This article is part of our DraftKings PGA series.
FARMERS INSURANCE OPEN
Winner's Share: $1.512M
FedEx Cup Points: 500 to the winner
Location: La Jolla, Calif.
Course: Torrey Pines GC (South and North courses)
Yardage: 7,765 (South)
2021 champion: Patrick Reed
The year always begins with the two Hawaii tournaments and then The American Express. But it never quite feels as if golf is fully back from the long winter hiatus until the final week of January. That's when the big names really begin to congregate in full force at Torrey Pines. Six of the top 10 in the world rankings, 14 of the top 25 and 25 of the top 50 have descended upon San Diego to headline by far the strongest field since last year's playoffs.
World No. 1 Jon Rahm, who captured his first major title at the U.S. Open here last June, heads the 156-man contingent, along with Dustin Johnson in his 2022 debut, Justin Thomas, Xander Schauffele, Bryson DeChambeau and Hideki Matsuyama rounding out the top 10. They are followed quickly by the likes of Jordan Spieth, Brooks Koepka, Sam Burns, Scottie Scheffler, Tony Finau and defending Farmers Insurance Open champion Patrick Reed.
Before going any further, we need to point out that the tournament starts Wednesday this week and ends on Saturday, as the Tour wants to avoid going ahead with the NFL's two conference championship games set to be played Sunday.
The first three tournaments of 2022 are big-time birdie-fests, but that all changes this week. Last year, Reed won by five strokes at 14-under and everyone else was in single digits. That's a tough golf tournament (even though there are few places more genteel than beautiful La Jolla). And for that we can thank the golf course. The South is a mere 235 yards shy of 8,000 and – what's that for a long hitter these days, a hard 5-iron? The back-nine comes within 38 yards of 4,000. The track was actualy a little shorter for the U.S. Open last year at 7,685 yards, but it played as a par-71 when Rahm won at a miniscule 6-under. This week, we should expect a winning score closer to 14-under than 6-under.
As always, the South course will be in play for three of the four rounds. It ranked fourth on the PGA Tour course difficulty meter last year. Seven of the 10 par-4s are at least 450 yards. The shortest par-5 is 564 and two exceed 615. Three of the par-3s are 200-plus and two are 225-plus. Really, you could make a case that there's only one short hole on the entire course – the 389-yard second. Traditionally, the 505-yard 12th and 480-yard 15th are the biggest brutes. The sheer length of the course not the only challenge; the golfers will be far back in the fairway – and they are narrow fairways, at that – aiming at some of the smallest greens on Tour. The tricky poa annua surfaces average only 5,000 square feet. If they miss the greens, they are then faced with chipping from the gnarly kikuyu grass, wich also dominates the rough here. Water is in play on just one hole, but it can be a game-changer on the 570-yard 18th. The North course is some 500 yards shorter at 7,258 and is far easier, though a bit harder since a Tom Weiskopf redesign a few years back. Still, anyone hoping to contend must crush the North course and hope to survive the South. The 486-yard 18th on the North is among the hardest holes on the entire PGA Tour. The greens are a bit larger than at the South at an average of 6,000 square feet, and they are bentgrass.
With the golfers playing the North either Wednesday or Thursday, many gamers will turn to Showdown games and load up all six spots with guys playing the North. It's a good plan to consider.
Needless to say, there's a premium on distance this week, not only driver but long iron play. The golfers shouldn't see the adverse conditions of chilly temperatures and rain they endured a year ago, but it's always hard to imagine a short hitter emerging on one of the longest courses in the world. That said, Reed won in those difficult conditions, Marc Leishman won two years ago and Brandt Snedeker is a two-time Torrey Pines winner.
Weather-wise, there is no rain and minimal wind in the forecast all week, but temperatures will be hard-pressed to get out of the 60s, meaning there will be some chilly early tee times, especially on Wednesday and Thursday.
Key Stats to Winning at Torrey Pines South
The most important indicators every week are current form and course history. "Key Stats" follow in importance.
• Strokes Gained: Off-the-Tee/Driving Distance
• Strokes Gained: Approach/Greens in Regulation/Approach from 175-200 yards
• Strokes Gained: Around-the-Green/Scrambling
• Par-4 Efficiency 450-500 yards
In the past seven years, the winning score has ranged from 6-under (Snedeker, 2016) to 21-under (Rose). Four times in the past eight years, the winner has been 10-under or less. Even though the course is so long, driving distance did not correlate to success the past two years. Last year, just three of the top-15 finishers finished top-10 in length off the tee, and the year before it was just two. Reed and Leishman both won with their short games, though Reed did it primarily with his wedges, ranking first in Strokes Gained: Around-the-Greens, and Leishman with his putter, ranking first in SG: Putting. So, as we always say, there certainly is more than one way to win a golf tournament, even on a long course. Now, distance is still important; it could be a case of long hitters trying to take a little bit off in an effort to find the narrow fairways. And there will be long iron shots. Driving accuracy and GIR numbers are annually among the lowest on Tour, which brings deftness around the greens into play. Six of the past 10 winners were top-10 in scrambling. Three years ago when Rose won, it was more of what we expect from Torrey Pines: The top seven finishers were top-25 in both driving distance and Strokes Gained: Off-the-Tee. Last year, Reed was 52nd and 31st, respectively.
DRAFTKINGS VALUE PICKS
Based on Standard $50K Salary Cap
Tier 1 Values
Jon Rahm - $11,200 ((Winning odds at the DraftKings Sportsbook: +650)
Whether you want to pay up for Rahm is an individual decision. But simply cannot omit him here. First, the $11,200 is a not a big price for the top guy on the DK board. More importantly, after winning here in 2017, Rahm finished top-7 the past three years, including runner-up in 2020. And that doesn't even include his U.S. Open win at Torrey Pines last June.
Xander Schauffele - $10,100 (+1400)
After bizarrely missing the cut in four of his first five starts at his hometown track, Schauffele tied for second last year. It's hard to explain a reason for all those bad tournaments other than the pressure of playing in front of family and friends, and meeting high expectations. Because Schauffele's game is perfectly suited for Torrey Pines. He's ranked first on Tour in approaches from 175-200 yards.
Daniel Berger - $10,000 (+2000)
We were disappointed to see Berger priced so higher; we were hoping one of the more unassuming golfers might sneak under the radar. He does not have a great history at Torrey Pines, missing three straight cuts, though he hasn't been there since 2019. That stretch overlapped with some injury years for Berger. He tied for seventh at the U.S. Open last year. Berger skipped the entire Fall Swing – he did play the Hero World Challenge – but didn't miss a beat with a top-5 at the Tournament of Champions.
Sam Burns - $9,700 (+2000)
Burns tied for 18th here a year ago. But he began the final round within two strokes of eventual winner Patrick Reed, only to limp home with a 75. He's a pretty long hitter who is also ranked top-20 on Tour in both driving accuracy and greens in regulation. Maybe more importantly, since a year ago Burns has learned how to close the deal.
Tier 2 Values
Will Zalatoris - $9,200 (+3000)
Zalatoris surprised us with a T6 last week, just his second top-10 since May. He normally does do his best work at shorter tracks. He normally does his best work at tracks like Torrey Pines. He tied for seventh here a year ago. Zalatoris is a long and accurate hitter, ranked 17th in greens in regulation, and top-25 on Tour in Par-4 450-500.
Tony Finau - $9,100 (+2500)
Finau was priced at $10,700 last year, finished in a tie for second and is now $9,100 cheaper. Math! We know Finau has not been great ever since ending his long victory drought at the Northern Trust last summer. But he has finished in the top-six in four of the past five years (yes, he missed the cut at the U.S. Open). The price is just to favorable to overlook.
Marc Leishman - $9,000 (+2500)
Leishman has been one of the top golfers in this event throughout the years, winning in 2020 for his fifth top-10 at the tournament. He tied for 18th in his title defense. Two years ago, the Aussie led the field in putting, and he uses his short game to succeed here far more than his length. That said, he's just outside the top 50 on Tour in Par-4 450-500.
Matthew Wolff - $8,500 (+5000)
It's always hard for us to pick a guy we had picked the week before and face-planted. Wolff is coming off at horrible week in the California desert, easily missing the cut at The American Express. But the fit is just too good to ignore. Last year at the Farmers, Wolff withdrew as his personal issues began to grow. But he tied for 21st in 2020. We all know Wolff is a long hitter. He's also ranked fourth on Tour in SG: Around-the-Green.
Tier 3 Values
Keegan Bradley - $7,900 (+8000)
The veteran has a decent record at the Farmers, making the cut nine of 11 times, with a pair of top-5s and a T16 in his last visit in 2020. We all know of Bradley's putting woes, but he's still among the better guys on Tour everywhere else (he's ranked 16th in SG: Tee-to-Green). But with the very small greens on the South course, that could help Bradley mask his shortcoming.
Francesco Molinari - $7,600 (+8000)
The former top-5 player sits 181st these days, in part because his play, in part because he hasn't played all that much. But there's a trend developing with California tracks. Molinari, who has relocated to the Los Angeles area, was 10th at the Farmers last year, then 13th at the U.S. Open at Torrey. He also tied for eighth a year ago at Riviera – where he is a member – and just last week was T6 at the Amex. In a limited sample size this season, he's ranked top-25 on Tour in approach 175-200.
Aaron Wise - $7,500 (+6500)
Wise hasn't finished better than 71st in three visits to the Farmers, though he last played the tournament in 2019. He's a far better player now and, frankly, this should be a perfect fit for him. He's ranked fifth on Tour in Strokes Gained: Tee-to-Green. The one week spot in his game is putting, and even that is vastly improved this year.
Brandt Snedeker - $7,400 (+11000)
Despite Snedeker's well-known success rate at Torrey Pines, we were fully prepared to skip the now-41-year-old who finished a mere 32nd here last year. But then he went ahead a played three strong rounds at the Sony to finish 36th, and four strong rounds at the Amex to tie for 14th. One of the Tour's shorter hitters, Snedeker sits 41st in approach from 175-200.
Matt Jones - $7,200 (+15000)
Jones has shown his game plays on all kinds of courses. Like Torrey, PGA National is a long, difficult track, and Jones won the Honda last year 12-under. He's made the cut in nine of 11 Farmers starts, and also at last year's U.S. Open. A lot of Jones' stats make him a good fit, though none more than ranking sixth in Strokes gained: Around-the-Green.
Doug Ghim - $7,000 (+20000)
Ghim won't get you many high finishes, but he's pretty good at getting you to the weekend. He's made six straight cuts this season, including last week at the Amex in his 2022 debut. He's also made two of three at the Farmers, including last year's T37. He's not a long hitter or especially accurate, but he's pretty good around the greens. While a decent 69th in SG: Around-the-Greens, Ghim is ranked first on Tour in the micro-stat scrambling from the fringe.
Rory Sabbatini - $6,700 (+25000)
This will be Sabbatini's 20th start at the Farmers. He's made the cut 12 times, including four of the past five years, three of which top-25s, topped by last year's T10. To be sure, Sabbatini has had a terrible start to 2021-22, cashing only once in six starts, though that one was a T3 at the Shriners. With a small sample size, Sabbatini is ranked second on Tour in both SG: Around-the-Green and Par-4 450-500.
J.T. Poston - $6,400 (+40000)
Poston has made the cut the past four times he's played Torrey Pines, including a tie for 40th at last year's U.S. Open. He was also T18 at last year's Farmers. He's not a long hitter by any means but normally a great putter. We say "normally" because this season in the early going of 2021-22 he's been uncharacteristically bad. He missed his first six cuts of the season yet has made his past two at the Sony and the Amex, where he tied for 25th.