Farmers Insurance Open
It was a frustrating week for us in the California Desert as for the second week running one of our outright picks came up just short, finishing in second place.
The man in question, Adam Hadwin, had the tournament by the scruff of its neck on the twelfth hole, however he stalled from there on in opening the door for both Phil Mickelson and unheralded rookie Adam Long.
In what was probably the biggest shock result on the PGA tour since Derek Ernst [remember him ] won at Qual Hollow, Long then holed a birdie putt on the 18th to lift the trophy.
Those who like to lay off bets on the exchanges would have had ample opportunity to lock up a good profit on Hadwin as he traded sub 1.1, however those who let their bets ride were left with nothing more than the e/w return to show.
It certainly wasn’t all bad news for us though as on top of our e/w return from Hadwin our trader Dominic Bozzelli did us proud over the weekend as he traded as low as 25.
So, with the Desert Classic behind us for another year we move on, and for its second week of the West Coast swing the PGA Tour heads about 80 miles South West in California from La Quinta to La Jolla, San Diego for the Farmers Insurance Open.
The Farmers Insurance Open originally graced the PGA Tour as the San Diego Open way back in 1952.
In 1981 title sponsors were added to the tournament and after a succession of different sponsors Buick took over as lead sponsor in 1992. They then continued in this role until 2010 at which point Farmers took over.
After being held at a few different courses over the early years the event landed at Torrey Pines in 1968 and there it has remained to the present day.
This years field is a strong one, with both of the last two champions Jon Rahm and Jason Day lining up alongside Justin Rose and Tiger Woods, who of course owned this event back in his heyday.
In addition Rory McIlroy is making his debut in the event and Jordan Spieth is teeing it up here for the first time in four years.
At the time of writing Rahm is the market leader from Justin Rose, defending champion Jason Day and Rory McIlroy.
For the second week running we have a tournament which uses multiple courses with all players playing one round on the host course, the South Course, over the first two days, along with one round on the North Course.
Those making the cut then play their final two rounds on the South Course.
The North Course is a par 72 coming in at 7258 yds. Whilst the North Course had a redesign from Tom Weiskopf in 2016, which toughened it up slightly, it’s still by far the easier course of the two and the one to take advantage of over the first two days. The greens are bentgrass.
The South Course is pretty much the longest Par 72 course on tour stretching to just under 7700 yds. The greens are Poa Annua.
Whilst it’s not impossible for shorter hitters to compete here big hitters do have an advantage on the South Course.
The event was dominated by Tiger Woods through the early part of the 2000s with four consecutive wins coming from him from 2005 – 2008. The most recent of his 7 wins at the event came in 2013.
Over the years this has been an event on the whole for the big names with only Ben Crane and Scott Stallings being seen as shock winners in the past 10rs or so.
In addition to Tiger the other course specialist over recent years has been Brandt Snedeker who as well as having 2 wins to his name has 6 other top 10s in the last 12 editions.
The only first time PGA Tour winner in the event this century was Rahm last year and obviously he was no ordinary ‘maiden’.
After 3 weeks of birdie fests on the tour to open up 2019 this event is a far different animal with single figures under par winning 3 of the last 5yrs, whilst last year Jason Day won with a total of -10.
Looking at the winners this decade good form in previous events in the calendar year coming in does not seem to be particularly significant.
This can be seen by the fact that only three of the winners since the turn of the decade had a top 10 finish to their name in the calendar year already.
These were Brandt Snedeker [twice] and Jason Day in 2015.
All of the winners this decade had however made at least one start on the calendar year until last year when Day won here on his first start of the year.
Multiple winners are also common place in this event as following on from Tiger’s domination we have seen both Snedeker and Day win twice this decade.
One other trend that has clearly developed over recent years is the habit of the winner playing the South Course on Thursday and the North Course on Friday. This has been the case every year of late since 2011.
Invariably what we have seen over this period is the eventual winner shoot somewhere around level par or even over par on day 1 leaving them way down the field before storming through in to contention with a strong round on the Friday.
For those who like to bet in running this is definitely something to bear in mind when looking at betting after round 1.
Being a coastal event the wind can have a big impact on the winning score and who can forget Snedeker’s ‘round of the year’ 69 in the gales [certainly not me as I was on him!] in 2016 to pinch the trophy from nowhere, with all around him struggling to break 76.
Rain will not be an issue this week and the wind does not look to be an issue either over the first couple of days.
The weekend though at the time of writing does show the possibility of the wind picking up, particularly on Saturday ,which shows gusts of 20mph in the forecast.
Sunday shows the wind easing off a bit but we could still see gusts around the 15mph mark.
As I always say though this could all change!
I have gone with 5 players this week as follows;
NICK WATNEY – 150-1 - 1pts E/W - 1/5 odds 1st 8 FINISHED 72nd
First up for us this week is Sacramento native Nick Watney.
Since Watney was forced to miss pretty much all the 15/16 season due to a herniated disc in his lower back he has quietly been treading the path of the comeback trail.
The 17/18 season was another step in the right direction for the 37yr old in that whilst Nick only posted one top 10 finish he equally missed only 5 cuts in 26 starts and finished a respectable 70th in the Fedex Cup.
The one top 10 Nick did post came at the Wells Fargo when he finished 2nd and he showed that week on Sunday that he still has what it takes to compete at the business end of a tournament.
Those who have been following me for a while will remember that we actually had Watney as our trader selection that week and needless to say he did very nicely for us.
My logic in selecting Nick that week was that he has a record of performing well on a classical course test, was bubbling along nicely in his previous starts and that he had good historical course form at Quail Hollow when he was performing at his best on the tour.
Well, this week I feel a very similar situation is in play. Watney comes in to the week on the back of a steady end to 2018, which saw him post three top 25 finishes in five starts and he played solidly enough last week at the Desert Classic, an event he has had no great success at in the past.
Most pertinently though prior to his slump. Nick logged four top 10 finishes in seven starts at Torrey Pines, including a victory, so one has to think that this must be one of the California natives favourite stops on tour.
Last year’s winner at Torrey Pines was Aussie Jason Day and it is surely worth noting that Day, who is a two time winner here now, was the man who prevented Watney posting a comeback win at Quail Hollow last year.
On a week where in my mind several of the market leaders have question marks against them I do feel there is a good chance we could see a bigger priced winner and with his historical course form, coupled with his recent solid form, I am optimistic that Watney could be the man to deliver that win for us at a massive price.
BRANDT SNEDEKER – 50-1 - 1pts E/W - 1/5 odds 1st 8 FINISHED 62nd
My next two picks are both fairly predictable ‘horses for courses’ selections and I am very keen to have them both on side.
We saw last week with Adam Hadwin that course form is often king and outside of Tiger Woods there is no one with more consistent form over the past decade at Torrey Pines than Brandt Snedeker.
In his last ten visits here Sneds has logged six top 10 finishes including two victories and two second place results.
Basically no one [apart from Tiger maybe] loves this stretch of the California coastline more.
After a period where he was hampered by an injury, which resulted in him curtailing his 16/17 season in June Sneds felt his way back on to the tour at the back end of 2017 and early 2018 and his 45th place finish here last year came when he was in no sort of form.
Things then clicked for Brandt later in the year when he carded a memorable 59 in the opening round of the Wyndham before going on to lift the trophy.
Since then the 38yr old has missed no cuts and after finishing down the field at the Sentry ToC he played very nicely at the Sony to finish 16th.
Based on that I was expecting Brandt to be 33-1 at best this week so I was very pleasantly surprised to see 50s on offer, and to me at that price he is a must inclusion at this venue.
KEEGAN BRADLEY – 50-1 - 1pt E/W – 1/5 odds 1st 8 FINISHED 35th
The second of my ‘horses for courses’ picks this week is Keegan Bradley.
The case for Bradley is very similar to the one for Sneds, he has shown great form at Torrey Pines over the past two years to finish 5th and 4th and has been in an incredibly solid run of form since June last year.
The highlight of this of course was his return to the winners circle last September at the BMW Championship and since then Keegan has posted a further top 10 finish in the WGC HSBC Champions event.
Again similarly to Sneds, Bradley had a steady but unspectacular fortnight in Hawaii so he should arrive here in good shape.
When Bradley was at his peak he won three times in just over twelve months between early summer 2011 and late summer 2012. Clearly therefore with Keegan, when confidence is up he can ride the wave.
We know that Keegan is not afraid to win in big events in big company and I can see him making a bold showing for another win this week.
HARRIS ENGLISH – 175-1 - 1pt E/W – 1/5 odds 1st 6 FINISHED MC
I backed the 29yr old English in this event last year and he finished in the graveyard of all good e/w bets, 8th [when you’re not on for 8 places of course].
Whilst a frustrating result it highlighted yet again that Torrey Pines is a good fit for Harris’ long, straight, ball striking attributes.
Roll the clock on 12 months and English, who was once touted as the future of American golf arrives here having been on the brink at the back end of last year of losing his PGA Tour card.
The Georgia Bulldog found himself in this predicament as a result of missing ten out of twelve cuts from the end of April through to August however at the eleventh hour he found something at the Wyndham Championship to finish 11th and to save his card.
Since then whilst not setting the world alight Harris has found a steady groove of form making seven consecutive cuts to start the 18/19 season.
I mentioned above that historically Harris’ main strength to his game is his long game, however his stats in this department are actually pretty poor so far this season.
As we know though stats can sometimes be deceptive, missing fairways by a few feet etc, and with pretty much all of the tracks that he has played on so far this season not really requiring accuracy of the tee this doesn’t concern me too much.
Instead I prefer to look at the fact that Harris comes to a track that he has three top fifteen finishes in the past four visits on, on the back of his most consistent patch of form in over 2 ½ yrs.
English has played solidly for the past two weeks in Waialae and La Quinta and at the prices on offer I am happy to take a chance that he can build on his recent steady play and get right in the mix this week.
CAMERON DAVIS – 250-1 - 1pt E/W – 1/5 odds 1st 8 FINISHED 57th
I shall finish this weeks selections by making a speculative investment on a player called Cameron who hits it a long way off the tee.
I am not however talking about Cameron Champ but instead the Aussie Cameron Davis.
Davis is very much a raw talent still and could just as easily miss the cut by half a dozen shots, however he has shown enough in his fledgling career to date for us to know that he is a real talent with a big future.
The obvious reference point to Davis’ abilities is his win at the Australian Open just over twelve months ago, which saw him come through the pack in tough, blustery conditions on Sunday to defeat a stellar field including Jason Day.
Brought up in Sydney on the Australian coast it is not surprising that Davis showed his metal in windy conditions and this is potentially a big plus for this week if the wind does get up.
Davis played in last years Farmers and performed very well over the first three days to sit handily placed on -5. Unfortunately Sunday did not go to plan for him as he shot a disappointing 80.
The first three days though gave us enough of hint that the 23yr old can handle what Torrey Pines has to offer.
Twelve months down the line and with a Web.com win under his belt and his full card secured I would like to think that Cameron would handle the Sunday pressure a bit better this time around if he did get in the mix.
Cameron performed solidly at the Desert Classic last week to finish 28th and his best showing in the season so far came when he finished 17th at the Safeway Open so he seems comfortable in California.
Aussie’s have a really strong record here of late with Day a two time champion and Leishman performing well and I am hopeful that this talented youngster can carry on that tradition and produce a big week for us at a huge price.
UPDATED 22nd JANUARY
ALEX PRUGH & SAM RYDER
PRUGH - FINISHED MC - LOWEST PRICE TRADED 260
RYDER - FINISHED 53rd - LOWEST PRICE TRADED 250
May be once or twice a season I will run with two players as weekly traders. To be honest the reason for this tends to be simply that I just cant make my mind up between the two and at the prices think they both offer good value, and this is one such week.
The first player to be included is Alex Prugh. Those who read my guide to the Web.com grads will know that I highlighted Prugh's highly impressive record on the West Coast and i have basically been waiting for this event for him.
To be honest I was very close to including Alex in our main team but just felt in the end that our final pick Cam Davis had a greater potential upside to him.
Prugh's career at Torrey Pines has either been feast or famine with two top 5 finishes alongside a 73rd and a MC.
This year Prugh returns to Torrey for the first time in 4yrs on the back of a really solid year on the Web.com tour, which saw him regain his card.
Since then Alex has produced some good stuff in patches including two steady weeks to start off the 18/19 season and a couple of back to back 65s at the Sony Open two weeks ago.
I was close on this basis to including Prugh as our trader last week however in the end I fortunately plumped for Bozzelli. This week however I just feel I cant ignore him at the price on offer based on his track record here, and on the West Coast in general.
My second trader pick is Sam Ryder. Again regular readers may remember that I included Sam in my '6 to follow' for 2019 and I am expecting some bigf results from him over the year.
I also highlighted that Sam in my opinion is best suited to, and followed on, coastal courses that reward ball striking and this of course includes Torrey Pines.
Sam started the 18/19 season with two top 5 finishes in 4 weeks, both on the West Coast whilst last week he played solidly enough in the Desert Classic to finish 40th.
Granted Sam missed the cut on his debut here last year however he has come on vastly since then and I have to believe the player who ranked No 1 in Ball Striking on the PGA Tour last season will be suited by this test, and again on the price on offer on the exchange I was loathed to leave Sam out.
ALEX PRUGH - CURRENTLY TRADING @ 680+
SAM RYDER - CURRENTLY TRADING @ 620+