round 2: 3rd, Round 3: 3rd
  • 2010 – Ben Crane: Round 1: 2nd, Round 2 5th, Round 3: 2nd.

Incoming form of winners since 2010:

  • Jason Day: 5th Aus Open/11th HSBC/11th CJ Cup/17th Tour.
  • Jon Rahm: 34th PGAW/50th OHL Classic/15th Shriners/15th Silverado.
  • Brandt Snedeker: 2nd Sony/3rd Kapalua/1st Shark Shoot/MC Aus PGA.
  • Jason Day: 17th Sony/3rd Kapalua/1st Shark Shoot/5th World Challenge.
  • Scott Stallings: 58th PGAW/MC OHL Classic/MC McGladrey/47th CIMB.
  • Tiger Woods: MC Abu/4th World Challenge/4th CIMB/8th Tour.
  • Brandt Snedeker: 8th PGAW/13th CIMB/32nd McGladrey/16th Tour.
  • Bubba Watson: MC PGAW/25th ToC/10th Shark Shoot/14th World Challenge.
  • Ben Crane: 52nd PGAW/24th Disney/13th Fry’ Open/19th Shriners.

For the record, here’s the breakdown of pure Poa Annua and Bentgrass/Poa Annua mix PGA Tour victors in the field since 2008:

  • 4 – Jason Day, Brandt, Snedeker, Tiger Woods.
  • 3 – Rory McIlroy, Jimmy Walker.
  • 2 – Hunter Mahan, Scott Piercy, Jordan Spieth, Brendan Steele.
  • 1 – Sangmoon Bae, Jonas Blixt, Keegan Bradley, Ben Crane, Emiliano Grillo, Bill Haas, James Hahn, Billy Horschel, Russell Knox, Hideki Matsuyama, Sean O’Hair, D.A. Points, Jon Rahm, Patrick Reed, Adam Scott, Scott Stallings, Chris Stroud, Kevin Tway, Nick Watney, Gary Woodland.

Some interesting trends have established themselves and help to explain the poor Round 1 positions of recent winners. Since 2011, all winners have had a South/North Course draw across the opening 36 holes – the advantage of having a solid round under the belt on the South Course, seemingly freeing up contenders on the North Course on Friday. For those who like to bet in-play or trade, it’s also worth recognising that only Tiger Woods since 2008 has led (2008 & 2013) going into the final round and gone on to capture the title.

Torrey Pines is one of the most iconic and classical golf courses in the world and naturally its association with Tiger Woods across both this tournament and the U.S. Open adds kudos. The winners’ list since 2000 was exclusively made up of Major winners and previous PGA Tour winners, until Jon Rahm’s dramatic victory here in 2017. American players dominate the champions list, but of late Jason Day twice and Jon Rahm have added their names to an exclusive list of international winners which reads Gary Player (1963) and Jose Maria Olazabal (2002). So if an international player is going to triumph this week, they need to be top-notch.

So what’s the right recipe for success this week? Well both the long bomber and the accurate type with a great short game can contend around Torrey. 2010, 2012 and 2016 saw Ben Crane and Brandt Snedeker triumph, But Bubba Watson, Tiger Woods, Scott Stallings, Jason Day (twice) and Jon Rahm are all longer hitters. So realistically we need a 285+ yard driver. Ideally they will have course experience, but Rahm became the first player since 1957 to win on course debut here 24 months ago. He’s a little bit special though, I think you would agree! I’m working on targeting players who played well on testing, old-style courses in 2018. As you can see, previous winners here have all recorded strong results on classical or technical tracks in the season prior to winning here:

  • Watson – 3rd Copperhead – 2nd Whistling Straits (PGA Championship)
  • Snedeker – 4th TPC San Antonio – 1st Harbour Town – 11th Congressional (US Open)
  • Woods – 2nd PGA National – 1st Muirfield Village – 1st Congressional
  • Stallings – 4th Colonial – 4th Muirfield Village – 2nd TPC Southwind
  • Day – 2nd Torrey Pines -4th Pinehurst -2nd Ridgewood – 4th East Lake
  • Snedeker – 1st Pebble Beach – 8th Chambers Bay (U.S. Open) – 2nd Colonial
  • Rahm – 3rd Congressional – 2nd Glen Abbey
  • Day – 5th Pebble Beach – 9th Quail Hollow (PGA Championship) – 6th Glen Oaks

My Farmers Insurance Open tips are as follows:

Tony Finau 2pts EW 20/1

Tony Finau is my headline tip for the Farmers Insurance Open this week. On the favourable side of the draw and partnered with President’s Cup captain Tiger Woods plus the 2-time season winner Xander Schauffele, I think Finau should have a big week in San Diego. The Utah-based 29 year-old has been playing some sensational stuff now for 12 months and naturally he played for Team USA at the Ryder Cup last September. 2018 saw Finau finish 2nd at Riviera, 10th at Augusta (on debut), 5th at Shinnecock Hills, 9th at Carnoustie, 10th at Firestone South, 2nd at Ridgewood, 4th at TPC Boston, 8th at Aronimink, 2nd at Sheshan and 2nd at Albany in the Hero World Challenge. Finau jumped from 40th in the Official World Golf Rankings to 9th at the close of the year.

Yes Tony still frustrates massively by still only having a single PGA Tour win to his name, but his game is made for Torrey Pines and he performs very nicely on Poa Annua greens. 4 appearances at Torrey Pines have delivered 24th (2015), 18th (2016), 4th (2017) and 6th (2018). Asked in 2017 why he gets on so well on the South Course, Tony replied, “I think when you hit it with some length, it’s a golf course that you can take advantage of, for sure. Length is I think a big part of playing out here, but so many components go into winning a golf tournament. I think 5 under on the South is a good round of golf. I put myself in position for tomorrow. I had one bogey out there, and anytime you can limit the bogeys on a golf course like Torrey South, I think you can put together a pretty good round, so I was able to do that today.

I’m also a believer that Finau is making progress when it comes to being in contention. His head-to-head battle with Justin Rose and Xander Schauffele at the WGC-HSBC Champions was a highlight of 2018. Finau performed admirably on a tough Sunday, eventually losing out to an inspired player in the form of Schauffele. Exactly the same scenario occurred at the Hero World Challenge in December, When Finau went head-to-head with another inspired player in the form of Jon Rahm, who eventually outlasted Tony down the stretch. But Finau seems far more self-confident at the moment and if he keeps putting himself in position, the win has to come. I like his price this week and his chances. RESULT: T13

Gary Woodland 1.5pt EW 30/1

Gary Woodland could well be overlooked in such esteemed company, but his play and results of late demand respect. Gary’s game is undoubtedly well-suited to Torrey Pines – aggressive from off the tee (6th for Total Driving), on approach (16th Strokes Gained Approach) and a great scorer so far this season (4th for Birdie Average and 15th for Scoring Average), he loves to take risks on approach (22nd for Going for the Green) and has masses of course experience to boot. 2014 saw Gary almost triumph at Torrey Pines – co-leading right-up to the 71st hole, before a costly wayward drive (he took driver over a 3-wood) led to double bogey; he eventually finished 10th. Gary was 18th in 2016, where again he led after 36 holes and was 3rd after 54, before succumbing to the severe wind and rain of Sunday. 12 months ago Woodland started with a 74 on the easier North Course before shooting a phenomenal 68-66 on the South Course to sit 5th after 54 holes – he finished 18th. If more West Coast form is required then Gary has always played well at Kapalua (2nd 2019), Waialae (3rd 2015, 6th 2017, 7th 2018), Pebble Beach (5th 2017) and has won at both Montreux (2013), TPC Scottsdale (2018) and was runner-up at PGA West (2011). Yes Sundays at Torrey Pines and Gary Woodland don’t up until this point go together, but undoubtedly Gary of late has matured when in serious Sunday contention.

6th at the Bellerive hosted PGA Championship, when in the same group as Tiger Woods on Sunday – was Woodland’s best Major finish. It has obviously boosted the 34 year-old who since August has finished 5th at TPC Kuala Lumpur, 2nd at Nine Bridges, 10th at TPC Summerlin and 2nd at Kapalua. Beaten by an inspired Xander Schauffele on Maui, Gary showed grit under Sunday pressure, shooting -5/68 and still getting beat by a single shot. In reality he did little wrong and with his Waste Management Phoenix Open defence looming next week, I think the World Number 24 will be focused to play well this week. RESULT: T9

Ryan Palmer 1pt EW 100/1

Colleague Paul Williams pointed out in this week’s podcast show that the Farmers Insurance Open throws up plenty of repeat winner and each-way place finishers. Naturally for every Tiger Woods, Brandt Snedeker and Jason Day, there’s a Charles Howell III, J.B. Holmes and Keegan Bradley who place at decent prices. With CHIII at 33/1 and Bradley at 45/1 this time around, I’m drawn to 2018 play-off participant Ryan Palmer who we can get a triple-digit price for this week.

Ryan played nicely here 12 months ago at 150/1 and almost pulled off the biggest win of his career, 8 years after his last PGA Tour triumph. The Torrey Pines set-up clearly suits the big hitting Texan, who despite being 42 years-old, undoubtedly hits the ball long and very high. He has always been the sort to “pop-up” in high grade affairs: 3rd at the 2005 WGC Bridgestone Invitational, 2nd at the 2010 WGC-Bridgestone Invitational, 5th at the 2013 Players Championship, 5th at the 2014 PGA Championship, 4th at the 2014 BMW Championship and 6th at the 2016 BMW Championship. Big tournaments and proper golf courses. 5th at Ridgewood in 2010, 6th at Plainfield in 2015, 13th at Bethpage Black in 2016 and 5th at Ridgewood as recently as August also highlight a player more than comfortable on classical golf courses featuring Poa Annua. Season 2018/19 on the PGA Tour has also started well for Palmer who finished 33rd at TPC Kuala Lumpur, 3rd at Nine Bridges behind Koepka and Woodland and 7th at TPC Summerlin behind the likes of DeChambeau, Cantlay and Fowler. Hardly bad company! 18th for Birdie Average, 79th for Strokes Gained Putting, 38th for Strokes Gained Tee to Green and 24th in the All-Round category, having shaken the rust off last week at PGA West, I can see Ryan potentially getting in the mix again this week at a tournament which will have very fond memories for him. RESULT: T13

Keith Mitchell 1pt EW 125/1

125/1 about Keith Mitchell was a price that caught my eye. The hard-hitting 27 year-old University of Georgia man is settling down well on the PGA Tour. 67th in the FedEx Cup in his rookie season on Tour last season was a decent enough effort, finishing 2nd by the coast at Corales and 3rd at the Trinity Forest inland links. He was also 6th at the GC of Houston, 7th at TPC Deere Run and his 20th at TPC Boston in August highlighted a player who wasn’t afraid to mix it with the big names. 10th for Driving Distance and 31st for Greens in Regulation or, in new parlance, 7th for Strokes Gained Tee to Green and 56th for Strokes Gained Tee to Green across his first season highlight exactly what Keith is about. The new season has started well enough – 22nd at TPC Kuala Lumpur, an eye-catching 14th at Nine Bridges and 16th last time out at Waialae show that Mitchell is in good form again and he was in 3rd spot after 54 holes at the Sony Open. 2nd for Strokes Gained Tee to Green season to date, Mitchell eats par-5s for breakfast and he must be arriving at Torrey Pines for the second time in good spirits. 23rd here last year after 36 holes, I get the feeling that Mitchell is up a notch or two in quality 12 months on and 6th at both the Portland Open and DAP Championship in 2017 on the Tour highlight a player who can get results on Poa Annua-based greens. RESULT: MC

Martin Laird 0.5pt EW 175/1

Martin Laird has always enjoyed the West Coast stretch of the PGA Tour. 2nd at Kapalua in 2012; 14th (2012), 15th (2015) and 9th (2017) at PGA West; 7th (2015) and 8th (2016) here at Torrey Pines; 3rd (2011), 5th (2015), 7th (2017) and 9th (2018) at TPC Scottsdale; 11th (2016), 8th (2017) and 9th (2018) at Riviera; 4th (2008), 2nd (2009), 6th (2014), and 7th (2016) at Montreux; 3rd (2014) and 8th (2016) at Silverado; 1st (2009) and 2nd (2010) at TPC Summerlin. The Glaswegian, who went to Colorado State University, clearly thrives in Arizona, California, Hawaii and Nevada, plus Poa Annua holds no fears for the 36 year old. 7th (2008) and 2nd (2010) at Ridgewood in New Jersey also attest to that. Martin still makes birdies in bunches – 28th for Birdie Average this season – hits the ball long and high and has always loved the Torrey Pines event and the South Course test. Laird is definitely the sort who could sneak a place around here this week at a long price. RESULT: T43

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