This article is part of our FanDuel PGA series.
Farmers Insurance Open
Courses: Torrey Pines South Course (7,765 yards, par 72) [Host], Torrey Pines North Course (7,258 yards, par 72)
Winner: $1,350,000 and 500 FedExCup points
We had the official start of the season in September at the Greenbrier and we had the first tournament of 2020 earlier this month at Kapalua. However, it really feels like this is the week the PGA Tour season gets underway. A lot of that has to do with seven-time Farmers Insurance Open champion Tiger Woods making his first official PGA Tour start since his win at the Zozo Championship in October, when he tied Sam Snead for the all-time PGA Tour wins record of 82. Joining him will be Rory McIlory, who is making his first PGA Tour start since his win in October at the WGC-HSBC Champions. With a win this week, McIlroy would pass Brooks Koepka for No. 1 in the OWGR for the first time since 2015. Players will get a crack at both courses – including the easier North Course – Thursday and Friday before a cut is made and play shifts exclusively to the South Course for the weekend. Justin Rose will be defending last year's title this week and is coming in off a runner-up in his last start in Singapore. Other notables include past champions Jason Day, Jon Rahm, and Brandt Snedeker, as well as top-25 ranked players Xander Schauffele, Hideki Matsuyama, Rickie Fowler, Patrick Reed, Gary Woodland, Tony Finau, and Francesco Molinari.
Key Stats to Victory
There are not many more intimidating courses on Tour that Torrey Pines South. It is stretched out over 7,700 yards and the rough is as long and lush as you will find at any non-major venue. Take out Brandt Snedeker, and almost all winners at Torrey Pines this century have been big hitters. As such, the bomber that drives it the straightest this week will have the best chance to win. Something else the winning golfer will need is great touch around the greens. Because of the rough and firmness of the greens, GIR numbers will be nowhere close to what we saw last week in the Coachella Valley, and players will need to get up and down from lots of different places. Justin Rose, Jason Day, Snedeker, Tiger Woods, and Bubba Watson are all winners here since 2011 and all have exceptional touch around the greens. Lastly, the greens themselves are among the most difficult when it comes to putting inside of 10 feet. The poa annua grass get bumpy and incredibly slick late in the afternoon, meaning those that consistently strike solid putts will have massive advantages. The weather will be just about perfect for scoring, with temperatures in the mid-60s and winds that should average under 10 mph throughout the four days of action.
FanDuel Value Picks
Tiger Woods, ($11,700)
I know, I'm really going out on a limb picking an eight-time winner at Torrey Pines. Normally a stretch of inactivity like Tiger is on would concern me, but he hadn't played in months before winning the Zozo Championship in October and then looked like the best player at the Presidents Cup in December. Woods is driving it as well as he ever has and is still the best iron player in the world. Add in the fact that he is the best putter on poa annua ever, and a scenario in which he doesn't have a legit shot on Sunday is almost impossible to see.
Xander Schauffele, ($11,500)
Schauffele will be a crowd favorite, as he grew up in La Jolla and has plenty of experience at Torrey Pines. It seems like he is near the top of the leaderboard on Sunday just about every time he tees it up these days, as he has three second-place finishes in his last four official PGA Tour starts. Schauffele ranks second in birdie average and third in scoring average this season. There is virtually no weakness in his game.
Justin Rose, ($11,300)
After his win last year at Torrey Pines, Rose sat atop the OWGR. Since then, however, he has fallen off a bit and sits eighth in the rankings one year later. Rose's ball striking seems to have come back around after he struggled with it last summer. He is coming in off a runner-up at the SMBC Singapore Open last week. Rose's putting and short game provide the most reason to be excited about his chances this week.
Gary Woodland, ($10,700)
Torrey Pines is one of Woodland's best tracks. In 10 starts he has never missed a cut and he posted finishes of T9-T12-T20-T18 the last four years. We all know about his length, but what bodes well for his prospects this week is the fact he sits fourth on Tour in driving accuracy. Woodland enters having posted a top-20 – including four top-7 finishes – in each of his last five starts worldwide.
Longer Shots with Value
Ryan Palmer, ($9,700)
Palmer has taken well to Torrey Pines the last couple years, going T13 last year and T2 in 2018. It makes sense, considering how good a driver the Texan is. This season he ranks 11th in SG: Off-the-tee. Palmer is in great form, coming in off four straight top-20s, including a T4 at the Sony Open.
Keegan Bradley, ($9,200)
Bradley has quietly been among the Tour's best ball strikers over the last several years, ranking at least 36th in SG: Tee-to-green the last eight seasons. Bradley frequently struggled with his short game over that time, but this season he ranks ninth in SG: Around-the-green. He finished T4 at Torrey Pines back in 2017 and fifth in 2018.
Harris English, ($9,200)
English has had some good showings at the Farmers Insurance Open, and he enters this year's event hotter than ever, going 6-for-7 in cuts made this season and posting four top-6 finishes. English ranks sixth in SG: Off-the-tee, 16th in SG: Tee-to-green, fourth in GIR percentage, and 25th in scrambling. English owns a T2, T14, and T8 at Torrey Pines over the last five years.
J.B. Holmes, ($8,700)
Course history is the only reason you'd want to take Holmes this week. In three starts this season he hasn't really shown much, but he didn't show much prior to winning the Genesis Open last February or taking the 54-hole lead at the Open Championship in July. The point is Holmes is a golfer that can post a top-5 finish without showing much in the previous weeks, similar to what just occurred last week with Andrew Landry. Why has Holmes done so well at Torrey Pines? Well, the course is brutally long and it's hard to do all of hit fairways, hit greens, and putt. If you can hit it a mile, that puts you ahead of so many other players in the field. In the last five editions, Holmes has finished inside the top-6 three times.
Strategy Tips for this week (based on a 60k standard salary cap)
There's two ways to attack your lineups this week: You can either spend on a pair of the five favorites that are between $11,300-$12,200, or you can try to go for six golfers in the $9,000-$11,000 range. I prefer the later, as the options really fall off a cliff under $9,000. Gary Woodland, Tony Finau, Jason Day, and Brandt Snedeker are all players that have had a lot of success at Torrey Pines and should have lower ownership than some of the top guys, and at a much better price, to boot. There are a few long hitters who have had success at Torrey Pines in the past who are somewhere between $8,600-$9,700, and they can be used to round out your squad. All four golfers mentioned in the "Longer shots with Value" above fit that criteria. You can make a very deep lineup if you go that direction.