Farmers Insurance Open ⏤ Expert's Picks & Analysis

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The PGA Tour’s 2020 West Coast Swing kicks into high gear with this week’s Farmers Insurance Open at scenic Torrey Pines down in La Jolla, CA. This familiar venue has attracted yet another strong field that will include a mix of half of the top ten players in the world, a strong crop of promising young players and a fair number of well-liked veteran players looking to get back into contention for the first time in a while.

Tiger Woods will be making his first start of the new calendar year and he’d have to be considered among the pre-tournament favorites. He has collected eight professional wins here including an unforgettable victory at the 2008 U.S. Open Championship. His most recent appearance as a playing captain at the President’s Cup gives fantasy players no reason to doubt Woods—who seemed to be in total control of his game en route to an undefeated 3-0-0 performance at Royal Melbourne.

Here are the groups for this week’s event alongside our expert’s picks and analysis:                 

GROUP A: 

Rickie Fowler has showed some form in his early starts—playing reasonably well (T5) at Kapalua and backing it up last week with a strong performance at The American Express. Jon Rahm wouldn’t be a terrible choice either as he has won here before (2017) and didn’t look too bad at Kapalua (T10). Justin Rose is a viable pick given that he will be defending a win in this very event last year, but he hasn’t played in a full-field event on the PGA TOUR since the first week of November. This is a golf course that favors strong drivers of the ball—so Rory McIlroy is a player who seems destined to win at Torrey Pines one of these days.

This is the strongest of the six groups in this week’s slate and you can defend almost any pick. We’re going to go with Tiger Woods at a course he’s owned throughout his career. If you picked Tiger every time he ever teed it up at Torrey Pines you’d be a happy man.

GROUP B: 

Since the holidays, the best finish of any of the players listed above is a T12 performance at the Sony Open from Keegan Bradley. Nick Watney played reasonably well at the American Express last week, but three of the other four players (besides Bradley and Perez) have all missed at least one cut in the first three events of 2020.

We like Keegan Bradley here as his high ball flight should fit well at a course with a number of elevated greens. He played well at the Sony Open a couple of weeks ago and showed flashes of some form during a number of fall season starts. 

GROUP C: 

This group features a crop of six American veterans the majority of whom are looking to regain their form.

Hometown favorite Phil Mickelson got off to a hot start last year on the West Coast with a runner-up finish in Palm Springs and a win at Pebble Beach, but the rest of his 2019 was a complete disaster and his missed cut last week provides no cause for short-term optimism. Spieth is another player who seems adrift and Bubba Watson didn’t play a whole lot of good golf at all either in 2019. Stricker plays most of his golf on the Champions Tour these days and might be a few yards too short for a golf course that usually plays soggy and long.

This feels like a dealer’s choice to us between Snedeker and Howell III—but we’ll give the edge to the latter as he showed a little bit of form early in the wrap-around season with five top twenty finishes since the Safeway Open. 

GROUP D: 

This group includes six promising young players all of whom had standout amateur careers and have shown signs of promise since turning professional. Long-hitting Cameron Champ certainly merits consideration at a long course like Torrey Pines, but our pick here is Collin Morikawa. He’s been the most on form in the fall series among the players listed and has turned in two solid starts at the Sony Open and the American Express.   

GROUP E:

Dark clouds hang over most of the players in this group as it includes a few names that haven’t been seen on leaderboards in quite some time. KJ Choi is a part-time player on the PGA TOUR these days and JB Holmes is looking to shake off a miserable run since his win last year in the Genesis Open. Neither Jimmy Walker nor Hunter Mahan posted a single top-ten finish on the PGA TOUR in 2019 and the former was among the worst players on tour when it came to hitting fairways.

Selecting a player who makes the cut from this group will give you a large advantage over the field as it would come as no surprise for four or five of these players to fail to advance to the weekend. We think the two safest bets are Cink and Glover with the latter getting the edge for us as he had a somewhat resurgent 2019 campaign that included 12 top fifteen finishes.

GROUP F: 

Long players seem to do well at Torrey Pines and that instantly calls to mind Finau, Day and Woodland. All three can move the ball and Day in particular has an extremely high ball flight that seems to fit Torrey Pines well. He finished in the top five here last year and won the year prior, but the second half of his 2019 campaign left a lot to be desired. After a top five finish in the Masters, Day posted just one other top ten finish for the rest of the season and looks to rebound as the calendar turns to 2020.

Molinari would also seem like a steady choice at a course that rewards accuracy, but he hasn’t been the same player since his meltdown on Sunday at Augusta National. Gary Woodland seemed to take off the rest of 2019 after winning the U.S. Open at Pebble Beach, but he’s showed some promise early this fall with strong finishes at the CJ Cup @ Nine Bridges (T3) and the ZOZO Championship (5). Patrick Reed almost won in Hawaii, but the cheating allegations that continue to dog him make him a difficult choice these days. He’s dealing with a lot of negative attention (nothing new for him) and has had a few run-ins with fans since his rules incident at the Hero World Challenge.

Our pick in this group is local product Xander Schauffele. He was on form early in the fall and has seemed to carry it over to 2020. He nearly won in a three-way playoff two weeks ago at Kapalua (with Justin Thomas and Reed) and was born just minutes away from Torrey Pines.                   

Winning Score Projection: -14

             


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