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🚨🚨🚨 - The Farmers Insurance Open begins on Wednesday and concludes Saturday. Please plan your betting routine accordingly. You will receive the LPGA betting narrative on Wednesday morning at the normal time (9:30am EST).
From a birdiefest to just plain brutal, the PGA TOUR continues play in California with the Farmers Insurance Open. Host venue Torrey Pines has been a mainstay on the TOUR for decades and for the second week in a row, we have multiple courses to handicap. The tracks at Torrey are visually stunning. The stark contrast between the elevated architecture resting cliffside against the beautiful blue Pacific Ocean creates a wonderful palate.
Unfortunately, the holes aren't nearly as interesting as the landscape. Rees Jones completed his last renovation in 2019. What's left of this William Bell father-son original is big, brutal and (if I'm honest) boring. It seems I'm not the only person with that opinion. Farmers was always the big start to the new season. Tiger Woods would begin his season, and everyone was excited to see the hang gliders along the Pacific Coast.
Times have definitely changed, and now with no signature status for a second year in a row Torrey draws a weaker field than the courses in Palm Desert last weekend. The Wednesday start really doesn't help, and the South Course is really hard.
The format of the Farmers starts with the field of 156 players competing in rounds one and two on the North and South Course. The South Course which has hosted two US Opens, takes the top 65 and ties for the final two rounds. The guys are competing for $9 million dollars total and $1.62 million for first place. Our defending champion is the “people's champion” Max Homa. His stellar long iron play in the final round a year ago separated him from the field. Homa started the week at +2000 which falls in line with most of the winners over the last decade.
The average pre-tournament winner's odds are +4100 over the past five years, and +5600 over the last 10. Eight of the last 10 winners had pre-tourney odds under +5500 and six under +2500. Our card this week will favor the middle of the betting board. Torrey is a tough test, one of the ten toughest on TOUR. The average winning score over the past 10 years is 13 under par. Keep in mind, the South Course has hosted two US Opens (Woods 2008, Rahm 2021). Those two champions are the cream of the crop pointing out you will need the full complement of ball striking skills to win here.
In 2022, we hit with +9000 Luke List at this event. What seemed like a longshot at the time, still makes perfect sense to this day. The test at Torrey eliminates so many from the field. The North Course is a par 72 layout covering 7,258 yards. The par 3s are brutal averaging 215 yards and although it is easier than the South, this course is no AMEX cake walk. The South Course is an absolute bear. Par 72 and 7,765 yards, it was the longest course on the PGA TOUR in 2023.
Take that knowledge and consider this as well. The average green size on the South Course is 5,000 sq/ft making it one of two courses on the PGA TOUR that is longer than 7,500 yards and has greens that small. The other is Muirfield Village. Did I mention the average fairway width is 24-27 yards? This is why Luke List, and players just like him make so much sense. Sometimes the keys to winning are hidden inside the numbers, agronomy, and architecture. There's a blend of characteristics needed to contend. At Torrey its obvious, power rules. You are going to miss fairways and when you do the closer you are to the green, the bigger the advantage.
Sixty percent of the par 4s on both courses are over 450 yards. Recent winners have gained an average of eight strokes on the field with their par 4 scoring. With an average winning score of 13 under par, that's more than halfway to winning. Conquering the 4s at Torrey, especially on the South Course takes brute strength. It will begin to sound redundant, but power at the Farmers is a differentiating skill. Eight of the last ten winners were speed demons. If we break down the par 4 scoring, the most impactful place to attack is the 450-500 4s. Six of the last ten winners made their biggest gains in that range.
Winning is about gaining an edge on the field. Little differences add up over 72 holes. Max Homa won with incredible long iron acumen a year ago. Luke List was the same in 2022. When you count the second shots on par 5s along with the approaches on the par 3s and 4s, more than two-thirds of your approaches will be over 175 yards. Taking care of business at Torrey starts off the tee, but long iron approaches REALLY matter. When you consider proximity buckets for the past ten winners, six of the last ten guys gained the most in the 200+ yard range.
With seven of your eight par 3s over 200 yards and so many long par 4s that makes perfect sense. Comp courses to Torrey are Muirfield Village, Olympia Fields, etc. Layouts that are long and place a premium on mid and long iron accuracy. These greens are small, and the field hits well under the TOUR average for GIRs. The last five winners gained more on the field around the green than off the tee. Does that mean we are going to favor a short game chef over a great driver, no. This is a US Open course, we need both!
Experience putting on Poa annua greens is another quality our winner will possess. The pundits will endlessly pontificate about how the Poa "pops" during the day causing players to miss putts inside six feet. Can we just agree that these greens are bumpy? East coast Poa is one of the finest surfaces to putt on. Place any grass near the coast where marine conditions consistently interact with growth and you're going to create a challenging situation. I believe Poa skill is part solid stroke and part mental strength. Torrey is a tough test down to the three footers. Keeping your cool along the Pacific cliffs matters.
Our card this week is a who's who of straight flushers, in good form, with short game upside. Hitting a +9000 bomb here two years ago always gets me excited for Farmers week. Speaking of bombs, the PGA TOUR has been a wild ride to start the season. Kirk (200-1), Murray (400-1), and now Dunlap (300-1) have recorded victories. Will the trend continue, I doubt it. I bet a "name" wins this week and I know these four have a great chance to be the one holding the trophy come Saturday night.
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