Watch out for Wednesday!
🚨🚨🚨 RTL - PSA! The PGA Tour starts on Wednesday this week.
We will stay in beautiful southern California for another week and play the Farmers Insurance Open on the famed North and South courses at Torrey Pines. Quite possibly the best public golf facility in the country, this 36-hole facility sits on the cliffs overlooking the Pacific Ocean. Players will compete once on the North and once on the South over the first two rounds. Those making the 36-hole cut will compete on the South Course for the weekend.
California has been under siege from the weather over the last month. Storms have been drenching the state in historic fashion. Director of Agronomy Devin Cullen said, "With a few rain events still projected between now and the tournament, I’m expecting the course to play longer and thicker than it already does. Should be fun.” Not sure what his definition of fun is, but I believe it will take some serious length and accuracy to tame Torrey this week.
- Temperatures are predicted to be cool this week. Mornings will start in the mid-40's and then only rising into the mid-60's in the afternoon.
- Wind looks normal; each day the breeze will reach the mid-teens. There is no rain predicted for Wednesday through Saturday.
The Farmers has always captured a solid field. The two courses, date on the calendar alongside Tiger's annual start to the season carried the competition. This year is different. Framers doesn't carry a "designated" title on the schedule and going forward will have to create a stir of its own without the big cat.
- Five of the Top 10 players in the world are playing, and eleven of the Top 25.
- There's an $8.7 million dollar purse and $1.566 million dollars for first place.
- Jon Rahm will be there coming off two wins in two starts for the 2023 campaign.
The courses 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.
South Course (three rounds)
- Par 72 measuring 7,765 yards on the scorecard
- Average green size is approximately 5,000 square feet. Long approach shots into greens this small are tough.
- Greens are Poa annua grass and the course is covered in 82 bunkers.
- Thirteen of fourteen tee shots face a bunker, and twelve of those holes have some movement off the tee.
- The one hole where water comes into play is the pond on hole eighteen in front of the green.
North Course (one round)
- Par 72 measuring 507 yards less than its counterpart at 7,258
- Greens are bent grass, and a little bigger at 6,000 square feet on average.
- Par 3's on the North are all over 200 yards.
- Forty-two bunkers and no water penalty areas.
- Again, twelve holes bend off the tee, and twelve of fourteen tee shots face a bunker.
Much like the contrast between course and sea, this week will not be the birdie-fest we just saw in Palm Springs. The average winning score over the past ten years at Torrey is 13 under par (-15 average for the past five editions). Although all winners at the Farmers are great ball strikers, they aren't always high on the odds board.
- The average winner's odds over the past ten years is +5500 (55 - 1).
- RTL predicted Luke List (+9000) last year and he supplied us with our second win of the season in January!
The field of 156 competitors will be cut to the Top 65 and ties for the weekend. Nestled between two Pro-Ams on the PGA Tour schedule, I'm excited to see some challenging golf. For three rounds, they will play a beast of course. The South stretches 7,700+ yards and will be playing long. It's probably not too hard for us to figure out what it will take to contend as a skill set. Who will those golfers be? Keep reading, and you'll be sure to find out!
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The last ten winners of the Farmers Insurance Open gained an average of 5.3 strokes against the field from tee to green (SG:T2G). Torrey Pines is a ball-strikers testing ground. Take for example the two men in the playoff last year: Will Zalatoris and Luke List. Two of the best long iron and drivers of the golf ball on tour. This week our research begins and ends with the guys who can flat out flush it!
- The first challenge comes off the tee at Torrey. Almost every hole either bends or has a fairway bunker. In fact, twenty-six holes (of twenty-eight) present at least one of those attention grabbers and twenty-one of them have both. Seven of the last ten winners gained an average of 1.2 strokes off the tee when they won. With nineteen of 36-holes stretching over 450 yards in length, power is a huge attribute on this beast.
- Don't discount accuracy off the tee as well. Players tend to hit about 53% of the fairways here which is well below the PGA Tour average of 63%.
- Seven of eight Par 3's measure over 200 yards. On the South Course, 47% of the approach shots are over 175 yards. That's seven percent more than the tour average. Bring your long iron game to to Torrey. Past champions include Jason Day, Jon Rahm, Justin Rose and Tiger Woods; seven times. Eight if you count the broken leg US Open!
- Gaining on approach gives you the best chance to contend. Nine of the last ten winners gained an average of 3.2 strokes against the field when they won. Not many flip wedges into these greens and the Par 5's force you to hit approach shots as well with two of them measuring over 615 yards.
- With so many long approach shots, players only hit 62% of their GIR's and that falls about 5% below the PGA Tour Average.
- Missing greens means around the green play is significant. Eight of the last ten winners gained about a stroke around the green en route to victory.
- I know approach is important, but a perfect ten of the last ten winners gained on the greens an average of 3.4 strokes! Putting on Poa annua for three days can be maddening. Each of our outright predictions has shown us success on this surface. They must, as of all the grasses these guys putt on, the west coast Poa is the most frustrating.
Jon Rahm is the favorite this week and the rest of the tour will be doing everything in their power to stop him from winning three times in three starts. We haven't even played a month in 2023 and I can already tell this season is going to be special. The prototype player for Torrey is Tiger or Rahm for that matter. Get it in play, great iron play, save it around the green when needed and roll it with confidence. I believe big names will continue to win and this course has all the attributes to supply us with another modern champion.
Outright winners - Farmers Insurance Open
Xander Schauffele (+1200)
- I'm looking for a complete player. The second ranked ball striker in the field, Xander Schauffele checks every box for me. He's proven to play well at Torrey with a runner-up and seventh place at the US Open in 2021. Coming from southern California he can putt on Poa. With so many great options at the top of the odds board, I believe Schauffele gets it done due to his long iron play. He's ranked fourth in the field for proximity from over 200 yards. A world class wedge player as well, X marks this spot in San Diego this weekend.
Pick 2* (+1800)
Pick 3* (+3000)
Alex Smalley (+8000)
- Alex Smalley has nine Top 15 finishes on tour since the start of the 2021-22 wraparound season. The Duke grad gets it done with incredible ball striking. His weakness came on and around the green. During the fall, he started working with a new full swing coach who specializes in short game and putting. In his last five events, he's gained in both categories. In doing so, he's finished 11th, 4th, 5th, MC, and 22nd. He drives it over 300 yards, hits 60% of his fairways and 73% of his GIR's. If the trend from close range continues, he'll be reaping the rewards at the Farmers.
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