This article is part of our DraftKings PGA series.
FARMERS INSURANCE OPEN
Winner's Share: $1.35M
FedEx Cup Points: 500 to the Winner
Location: La Jolla, Calif.
Course: Torrey Pines GC (South and North courses)
Yardage: 7,698 (South)
2019 champion: Justin Rose
There are a number of mile markers on the PGA Tour calendar – the first event of the new season, the first event of the new year, etc. This week's tournament represents one, as in many ways, this is when the REAL golf season starts. The big names come out in droves and the fields start loading up. In short order, we'll see Riviera and the WGC-Mexico in February, then THE PLAYERS in March. And we all know what happens in April.
Here's who we have this week at Torrey Pines – a list too long to even bother with full names: Tiger, Rory, Rahm, Rickie, Xander, Reed, Spieth, Day, Rose, Hideki, Finau, Woodland, and on and on. Five of the top 10 in the world, and 11 of the top 25, are on hand. Also scheduled to play are young guns Im, Smith, Niemann, Morikawa, Wolff, and Scheffler. With the U.S. Open coming to Torrey Pines in 2021, the field should be even mightier next year.
There's a downside to all this, of course: setting lineups becomes much harder. You could make a case for going with any one of the top 16 golfers on the DraftKings board, from Rory McIlroy at $11,600 to Joaquin Niemann at $8,600. You'll be able to roster probably two of them, unless you get greedy and want three. But then you'll need to go far down the list to fill out your final three spots (spoiler: we do offer a super-low option below!) It's definitely a challenge. After Niemann comes a polarizing figure: Jordan Spieth, at $8,500. He's that high on reputation alone, but having fallen to No. 45 in the world, that respect is fading fast. We're not ready to declare Spieth a has-been – we drafted him in one of our season-long leagues – but this is not the week to jump on him. We also can't avoid mentioning the Tiger in the room. At $10,800, Woods is the No. 3 guy on the board. He has won here eight times, but tied for 20th a year ago and 23rd the year before. Just so-so.
The golfers split the first two days on the North and South courses. The top 65 and ties play the behemoth South on Saturday and Sunday. At nearly 7,700 yards, it's the longest regular track on Tour. Think about that for a moment – it's just one decent drive away from 8,000. The South was not quite as beastly last year, ranking as the 18th-hardest track. The North, which no longer is the pushover it once was thanks to a 2016 Tom Weiskopf makeover, was ranked 45th, also easier than it had been the previous few years. So let's start with the premise that the tournament played easier last year and probably won't this time around. And then let's say that this is first event of the season in which the big hitters will have a significant advantage. Yes, we've seen the shorter hitters prevail, but by and large, guys who are good and long off the tee are the way to go this week. We'll delve deeper in the key stats and Champion's Profile below, but note that of the 36 holes on both courses, an even third of them (12) are par-4s in excess of 450 yards. Seven of them are on the South, where three of the par-3s exceed 200 yards and two of the par-5s exceed 600 yard sticks.
Weather-wise, there's virtually no chance of rain over the four-day period and the wind is expected to be light. But high temperatures will be only in the mid-60s, meaning the early-morning tee times will be on the chilly side.
Key Stats to Winning at Torrey Pines South
Note - The most important indicators every week are current form and course history. "Key stats" follow in importance.
• Driving distance/strokes gained: off the tee
• Greens in regulation/strokes gained: approach
• Scrambling/strokes gained: around the green
• Par-4 efficiency 450-500 yards
Rose's win last year broke an eight-year stretch of the winner playing the South on Thursday and the North on Friday. But that's just a coincidence that was beginning to border on a trend. You don't absolutely need to be among the driving-distance leaders to win this week, but it sure helps. Big hitters Day, Rahm, Stallings, Woods and Watson all won the tournament last decade. Conversely, Snedeker has won twice, once on the strength of his sensational putting but especially thanks to his scrambling. With the South being so long, GIR numbers are annually among the lowest on Tour, which brings deftness around the greens into play. Five of the past eight winners were top-20 in scrambling (Snedeker was fifth and sixth in his two wins). Long drives, even some wayward ones, help boost GIR numbers. Golfers who simply make par on the long par-4s will be well ahead of the field. As you see, putting is not a key stat for one of the few times all year. Rose, Rahm, Woods, Watson and Day in both his wins were all outside the top 20 in strokes gained: putting. Last year, the top seven finishers were top-25 in both driving distance and strokes gained: off the tee, while only one of them was also top-10 in SG: Putting.
DRAFTKINGS VALUE PICKS (Based on Standard $50K Salary Cap)
Tier 1 Values
Rory McIlroy - $11,600 (Winning odds at golfodds.com: 7-1)
With a win, McIlroy can overtake Brooks Koepka and claim the No. 1 golfer spot in the OWGR for the first time since 2015. McIlroy played here for the first time last year and tied for fifth in his debut. He's playing better now. When McIlroy is on, there is no better driver of the golf ball in the world. 'Nuff said.
Jon Rahm - $11,300 (9-1)
There was no hotter golfer over the second half of 2019 than Rahm, who won three times to close as the No. 3 guy in the OWGR. He won here in 2017, which is still the biggest win of his career, at least in terms of world-rankings points. Rahm tied for fifth with McIlroy here a year ago. Unlike McIlroy and a few other big names, he has played tournament golf since New Year's and finished in a tie for 10th at Kapalua.
Hideki Matsuyama - $9,900 (20-1)
It appears doubtful Matsuyama will ever return to the Top 5 in the world rankings. But after dipping into the 30s, he's back in the low 20s, thanks to top-16s in his past six starts, including two podium finishes on the Asian Swing and a tie for 12th at Waialae. Matsuyama improved at Torrey Pines the last two years, going from 33rd to 12th to a tie for third a year ago.
Gary Woodland - $9,500 (25-1)
One of the best drivers in the world, Woodland has made seven straight cuts at Torrey Pines, five of them top-20s, including last year's personal best – a tie for ninth. He has made four starts in the new season, with two top-5s and another top-10. He's only 94th in driving distance but fourth in accuracy and comes in 27th on Tour in strokes gained: off the tee. More of the same will work this week.
Tier 2 Values
Tony Finau - $9,300 (30-1)
If there's ever a week for Finau to win that elusive second title of his career, this is it. Driving is at a premium and putting isn't. He has finished top-25 in all five of his visits to La Jolla, including a tie for fourth in 2017. Finau had five runners-up over the two previous seasons, and he has finished top-10 in more than 20 percent of his career PGA tour starts. This season, he ranks 15th on Tour in strokes gained: off the tee.
Collin Morikawa - $8,900 (30-1)
Morikawa's lone win came in an opposite-field event, but he has shown he can compete in better fields, too. This month, he tied for seventh at Kapalua and for 21st at Waialae and has still never missed a cut on Tour since turning pro. Morikawa is ranked sixth in par-4 efficiency from 450-500 yards.
Cameron Smith - $8,700 (40-1)
The worst club in Smith's bag is his driver. He's not long or accurate. Yet he's managed to show improvement at Torrey Pines, going from 33rd to 20th to T9 a year ago. This is his first start since his breakthrough win at the Sony Open two weeks ago, but we think Smith has shown enough maturity of late to at least put up a decent showing this week.
Billy Horschel - $8,100 (60-1)
We're going to guess that Horschel will be low-owned just days after stinking up the joint at La Quinta, failing to break 70 in one of the biggest birdie-fests of the season. But before his first start of 2020, Horschel had a good fall season, with a pair of top-10s on the PGA Tour and a third in Europe. He made six of his past seven cuts at Torrey Pines and notched a pair of top-10s, including a T8 last year. Here's hoping he just needed three rounds to shake off the holiday rust.
Tier 3 Values
Ryan Palmer - $8,000 (60-1)
When we last saw Palmer, he was still searching for his golf ball on the 18th hole at Waialae. Despite that terrible turn of events he tied for fourth. It was the best finish of a terrific season to date for the 43-year-old Texan. He finished top-20 in his last four appearances and hasn't missed a cut since Royal Portrush. Palmer is ranked 11th on Tour in strokes gained: off the tee, 37th in greens in regulation and 29th in par-4 450-500. He returned to Torrey Pines in 2018 after many years away and finished second. Last year, he was 13th.
Lanto Griffin - $7,900 (80-1)
Griffin has made 10 starts this season. He won the Houston Open but didn't really let up after that life-altering event. He finished T7 a couple of weeks ago at the Sony Open. This will be a big step up in class for Griffin, but he handled the moment two years ago at Torrey Pines, when he tied for 12th in his lone visit. He is pretty sound across all the strokes-gained categories. His accuracy off the tee is a bit of a concern, but ranking 18th in SG: Putting more than makes up for that.
Emiliano Grillo - $7,800 (80-1)
Picking anyone ranked outside the top 200 in any stat requires a leap of faith. Grillo is a disastrous 222nd in strokes gained: putting, but he is so strong in just about every other area that, well, we are picking him here. The Argentine is ranked 25th in strokes gained: off the tee and is highly accurate, which is why he's fifth in GIR and 10th in SG: T2G. He has made three straight cuts at Torrey Pines and posted a T12 two years ago.
Sebastian Munoz - $7,300 (100-1)
Munoz continues to play well after winning for the first time in the fall, tying for 21st last week at La Quinta. He's been to Torrey Pines twice and made the cut both times. Munoz has a terrific all-around game, with no significant weakness. He is ranked top-40 on Tour in all of strokes gained: off the tee, tee to green, and putting. Not too shabby.
Brendan Steele - $7,100 (100-1)
Steele appears to be returning from oblivion. After plunging into the 400s in the world rankings, he just missed winning two weeks ago at the Sony Open in a playoff loss to Cameron Smith. He tied for 43rd last week at La Quinta. The California native has spoken of his affinity of playing close to home, and the record bears that out. Before missing the cut last year, Steele made six straight cuts at Torrey Pines, and had four finishes inside the top 30.
Sung Kang - $6,800 (200-1)
After missing three straight cuts at Torrey Pines, Kang is starting to get the hang of the place, reaching the weekend in 2018 and tying for 20th last year. He's ranked 10th on Tour in strokes gained: off the tee and 41st in greens in regulation. Kang played both tournaments in Hawaii and didn't fare well, but those courses aren't great fits for his game.
Doc Redman - $6,500 (250-1)
Redman is still only 22. He's very strong with the driver, ranking 16th on Tour in strokes gained: off the tee and 57th in par-4 450-500. The big concern is how he handles this tough track and tough field in his first visit to the tournament. After missing the cut at the Sony Open, Redman tied for 29th last week at The American Express.
Brandon Wu - $6,300 (250-1)
The former Stanford star is in the field on a sponsor's invite. This is only his fourth PGA Tour start, but he's shown he can compete. He tied for 35th after qualifying for the the U.S. Open last year, then made the most of another sponsor's invite in Houston, tying for 17th. He finished the fall with another made cut at Mayakoba. In very limited action, he ranks third on Tour in strokes gained: off the tee. Wu is ranked 966th in the world, but the oddsmakers have given him better odds than more than 40 percent of the 156-man field. A simple made cut would be gold in this week's contests.