Forelinx Fantasy Golf Preview ⏤ Farmers Insurance Open

Fantasy Golf

Torrey Pines4

The West Coast Swing on the PGA TOUR continues this week with the Farmers Insurance Open at the beautiful Torrey Pines Golf Course in La Jolla, California. Marc Leishman will be on hand to defend his title, but he'll have to beat the toughest field that the TOUR has assembled so far in this calendar year. 

Fortunately, Leishman and the rest of the field will get to rest easy knowing that the king of Torrey Pines (Tiger Woods) will not be on hand for this year's event. Woods underwent another microdiscectomy last week and is likely not to make his first start of the year until at least the Florida swing. He's expected to play in the Masters Tournament, but will miss out on a chance to win his ninth event (eight Farmers Insurance Opens and one U.S. Open) at Torrey Pines.

The golf course will get extra attention this week as it will play host to the rare double dip of both a regular PGA TOUR event as well as a major championship in the form of this summer's U.S. Open. While the course should play much firmer and faster come June for that event, this week's Farmers Insurance Open is destined to display a much softer golf course. Weather forecasts call for rain both during the practice rounds as well as throughout Thursday and Friday. Wind may also be a factor as these atypical California storms have brought not the usual January drizzle but also wind and convective activity. Scoring will largely depend on how much the players are forced to play in the tough conditions.

The Field and the Favorites

Predictably, the upcoming major championship has brought out a relatively strong crowd of players who want to check out the golf course. Rory McIlroy is not always a guarantee here, but he's in the field along with ten of the top twenty-five players in the Official World Golf Ranking. Brooks Koepka made no bones about what brought him to Torrey Pines as he will be making his first appearance in the event this week. “I thought it was important to play Torrey Pines and just see the golf course one more time before we go play it in the summer,” he said in his pre-tournament interview last week.

Unlike Koepka, Jon Rahm will make a return appearance here on the heels of a runner-up finish in the event last year. He's also won the event before (back in 2017) and comes into the week as the highest-ranked player in the field. He's likely to be the posted favorite once the odds come out, but we expect him to have some competition for that title from Rory. McIlroy finished 3rd in Abu Dhabi last week and it seems like his game has come out of his miniature off-season in plenty decent shape.

The rest of the Group A players include Adam Scott, Hideki Matsuyama and Xander Schauffele. Of those three, it's hard not to give the edge to Schauffele. While he hasn't found the winner's circle nearly as much as he would like, he has secured three top-five finishes since the wrap around season began in the fall and is yet to finish outside the top-twenty. He may well be the safest of the Group A selections, but legitimate concerns exist about his ability to finish the job.

If you believe in horses for courses, a guy like Jason Day might make for an excellent selection this week. Day has won this event on two separate occasions (2015 and 2018) in addition to a runner-up finish in 2014. His game showed signs of rebound last year with a really strong summer, but faded as the season wound down into the fall. At one point, he had a run of four straight top-ten finishes in July/August culminating in a fourth-place result at the PGA Championship. Since then, he's managed just a single top-ten finish (7th at the Vivint Houston Open).

The Golf Course

In the wake of the Rees Jones redesign prior to the 2008 U.S. Open, the South Course at Torrey Pines has become a real brute of a golf course. To the extent length can be a factor on any golf course these days, it certainly plays a major role here. The course measures just shy of 7,700 yards and is usually the longest golf course they play at sea level on the PGA TOUR. Moreover, it frequently plays even longer than the posted yardage due to the thick air from the marine layer off the Pacific Ocean. Most of the holes play to pushed-up greens elevated above the level of the fairway, and (this time of year) roll is negligible in the fairways. Furthermore, the rough is frequently lush and raw strength is required to find the putting surfaces from anywhere but the fairway.

That rough is part of what has made short game a critical component to success around Torrey Pines. There are almost no chipping areas or closely-mowed surrounds nearby these greens and almost every greenside shot not from a bunker will be played from thick rough. If the greens are fast, the player's ability to play touch shots from various lies in the thick grass can make a major difference over the course of 72 holes on a golf course like this. The length leads to more missed greens, and par saving will be an unusually valuable commodity. The success of Jason Day, Tiger Woods and Jon Rahm at Torrey Pines have had a lot to do with their ability to save par.

Arguably, the two most critical holes on the golf course come on the second nine. The twelfth hole is one of the longest par-fours on the PGA TOUR at 505 yards and it's the rare opportunity to watch professional golfers play long irons and hybrids into anything but the par-fives. Few players will come through it under par for the week and even par will make up anywhere from one to two shots on the field over the course of the three days. On the other side, it's an easy hole to bogey all three times and watch yourself fall behind the pack.

The home hole is a reachable par-five with the only true water hazard on the golf course coming into play. Those professionals who find the fairway will have a chance to carry the pond that fronts a multi-leveled green. Those who miss the fairway off the tee will have to lay up and make birdie the way Tiger Woods famously did during the 2008 U.S. Open. He found the fairway bunker, hit a poor lay up out, wedged one out of the rough and made a heroic birdie putt to tie Rocco Mediate and force an eighteen-hole playoff.

It's worth mentioning that only three rounds will come on the South Course as the far-friendlier North Course (redesigned by Tom Weiskopf) plays host to one of the pre-cut rounds on Thursday/Friday. It's important for fantasy players to keep this in mind in the head-to-head contests that feature group selections as the groups may be mixed of players from the North or South Course. The sharp fantasy player will keep a close eye on who is playing which course and when in their individual round contests.

Our Forelinx DFS Cheat Sheet for the week will be posted on Tuesday once the tee times are revealed.