Last Updated Aug 30, 2021, 9:55 AM
Best Bets - Farmers Insurance
Farmers Insurance Open – Best Bets
With the month of February closing in, it appears as though this week's Farmers Insurance Open is the point in the season where many of the biggest names decide that it's time to get the process started for peaking at the right time. Whether that's next month's PLAYERS Championship, or any of the four Majors that come in the following months, this week's field is by far the best of the year to date.
Venue: Torrey Pines North and South Courses
Par-Yardage: North: 72, 7,258 yards; South: 72, 7,698 yards
It's the second straight week on Tour where we've got multiple courses involved, but thankfully it's only for the opening two days. It's back to the usual 36-hole cut this week with the final two rounds being played on the much tougher South Course. It's that track that's always the one people refer to when discussing past Torrey Pines PGA events.
The North Course is where guys have to make sure they gain all the ground they can in that one round out there, as a low score there could really set up the rest of the week. Last year, Justin Rose used an opening round 63 on the North track to finish the day T2 and catapult him through the rest of the week when he ultimately won by two shots.
As the defending champ, Rose comes in with a 16/1 price this week, a number that still trails the likes of Rory McIlroy (7/1), Jon Rahm (9/1), and Tiger Woods (12/1). Woods owned this event in his prime – he's won here seven times – and that course history is always going to have him among this group. But it's still his first competitive start (outside of the Presidents Cup) on Tour in months, and that's where my initial thought of this being step one in trying to peak at the desired point of the season for these guys. McIlroy's in the same boat having not played competitively in months, and he didn't even have the Presidents Cup either.
Following those three you've got Rose and Xander Schauffele (16/1), Hideki Matsuyama and Rickie Fowler at 20/1, and Gary Woodland and Tony Finau (25/1) as the only other guys below 30/1 odds. The only past winner in that group is Rose, but it's not like the others haven't been close at various other points in their careers. These guys have all been more active on Tour of late, so it would be that range where I'd start to look at with the favorites.
So after all three selections last week were solid – all three finished Top 30 – but not great, and another 72 matchup winner got put in the books, let's see if we can get another solid week under our belt.
Top 10 Betting Choices
Golfers to Watch
- Rory McIlroy 7/1
- Jon Rahm 9/1
- Tiger Woods 12/1
- Xander Schauffele 16/1
- Justin Rose 16/1
- Hideki Matsuyama 20/1
- Rickie Fowler 20/1
- Gary Woodland 25/1
- Tony Finau 25/1
- Patrick Reed 30/1
Favorite: Justin Rose (16/1)
I'm never thrilled with backing a defending champion to repeat, but among the guys at the top, Rose feels like the best of the bunch. I did briefly consider reaching to put 30/1 shot Collin Morikawa in this spot, but generally speaking this isn't the event guys tend to have a lot of success at in their first attempt – Jon Rahm being the exception.
However, with Rose, you've got a guy who shook off plenty of rust last week with a 2nd place finish at the Singapore Open, combined with the fact that he's not finished worse then 8th at Torrey Pines the past three years. The 16/1 price tag feels a little disrespectful for the defending champ too, especially when it's a guy with Rose's pedigree.
But there is just more knocks on guys above him in the odds, as Rory and Tiger are essentially starting their seasons now and may not have the game to get to the winner's circle this week. Rahm, a winner here before, may be eyeing next week's potential trip to Arizona (where he played collegiate golf) a bit more. That really leaves Rose as the best candidate at the top in my view, and the 16/1 price does seem a little cheap.
You need to be long off the tee and an accurate ball striker here, and Rose checks off both categories. Tight fairways and plenty of sand around thick rough can force guys to put up some ugly numbers, especially those that are taking longer clubs relative to the field for average shots. If Rose is playing his best, he's got no issues with any of those concerns. He shot rounds of 66, 69, 69 on the tougher South Course last year in his victory, and if he lights up the North Course again, days like that on the South this week will surely have him in contention.
Yes, it's the deepest field of the year at the top, but 16/1 for Rose this week is a great starting price to get behind.
Mid-Range: Byeong Hun An (80/1)
All you need to know about the strength of this field at the top is the fact that Byeong Hun An went from 30/1 last week to 80/1 this week. Missing the cut last week doesn't help out An's cause, but it's been a rough start for him statistically across the board. This is a guy that's really struggling in nearly all the Strokes Gained categories – in the 100's to 130's in a few – whereas last season if you eliminate his struggles on the green with the putter, he was not worst then 32nd in any of the Strokes Gained categories.
It's that history I'm looking to trust at this huge price this week, as Byeong Hun An does have all the tools to play well here if he can put his complete game together. You would hope that two rounds on very easy courses last week would have helped An in that regard, but it was also his first action since playing in the Presidents Cup, and first Tour event since the HSBC-Champions back at the beginning of November.
It was that last start – An finished T14 – that capped off a great three-week stretch for An where he put up T6, T8 and T14 finishes on that resume. He managed those types of finishes while contributing to those sub-par Strokes Gained numbers this year, so it's not like his game is completely off base. This may not be the week An puts it all together, but at 80/1 odds, it's worth the shot in believing it could happen.
Long Shot: Lucas Glover (100/1)
Glover is another guy that's been fighting his game somewhat in recent starts, as like An, he missed the cut last week after he wasn't able to go as low as most. But it was also his first start in months, and when the tournament requires you to be somewhere near -10 just to make a cut, having that as your first start after a long layoff likely isn't going to bring the best results.
But what playing last week's event does do, is help shake off plenty of rust for guys like Glover, as it's two full rounds at very easy courses, and there's nothing better for a golfer's confidence in his game then putting together rounds with a handful of birdies your first time back. Glover had rounds of 67 and 65 counterfeited by a 76 in-between them last week, as it was one bad round that killed his chances.
Glover still had no issues rolling in birdies last week, and as he continues to sharpen up the game heading into spring, he is someone that might commonly be a bit mispriced in some fields because of the big names at the top. This might be one of those cases with him.
72 Hole Matchup to Take: Justin Rose (+100) over Tiger Woods
No need to venture too far from the strategy that's produced a 3-0 record in these 72 hole matchup plays in 2020. Again, we've got a guy who I believe has a great shot to win the event, against one who could end up having this week feel more like a training session rather then trying to win.
The winning history Tiger has here will always give him a shot at this event as long as he keeps his game at or near the current level. But he isn't getting any younger, and that means it's likely going to take him a bit more time to get going at the start of the season to where he wants his game to be.
Tiger's first start of the 2019 calendar year was at this event as well, and while the end result was a T20 and is by all means solid, it was three rounds in the 70's followed by a solid 67 on Sunday when he could go out there free and easy. It was a strong way to get back “into the water” and obviously allowed him to peak when he wanted to when he won the Masters, but it's still just him getting back on the bike for the first time in the season, and he likely treats it as such.
His knowledge of Torrey Pines and ability to play well here is second to none, and all of that probably goes into his decision to make this tour stop his first one of the year. But the rust only gets worse as you get older when you start a new season, and that course history is probably relied upon a little too much in the betting markets. I'm not convinced Tiger should be laying any price to Rose in this spot, and hopefully that's how it plays out.