Best bets for the PGA Tour Farmers Insurance Open

January 24, 2023 05:03 PM
USATSI_19841187

Jon Rahm scored a victory in his second consecutive start to begin 2023 at the American Express as a +650 choice, winning by one stroke (-27) over Davis Thompson. Chris Kirk and Xander Schauffele finished T-3 and Taylor Montgomery, one of our selections, finished fifth. The top 10 was rounded out by Erik Van Rooyen, J.T. Poston, Matti Schmid, Tom Kim (another of our selections last week) and Robby Shelton.

This week, Rahm, who became the fifth player to start a calendar year with consecutive wins over the past two decades (Ernie Els, 2003; Tiger Woods, 2006; Tiger Woods, 2008; Justin Thomas, 2017), will try to match Tiger's feat in 2008 when Woods began that year with victories in three consecutive starts. Rahm, currently OWGR No. 3, is the +450 favorite this week at the Farmers Insurance Open. He earned his first PGA Tour and professional worldwide win at the 2017 Farmers. Torrey Pines also served as the venue for Rahm's 2021 U.S. Open victory. So he is the proper favorite based on that history and because he is playing the best golf of anyone in the world.

Rahm leads a field that includes five of the OWGR Top 10 and nine of the OWGR Top 20. San Diego native and current OWGR No. 6  Schauffele (12-1) has a mixed record in his hometown event. He finished in a five-way T-2 in 2021 but five strokes behind eventual victor Patrick Reed. Schauffele also finished seventh here in the 2021 U.S. Open. However, he has also missed the cut here four times in seven appearances. Tony Finau (14-1) also has an inconsistent record at Torrey Pines considering he has missed the cut in his last two trips (2022 Farmers, 2021 U.S. Open), but also finished in that five-way tie for second with Schauffele in 2021 and has three other top-6 finishes at the Farmers.

Collin Morikawa (16-1) is three weeks removed from his implosion at the 2023 opener in the Sentry Tournament of Champions. He finished T-4 at Torrey Pines in the 2021 U.S. Open. Like Morikawa, the OWGR No. 8, Justin Thomas (16-1), the OWGR No. 9, was married last November, although wedding pictures just surfaced over the past weekend.

 

 

Will Zalatoris (16-1) also was recently married, in December, and returns to the venue where he looked like he was going to pick up his first PGA Tour win before his putter went ice cold on the back nine and eventually lost in a playoff to defending Farmers champion Luke List (80-1).

Sungjae Im (sixth last year) and Max Homa (ninth in 2020) both have previous top-10 finishes in the Farmers, and both check in on the board at 22-1.

Jason Day (25-1) has two victories in this event (2015 and 2018) and finished third last year. Day, T-18 last week at the AMEX, was second in the field for Strokes Gained: Putting in the two measured rounds on the PGA West Stadium Course.

Montgomery (30-1) already has four top-10s in his rookie season on tour dating to last fall. He was just one off the lead on this past Sunday's back nine before failing to birdie the par-5 16th and then hitting a shank off the tee on the par-3 17th and making a double bogey to end his chances at earning his first victory. He also finished 11th here last year.

At 40-1, Hideki Matsuyama is an annual visitor to Torrey Pines and finished third in 2019. Maverick McNealy finished seventh two weeks ago at the Sony Open in Hawaii and is always someone to look out for on the West Coast.

Other former Farmers champions in this field include Justin Rose (66-1), Scott Stallings (125-1), Nick Watney (1000-1), and Ben Crane (2500-1).

The Event  

The Farmers Insurance Open was founded in 1952 as the San Diego Open and was initially played at the San Diego Country Club in Chula Vista. The event is organized by the Century Club of San Diego. The tournament was played at several courses in the San Diego area before finding a permanent home at Torrey Pines Golf Course in 1968. Torrey Pines has hosted a PGA Tour event ever since. This event also had a celebrity host for many years as entertainer Andy Williams served in that role from 1968 to 1988. The dominant player in this event’s history is Tiger Woods, who has won this event seven times (1999, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2013), not including his 2008 U.S. Open championship. Longtime San Diego resident Phil Mickelson is the only player other than Woods to win this event more than twice (1993, 2000, 2001). Mickelson and J.C. Snead (1975, 1976) are the only players to win this event in consecutive years. Arnold Palmer (1957, 1961) and Tom Watson (1977, 1980) are also multiple-time winners. This event is also notable for the fact that Jack Nicklaus never won, but he was part of a memorable finish in 1982 as he shot a final-round 64 to fall one shot short of eventual winner Johnny Miller.

This week’s field features 156 players, and the cut will be the top 65 and ties for the weekend.

Like last year, the tournament will be played Wednesday-Saturday rather than the typical Thursday-Sunday due to PGA Tour, and especially CBS, not wanting to oppose the NFL’s AFC and NFC Championship Games.

The Field

Here is the 156-player field for the Farmers Insurance Open:

Anders Albertson

Tyson Alexander

Byeong Hun An

Ryan Armour

Arjun Atwal

Aaron Baddeley

Erik Barnes

Zac Blair

Michael Block

Keegan Bradley

Joseph Bramlett

Ryan Brehm

Scott Brown

Hayden Buckley

Dean Burmester

Jonathan Byrd

Cameron Champ

Wyndham Clark

Eric Cole

Trevor Cone

Austin Cook

Ben Crane

MJ Daffue

Cam Davis

Jason Day

Thomas Detry

Zecheng Dou

Jason Dufner

Tyler Duncan

Nico Echavarria

Austin Eckroat

Harrison Endycott

Harris English

Tony Finau

Rickie Fowler

Dylan Frittelli

Brice Garnett

Robert Garrigus

Doug Ghim

Michael Gligic

Will Gordon

Tano Goya

Brent Grant

Cody Gribble

Ben Griffin

Lanto Griffin

Emiliano Grillo

Bill Haas

Adam Hadwin

James Hahn

Paul Haley II

Harry Hall

Cole Hammer

Nick Hardy

Scott Harrington

Jim Herman

Michael Herrera

Garrick Higgo

Harry Higgs

Lee Hodges

Charley Hoffman

J.B. Holmes

Max Homa

Beau Hossler

Sungjae Im

Stephan Jaeger

Michael Kim

S.H. Kim

Si Woo Kim

Harrison Kingsley

Kurt Kitayama

Patton Kizzire

Philip Knowles

Satoshi Kodaira

Kelly Kraft

Martin Laird

Hank Lebioda

Danny Lee

Spencer Levin

David Lingmerth

Luke List

Adam Long

Justin Lower

Peter Malnati

Ben Martin

Hideki Matsuyama

Brandon Matthews

William McGirt

Maverick McNealy

Taylor Montgomery

Taylor Moore

Collin Morikawa

Trey Mullinax

Sebastián Muñoz

Keita Nakajima

Matthew NeSmith

S.Y. Noh

Henrik Norlander

Vincent Norrman

Andrew Novak

Augusto Núñez

Sean O'Hair

Ryan Palmer

Taylor Pendrith

Cameron Percy

Scott Piercy

Jon Rahm

Aaron Rai

Doc Redman

Davis Riley

Patrick Rodgers

Justin Rose

Kevin Roy

Sam Ryder

Rory Sabbatini

Xander Schauffele

Adam Schenk

Matti Schmid

Taiga Semikawa

Robby Shelton

Alex Smalley

Austin Smotherman

J.J. Spaun

Scott Stallings

Kyle Stanley

Brendan Steele

Sam Stevens

Robert Streb

Kevin Streelman

Brian Stuard

Justin Suh

Caleb Surratt

Adam Svensson

Callum Tarren

Ben Taylor

Sahith Theegala

Justin Thomas

Davis Thompson

Michael Thompson

Martin Trainer

Kevin Tway

Jhonattan Vegas

Camilo Villegas

Joey Vrzich

Jimmy Walker

Nick Watney

Patrick Welch

Trevor Werbylo

Richy Werenski

Kyle Westmoreland

Gary Woodland

Dylan Wu

Carson Young

Kevin Yu

Carl Yuan

Will Zalatoris

Top 50 players in 2023 Farmers Insurance Open field

3. Jon Rahm

6. Xander Schauffele

7. Will Zalatoris

8. Collin Morikawa

9. Justin Thomas

12. Tony Finau

16. Max Homa

19. Sungjae Im

20. Hideki Matsuyama

25. Keegan Bradley

40. Si Woo Kim

41. Sahith Theegala

43. Kurt Kitayama

The Course  

The Torrey Pines Golf Course in La Jolla is a 36-hole public course owned by the City of San Diego. Two courses host the event. The North Course and South Course each host the first two rounds with each player playing both courses before the South Course takes over for the final 36 holes. The South Course, which was renovated in 2019 by Rees Jones before the 2021 U.S. Open, is now the longest annual course on the PGA Tour at 7,765 yards. Both courses play at a par-72, but the South Course is the more difficult of the two as the North Course is just 7,258 yards. The South Course is not only 450 yards longer but plays on average close to two strokes higher. The fairways (third narrowest on tour at 26.2 square feet average) and rough on the South Course are Kikuyugrass but with a Ryegrass overseed, while the Tom Weiskopf redesigned North Course has Ryegrass overseed fairways and a Rye and Kikuyugrass rough mixture. The South Course greens (sixth smallest on Tour at 5,000 square feet) are faster (12.5 stimpmeter) Poa Annua, while the North Course greens are slower (10.5 stimpmeter) and larger (6,000 square feet) Bentgrass.

Torrey Pines South played as the ninth-most-difficult course last season with an average round score of 72.55 (+0.55 over par) and could play more difficult since the Torrey Pines area has received almost five inches of rain over the first three weeks of the year. While that will make the greens much softer, it also will make already thickish rough (3.5") even more difficult and longer. There are 82 bunkers on the course and only one water danger hole on the layout.

Torrey Pines North played as the seventh-easiest course on tour last year with an average round score of 70.15 (-1.85). It is a more tree-lined layout that has just 42 bunkers (third fewest on TOUR) and zero water danger holes.

The redesigned North Course record is 62 set by Rahm (first round, 2019), Ryan Palmer (second round, 2020), again last year by Adam Schenk and Alex Smalley (both in second round).

Correlated courses to the North Course include Riviera, Chapultepec, Silverado, TPC Scottsdale and Detroit Golf Club.

The South Course record is 62 set by Woods (third round, 1999).

Correlated courses to the South Course include Glen Abbey, Muirfield Village, Riviera, Augusta National, Quail Hollow, Chapultepec, Olympia Fields and Bethpage Black. 

Here are the score averages in recent years on the North and South Courses

Year 

North Course 

South Course 

Difference 

2022

70.15 (-1.85)

72.55 (+0.55)

+2.40

2021

70.13 (-1.87)

73.34 (+1.34)

+3.21

2020 

70.58 (-1.42) 

72.53 (+0.53) 

+1.95 

2019 

69.84 (-2.16) 

71.73 (-0.27) 

+1.89 

2018 

71.41 (-0.59) 

72.81 (+0.81) 

+1.40 

2017 

71.28 (-0.72) 

72.77 (+0.77) 

+1.49 

2016 

70.93 (-1.07) 

74.50 (+2.50) 

+3.57 

2015 

70.23 (-1.77) 

73.52 (+1.52) 

+3.29 

2014 

70.24 (-1.76) 

73.80 (+1.80) 

+3.56 

2013 

70.67 (-1.33) 

72.66 (+0.66) 

+1.99 

While the recent Weiskopf redesign has by and large made the North Course slightly more difficult, you can see that players must take advantage of the easier layout to put themselves into contention.  

From 2011 to 2018, all Farmers Insurance Open winners started on the more difficult South Course on Thursday, then played the North Course on Friday. However, this trend came to a screeching halt in 2019 when Justin Rose shot 9 under (63) on the North Course in the Thursday round and then ran away with the event. In 2020, Marc Leishman began on the North Course with a 4-under 68, and Patrick Reed started with an 8-under 64 on the North in 2021. Luke List began the 2022 event on the South Course with a 5-under 65, so it looks like any draw bias has at least been temporarily eliminated.  

Recent History/Winners  

2022: Luke List (-15/273); 90-1*

2021: Patrick Reed (-14/274); 25-1

2020: Marc Leishman (-15/273); 55-1

2019: Justin Rose (-21/267); 14-1

2018: Jason Day (-10/278);  22-1​**

2017: Jon Rahm (-13/275); 55-1

2016: Brandt Snedeker (-6/282); 18-1

2015: Jason Day (-9/279); 14-1​​***

2014: Scott Stallings (-9/279); 250-1

2013: Tiger Woods (-14/274); 15-2

2012: Brandt Snedeker (-16/272); 22-1​*​​***

2011: Bubba Watson (-16/272); 66-1

2010: Ben Crane (-13/275); 80-1

Playoff win over Luke List - *

Playoff win over Alex Noren and Ryan Palmer - **

Playoff win over Harris English, JB Holmes and Scott Stallings - ***

Playoff win over Kyle Stanley - ****

Trends and Angles

​Here are some recent Farmers Insurance Open winning trends:​

​​​12 of the last 14 winners had made at least one start in the calendar year.

19 of the last 21 winners were age 27 or older.

13 of the last 18 winners were ranked in the Top 33 of the OWGR.

25 of the last 29 winners had at least four previous career wins.

19 of the last 21 winners had played in at least five previous Farmers Insurance Open events.

16 of the last 18 winners had at least one previous Farmers Insurance Open top-10 finish.

Statistical Analysis

With three of the four rounds being played on the substantially longer South Course, Driving Distance will be important here. The cooler January air and the thick marine layer combined with less roll from the fairways because of the moisture in the grass from the recent rain will make distance even more paramount. Four of the past 11 winners ranked first or second for the week in Driving Distance.

Driving Distance Gained (Last 24 rounds)

Brandon Matthews 21.4

Cameron Champ 19.4

Wyndham Clark 19.2

Matti Schmid 19.1

Trevor Cone 16.9 (17 Rounds)

Trey Mullinax 15.7

Thomas Detry 15.6

Taylor Pendrith 15

Callum Tarren 14.9

Dean Burmester 14.6

Will Gordon 14.1

Luke List 12.7

Kyle Westmoreland 12.6

Jon Rahm 12.3

Erik Barnes 11.9

Will Zalatoris 11.7

Davis Thompson 11.6

Cam Davis 11

Augusto Nunez 10.4

Jhonattan Vegas 10.2

Byeong Hun An 10.2

Kurt Kitayama 10.1

Gary Woodland 10.1

Note: Yards Gained Per Drive

Driving Accuracy is one of the most difficult on tour at 52%. Hitting fairways is not a prerequisite for success at Torrey Pines but should be at least examined. Strokes Gained: Off-The-Tee combines distance with accuracy.

Strokes Gained: Off-The-Tee (Last 24 rounds)

Jon Rahm 19.5

Taylor Pendrith 19.2

Hayden Buckley 18.5

Cameron Champ 15.4

Will Zalatoris 15.3

Will Gordon 14.7

Kevin Yu 14.5

Sungjae Im 14.1

Dean Burmester 14

Gary Woodland 13.8

Luke List 13.5

Wyndham Clark 13.1

Brett Grant 12.9

Taylor Montgomery 12.5

Davis Thompson 12.3

Brendan Steele 11.3

Tony Finau 10.8

Austin Eckroat 10.2

Patrick Rodgers 10.2

Keegan Bradley 9.9

Collin Morikawa 9.1

Four of the last six Farmers winners ranked fifth or better for Strokes Gained: Approach during their winning weeks.

Strokes Gained: Approach (Last 24 rounds)

Si Woo Kim 19.5

Jason Day 18.6

Xander Schauffele 18.4

James Hahn 18.3

Will Zalatoris 18.2

Ben Griffin 17

Brendan Steele 15.8

Alex Smalley 15.8

Collin Morikawa 15.6

Matthew NeSmith 15.3

Ben Martin 13.6

Lanto Griffin 13.2

Danny Lee 13.1

Callum Tarren 12.9

Trey Mullinax 12.5

Nick Hardy 12.5

Adam Hadwin 12

Tony Finau 11

Robby Shelton 9.4

Adam Svensson 9.2

Seung-yul Noh 9

Fifty-five percent of second shots at Torrey Pines are from 175 yards or greater and more this week should come from 200+ yards. In 2022, all top-10 finishers at the Farmers gained in Proximity 200+. In 2021, seven of the top nine finishers gained Proximity from 200+. In 2019: Justin Rose won and was second best in the field from 200+, and in 2018 all Top11 finishers gained Proximity from 200+.

Proximity Gained 200+ Yards (Last 24 rounds)

Patton Kizzire 24.5

Xander Schauffele 23.7

Sungjae Im 23.3

Matti Schmid 23 (16 Rounds)

Thomas Detry 21.3

Austin Eckroat 20.9

Gary Woodland 18.4

Dean Burmester 17.5

Erik Barnes 17.1 (20 Rounds)

Michael Gligic 16.4

Justin Suh 16.2

Austin Smotherman 16

Adam Svensson 15.8

Nick Hardy 15.3

Wyndham Clark 14.7

Max Homa 14.2

Robert Streb 14.2

Seung-yul Noh 13.6

Collin Morikawa 13.2

Carl Yuan 13.2 (17 Rounds)

Dylan Wu 12.8

Brandon Matthews 12

Note: Average Feet Gained Per Shot

The last three Farmers winners ranked sixth or better from the field for Scrambling during their respective winning weeks. The Scrambling percentage over the last five years is 52.3%, which is 29% less than the tour average over the last five years.

Scrambling Gained (Last 24 rounds)

Maverick McNealy 13.5

Hideki Matsuyama 11.9

Kurt Kitayama 9.5

Joseph Bramlett 9.3

Aaron Baddeley 8.7

Ben Taylor 8.6

Harry Hall 7.9

Arjun Atwal 7.1

Max Homa 7

Cameron Percy 6.9

Jason Day 6.6

Xander Schauffele 6.2

Jonathan Byrd 6

Wyndham Clark 5.8

Robby Shelton 5.5

Tony Finau 5.4

Beau Hossler 5.1

Brice Garnett 5.1

Poa greens can be the toughest for many players to putt on because their bumpy nature plus faster speed.

Strokes Gained: Putting Poa Annua (Last 24 rounds)

Xander Schauffele 19.2

Zac Blair 18

Jon Rahm 16.8

Wyndham Clark 16.6

Jimmy Walker 16.5

Max Homa 16

Maverick McNealy 15.1

Brice Garnett 13.1

John Huh 12.5

Justin Rose 12.1

JB Holmes 10.4

Sungjae Im 9.5

Scott Harrington 9.2

Adam Long 8.9

Peter Malnati 8.3

Brian Stuard 7.8

Rory Sabbatini 7.4

Kelly Kraft 7

Pars are good scores here, especially on the North Course. Bogey Avoidance is 15% more difficult at Torrey Pines than the PGA Tour average.

Bogeys Avoided (Last 24 rounds)

Maverick McNealy 20.8

Jason Day 19.4

Lanto Griffin 18.2

Si Woo Kim 17.7

Xander Schauffele 15.7

JJ Spaun 15.3

Wyndham Clark 15.2

Ben Taylor 15

Aaron Baddeley 14.9

Adam Hadwin 14.4

Tony Finau 13.9

Cameron Percy 13

Sahith Theegala 12.8

Thomas Detry 12.6

Sungjae Im 12.5

Rickie Fowler 12.4

Taylor Moore 10.4

Emiliano Grillo 10.3

Kurt Kitayama 9.7

Will Zalatoris 9

Six of the 10 par-4s on the South Course measure 450-500 Yards.

Strokes Gained Par-4s 450-500 Yards (Last 24 rounds)

Maverick McNealy 27.4

Jon Rahm 12.9

Taylor Montgomery 12.8

Kurt Kitayama 11.9

Hayden Buckley 11.8

Sungjae Im 11

Stephan Jaeger 10.5

Sam Stevens 10.5

Wyndham Clark 10.4

Kelly Kraft 10.1

Davis Riley 10.1

Ben Griffin 10

Jason Day 9.8

Ben Taylor 9.5

Will Zalatoris 8.1

Taylor Moore 8.1

Sam Ryder 7.9

Trey Mullinax 7.6

Tony Finau 7.6

Keegan Bradley 7.2

Ryan Palmer 7

All four par-5s at Torrey Pines South measure over 560 yards.

Strokes Gained Par-5s (Last 24 rounds)

Kyle Westmoreland 19.4

Xander Schauffele 17.5

Dean Burmester 15.8

Garrick Higgo 15.6

Davis Thompson 15.3

Eric Cole 14.8

Cameron Champ 14.5

Alex Smalley 13.7

Adam Hadwin 13.7

Sungjae Im 13.3

Cam Davis 12.9

Taylor Pendrith 11.8

Patrick Rodgers 11.2

Stephan Jaeger 10.4

Jon Rahm 10.1

Kevin Yu 9.3

Wyndham Clark 8.6

Tony Finau 8.3

Will Zalatoris 7.8

Justin Thomas 7.7

Torrey Pines South nearly plays at 7,800 yards and plays as one of the more difficult courses on tour.

Strokes Gained: Long and Difficult Courses (Last 24 rounds)

Xander Schauffele 53.5

Hideki Matsuyama 44.5

Will Zalatoris 44.3

Jon Rahm 42

Si Woo Kim 33.6

Justin Thomas 32.8

Ryan Palmer 32.6

Jason Day 31.6

Charley Hoffman 31.5

Justin Rose 25.7

Rory Sabbatini 24.9

Keegan Bradley 23.8

Sungjae Im 23.5

Aaron Baddeley 23.3

Adam Schenk 20.7

Harris English 20.5

Gary Woodland 17.8

Collin Morikawa 17.6

Tony Finau 17.1

Luke List 17

Selections

Xander Schauffele (12-1, BetMGM)

San Diego native Schauffele has a mixed record in his hometown. However, he comes in with some momentum having shot a Sunday 62 at the AMEX to finish T-3.

That finish should alleviate concerns about his back, which forced his early WD at the Sentry three weeks ago.

Schauffele is at his best on classical courses and knows the tricky Poa Annua greens as well as anyone.

Tony Finau (14-1, BetMGM)

In eight appearances at Torrey Pines, Finau has failed to finish in the Top 25 only once, when missing the cut last year. Finau has finished top 6 here on four occasions, with a best of second in 2021.

Over his last nine starts, Finau has three victories and three other top-10 finishes.

Finau ranks No. 1 in both Strokes Gained: Tee-To-Green and Strokes Gained: Ball Striking over the last 36 rounds and has gained with the putter in each of his last nine starts.

Will Zalatoris (18-1, Bet365)

Jon Rahm shot 33 under par last year at the Sentry Tournament of Champions and still lost by one stroke. This year, he got his payback and won the event. Perhaps the same is coming for Zalatoris as he should have won this event last year if not for the putter letting him down on the back nine.

Zalatoris is not the type of player who wins birdie fests but is the type who thrives on classical-type courses like Torrey Pines.

He has finishes of second (2022) and seventh (2021) here.

Maverick McNealy (40-1, BetMGM)

McNealy is a two-time runner-up on the PGA Tour with both seconds coming in the state of California.

He already has three top-10s already this season, including a T7 last time out at the Sony Open.

McNealy is arguably the best scrambler in the field and one of the best Poa putters on the PGA Tour.

Justin Rose (66-1, BetMGM)

Rose is a former winner here (2019) and has finished eighth or better at Torrey Pines in four of his last six appearances.

He currently sits outside the OWGR Top 50 and is attempting to qualify not only for all the majors but also for the European Ryder Cup team for likely the final time as most of his Euro contemporaries have left for LIV Golf.

Rose posted three rounds of 67 or better last week and closed the event with a strong 65 at the American Express.

Wyndham Clark (85-1, Boyd Sports)

Clark's best finish here is only a 32nd, but he has the right mix of bombing off the tee and putting on Poa Annua to potentially contend.

He rates third in this field for Driving Distance Gained, fourth for Strokes Gained: Putting Poa Annua and seventh for Bogey Avoidance.

Dean Burmester (125-1, BetMGM)

Burmester earned his full-time PGA Tour card last fall with an outstanding performance in the Korn Ferry Tour Finals and will be playing most of his golf stateside this year.

The South African has nine professional wins mostly on the Sunshine Tour in his home country (two on the DPWT) and has three top-7 finishes in the fall between the PGA and DPWT.

He is one of the biggest hitters in the game and his length should prove to be an advantage on the South Course in his debut this week at Torrey Pines.

Matchups (4-2 season)

Sahith Theegala -130 over Kurt Kitayama

Dean Burmester -115 over Emiliano Grillo

Max Homa -120 over Taylor Montgomery

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