Steve Bamford

Steve Bamford's Farmers Insurance Open Tips

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Michael Thompson produced a lovely closing round of -6/66 to deliver a full 125/1 each-way return for this column at The American Express last week. In an event that I call the Bob Hope Lottery based upon its historic roots, and 150/1+ historical winning prices odds, I have managed to land 2 consecutive renewals of profit at the most volatile event on the PGA Tour. If you were on Si Woo Kim at anything up to 66/1 (Unibet) then congratulations. A classy Pete Dye design player, he landed his 3rd PGA Tour title – all of which have been on Bermudagrass greens.

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 Rory McIlroy, Jon Rahm, Xander Schauffele, Patrick Reed, Brooks Koepka, Hideki Matsuyama, Sungjae Im, Jason Day, Tony Finau, Rickie Fowler, Phil Mickelson and defending champion Marc Leishman have been attracted to the classical Torrey Pines course on the Pacific coastline. The 2021 Farmers Insurance Open is also fascinating on the basis that the USGA take over the course post tournament, setting the course up for the U.S. Open in June.

Before we go into the detail surrounding the Farmers Insurance Open, 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 every Tuesday of the golfing calendar), the Steve Bamford Golf Channel on YouTube and our hugely popular, 5,700+ strong, private Group on Facebook – you can Join Here.

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Course Guide: The Farmers Insurance Open is played on the South and North courses at Torrey Pines.

The freshly lengthened +7,700 yard (at sea-level) South Course, which was renovated in 2019 by Rees Jones prior to this June’s 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 and can prove pivotal in tournament play. To add to the complexity, the South Course features Poa Annua greens whereas the North features pure Bentgrass greens.

Torrey Pines South Course, San Diego, South California: Designer: Bell 1957, Rees Jones re-design 2001 and 2019; Course Type: Coastal, Classical; Par: 72; Length: 7,765 yards; Holes with Water Hazards: 1; Fairways: Bermudagrass overseeded with Ryegrass; Rough: Kikuyugrass with Ryegrass 3″; Greens: 5,000 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. 2019: 71.73 (-0.27), Rank 18 of 49 courses. 2020: 72.53 (+0.53), Rank 7 of 41 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 overseeded with Ryegrass; Rough: Kikuyugrass with Ryegrass 3″; Greens:6,000 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. 2019: 69.84 (-2.16), Rank 45 of 49 courses. 2020: 70.58 (-1.42), Rank 33 of 41 courses.

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

  • Torrey Pines South: 250 yards from the tee: 26 yards wide; 275:27; 300:25; 325:24; 350:23.
  • TPC Stadium: 250 yards from the tee: 29 yards wide; 275:27; 300:26; 325:26; 350:24.
  • Waialae: 250 yards from the tee: 34 yards wide; 275:32; 300:34; 325:37; 350:34.
  • Plantation Course: 250 yards from the tee: 59 yards wide; 275:61; 300:65; 325:60; 350:62.
  • Seaside Course: 250 yards from the tee: 42 yards wide; 275:40; 300:34; 325:31; 350:23.
  • TPC Summerlin: 250 yards from the tee: 35 yards wide; 275:37; 300:33; 325:30; 350:31.

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

Rees Jones

  • Aronimink GC – 2010,2011 A&T National
  • Baltusrol – 2016 PGA Championship
  • Bellerive CC – 2018 PGA Championship
  • Bethpage Black – 2009 U.S Open, 2019 PGA Championship + 2012/2016 The Barclays
  • Blue Course, Congressional CC – 2011 U.S. Open + 2012-2014 & 2016 National
  • Blue Course, Royal Montreal GC – 2014 RBC Canadian Open
  • Dubsdread, Cog Hill GCC – 2009,2010,2011 BMW Championship
  • East Lake GC – Tour Championship
  • GC of Houston – Houston Open
  • Hazeltine – 2009 PGA Championship
  • Highlands Course, Atlanta Athletic Club – 2011 PGA Championship
  • Medinah Number 3 – 2019 BMW Championship

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 pure Bentgrass green complexes. Those putting surfaces have undoubtedly settled down and rounds of -10/62 (Rahm/Palmer), -9/63 (Ghim/Rose) -8/64 (Pan) have been seen over the past 2 renewals. If you want to contend, you need to make a score on the North Course. Rose and Leishman shot 63 and 68 respectively.

Rees Jones’ South Course is naturally the star of this tournament and last year we saw a changed course as ‘Open Doctor’ Rees Jones oversaw a $14 million 2019 renovation, with June’s U.S. Open in mind. Jones and assistant Greg Muirhead added some tees and shifted around bunkers to help the course defend itself even more. The most noticeable changes are at the par-5 9th and the par-4 10th, 15th and 17th holes. A new cross-hole bunker 50 yards short of the 9th green will make players have to think more when going for the green in 2 shots.

The 10th was always a relatively easy drive and wedge start to the back-9, but with a new back tee box the visual of the hole has changed dramatically, with the left side of the fairway split with a bunker, while a right fairway bunker pinches the landing zone. The 15th has again been lengthened to now play at 480 yards. The 17th also features a new back tee box, a pinched fairway landing area. So the longest course on the PGA Tour schedule now plays even longer. June is going to be interesting!

Torrey Pines South features seven 450+ yard par-4s, whilst all 4 of the par-5s are over 560 yards. The course 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 plus Chapultepec each year on the PGA Tour. Longer rough will be likely for 2021 and will add 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.

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, Riviera, Bethpage Black plus the recent U.S. Opens hosted at Oakmont (2016), Shinnecock Hills (2018) and Winged Foot (2020).

farmers insurance open tips

Winners: 2020: Marc Leishman (-15); 2019: Justin Rose (-21); 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).

Lead Score Progression:

  • 2020: Round 1 -6; Round 2 -10; Round 3 -12; Round 4 -15.
  • 2019: Round 1 -10; Round 2 -15; Round 3 -18; Round 4 -21.
  • 2018: Round 1 -7; Round 2 -11; Round 3 -11; Round 4 -10.
  • 2017: Round 1 -7; Round 2 -8; Round 3 -9; Round 4 -13.

Tournament Stats: We’ve published some key player statistics for this week’s event that are well worth a look. Naturally they’ll help to shape a view on players who could go well this week: Current Form | Tournament Form | First Round Leader | Combined Stats.

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 Jon Rahm, Rory McIlroy, Tony Finau, Marc Leishman, Jason Day, Patrick Reed, Hideki Matsuyama, Harris English, Bubba Watson and Gary Woodland.

Recent Player Skill Rankings: These top 25 in the field rankings are based on an 8-tournament window that stretches back to The Masters, which includes PGA Tour and European Tour events. Rankings are based on performance relative to the rest of the field:

  • Driving Accuracy: 1) Brian Stuard; 2) Ryan Moore; 3) Brandt Snedeker; 4) Steve Stricker; 5) Corey Conners / Kramer Hickok; 7) Scottie Scheffler; 8) Jason Dufner; 9) Talor Gooch / Viktor Hovland / Tim Wilkinson; 12) Hideki Matsuyama; 13) David Hearn; 14) Martin Laird; 15) Jon Rahm; 16) Lucas Glover; 17) Emiliano Grillo / Sungjae Im; 19)  J.J. Spaun / Harold Varner III; 21) Bubba Watson; 22) Chris Baker; 23) Carlos Ortiz / Kevin Streelman; 25) James Hahn / Louis Oosthuizen / Cameron Percy.
  • Greens in Regulation: 1) Viktor Hovland; 2) Xander Schauffele; 3) Kevin Streelman; 4) Corey Conners; 5) Si Woo Kim; 6) Charley Hoffman / Billy Horschel; 8) Lucas Glover; 9) Kyle Stanley; 10) Hideki Matsuyama; 11) Tony Finau / Jason Kokrak / Scottie Scheffler / Cameron Tringale; 15) Emiliano Grillo / John Huh; 17) Harris English; 18) Jon Rahm / Adam Scott; 20) John Senden / Scott Stallings; 22) Russell Knox / Henrik Norlander; 24) Sam Ryder; 25) Charles Howell III / Cameron Percy.
  • Scrambling: 1) Jon Rahm; 2) Cameron Smith; 3) Billy Horschel; 4) Harris English; 5) Kramer Hickok; 6) John Huh; 7) Si Woo Kim; 8) Patrick Reed; 9) Rory McIlroy; 10) Mackenzie Hughes / Ryan Palmer / Harold Varner III; 13) Martin Laird; 14) Sungjae Im; 15) Bo Hoag /  Scott Piercy / Xander Schauffele; 18) Chris Baker / Robert Streb; 20) Scottie Scheffler; 21) Lanto Griffin / Pat Perez / Marc Leishman /Bubba Watson; 25) Dylan Frittelli.
  • Putting Average (Putts per GIR): 1) Rory McIlroy; 2) Max Homa; 3) Jon Rahm; 4) Viktor Hovland / Carlos Ortiz; 6) Rickie Fowler; 7) Ryan Palmer / Charl Schwartzel; 9) Harry Higgs / Brooks Koepka / Andy Ogletree / Jordan Spieth / Steve Stricker; 14) Matt Jones; 15) Anirban Lahiri; 16) Tony Finau; 17) Robert Streb; 18) Cameron Davis / Patrick Rodgers; 20) Harris English / Camilo Villegas; 22) Patrick Reed; 23) Wyndham Clark / Adam Scott; 25) K.H. Lee / Xander Schauffele.

Recent Player Strokes Gained Rankings: These top 25 in the field rankings are based on an 8-tournament window that stretches back to, but does not include, The Masters, which includes PGA Tour and European Tour events. Players rankings are based on performance relative to the rest of the field:

  • Top 25 SG Off The Tee: 1) Rickie Fowler / Kramer Hickok / Carlos Ortiz; 4) Xander Schauffele; 5) Viktor Hovland; 6) Corey Conners / Tony Finau / Rory McIlroy; 9) Gary Woodland; 10) Emiliano Grillo; 11) Keith Mitchell / Adam Scott; 13) Cameron Smith; 14) Joel Dahmen; 15) Hideki Matsuyama; 16) Si Woo Kim; 17) Cameron Champ; 18) Byeong Hun An / Jon Rahm / Jhonattan Vegas; 21) Phil Mickelson / Steve Stricker; 23) Harris English; 24) Charles Howell III / Ryan Moore.
  • Top 25 SG Approach: 1) Corey Conners; 2) Marc Leishman; 3) Rory McIlroy / Xander Schauffele; 5) Hideki Matsuyama / Cameron Tringale; 7) Si Woo Kim; 8) Viktor Hovland; 9) Henrik Norlander; 10) Jon Rahm / Matthew Wolff; 12) Tony Finau; 13) K.J. Choi / Kelly Kraft; 15) Sam Burns / Harris English / Russell Knox / Kyle Stanley; 19) Francesco Molinari; 20) Charley Hoffman / Alex Noren; 22) Harry Higgs; 23) Chase Seiffert; 24) Lanto Griffin / Kevin Streelman.
  • Top 25 SG Around The Green: 1) Rickie Fowler; 2) Jon Rahm; 3) Dylan Frittelli; 4) Wyndham Clark; 5) Si Woo Kim; 6) Marc Leishman; 7) Xander Schauffele / Scottie Scheffler; 9) Sam Burns / Martin Trainer; 11) Louis Oosthuizen; 12) Bo Hoag; 13) Adam Hadwin / Sepp Straka; 15) Viktor Hovland / Tony Finau; 17) Sung Kang / Francesco Molinari / Cameron Smith; 20) K.H. Lee; 21) Danny Lee; 22) Patrick Reed; 23) Fabian Gomez / Camilo Villegas; 25) Billy Horschel.
  • Top 25 SG Tee to Green: 1) Corey Conners; 2) Rory McIlroy; 3) Rickie Fowler; 4) Si Woo Kim; 5) Marc Leishman; 6) Xander Schauffele; 7) Viktor Hovland; 8) Hideki Matsuyama / Jon Rahm; 10) Tony Finau; 11) Sam Burns; 12) Francesco Molinari; 13) Gary Woodland; 14) Harris English / Kramer Hickok / Alex Noren / Rory Sabbatini / Adam Scott; 19) Cameron Smith / Cameron Tringale; 21) Kelly Kraft; 22) Wyndham Clark; 23) Roger Sloan; 24) Emiliano Grillo / Charley Hoffman.
  • Top 25 SG Putting: 1) Jason Day; 2) Billy Horschel; 3) Rory McIlroy; 4) Xander Schauffele; 5) Matt Jones; 6) Camilo Villegas; 7) Jon Rahm; 8) Ryan Brehm; 9) Harris English / Patrick Reed; 11) Carlos Ortiz / Scottie Scheffler; 13) Max Homa / Ryan Palmer; 15) Robert Streb; 16) Lanto Griffin / Jhonattan Vegas; 18) Viktor Hovland / Nelson Ledesma; 20) Brooks Koepka / Louis Oosthuizen; 22) Mackenzie Hughes; 23) Beau Hossler; ; 24) Bo Hoag; 25) David Hearn / Ben Taylor.
  • Top 25 SG Total: 1) Corey Conners; 2) Rory McIlroy; 3) Xander Schauffele; 4) Rickie Fowler; 5) Jon Rahm; 6) Harris English; 7) Jason Day / Si Woo Kim; 9) Billy Horschel; 10) Sam Burns / Viktor Hovland; 12) Tony Finau / Francesco Molinari / Gary Woodland; 15) Kramer Hickok / Patrick Reed; 17) John Huh; 18) Matt Jones / Ryan Palmer; 20) Carlos Ortiz; 21) Camilo Villegas; 22) Bo Hoag; 23) Byeong Hun An / Hideki Matsuyama; 25) Charley Hoffman / Adam Scott.

Winners & Prices: 2020: Marc Leishman 55/1; 2019: Rose 14/1; 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 7 Renewals Average: 61/1. Overall Average: 55/1.

Historical Weather:

  • 2020: Thursday: Sunny. High of 64. Wind NW 5-10 mph. Friday: Mostly sunny. High of 63. Wind W 5-10 mph. Saturday: Partly cloudy. High of 65. Wind W 5-10 mph. Due to fog, play was delayed two hours Sunday: Mostly cloudy, with a high of 60. Wind WSW 6-12 mph.
  • 2019: Thursday: Sunny. High of 70. Wind NW 7-14 mph. Friday: Sunny. High of 71. Wind NW 6-12 mph. Saturday: Sunny. High of 75. Wind NW 7-14 mph. Sunday: Sunny. High of 71. Wind WNW 6-12 mph.
  • 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.

Weather in the main looks ok for the Farmers Insurance Open this week, but there will be challenges. Rain across Saturday and Sunday pre-event, plus potentially Monday, could leave a little cut in the fairways and softness to the greens. Thursday looks tranquil and dry, but rain overnight and into Friday cannot be ruled out. Friday looks tricky with likely rain and gusting 15-25 mph wind throughout. Onto the weekend and conditions look excellent with sunny intervals and light winds. Throughout though temperatures will be low (for the PGA Tour), with 13 – 16 degrees Celsius likely.

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:

  • 2020, Marc Leishman (-15). 296 yards (34th), 48.2% fairways (58th), 72.2% greens in regulation (14th), 33’10” proximity to hole (17th), 75.0 % scrambling (4th), 1.67 putts per GIR (4th).
  • 2019, Justin Rose (-21). 310 yards (11th), 62.5% fairways (8th), 77.8% greens in regulation (2nd), 32’11” proximity to hole (17th), 56.3 % scrambling (58th), 1.59 putts per GIR (3rd).
  • 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 Averages:

Driving Distance: 20th, Driving Accuracy: 30th, Greens in Regulation: 14th, Proximity to Hole: 24th, Scrambling: 25th, Putting Average 14th.

Strokes Gained Tournament Trends:

  • 2020, Marc Leishman (-15). SG Off the Tee: 48th, SG Approach: 5th, SG Around the Green: 56th, SG Tee to Green: 16th, SG Putting: 1st.
  • 2019, Justin Rose (-21). SG Off the Tee: 13th, SG Approach: 5th, SG Around the Green: 16th, SG Tee to Green: 2nd, SG Putting: 28th.
  • 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: 25th, SG Approach: 16th, SG Around the Green: 30th, SG Tee to Green: 14th, SG Putting: 25th.

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

Marc Leishman (2020): South Course: “So it was funny because I drove it really well early in the week and then clearly I didn’t drive it well today. But my iron game was really good and then the putter. I holed some really good par saves there on the whole back nine really. Yeah, a bit of extra practice early in the week on the putting green get used to the Poa Annua. Kind of had a good feeling, but you never know what your week’s going to be like. So found something on the putting green early in the week and run with that. I said to Matty, when I had the putter in my hand, feels like it did in Malaysia a couple years ago when I won there, which it’s nice when it happens like that occasionally. I wish it could be like that every week.

I grew up on this grass, I grew up on kikuyu fairways, poa greens. It’s very, I mean, it’s hit and miss, you either putt great on it or you putt terribly, so I’m just glad it was a great. You saw some of the places I hit it, it wasn’t the most impressive stuff off the tee today, but if you miss it in the right spots and your putter’s hot, you can shoot anything. I proved that today. It’s nice to be able to do that and this feels pretty sweet.”

Justin Rose (2019): North Course: “I put the driver in as well, drove it unbelievably well today, drove it long. I was able to take advantage of the par 5s out there and putted it good enough today to obviously shoot 9 under. The North greens are still so good. Obviously they’re a couple years old, but they’re still rolling pure. It’s the kind of golf course that you want to make the most of on a day like today. Obviously the greens are so good that if you’re in trouble, you can save pars, and obviously if you’re hitting a lot of greens like I did today, you feel like you should be making putts on those surfaces. Took advantage of the par 5s for the most part, probably played them in 4 under, I think. Eagled my first hole of the day, which got things up and running.”

South Course: “Yeah, I think it’s one of my favorite places, one of my favorite stops on Tour obviously. The South course is – I’m looking forward to getting some momentum on that one. We get to play it three days in a row, so it’s nice to get the North out of the way, shoot a good score, just what you have to do. Now I can focus on the South course. Obviously a different type of green, you go from the bent to the poa annua, but just the views out there, I think the design of the South course is one of my favorites. So yeah, anytime you enjoy playing a course, it tends to suit your eye. The South Course, I think second shot-wise this is a really key golf course. It’s well bunkered, you’ve got those little sort of tongues where they can stick the pins. You have to be smart with your iron play. The greens (inaudible) strategizing the second shot, trying to leave the ball – there are certain times you can use the slope and other times you want to be putting up the hill.”

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 11 Farmers Insurance Open winners:

  • 2020 – Marc Leishman: Round 1: 11th, Round 2: 17th, Round 3: 7th.
  • 2019 – Justin Rose: Round 1: 2nd, Round 2: 1st, Round 3: 1st.
  • 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.

Shots From the Lead: Below are the last 11 Farmers Insurance Open winners and where they were positioned in terms of shots from the lead during the tournament:

  • 2020 – Marc Leishman: Round 1: 2 back, Round 2: 6 back, Round 3: 4 back.
  • 2019 – Justin Rose: Round 1: 1 back, Round 2: 3 ahead, Round 3: 3 ahead.
  • 2018 – Jason Day: Round 1: 8 back, Round 2: 4 back, Round 3: 2 back.
  • 2017 – Jon Rahm: Round 1: 7 back, Round 2: 5 back, Round 3: 3 back.
  • 2016 – Brandt Snedeker: Round 1: 7 back, Round 2: 8 back, Round 3: 6 back.
  • 2015 – Jason Day: Round 1: 9 back, Round 2: 4 back, Round 3: 2 back.
  • 2014 – Scott Stallings: Round 1: 8 back, Round 2: 5 back, Round 3: 3 back.
  • 2013 – Tiger Woods: Round 1: 3 back, Round 2: 2 ahead, Round 3: 4 ahead.
  • 2012 – Brandt Snedeker: Round 1: 5 back, Round 2: 1 back, Round 3: 7 back.
  • 2011 – Bubba Watson: Round 1: 7 back, Round 2: 3 back, Round 3: 1 back.
  • 2010 – Ben Crane: Round 1: 1 back, Round 2: 3 back, Round 3: 2 back.

Form of winners since 2010:

  • Marc Leishman: 28th Sony/10th Aus Open/69th ZOZO/43rd CJ Cup.
  • Justin Rose: 34th PGAW/17th Indonesia/3rd World Challenge/1st Turkey.
  • 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’s.com 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:

  • 6 – Bubba Watson.
  • 5 – Phil Mickelson.
  • 4 – Jason Day, Rory McIlroy, Brandt Snedeker, Tiger Woods.
  • 3 – Jon Rahm, Adam Scott, Jordon Spieth, Jimmy Walker.
  • 2 – Brooks Koepka, Hunter Mahan, Scott Piercy, Patrick Reed, Adam Scott, Nick Watney, Gary Woodland.
  • 1 – Aaron Baddeley, Keegan Bradley, Cameron Champ, Jason Dufner, Emiliano Grillo, James Hahn, J.B. Holmes, Billy Horschel, Russell Knox, Marc Leishman, Hideki Matsuyama, Ted Potter Jnr, Scott Stallings, Steve Stricker, Kevin Tway, Richy Werenski.

We used to have a South Course Thursday /North Course Friday draw bias of winners; indeed from 2011 through 2018 all winners had played the South/North Course draw across the opening 36 holes. That trend though over the past 2 years has been blasted to smithereens by Justin Rose and Marc Leishman who both started on the North Course on Thursday and never looked back (opening -9/63 from Rose and -4/68 from Leishman).

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 (x2), Jon Rahm, Justin Rose and Marc Leishman have added their names to an exclusive list of international winners which totals Gary Player (1963) and Jose Maria Olazabal (2002). So if an international player is going to triumph again this week, they will likely 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), Jon Rahm and Justin Rose are all longer hitters. Defending champion Marc Leishman fits in-between somewhere, but can get the ball out there when required.

Realistically we need a 295+ yard driver. Ideally they will have course experience, but Rahm became the first player since 1957 to win on course debut here 4 years 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 2020. 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 -(U.S. Open) 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.
  • Rose – 8th Torrey Pines, 5th Copperhead, 3rd Bay Hill, 1st Colonial, 6th Muirfield Village, 2nd Carnoustie (Open Championship), 4th East Lake.
  • Leishman – 4th Riviera, 5th Muirfield Village, 3rd TPC Southwind.

My Farmers Insurance Open tips are as follows:

Matthew Wolff 2pts EW 33/1 (8EW, 1/5) with William Hill

Matthew Wolff is undoubtedly a prodigious talent. The World Number 15 is only 21 years of age, but if we’ve learned anything then it’s clear that the Californian loves old-style golf courses and is just fine on Poa Annua.

Just a glimpse at his amateur university career sparks interest. In ‘fall’ 2018 Matthew began his sophomore season with consecutive victories across the Carmel Cup and the OFCC Fighting Illini Invitational held at Pebble Beach and Olympia Fields respectively. As we know both are classical golf courses which feature Poa Annua greens and the links between Pebble and Torrey Pines are irrefutable. Another amateur win in Hawaii in early 2019 starts to paint a picture that Matthew likes the West Coast. And let’s remember with Wolff that within 3 tournaments of turning professional, he’d picked up his first PGA Tour title at the 3M Open. This appears to be no ordinary talent!

We also learnt masses about Matthew in 2020 in his first full-year on the Tour. 11th at Kapalua on debut (again Hawaii) and 2nd at the Rocket Mortgage Classic in Detroit came on a classical Donald Ross design featuring Bentgrass/Poa Annua greens. But naturally it was his performances in the Majors which really highlighted what this guy is all about. 4th at the PGA Championship played on the Bent/Poa Annua greens at TPC Harding Park featured an amazing Sunday charge, which was soon followed by his 2nd position at the U.S. Open hosted at Winged Foot. Again a classical, tree-lined course which featured 80% Poa Annua on the greens. On his next outing a return back to the West Coast, this time TPC Summerlin, Las Vegas, Nevada, saw him finish 2nd after losing to Martin Laird in a play-off. So, in summary, all of Wolff’s top-10 PGA Tour outings to date have come on Bentgrass or Poa Annua putting surfaces. Worthy of note and naturally makes sense with his California upbringing.

So we come to this week and a tournament I’m sure Matthew would love to win. Winless for 18 months is something he’s not been used to in his short career and at 15th in the OWGR he now finds himself looking up at his contemporaries Collin Morikawa and Viktor Hovland. Where better to land his 2nd PGA Tour title. 21st here on debut 12 months ago featured an opening round 76, followed by 66 on the North Course and a closing 69 on the South Course. A level-par 72 on Thursday would have seen him finish T6 alongside Finau/Reed and Watson. And from a warm-up perspective last week at PGA West, it was interesting to see that Matthew played his best golf on Sunday where he ranked 11th for Strokes Gained Off the Tee, 10th for SG on Approach and 11th for SG Tee to Green. RESULT: WD

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Adam Scott 1.5pts EW 45/1 (8EW, 1/5) with Betfair

With no Australian golf in December, Adam Scott has been plying his trade on the PGA Tour in January – something we don’t always see. 21st at Kapalua and 41st at Waialae is hardly tearing up trees, but history is always worth looking at with elite players. Back in 2016, ‘Scotty’ finished 56th at Waialae and on his next outing in California finished 2nd behind Bubba Watson at Riviera. Forward to 2019 and Adam missed the cut at Waialae, re-appearing 2 weeks later at Torrey Pines. I remember it well as my European Tour partner Paul Williams put Scott up on the Golf Betting System podcast at 100/1. He duly finished runner-up to Justin Rose.

And that’s the thing I like about Scott this week in La Jolla. You know exactly that he targets big tournaments, “I think you’ve got to identify that there’s probably 10 or 12 serious competition events during the calendar year and then the rest is a bit of entertainment, really, and the thing for all of us and people trying to peak for those 10 or 12 serious events is they have got to use those entertainment events to get prepared and get ready,” is how Scott put it prior to the Sentry Tournament of Champions 3 weeks ago.

On the basis that Scott finished 2nd here 2 years ago, it’s safe to say that the Farmers Insurance Open is a PGA Tour title that the Queenslander would like to add to his 14 PGA Tour titles. That’s hardly surprising on the basis that Tiger Woods won this 7-times and the champions list includes Arnold Palmer (x2), Tom Watson (x2), Phil Mickelson (x3), and since 2010 Bubba Watson, Jason Day (x2), Justin Rose and Jon Rahm. Winning on Torrey Pines South means something to the elite.

Asked for his career goals at Kapalua, Adam replied, “It’s always been winning tournaments and I would like to quickly get to 20 PGA Tour wins at this point. I think that would be a nice little accomplishment for me and with my age there’s a bit more urgency about it.”

So for me Adam is a great pick this week. 26th (2008 U.S. Open) and 2nd in his only 2 competitive outings here at Torrey, his record at Pebble Beach and especially Riviera is exceptional. 7th at the Pebble 2019 U.S. Open, Scott has finished 1st (2005), 2nd (2006), 10th (2013), 2nd (2016), 7th (2019) and 1st (2020) in Pacific Palisades. He’s great on California golf courses and he’s great on Poa Annua – it’s that simple. RESULT: T10

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Ryan Palmer 1pt EW 60/1 (8EW, 1/5) with William Hill

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. I’m drawn to 2018 play-off participant Ryan Palmer who we can get at a decent each-way price for this week.

Ryan played nicely here in 2018 at 150/1 and almost pulled off the biggest win of his career, 8 years after his last solo PGA Tour triumph. The Torrey Pines set-up clearly suits the big hitting Texan, who despite being 44 years-old, undoubtedly hits the ball long and very high.

And Ryan is coming into this in the form of his life. 2020 saw him finish 4th at Waialae Country Club, 8th at Harbour Town, 2nd at Muirfield Village, 8th at TPC Boston and 4th at Sherwood Country Club – his last visit to California. 2021 didn’t start too badly either with 4th at Kapalua, where Palmer showed a level of resolve to a degree on Sunday. And Palmer’s liking for Torrey Pines can be clearly seen. 2nd here in 2018, 2019 saw him shoot 67-67-68 across 3 rounds. It was a shame he threw it all away on Saturday with a +3/75 when he went off in the final group with Justin Rose and Hideki Matsuyama. And 12 months ago 72-61-71 saw him leading at half-way and 2nd after 54 holes. A Sunday 77 saw him finish 21st.

I vowed never to back him again on the Golf Betting System podcast, but at 60/1 he’s more than backable each-way and at a career-high 28th in the OWGR, he might actually show some contention backbone!  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 also highlight a player more than comfortable on classical golf courses featuring Poa Annua. RESULT: T2

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Francesco Molinari 1pt EW 70/1 (8EW, 1/5) with William Hill

It’s Ryder Cup year and established stars need to earn their places. For Team Europe, Tyrrell Hatton and Rory McIlroy certainly hit the ground running in Abu Dhabi last week. Below them Rafa Cabrera Bello, Tommy Fleetwood and Matt Wallace all looked to start the season well as they look to push themselves into Padraig Harrington’s team. Meanwhile in the United States two stalwarts of Team Europe in Paul Casey and Francesco Molinari, with a combined 7 Ryder Cup appearances and 7 wins (yes you read that correctly) both scored top-10 finishes on the PGA Tour.

It was Casey’s first since his 2nd at the PGA Championship in August and in the case of Francesco it was his first globally since that ill-fated back-9 at Augusta National in 2019. But this is the point – in 2021 it’s now time to focus and start to build momentum. And with Team Europe qualification closing at the BMW PGA Championship at Wentworth in September, a player like Francesco needs to deliver in Majors/WGCs and the big tournaments in the United States, as European outings will be limited.

With Molinari now settled in his new Los Angeles, California home, it’s clear that Francesco will focus on the United States until the U.S. Open – indeed he confirmed it at PGA West last week, “Yeah, I’m playing six of the next eight weeks. I’m missing Phoenix, so I’m playing here, next week Torrey Pines, then AT&T, Genesis, and then Bay Hill and TPC Sawgrass. So it’s, yeah, back to just a normal year, yeah, normal schedule, I guess.”

And at 70/1 I’m happy to take a punt on the Italian at Torrey Pines. 14th here in 2017, the only season where he opened his yearly schedule the week before at PGA West, where he finished 12th, Francesco has a strong, American long-classical golf course record. 5th (2014), 17th (2015), 9th (2016), 7th (2017) and 1st (2019) at Bay Hill; 2nd at Quail Hollow (2017); 3rd (2015) at Muirfield Village; 8th (2016) at Congressional, 6th at Bellerive (2018); 8th at Aronimink (2018) – and of course 5th (2019 at Augusta National – Molinari can mix it with the very best on United States Major Championship golf courses. With very European conditions in-play this week at La Jolla, I would not be surprised to see the OWGR Number 110 in the frame come Sunday. RESULT: T10

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Gary Woodland 1pt EW 70/1 (8EW, 1/5) with Betfair

10 of the last 12 winners of the Farmers Insurance Open have had a top-10 at this event prior to their win. Whether that actually tells us a lot on the basis that this angle includes the vast majority at the top of the market is open to debate as a player-selecting variable, but it does highlight that top-level course experience is a distinct advantage. It does point me in the direction of Gary Woodland who I have been sweet on for a few outings here at Torrey Pines, on the basis he undoubtedly has accrued history here.

2014 saw him almost take the title, 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. 2018 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. And 2019 saw him finish a career best 9th here, shooting 69-66 over the weekend. 4th for Strokes Gained Putting here in 2018, 2019 saw the World Number 40 rank 6th for Strokes Gained Tee to Green.

Naturally we know that Woodland is a Poa Annua positive player. 4th (2016) and 8th (2019 PGA Championship) at Bethpage Black, 5th at Pebble Beach in 2017 was the precursor to Gary’s U.S. Open victory at the same venue in 2019. If more West Coast form is required then Gary has always played well at Kapalua (2nd 2019, 7th 2020), Waialae (3rd 2015, 6th 2017, 7th 2018) and has won at both Montreux (2013), TPC Scottsdale (2018) and was runner-up at PGA West (2011). 2015 also saw him lose to Rory McIlroy at the WGC-Cadillac Matchplay hosted at TPC Harding Park. Gary’s woes in 2020 due to a torn labrum in his hip are well documented, so I was happy to see really positive signs at PGA West last week. 70-68-68-70 was solid as he posted his first PGA Tour top-20 finish since 5th at the Muirfield Village hosted Workday Charity Open in June.

7th for Strokes Gained Off the Tee at the Stadium Course is the Woodland calling card and he was positive on Approach, Tee to Green and Putting. With no real expectations or pressure this week but definitely boosted by some good play at PGA West, I could see the Kansas 36 year-old going very well at a price we won’t see for too much longer. RESULT: T48

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Odds and bookmaker offers correct at 17:20GMT 25.1.20 but naturally subject to fluctuation.