2017 Farmers Insurance Open: Preview

Photo courtesy of PGATour.com

Congratulations to Hudson Swafford for earning his first PGA win! And another congrats to Adam Hadwin for shooting the second 59 of 2017 – pretty amazing considering only six golfers had shot sub-60 rounds on the PGA Tour, ever, and we have now seen two more join that club in consecutive weeks. Even more amazing is the fact that Hadwin accomplished this feat on a par 72 course.

As for our picks, we saw some mixed results – Hadwin was joined by Brendan Steele (T6), Chez Reavie (T12), and Bill Haas (T17) in the top 20, and Tom correctly faded Jamie Lovemark (MC at +3), but we also lost our picks of Zach Johnson, Emiliano Grillo, Ryan Palmer, and Harold Varner III to the cut. The format of the tournament – opening on a 3-course rotation and making the cut after Saturday, not Friday – added a level of difficulty to picking golfers. But it is up to you to know what you are facing each week. So with that being said, we will transition to this week’s test, the Farmers Insurance Open.

For starters, this tournament is played on two courses: Torrey Pines North and South. The pros will alternate on Thursday and Friday, and those who make the cut will finish the tournament on the famed South course (probably best known for hosting Tiger Woods’ huge comeback U.S. Open win in 2008).  The South course is considerably longer and tougher, but both are traditional par 72s. Tee times are worth considering due to this format (which should be posted on Wednesday). Golfers who get the chance to play the South course in the morning typically get better scoring conditions, and – so long as they make the cut – playing the South course on Friday could provide a small advantage headed into the weekend. Disclaimer: These factors serve better as tiebreakers, not sole reasons to pick or fade a golfer.

The most exciting  thing about this week is that we are seeing the deepest full-field event of the year by far, with even more notable golfers teeing it up than in past years. Yes, Tiger Woods is back, which undoubtedly means that he will get more coverage than if Trump stripped naked and strolled down Times Square. However, there are a lot of other great players in the field that we haven’t seen yet, including but not limited to Rickie Fowler, J.B. Holmes, Brooks Koepka, Shane Lowry, and (not including the Tournament of Champions) Dustin Johnson and Nike’s new poster child, Jason Day. Alright, enough set up, here are our picks for the Farmers.

Pick of the Week

Jon:

Luke List $7,200 – List seemingly has turned a corner in his game. He was cut last year at Torrey Pines, but as it sits right now, I like the way List has been playing, and I like that his stats lineup for a  good showing at Farmer’s. List has been going low dating back to last October, and I think he’ll continue at Torrey Pines.  His 4.3 average on par-5’s also bodes well for a course where that stat has been incredibly telling of past victors.

Tom:

Tiger Woods Jimmy Walker $9,400 – Psych! Tiger is not my pick of the week, and since he is Tiger, he will undoubtedly be a fair few people’s pick even though we recommend waiting to see how his stamina holds up, despite his storied history at this venue. Instead, my pick is probably equally risky in Jimmy Walker. On one hand, Walker has four top 10s (and one MC) in the past 5 years at this tournament. On the other hand, he burned people badly at the Sony Open, where he also has a great history. Walker has a tendency to burn you when you least expect it, but because of this trait, I think a lot of people will weigh his MC at the Sony higher than his history here, and I’m all for going against the grain with a player of Walker’s caliber.

Dustin Johnson

Will Dustin Johnson continue the success that earned him Player of the Year honors in 2016? Photo courtesy of sunsetviewgolf.com

Thick Steak Plays

Jon:

Dustin Johnson $ 11,100 – When Tiger used to dominate, one of his most intimidating factors was being bigger off the tee than the rest of the tour. Well guess who’s one of the biggest off the tee these days…that’s right, DJ. Dustin Johnson has got that tour swag going right now, and in his first full-field PGA event in 2017, I like DJ to make the inevitable “Tiger Watch” obsolete as he asserts his dominance at Torrey Pines.

Justin Rose $10,200 – It would appear that his back is perfectly fine. Rose had himself a stellar 2016 season, and was able to follow that up with a 2nd place finish at The Sony Open in Hawaii. For whatever reason, Rose is typically the victim of low ownership, and I would expect the same thing this week, with people grabbing Hideki and DJ instead. I like Rose a lot this week, and would trust him in both GPP and cash lineups.

Tom:

Jon Rahm $9,200 – Jon beat me to the punch on two of my picks this week, and the first was DJ. He will likely be a favorite of many, but I agree with Jon’s logic: he’s firing on all cylinders right now, and if his tee game is on point, he has the best chance of anyone to overpower the tough South course (with that being said, he could also make an interesting fade if you are feeling gutsy, because he is coming off a runner-up finish in Abu Dhabi which could lead to a jet-lag-induced letdown).

But onto my pick, Jon Rahm. Rahm is no longer a well-kept secret based on his usage last week, and price tag this week. He is an all-world golfer, and I see him having the greatest success in tournaments that require patience and skill, not necessarily going low like last week, so I predict Rahm will wait for his moments, and keep himself in contention throughout the weekend.

Gary Woodland $8,600 – This week marks two out of three that I have endorsed Woodland. And that doesn’t concern me, because Woodland always shows up in these early events (much like Walker, Perez, Howell III, Steele, and more). In fact, Woodland might be the least talked about golfer in this category. And in this event, he is as sure a bet to make the cut as any. With a top 10 two years ago, Woodland was in position to win last year before literally getting blown out (as so many in the field were) by the torrential wind and rain on Sunday to the tune of an 82. That being only a few strokes above the average in some of the toughest conditions in PGA history, I’m hoping to scoop up some course history that others will overlook from Woodland.

Middle of the Road

Jon:

Kevin Chappell $7,400 – When I’m as high as I am on Dustin Johnson, I am likely to be similarly high on DJ Lite, AKA Kevin Chappell. It’s no secret that Chappell is the guy that other players think should have won by now on the tour, and I could see him coming out swinging in 2017. The only thing that scares me is very little course history coupled with the tendency to not play well early in the year.

Charles Howell III $7,300 – It looks like old Charlie Three-Sticks has picked up right where he left off. For DFS purposes, he essentially should be used as the cornerstone for cash lineups because he is such a consistent cut maker.  Not only that, but Howell boasts multiple top 10s at Torrey Pines in recent years, and his price has fallen due to the stronger field.

Tom:

Pat Perez $7,600 – DJ lite was the other guy Jon beat me to the punch on picking, because if he can keep the ball in play, he has the power to shoot some low rounds this week, and keep up his solid play from 2016. But in keeping with my theme of golfers who show up early in the season, I like Perez for the obvious reasons (this is his home course, he has a good history, and has already won this season) and for a new one: Perez actually took last week off, which shows good decision making given his age, and shows that he was even more committed to preparing for this week.

Danny Lee $7,100 – Even though we did not mention it, I was all over Lee last week with the price tag of $6,800. He has been in and out of the conversation surrounding the young talent that has dominated the PGA Tour recently. Inconsistency has plagued him in the last two seasons, and fittingly, he struggled through the weekend at the Career Builder after jumping out to a hot start that had him in the top five through two rounds. I actually think his game lends itself to tougher courses though, and thus will be going back to the well with Lee despite it costing me last week.

Tom’s Fade of The Week

Tiger Woods Jason Day $11,400 – Psych #2! That’s the seventh Tiger reference I’ve counted from this post, so I guess we’re doing our due diligence as golf writers. And picking Woods as my fade is more likely than pick of the week, but who wants to be that guy who faded Tiger Woods in his epic comeback tournament? Just not going in there. And besides, I couldn’t resist picking the heir to his Nike thrown. My rationale with Jason Day is that 1. I’m not convinced he is comfortable with the equipment and wardrobe change, and 2. I think if you pick wisely, you won’t get burned by fading the Aussie even if he does win. Simply put, with the strength of the field and the prices the way they are, I’m a strong advocate for avoiding the highest priced player all together, and leaning instead on lineups with the mid-range, 7-9K guys.

Jon’s Flyer of The Week

I’m offering two flyers this week because I’m really high on Martin Laird given his price tag (see below), but also predict he will have higher ownership than a true flyer pick.

Martin Laird $6,500 – I really like Party Marty Laird this week for a few reasons: 1. His course history looks good, coming in at T8 and T7 the past two years. 2. His recent form, including the wraparound season, would suggest that he’s poised for another good showing this at Torrey Pines. And finally, 3. His statistics in total driving, birdie or better % and strokes gained tee-to-green are all top 20 on tour.

John Huh $6,700 – A pick that might make some go, “huh?” John Huh has played well at Torrey Pines, and I’d look for him to play well following a strong showing this fall and at Waialae. Huh has been cut one time at Torrey Pines since 2012, and also was able to notch two top-10 finishes here in the same time span.

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