Post by: Mike Philipps
An already stacked field receives an extra boost this week, as the Farmers Insurance Open once again serves as Tiger Woods’ PGA Tour comeback launch point. The presence of arguably the game’s greatest ever player adds some extra spice during a typically slow week in American sports, as the NFL has a bye week before the Super Bowl takes over.
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Once again, the Farmers calls San Diego its home and iconic Torrey Pines Golf Course serves as the venue. We’ll see action on both the North Course (Par 72, 7,052 yards) and South Course (Par 72, 7,968 yards) over the course of the week.
Woods’ return is obviously the biggest story this week, as he attempts, for the second straight year, to get himself back in competitive golf. As he has in the past, Woods has chosen a place he’s had great success at to help ease himself back into the swing of things. Woods is a nine-time winner in events held at Torrey Pines, but he should be held to a different measuring stick this week, as he has struggled with injuries for the better part of three years now. Any type of building on his performance at the Hero World Challenge will only the stoke the fires of his prospects for the 2017-18 season, and the Masters in particular.
Last year, while Woods missed the cut, Jon Rahm did the inevitable by earning his first career professional win, and he did so in dramatic fashion. His long, snaking putt from the back of the 18th green dropped for eagle to secure the victory and a place on highlight shows for the entire season. Rahm will be one of the main storylines this week. He has added three more wins to his resume in just 12 months and has moved up from 137th in the World before last year’s Farmers to No. 2 in the World this year.
As usual, Torrey Pines brings out many of the best players in the world to comprise an impressive field, and Rahm is far from the only headliner this week. 11 of the top-25 players in the World Golf Rankings are scheduled to play.
Also included are 11 major winners, bringing a total of 31 major championships to the event. There is no shortage of qualified competitors to choose from. Below are my top 10 picks to win this week, along with a couple long shots, a player to avoid and a special category for one Big Cat.
2018 Farmers Insurance Odds
Before we continue with the rest of today’s post, let’s take a moment to compare the odds for each of the top-20 players to win this tournament outright. The following charts show the odds you can get for backing any one player to win the 2018 edition of the Farmers Insurance Open. We will first compare the odds across 3 international golf bookmakers and then look at the odds from 3 US-friendly betting sites.
Odds at International Bookmakers
|Charles Howell III||48/1||40/1||40/1|
Odds at US-Friendly Sportsbooks
|Charles Howell III||+4000||+4000||+4000|
Top Picks to Win the Farmers Insurance Open
Let’s begin with a look at the players deemed most likely to win the Farmers Insurance Open. The oddsmakers have priced these players as the betting favourites, and we tend to agree. This first batch of players is chock-full of potential winners.
- World Golf Ranking: 2
- Overview: If not for Tiger Woods, this week would be all about Jon Rahm, the now second-ranked player in the world. He enters as the defending champ of the Farmers Insurance Open, and comes off a win last week at the CareeerBuilder Challenge. Rahm is easily the most consistent player in the world right now, seemingly in the hunt every time he tees it up. Over his last nine starts, he’s finished in the top seven an incredible seven times, twice earning the victory.
- At the Farmers Insurance Open: Rahm firmly cemented his place as one of the best young players on the PGA Tour with an epic final round to earn him the victory at last year’s Farmers Insurance Open. His final-round 65 – highlighted by two eagles on the back nine – was one of the most dramatic final rounds of the 2016-17 season. For the week, Rahm ranked in the top 20 of the field in Total Putts, Greens in Regulation, Fairways Hit and Driving Distance.
- Last event: Rahm got off to a great start last week at the CareerBuilder Challenge, firing an opening round 62 at La Quinta, before holding on in thrilling fashion to earn his second victory in his last three starts. Rahm held the lead much of the final round, but, despite hitting quality shots down the stretch, his putter would not allow him to close the door on the field. After Andrew Landry tied Rahm on the final hole, the two went to a sudden death playoff. Again, Rahm seemed to leave the door open for Landry, missing excellent chances on the first three playoff holes, before finally closing him out with a birdie on the fourth (the third time they played No. 18 in the playoff).
- World Golf Ranking: 6
- Overview: Rose might be the only player that can claim to be playing better than Rahm over the past few months. While his streak of 10 straight top-10s finally came to an end, Rose’s recent run has been remarkable. Over his last 11 starts, Rose has three wins and three more top-fives.
- At the Farmers Insurance Open: Rose had never had much success at Torrey Pines, failing to crack the top 20 in his first seven Farmers Insurance Opens. That changed last year, as he used an opening-round 65 to grab the first- and second-round leads. He played the weekend in just one-under-par, and had to settle for a T-4 finish, but it was easily his best finish in the event.
- Last event: Rose’s streak of top-10 finishes finally ended at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship last week. Rose had been getting off to excellent starts, but that was not the case this time, as he opened with a pair of 71s. He played the weekend in eight-under-par, but that was only good enough for a T-22 finish.
- World Golf Ranking: 13
- Overview: Leishman’s game has really been eye-opening since the FedEx Cup Playoffs. In his last eight starts since he missed the cut at The Northern Trust, he has finished in the top-four half the time, adding a T-7 at the Tournament of Champions as well (an event he led after the first and second rounds). Leishman brings an all-around game every time he tees it up. Last year, he ranked in the top 50 on the PGA Tour in all six Strokes Gained categories, including ranking eighth in Total Strokes Gained.
- At the Farmers Insurance Open: Leishman has two runner-ups and another top-10 in nine career starts at Torrey Pines. Last year he finished T-20, but was in the top five after a third-round 68. A final-round 73 prevented him from added another top-10 to his impressive resume at the Farmers.
- Last event: Leishman looked to be in good shape after opening with rounds of 68 and 66 at the Sony Open, but he fell off the pace and ended up tied for 47th He did rank T-10 in the field in Total Putts for the week.
- World Golf Ranking: 7
- Overview: Fowler has done nothing to discourage talk that he would have a breakthrough season on the PGA Tour in 2017-18. With his T-4 finish at the Tournament of Champions, Fowler has finished in the top-four in all three of his starts this season, including his impressive victory at the Hero World Challenge. He currently ranks second on the PGA Tour in Scoring Average this season, but his lack of success at Torrey Pines is the only thing keeping him down on the list this week.
- At the Farmers Insurance Open: Fowler finished in the top-20 in each of his first four starts at the Farmers Insurance Open, including a T-5 in his debut and a T-6 in 2013, but since then, the Farmers spokesman has struggled. He’s missed the cut three of the last four years, along with a T-61 in 2015. Fowler has an average score of 73 over his last 10 rounds at Torrey Pines.
- Last event: Fowler had a very solid week at the Sentry Tournament of Champions, shooting two-under or better in all four rounds on his way to a 14-under total and a T-4 finish. For the week, Fowler finished third in Fairways Hit and led the field in fewest bogeys with four.
- World Golf Ranking: 5
- Overview: Matsuyama has been plugging along so far this season, earning a top-five result in four of his five starts. It’s nowhere near the run he started last season with, and he’s coming off a slump to end 2016-17, so Matsuyama might be coming in a little overlooked. He hasn’t had much luck at Torrey Pines over the years, but he’s still an elite ball striker, ranking in the top-seven on the PGA Tour in Strokes Gained: Approach-the-Green (3rd) and Tee-to-Green (7th).
- At the Farmers Insurance Open: Matsuyama has just one top 20 (T-16, 2014) and two missed cuts in four starts at the Farmers Insurance Open. Last year he failed to break 70 in any of his four rounds and finished T-33.
- Last event: Matsuyama finished T-4 at the Sentry Tournament of Champions on the strength of a final-round 66, his third-straight top-four finish at Kapalua.
Charles Howell III
- World Golf Ranking: 66
- Overview: Howell isn’t the player you think of when it comes to favorites to win, but his play over the last year-plus and his track record at Torrey Pines bumps him way up the list this week. Since the start of the 2016-17 season, Howell has 11 top-15 results to his credit, including a pair of runner-up finishes. One of those runner-ups came last year at the Farmers Insurance Open.
- At the Farmers Insurance Open: This will be the 16th straight time that Howell will tee it up at the event held at Torrey Pines. With that much experience, it comes as no surprise that Howell has an excellent record there. He’s made the cut in all 15 of his starts, and added his third second-place finish last year. While he hasn’t yet come out on top at the Farmers, his seven career top-10s is tough to ignore.
- Last event: Howell earned his fourth top-20 of the season with a T-20 at the CareerBuilder Challenge last week.
- World Golf Ranking: 20
- Overview: Harman now finds himself ranked in the top 20 of the World Golf Rankings for the first time in his career, thanks to his impressive run to start the 2017-18 season. He’s finished in the top eight in five of his six starts thus far and looked very comfortable near the top of the leaderboard. Harman’s putter has always been a strength, and there is no change this season. He ranks 11th on the PGA Tour in Strokes Gained: Putting and ranks sixth in Total Strokes Gained.
- At the Farmers Insurance Open: Last year, Harman earned his first top-10 in five career starts at the Farmers. His bookend rounds of 68 was good enough for a total of eight-under-par and a T-9 finish. Harman failed to crack the top 25 in his four previous starts at Torrey Pines.
- Last event: Harman fell outside the top 10 for the first this season, but his T-20 at the CareerBuilder Challenge hardly qualifies as disappointing. He got off to a very strong start, opening with rounds of 65 and 68 before falling off the pace on the weekend.
- World Golf Ranking: 44
- Overview: Finau is off to a strong start this season, making the cut in all five events of the 2017-18 season and earning three top-20s, the highlight being his runner-up finish at the Safeway Open. So far this season, Finau ranks in the top 11 on the PGA Tour in three Strokes Gained categories – Approach-the-Green (8th), Tee-to-Green (9th) and Total (11th) – and is second in Driving Distance at nearly 330 yards.
- At the Farmers Insurance Open: Finau has finished inside the top 25 in each of his first three starts at the Farmers Insurance Open, improving his standing each year. Last year, he earned a T-4 finish thanks to playing the final three rounds in 10-under-par.
- Last event: After an unspectacular round of 70 to open the Sony Open two weeks ago, he carded three straight 67s to finish at nine-under-par and T-32.
- World Golf Ranking: 14
- Overview: Day struggled much of last season, dealing with injuries and personal issues. And while he hasn’t gotten all the way back to his peak from a few years ago, Day has put together a nice stretch of consistent play over the past eight months. He has made the cut in his last 10 starts and finished in the top 25 in nine of them. In three starts this season, Day has a pair of T-11s and a solo 5th to his credit.
- At the Farmers Insurance Open: Day collected a win, a runner-up and a T-9 at the Farmers Insurance Open from 2013 to 2015, giving him one of the best resumes in the field this week. Unfortunately for Day, as he has fallen from his peak, his results at the Torrey Pines have also suffered. He missed the cut each of the last two years, failing to break par once.
- Last event: Day finished in solo fifth place at the Emirates Australian Open in late November. The former World No. 1 got off to a great start with an opening round 66, but his score rose each day, finishing with a 73 on Sunday.
- World Golf Ranking: 26
- Overview: Schauffele was arguably the biggest surprise of the 2016-17 season, winning twice over the last three months, including at the TOUR Championship. The PGA Tour Rookie of the Year totaled three more top 10s to go along with those two victories.
- At the Farmers Insurance Open: Schauffele has missed the cut in each of his two prior starts at the Farmers Insurance Open. He has yet to break 74 in any of his four competitive rounds at Torrey Pines.
- Last event: Schauffele got himself into the top 10 at the Sony Open after a second-round 64, but a 72 the next day knocked him out of contention, eventually finishing in T-32
Looking at the Longer Shots
If you’re looking for a little more bang for your money, these players are offer bigger returns than the top picks. These players are more of a gamble, but the odds at which these players are paying helps make up for some of their shortcomings when it comes to winning major tournaments. All that being said, this next group of golfers is certainly capable. It’s just not anything close to a sure thing.
- World Golf Ranking: 106
- Overview: Schniderjans has four top-25 finishes in five starts this season and is coming off his best result thus far. The former No. 1 ranked Amateur in the World is loaded with talent and looks to be getting more comfortable on the big stage. He’s definitely someone to keep an eye on.
- At the Farmers Insurance Open: Schniederjans finished T-9 at last year’s Farmers Insurance Open, his second career start in the event. For the week, he ranked second in Driving Distance and fifth in Greens in Regulation, hitting over 76 percent. He finished T-49 in his debut the year before.
- Last event: Schniederjans carded four rounds of 68 or better to claim a T-7 finish at the Sony Open two weeks ago. He shared the lead for most birdies for the week with 24 and ranked sixth in the field in Total Putts.
- World Golf Ranking: 65
- Overview: Snedeker has been dealing with injuries that have limited his number of appearances – he’s played just three times since June – otherwise you would find his name near the top of the favorites list. The former Vanderbilt Commodore has seemingly owned Torrey Pines during his 11 career starts there, winning twice. His game might not be in the best shape to compete this week, but anybody with a 64-percent top-10 ratio is worth a look.
- At the Farmers Insurance Open: Snedeker has seemed awfully comfortable at Torrey Pines in this event. He has a pair of wins, two other runner-ups and three more top-10s. A pretty impressive resume.
- Last event: Snedeker struggled in his first event since he had to withdraw due to injury, missing the cut at the CareerBuilder Challenge last week. He did finish the event strong, carding a third-round 67 to miss the cut by two strokes.
Player to Avoid
Phil Mickelson is still capable, but recent form issues do not justify the odds the bookmakers are giving him. As much as we like Mickelson, we’re going to have to pass on him this time around.
- World Golf Ranking: 46
- Overview: The seemingly ageless Mickelson is finally seeing his game deteriorate. He’s fallen outside of the top 40 of the World Golf Rankings for the first time since 1993. He still displays flurries of greatness, but his name also carries a betting premium that it is simply not worth anymore. No one will be shocked the next time Lefty makes a charge up the leaderboard, but right now, the odds seem against it.
- At the Farmers Insurance Open: Mickelson has missed the cut at the Farmers in three of his last five starts, and he’s made the top-10 just once in his last nine starts there. Last year marked his best performance (T-14) since he finished runner-up in 2011.
- Last event: Mickelson missed the cut at the CareerBuilder Challenge last week after a third-round 74.
The Tiger Woods Category
Standing in a category of his own is the one and only Tiger Woods. He is not at all a safe bet, but we know his history and the man commands headlines, so it is only right to discuss his prospects at the 2018 Farmers Insurance Open.
- World Golf Ranking: 647
- Overview: He’s still the biggest star in golf, and he has to be discussed. Tiger’s name will always have skewed odds next to it, so there’s no way to rationally say he’s a good pick this week. There were many promising signs during his first event back, but he’s still only played one competitive event in 10 months. This will be another week of observation and research to see if he can be considered a legitimate option moving forward.
- At the Farmers Insurance Open: Tiger has fared pretty well at Torrey Pines in his career. In his first 11 starts in this event, he finished outside the top-5 just once, winning six times. His average total score during that stretch was better than 14-under-par. He added another victory in 2013 to bring the total to seven. Simply put, when Tiger was healthy, he dominated this event like no other.
- Last event: Woods finished in the middle of the pack (T-9) at the Hero World Challenge back in December. Despite the pedestrian finish, Tiger’s game received rave reviews. His swings looked excellent, often producing above-average distance off the tee. He actually held the lead through 27 holes after eagling the par-five ninth, but scuffled finishing his round before a difficult third round. No matter his finish, it was definitely a successful outing, as he was able to play pain free.
Other players to consider: Sangmoon Bae, Patrick Cantlay, Charley Hoffman, Si Woo Kim, Maverick McNealy, Francesco Molinari, Alex Noren, Cameron Smith, Jhonattan Vegas
Past winners in the field: Jon Rahm, Brandt Snedeker (2), Jason Day, Scott Stallings, Tiger Woods (7), Ben Crane, Nick Watney, Phil Mickelson (3)
Major winners in the field: Keegan Bradley, Stewart Cink, Jason Day, Lucas Glover, Retief Goosen (2), Padraig Harrington (3), Phil Mickelson (5), Geoff Ogilvy, Justin Rose, Jimmy Walker, Tiger Woods (14)