The Farmers Insurance Open always feels like opening day for a PGA Tour calendar year. While that's less true this year because Tiger Woods will not be in attendance after another back surgery and some top-10 players in the world headed to the Saudi International next week, it still serves as the perfect place to begin a frenzied run toward the Masters which starts in just over two months from now.
Let's take a closer look at this week's contest, with odds and prop bets provided via William Hill Sportsbook.
What: Farmers Insurance Open
When: Jan. 28-31
Where: Torrey Pines Golf Course -- La Jolla, California
Three things to know
1. Twice the Torrey: This June's U.S. Open will also be played at Torrey Pines, and while courses played in January and February are rarely good barometers for what they'll be like in June, Torrey is not most courses. That it serves as one of the more difficult tracks on the PGA Tour means it is also a harbinger for what we'll likely see when the USGA sets it up for the third major of 2021 in five months. It's something to keep in mind, especially if any of the top players are in contention this week.
2. Rory debuts: Technically, Rory McIlroy had his 2021 debut last week at the Abu Dhabi Championship, where he finished third. But this is the U.S. (and PGA Tour) debut for him and will be the first of a seven-events-in-eight-weeks run to kick-start what he hopes will be a big 2021. He played well here last year despite not hitting his driver all that spectacularly, and despite fading late in Abu Dhabi, his form has been moving in the direction for a few months now.
3. Rahm injury: The highest-ranked player in the field (and former champion), Jon Rahm withdrew from last week's The American Express after sustaining an injury in the gym. He said recently he could have played, but as we've learned with professional athletes, injuries are often an "I'm going to have to see some evidence here" thing. Rahm should crush here as he's the event's best scorer over the last decade and played nicely with a T7 finish at the Tournament of Champions.
Grading the field
Tiger's withdrawal was a blow to the solidity of this field, but its overall strength is up from last year. Over half of the top 25 in the OWGR -- including Rahm, McIlroy, Xander Schauffele, Matthew Wolff, Tony Finau and Brooks Koepka -- will be there. Grade: A-
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1. Cameron Davis top 20 (+250): Finished third last week (his best finish on the PGA Tour), which has him all the way to No. 142 in the world. If you watch him for more than 10 minutes, you'll fall in love with the game. He's a terrific driver, which will matter here.
2. Brandon Hagy top 20 (+900): Hard fade on the weekend, but being one of the best drivers on the planet when you're feeling it is useful. Don't think he has the goods in this field to sneak into the top 10, but he'll be riding high enough after last week that top 20 is doable.
3. Tony Finau over Xander Schauffele and Jon Rahm (+250): Schauffele has been lousy at this tournament, and Rahm had to WD last week with that injury. Finau is the heavy underdog, but he should maybe be the favorite!
Farmers Insurance Open picks
|Winner (20-1): I know I should not do this, but I can't help myself. Five top 20s in his last five appearances, and that includes three (!) top-six finishes. Coming off that near-miss last week. I don't know, maybe he just never wins, but the statistical improbability of doing what he's done and not winning cannot last forever.|
|Top 10 (-110): It's a terrible bet but feels fairly straightforward for McIlroy. He's coming off a top-five finish at the Abu Dhabi Championship and was terrific here last year. Other than a three-month stretch last year, he's been an absolute top-10 machine since the start of 2018 (he's 37-for-68 in that timespan).|
|Sleeper (50-1): He's a favorite of ours on the First Cut Podcast, and with good reason. His game has been steadily improving since the end of 2019. And while I don't love that the putting so far this season has been better than normal, all I need is one more fortunate putting week out of him.|