PGA - 2019 Farmer’s Insurance Open Preview

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Jay Ginsbach

January 23rd, 2019

The PGA pros move on to Torrey Pines Golf Course and southern California for the 2019 Farmer’s Insurance Open starting January 24th through January 27th. A majority of the top pros are competing in the same tournament for the first time in 2019, and Torrey Pines also brings out the big, long hitters. Pay attention to performance for future events such as the 2021 when Torrey Pines hosts the U.S. Open.

Many past champions are long drivers, including 3-time winner Phil Mickelson. But he’s skipping this week with a full tournament schedule ahead following his runner-up finish in last week’s Desert Classic. Tiger Woods is another longer hitter and he makes his 2019 debut at the site where he has won eight tournaments including the 2008 U.S. Open. Other long-hitting champions in the field include Jon Rahm, Brandt Snedeker, Nick Watney, Scott Stalling and the 2018 champion Jason Day.

La Jolla is a beautiful place, and the weather is expected to be in the low 70’s each day with partly cloudy skies and light to moderate winds. However, coastal courses always have some added wind and conditions that can require better ball flight and control.

The tournament is played over two courses. The South course is considered the tougher challenge at Par 72 and 7698 yards, and in 2018 it was the 8th hardest course on the PGA Tour playing to a 72.813 scoring average. It’s been the longest course on tour in recent years, and last year it ranked 31st in driving distance but was the hardest course on the PGA Tour in driving accuracy as only 48.62% of the fairway’s were hit. Distance definitely has its advantage, however, and holes 7 and 12 are long and tougher par 4’s. But hole No. 4 with the Pacific Ocean down the left side is nearly 500 yards from the back tees playing as a par 4 and one of the most scenic holes in all of southern California. The South course previously played close to 3-strokes tougher than the North course, which will play tougher this year. The North course added 200 yards and will play to 7,258 yards and Par 72. It’s more challenging when the coastal winds pick up, and the greens and fairway’s are broader and more prominent. Three holes have been completely changed. Both courses are very scenic with ocean views. The first two rounds are played over two courses and the final two rounds after the cut is played on the South Course.

Distance is a prerequisite to winning the 2019 Farmer's Insurance Open, and having a handle plus familiarity of putting on the Poa Annua greens is most helpful.

Key stats to consider:
  • Driving Distance – Strokes Gained Tee-to-Green (straight & far)
  • Scrambling & Putting inside 10 feet
  • Greens in Regulation (GIR) – Strokes Gained Approach-the-Green
  • Course history
If you’re betting any of the leading tournament contenders, here is some insight on a bag full of players with their current game, chances and odds to win.

John Rahm (+950) – The favorite and winner of the 2017 event by three strokes. Solid current form with a win in the Hero Challenge, T-8 in Tournament of Champions and T-6 last week at the Desert Classic.

Rory McIllroy (+1150) – Makes his Torrey debut and coming off a strong performance in Maui with a new driver, putter and golf ball in the bag.

Justin Rose (+1150) – Two straight top-10’s in this event, but new clubs in his bag last week at Desert Classic.

Jason Day (+1750) – Two-time winner including in 2018 at 10-under par. Four top-10’s in nine starts at Torrey Pines.

Xander Shauffele (+1750) – Tournament of Champions victory to start 2019, but missed the cut in each of three prior starts at Torrey. Doesn’t hit it far enough and not a good fit.

Tiger Woods (+1750) – A 7-time winner in this event, but can’t count on Woods to come out firing in good form. He’s ranked No. 13 in the world, but driving accuracy (59.35%) last year is a concern as he starts the season following a most successful return to tournament golf last year. Woods won the late-season Tour Championship  for his 80th PGA Tour win and finished the year with seven top-10 finishes.  Despite such success at Torrey Pines, he’s not a worthy choice or offering any value at his current price. Put Woods back in the bag.

Others 2019 Farmer's Insurance hopefuls include:

Tony Finau (+2000) – Recent 2nd in Hero Challenge and two straight top-10 finishes at Torrey. Big hitter and big year. Marc Leishman (+2000) - Two runner-ups and four top-10s in 10 starts here, including a T-8 last year. Coming in hot with three top-5s and a win in four starts this season. Would like even more if winds are stronger. Ricky Fowler – (+2500) – Missed three straight cuts at Torrey. Gary Woodland (+2500) – Big hitter in strong current form and just missed victory already this season. Top-20 here in each of his last three starts. Charles Howell (+3000) – Solid current form and three runner-up finishes and eight top-10’s in 16 career starts at Torrey including three top-6 finishes last four years. Patrick Cantlay (+3000) – Four consecutive top-10’s this season including last week at Desert Classic. Two poor past tournaments at Torrey. Current form still preferred over course form and the big hitter is going to win out West. Will it be this week? Brandt Snedeker (+4000) – A proven putter and two time winner at Torrey plus two runner-ups and seven top-10s in 12 starts.

Other longshots 40-1 or greater including some Big Bertha bombs: Cameron Champ, Emiliano Grillo, Aaron Wise, Luke List, Branden Grace, Trey Mullinax, Keith Mitchell, Kevin Tway, Hudson Swafford

Too much top talent in the Farmer’s Insurance field to take a low-priced favorite. Rahm probably the best of that bunch if you consider the chalk. Mentioned some long shots and Big Bertha bombs, but the mid-range players in the 7-iron sweet spot make the cut this week.

Fairway’s Foursome Picks to Win 2019 Farmer's Insurance Open – Tony Finau (+2000), Marc Leishman (+2000), Gary Woodland (+2500) and Charles Howell (+3000).