Last week was complete boom or bust for my column, with one of my top plays finishing second in the tournament and my other missing the cut entirely. We also had some nice results with Streb and Putnam but had a bunch of other guys play mediocre golf and either miss the cut or fail to hit value. Brooks Koepka is a great young player who I couldn’t bring myself to write-up last week due to his long layoff, but proved perhaps that layoffs aren’t that big a deal when you are already an elite player, playing elite golf (hint: don’t forget this when reading my gpp play).
Onto this week…
Farmers Insurance Open
This week we head to a great venue in San Diego where the players will be taking on one of the toughest courses on tour in Torrey Pines (South) and its easier little brother, Torrey Pines (North). The players will get a round in on each course before the cut and then both Saturday and Sunday will be played on the harder South course. Just to give you an idea of the difference between courses, Torrey Pines South plays at a whopping 7600+yards at its longest while the North often plays under 7000, and they are both par 72’s. Since each player will get to play on each course once before the cut there’s no real advantage in picking one flight over the other as the weather in San Diego looks perfect at the moment for both days. Hence we’ll be left to research other areas to settle our choices.
This week driving distance is obviously a key stat given the length of the main course and long iron approach proximity should also get some love. The players will also be playing on poa annua greens which can be a bit different and a few players with better history putting on this type of grass were noted. Finally, relative form is always a big factor, as the added difficulty means every facet of one’s game is tested this week and the player who wins will likely not come from out of nowhere; a top ten or top five in a player’s past few tournaments is a good indicator this week for a potential winner or contender.
Hideki Matsuyama (odds to win: 22-1)
Key Stats: 2nd in proximity—approaches over 200yards (2014)
No this is not a mistake, you are not reading last week’s preview I promise. Hideki Matsuyama is simply playing too well and has too many other stats in his favour this week for me to even consider leaving him off this list. His price has gone up but given the huge gap between him and the four highest players I still think he represents the best value on the high end of the board. Hideki hits it plenty long and is a wizard with his long irons which is perfect for this course. He finished 16th here on his first visit last year, closing with a 3-under 69, a great score when you consider 90% of the field failed to break 70 on the South course the entire week. I think there’s a great chance he gets over the hump this week.
Justin Thomas (odds to win 40-1)
Key Stats: T10 last year at same event, 16th in Driving Distance (2015)
There is simply way too many converging factors here to leave Justin Thomas off your teams this week. On top of playing amazingly to start the season, Thomas has an excellent history at Torrey Pines, playing plenty of competitive golf here as a professional and amateur. Thomas played this event last year and went out and finished T10, which included a final round 69. Now that he’s had the experience of competing week in and week out on tour, there’s a lot more to like about Thomas this year at Torrey Pines. The grinding-out nature of this event might favour his style of play (he’s plenty long) and lead to his first win on tour.
Nick Watney (odds to win 80-1)
Key Stats: Former winner and multiple top ten’s at Event
Watney is coming off an under whelming performance last week in Phoenix but this week he will be playing at the scene of one of his multiple PGA tour victories. Watney simply loves playing Torrey Pines and has even posted a 63 on the vaunted South course. I would not worry too much about the missed- cut last week as Watney showed some form the week before at the Humana finishing top 20. Watney’s a very talented golfer who has been ranked inside the top ten in the world golf rankings at certain points in his career. I expect he gets back to the winner’s circle soon and won’t be shocked if he contends this week.
Brendan Steele (odds to win 70-1)
Key Stats: 10th driving distance (2015)
While most people will be cursing Steele for underperforming a bit last week, I will instead be recommending you play him now that his price is back to making him a great value play. Steele is playing very solid golf at the moment and has the length to absolutely succeed on this course. He’s posted top 30’s here in the past two years and I really like him as a possible under the radar winner/contender this week.
Seung-Yul Noh (odds to win 90-1)
Key Stat: T10 at same event last year, 40th in driving distance (2014)
Noh is another repeat from last week who I think makes an even better play this week. Noh has played decent golf, but posted inconsistent results so far this year. However he now comes to Torrey Pines where he has finished inside the top 30 in each of his first three visits (including a T10 last year). Noh is the type of player we are looking for this week as he is a great driver of the golf ball and seems to thrive in tougher conditions (he also has a top 5 at the tough Congressional). I like Noh for his price a lot this week and think he’s another possible contender lurking in the middle of the pack on DFS sites.
Morgan Hoffmann (odds to win 150-1)
Key Stat: 5th in Driving Distance (2015)
Hoffmann is one of my favorite plays this week. He’s cheap, he hits the ball long and he does his best work when the conditions and the course are the toughest. Hoffmann is a young player who showed some great results near the end of last year on some of the toughest courses on tour (at the Barclays and BMW championships). The conditions absolutely favour him at Torrey Pines and he showed that last year with a T16. He comes in having made his last two cuts and for his price he could easily net you a better return this year.
Graham Delaet was too obvious a play for me to write-up, he loves the course (even stated so on twitter) and is in good form, only problem is that he will be high-owned in all formats and isn’t cheap. I think Gary Woodland will bounce back large on a course that suits him and is a great gpp play. Charley Hoffman is playing well and has a very nice record here, he’s priced too low for what he can do. Eric Compton has a great record here too (top 20 past two years), is cheap and has flashed some form recently.
Lucas Glover (odds to win 175-1)
Key Stats: 20th in Driving Distance (2014), multiple top ten’s at this event
Glover represents a somewhat sneaky play this week as he has a very decent record at Torrey Pines over his career. Glover hits it long off the tee and has posted top 5’s and top 10’s here on separate occasions. He’s a former US Open winner who has shown he can thrive on tough courses. Coming-off a horrid year, Glover has shown some decent play in 2015 and his renewed confidence could mean we actually see him in the top third of the leaderboard this week. I really like his chances to be competitive and think he is great value.
Blake Adams (odds to win 300-1)
Key Stat: 4 made cuts in 5 attempts at Torrey Pines
Adams represents my home run play as far as punts go this week so don’t overuse him. Adams will be playing only his second tournament since coming off of injury but he did flash some form when he debuted with an 8 under at the Humana. Why I really like Adams this week though is his experience here. He has a great record of making the cut at Torrey Pines and has decent length off the tee so if we assume he’s healthy and shaken off the rust we could see a decent performance from him this week. His price allows you all kinds of flexibility and a made-cut alone means he makes value.
Dustin Johnson (odds to win 40-1)
Key Stats: 2nd in Driving Distance (2014)
While many will be waiting a week to get Dusty into their lineups, I would advocate taking a shot or two with him this week. Johnson’s game sets up perfectly for this course as his obvious length off the tee and good record of putting on Poa Annua greens (see his results at Pebble Beach) means he’s perfectly suited for the course. Johnson has purportedly been practicing and playing a lot while being mentored by his father-in-law, the Great One. Johnson will be lowed-owned this week, so if he shocks the field the payoff will be gargantuan.
While Scott Stallings fits the bill of a long driver of the golf ball, his win here last year basically came out of nowhere. While he started the year with some decent play he’s gone cold the past few weeks and has been known to go on some long missed-cut streaks. I’d recommend looking elsewhere, even at his cheap price, as he isn’t likely to repeat last year’s success.
I really like Justin Thomas this week, but feel like he may run into the force that is Hideki Matsuyama. Hideki seems destined to pick up an early season win and he is my pick this week.