This article is part of our FanDuel PGA series.
Farmers Insurance Open
- Torrey Pines South (7,765 yards, par 72)
- Torrey Pines North (7,258 yards, par 72)
Winner: $1,566,000 and 500 FedExCup
I hope everyone enjoyed the birdie-fests we saw during the first three tournaments of 2023 because this week we will see a completely different challenge. The Farmers Insurance Open has been held at Torrey Pines since 1968. The tournament is played on both the South and North courses at this 36-hole municipal golf facility in La Jolla, California. The 156-man field will get a spin at both the South and North courses during the first two rounds before a 36-hole cut is made and the top 65 and ties compete for the win on the monster that is Torrey Pines South, which can stretch to nearly 7,800 yards.
For the second consecutive year the Farmers Insurance Open will be played Wednesday through Saturday to avoid any conflict with the NFL Championship Games on Sunday. This is the only event on the entire PGA Tour calendar that will feature a Saturday finish. The early start to the tournament may force players a little out of their comfort zone, particularly those who teed it up at the American Express. Fortunately, it's less than a three-hour drive to northern San Diego from the Coachella Valley.
For the second straight week, five of the top 10 in the OWGR will tee it up. The heavy favorite will be Jon Rahm, who is coming off his fourth victory in his last six worldwide starts. Rahm got his first PGA Tour win at Torrey Pines back in 2017 and then won his first major championship here in 2021. He will be joined by fellow top-10 ranked players Xander Schauffele, Justin Thomas, Collin Morikawa, and Will Zalatoris. Luke List will return to defend his title after outlasting Zalatoris last year in a playoff. Tony FInau, Max Homa, and Hideki Matsuyama highlight some of the other notables along with former champs Jason Day (2015, 2018) and Justin Rose (2019).
While the courses may be a bit softer than normal because of the storms earlier this month, the forecast for the tournament is beautiful. We should see lots of sunshine and temperatures in the low-to-mid 60s throughout most of the event. Wind is forecasted to be at its strongest in the second round, so a South/North tee time could end up being a slight advantage, as you would avoid playing the tougher course in the harder conditions. Throw out a 21-under performance by Justin Rose in 2019 and the average winning score here over the last eight events is a respectable -11.4.
2022 - Luke List (-15)
2021 - Patrick Reed (-14)
2020 - Marc Leishman (-15)
2019 - Justin Rose (-21)
2018 - Jason Day (-10)
2017 - Jon Rahm (-13)
2016 - Brandt Snedeker (-6)
2015 - Jason Day (-9)
2014 - Scott Stallings (-9)
2013 - Tiger Woods (-14)
Key Stats to Victory
- SG: Off-the-Tee
- SG: Approach
- GIR Percentage
You'd be hard pressed to find a more important week for the tee shot than this. The fairways feature very well placed bunkers and the Kikuyu rough is amongst the nastiest on Tour. On top of that is the obvious distance factor with the South Course stretching to nearly 7,800 yards. Phil Mickelson, Tiger Woods, John Daly, Bubba Watson, Scott Stallings, Jason Day, Jon Rahm, and Luke List have all won here at least once since 2000. There is a reason for that, they can all get it way out there. There have been a few exceptions throughout the years, but having distance is the easiest way to immediately put yourself in the conversation at Torrey Pines. Iron play is always important here as well because the thick Kikuyu rough around the greens makes it very challenging to get the ball up-and-down if you miss. If you go back and look at the top finishers at Torrey Pines over the last handful of years, most of them ranked very highly in greens in regulation for the event. I've been very high on putting early in 2023, but it's not something I'm going to pay much attention to this week. Poa annua greens can be so unpredictable late in the day, especially at the South Course. Everyone is going to miss their fair share of short putts. This is certainly a week to rely on the ball strikers who can hit it a long ways.
FanDuel Value Picks
Tony Finau ($11,600)
I'm hesitating slightly here because I was so high on Finau in this event last year and he burned me by missing the cut. In Finau's previous seven starts at the Farmers Insurance Open, however, he has posted four top-6 finishes and never worse than T24. Surely there's no way a missed cut happens again given how well this bomber fits Torrey Pines. Finau finished T7 and T16 in his first two starts in 2023 and really didn't even play that well. He's still 11th in SG: Approach, fifth in SG: Putting, eighth in SG: Tee-to-Green, 12th in GIR percentage, and third in birdie average.
Will Zalatoris ($11,100)
There's certainly some great value here with Zalatoris. He's arguably the best ball-striker on the PGA Tour. Last season he led in SG: Approach and SG: Tee-to-Green. Zalatoris looks free and clear of that back issue that gave him trouble towards the end of last season and has shot in the 60's in all eight of his rounds in 2023. All he has done the last two years at Torrey Pines is finish T7 and runner-up.
Max Homa ($10,600)
Homa is much longer that people give him credit for and he has been excellent on tough golf courses throughout his career, winning at Riviera and TPC Potomac. Homa also has a pair of top-20s in the last three Farmers Insurance Opens. The California native has finished top-25 in all four of his starts this season, including a T3 a few weeks ago at Kapalua. Homa is strong all the way through the bag, gaining strokes in every category each of the last two season.
Jason Day ($10,500)
Day is one I've always had to temper expectations with the last handful of years, but this is about as good as I've felt about him since that torrid 2015-16 stretch he went on. Day has already piled up five top-25 finishes in seven starts this season and we are going to perhaps his best golf course. Over the last 10 years, Day has two wins, five top-5s, and not finished worse than a T16 in the seven times he made the cut during that stretch. The veteran can still get it out there and is top-25 this season in SG: Approach, SG: Tee-to-Green, driving accuracy, GIR percentage, and scrambling.
Longer Shots with Value
Hayden Buckley ($9,600)
Buckley is one of the most underrated drivers on the PGA Tour. Last season he ranked 13th in SG: Off-the-Tee and early this season he ranks third. Buckley also is 11th in total driving and 22nd in GIR percentage. The 26-year-old is coming off a runner-up finish at Waialae, another course that forces you to hit some really good tee shots. Buckley already has four top-20 finishes this season.
Taylor Pendrith ($9,500)
Pendrith is a player that many had high expectations for after finishing last season with six top-15 finishes over his last seven starts. It's been a bit of a struggle outside of a T15 at The RSM Classic, however. I'm expecting Pendrith to get it together this week at Torrey Pines, a golf course that suits his strengths perfectly. The Canadian is 13th in SG: Off-the-Tee, fourth in total driving, and 30th in GIR percentage. Pendrith finished T16 a year ago in this event.
Will Gordon ($9,000)
Gordon missed his first cut of the season last week at the AmEx by a couple shots, but still played some really good golf. Prior to that he made his first eight cuts of the season with a T3 at Mayakoba and a T15 at the RSM Classic. Gordon's game is tailor-made for Torrey pines as he ranks 19th in SG: Off-the-Tee and 13th in total driving. He is also 37th in SG: Tee-to-Green and GIR percentage. Gordon has made the cut twice in two attempts at this event, including a T21 in 2020.
Ben Taylor ($8,500)
You just have to trust the numbers on this one. Taylor has been the 11th best golfer this season if you go by total strokes gained per round, and you can get him way down here at $8,500. The Englishman ranks top-30 in SG: Off-the-Tee, SG: Putting, SG: Tee-to-Green, GIR percentage, scrambling, and bogey-avoidance. Taylor has already logged four top-25s this season, including a third in Houston and a T4 in Honolulu.
Strategy Tips This Week
Based on a Standard $60K Salary Cap
The biggest question this week is what to do with Rahm at $12,400. There are certainly ways to get him into lineups, but I just don't see the value in doing so given his ownership will likely be around 40 percent. I think you're better off taking a flier at one of the other players in the $11K range and hoping Rahm runs out of gas with this tournament being such a quick turnaround. With such an emphasis on driving at Torrey Pines, some other good value plays that excel in that area are Dean Burmester ($8,800), Kevin Yu ($8,600), and Jhonattan Vegas ($8,100).
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