Farmers Insurance Open betting preview

Jason Day
Aug 9, 2020; San Francisco, California, USA; Jason Day tees off on the 4th hole during the final round of the 2020 PGA Championship golf tournament at TPC Harding Park. Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

While it’s technically the fourth event on the calendar, the Farmers Insurance Open often marks the real start to the new PGA season. We leave the cushy resort-style properties, the warm weather, and venture deep into the West coast to one of the Tour’s oldest and most revered settings in Torrey Pines. While it’s not everyone’s cup of tea, Torrey Pines is the first course on the schedule this year that is capable of biting the players back. The 7,600+ yards venue is a true championship course that hosted one of the more famous US Opens in recent memories in 2008–when Tiger Woods defeated Rocco Mediate on one leg–and will again host that same event in 2021. 

As evidenced by its long list of classy winners (Tiger (x8), Phil Mickelson (x2), Jason Day (x2), Jon Rahm, Justin Rose) the venue rewards players who can do it all as there’s really no part of a players game that will go untested here. The longer rough and longer course aside, the greens at Torrey Pines South are also unique as the pure Poa tends to drive some players insane, while elevating others every season. Last year Marc Leishman tamed them better than anyone, gaining +8.0 strokes putting for the week and nailing a brilliant final round 65 for the win. 

The event is an interesting one for bettors as the players will start by playing one of the first two rounds on the much tamer Torrey Pines North and then venture over to the South course for the weekend. It opens up a lot of interesting in-play opportunities here and live-betting at this event in the outright market can be quite profitable. The winner here often has at least double bogey or worse on their card too so fading early leaders here is generally a great idea. 

While the Prince of the Pines, Tiger Woods (back), isn’t here this week, the event has attracted both world number two Jon Rahm and current number seven Rory McIlroy. McIlroy finished T3 last week on the Euro Tour in Abu Dhabi, but it was another Sunday failure that was the story there for him. Rahm meanwhile had to withdraw from the American Express pre-event last week due to tweaking a muscle in his back. The injury doesn’t sound serious though but it’s worth noting off the top as he is the event favorite. These two will be joined by a conglomerate of players like Xander Schauffele, Brooks Koepka, Jason Day, and Hideki Matsuyama who are all–like McIlroy–also chasing their first win in over a year. Given the cast of characters, the venue, and the fact we have some cold and dreary weather on tap (more on that under course notes) it should be a banger of a week and an exciting one to get in on the outright betting market if you’re just transitioning from a busy NFL season. 

Farmers Insurance Open course details

The Course

Torrey Pines South/North, used from 1965-to present

  • Field Size: 152 players
  • Purse and Winner’s Prize: 7.5million (winner = 1.35million)
  • 7,697 yards, Par 72
  • Greens: Poa Annua (South)
  • Fairway: Kikuyu overseeded with Ryegrass
  • Rough: Kikuyu overseeded with Ryegrass
  • Architect: William P. Bell and William F. Bell (1957)
  • Alterations/Renovation: South – Rees Jones (2001), North – Tom Weiskopf (2016)

Past Champions 

  • 2020 – Marc Leishman -15
  • 2019 – Justin Rose -21
  • 2018 – Jason Day -10

Torrey Pines South is a completely different challenge than what the players will have been exposed to so far this year.  It’s consistently ranked as one of the hardest courses on tour, and yields one of the lowest birdie or better percentages every season. Last year it played nearly a stroke over par and ranked as the seventh toughest venue out of 41 on Tour. 

From a statistical perspective the venue produces a ton of long iron shots with the most popular basket being from >200 yards. Consistency off the tee is a big deal here but it’s far from the only thing players need to be good at this week. The field’s scrambling and GIR % are always far lesser than the Tour average and three-putts here are more common than normal as well. In fact, Torrey Pines consistently ranks as one of the hardest courses to hole putts on from inside of ten-feet so don’t be overly shocked if you see players missing an abnormal amount of short putts.  

While we have seen this course yield a few more birdies than normal during the past couple of years, it’s worth noting that cooler weather, wind, and rain are all in the forecast for 2021 and seem likely to push scoring back near or even under 10-under par (the winning score here in 2018). One final note on Torrey for betting purposes, the draw here has produced a bit of a trend as eight of the last 10 players to win here started their tournament on the South Course. The idea was that playing the South Course three days in a row was a disadvantage given how tough it plays but both Marc Leishman and Justin Rose bucked that trend the past two seasons by starting on the North Course, so perhaps it’s time to let that one go by the wayside and just focus on the players, their form and whatever else we deem important this week. 

Sony Open betting discussion and picks

From an odds perspective, here is where the last four winners of this event generally went off, from an outright perspective, pre-event for the year of their win:

  • 2020 – Marc Leishman +5000
  • 2019 – Justin Rose +1600
  • 2018 – Jason Day +1800
  • 2017- Jon Rahm +4500

We’ve had an interesting blend of winners who have been up near the top of the odds board and a couple who have sprung from the middle of the pack. This is an event where we have often seen four to five players in the mix down the stretch and players like Leishman and Day typify those sorts who always seem to hover around the lead here on the weekend while going off anywhere from +1500 to +5000. You can throw a couple of small long shots out there on the 100-1 or better guys (I know I probably will) but allocating a little more of the units to the creamy centre (aka +6000 or lower) has been the profitable move here most seasons. 

Betting favorites to win the 2021 Farmers Insurance Open

Jon Rahm +700

As mentioned above Rahm comes in with a slight air of uncertainty about him this week after he was forced to withdraw from the American Express. He’s been an absolute master of Torrey Pines thus far compiling a win in his debut along with a runner-up here last season in just his fourth Torrey start. Any lingering effects or missed practice time could be magnified in the cold wet weather expected for this week and at some seriously low odds I’m fine leaving him off cards here. 

Rory McIlroy +900

Rory looked like he might finally break his winless drought last week in Abu Dhabi after he opened with a 64 there and was smack dab in the mix of it after three rounds, but a final round 72 was left wanting and he sounded like a player not ready to crack through just yet afterwards. The players who have flown in after playing over in the Middle East typically haven’t done that well at Torrey and that, along with his post-game press from last week, are enough to leave him off here for me. He’s a player to keep in mind though as we progress through the West coast as talent like this just can’t go scoreless for much longer. 

Xander Schauffele +1200

Schauffele started the season well with yet another top finish at the Tournament of Champions, notching a 5th place finish there, his third top-5 at that event in three years. There’s really no holes in Xander’s game at the moment (maybe a little lack of sharpness with his irons) but the real drawback here is the odds and course history. Four missed cuts in five Torrey Pines starts is hard to get past, especially for a player who went to San Diego State and is very familiar with this part of the country. He’s earned these odds but that doesn’t mean you have to bet them. 

Tony Finau +1800

Finau decided to get himself in contention at the worst time last week as he was always going to get priced down a little bit at this week’s event, regardless of what he did last week in Palm Springs, but his T4 there has sent his price plummeting. Finau’s bomb and gauge ability sets up perfectly for Torrey Pines and it’s a venue he’s flourished at, landing three finishes of T6 or better at this event in three of the past four seasons. It’s a venue where I’d like to give him a go but there’s better value options priced above him. 

Harris English +2250

English has handled Torrey Pines beautifully at times. The recent winner of the TOC event lost in a playoff here in 2015 and has three top-15 finishes at this event overall. English has a nice blend of power and finesse that really works here, especially around Torrey’s tricky greens but I’d rather take slightly bigger odds on players of comparable or even greater skill. Don’t forget about Harris at the US Open though, especially if his odds balloon a bit between then and now. 

Favorite bets (each-ways and outrights)

For more info on types of golf bets available each week, be sure to check out more info here. Each way bets refer to bets that include a bet to win and a bet to place (usually to at least top-5 but sometimes are available up to top-8 or more).

Hideki Matsuayama +2800 or better (each-way)

I’ve managed to stay away from Hideki Matsuyama during his lengthy winless streak (for the most part) but now feels like a good time to roll the dice. The Japanese superstar last won in 2017 at the now defunct WGC Bridgestone on a venue (Firestone CC) that does carry quite a few similarities to the long and gnarly Torrey Pines. Realistically too, we shouldn’t expect this drought to last for much longer. Matsauyama was once a win a year player gaining five trophies between June 2014 and August 2017 and his form lately has been getting closer to the kind of consistency levels we saw during that run.

Over his last 16 starts Matsuyama does have a couple missed cuts, but other than those blowup weeks, the other 14 have yielded 13 finishes inside the top-30–the only exception being the recent Tournament of Champions event. In his first full-field start of 2021, at the Sony, he gained an incredible +6.8 strokes on Approach, and another +2.1 OTT–and has now gained +4.0 or more strokes TTG in five of his last six starts. The change in venues here should really help Hideki too. One of, if not the worst, Bermuda putter on Tour he’s actually gained +6.7 strokes putting on Poa over his last 50-rounds and has gained strokes putting at Torrey Pines in three of his last four visits. Those visits have been fruitful too as Matusyama has finished as high as T3 here (2019) and has shot 69 or better on Torrey South in three of his last six rounds there. 

With some of the big names skipping this event, and the other big names also suffering through winless droughts of their own, this really does feel like a great spot for Matsuyama to contend.  At +2800 I’m fine starting cards with him at what feels like a wide open affair. 

Brooks Koepka +3400 or better (outright)

One consistent theme we’ve seen in golf betting over the last four or five months is that when there’s any dramatic drop in sentiment or odds on the top players, you’d best take advantage and bet them. Webb Simpson, Jon Rahm and Dustin Johnson all broke out of semi-slumps quickly with wins last season (DJ did it twice) and there’s little reason to think Koepka won’t pull a similar feat at some point. Now up to odds that place him in a tier of players without his accolades, experience and in some cases, talent, Koepka’s no longer a maybe but a near auto-bet for me, especially this week. 

Torrey Pines may not be a regular stop for Koepka, who has started over in Europe a couple of times during his career, but this season he’s already gone to one non-regular stop and seems determined to get 2021 kicked off fast. While we now have two back to back MC’s on the card for Koepka both of them came at fiddly shotmakers courses where his aggression was eventually going to get him into trouble and eventually did. At the longer, tougher tests provided by Augusta and Houston (his two previous starts) Brooks competed, finishing T7 and T5 respectively while gaining big off the tee in both spots. A near winner on the West coast at Pebble in 2019, and in contention at TPC Harding Park into the weekend last year, there’s little reason to think he won’t figure out Torrey at some point soon, and at these odds it’s worth finding out if this is the spot that happens. 

Matthew Wolff +3400 or better (outright)

Given some of the finishes we saw from Wolff in 2020 (T2 PGA Championship, solo 2nd US Open) it’s hard to think that this isn’t a player on the verge of a major breakout soon. The 21-year-old still has just one win on the PGA but that figures to change quickly at some point in 2021 and I’m willing to give him some leeway to chase it. He finished T21 at Torrey last season–after opening with a 76–and as a West coast kid seems quite comfortable on the Poa venues as he also landed T2 in Detroit and at the aforementioned TPC Harding Park, which both also featured primarily Poa greens. 

Wolff landed just a T41 last week at the Amex but, like Koepka, that Dye venue will always be tougher for him to overcome compared to the expansive test that awaits this week where his power off the tee is going to play beautifully. First in SG: Approach shots over the last 50-rounds and fourth in TTG stats, I’m prepared to pull the trigger here before he really starts firing as the price on a Wolff W is only going to get more expensive from here on out. 

Jason Day +4000 or better (each-way)

I admit this price on Jason Day shocked me a touch but it’s also a testament to how deep golf really is these days. Three years ago if the Aussie had come into this event with T12 and T7 finishes over his last three starts he likely would have been well under +2000 in the betting odds given his record at Torrey Pines, which includes two wins. However, when you haven’t won on Tour since 2018 the market reacts much slower and it’s now up to us to take advantage. 

Day may still not look like the player he was in 2016, when he was the clear cut number one player in the world, but glimpses of the old him shone through more frequently at the end of 2020. Tied for the lead on Sunday at the PGA in August, Day also found himself in the final group in Houston, the week before the Masters so the opportunities have been building up quickly. This will be his first start of 2021 and it’s likely contributing to the bigger price, but given the way he ended 2020, and his overall comfort level at this venue and on Poa greens in general, the each-way bet here makes too much sense not to add on this week. 

Louis Oosthuzien +6000 or better (each-way)

As I mentioned above, I don’t want to stray too far from the middle of the board this week as this event has generally been one for classy winners only. Enter my old pal Louis who also looks a little dispected here given what he accomplished towards the end of 2020. A solo 3rd place at the US Open was followed up by a couple more decent efforts, including a T23 at the Masters in November and a T19 at the Shriners where he shot rounds of 64 and 65. Oosthy’s not the bomber some of the other players on this list is but he knows his way around tough golf courses better than most and has a better than advertised West coast record, posting top-10 US open finishes at both Pebble Beach in 2019 and Chambers Bay in 2015. 

Like Day and Hideki, Louis just seems better suited for these natural Poa venues too and he surprisingly ranks sixth in this entire field in strokes gained putting on Poa over the last 50-rounds. While the lack of starts may put most off him, we’ve seen veterans like Jason Day and Alex Noren come in and compete at Torrey, or even win (Day did in 2018), without any warm-up events. At these odds, betting that Oosthy can do the same is worth the risk here for me. 

Tony Finau
Jul 24, 2020; Blaine, Minnesota, USA; Tony Finau hits a tee shot on the 2nd hole during the second round of the 3M Open golf tournament at TPC Twin Cities. Mandatory Credit: David Berding-USA TODAY Sports


Luke List +500

Typically a player who you want to pay attention to once he starts firing with his irons. He gained on APP in all three rounds last week and was T4 in GIR.

T12 here back in 2018 and has made the cut here in three straight starts. Has the power and ball striking to stay steady here and may not need to roll as many putts in this week if the weather is crap.

Patrick Rodgers +650

One of the best putters on Tour, he also ranks third in strokes gained putting on Poa greens over the last 50-rounds and is consistent and long enough off the tee to compete here if the flatstick is firing. 

A Stanford grad and a West coast guy, Rodgers has done well at this course over time, landing top-10’s here in two of the last four starts. 

Tournament Matchups 

Hideki Matsuyama (-120) over Viktor Hovland

Matsuyama rates out in front of Hovland in most rolling stats this week and is on his preferred putting surface (of late anyways), while Hovland has really struggled of late on Poa. Hideki’s seemingly figured out Torrey, landing made cuts or top-20’s in each of the past four seasons, while Hovland MC’d here in 2019, his only appearance at the event. We’ve also seen more from Matsuyama in 2021 after a superb ball-striking week at the Sony and that’s enough for me to pull the trigger on him in this MU. 

Tony Finau (+105) over Xander Schauffele

Both men are great US Open players but the venue this week has, for whatever reason, been a tough one for Schauffele to crack. Perhaps this is the season Xander figures Torrey out, but in this kind of setting where pure power off the tee can get you big advantages if used properly I don’t have a problem taking plus-money on Finau who is coming off a nice week at the Amex. 

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