The 2016 PGA Tour season continues with the Farmers Insurance Open this week at scenic Torrey Pines. The Torrey Pines complex incorporates two courses in its annual event; the North Course and the South Course. The South Course measures nearly 7,700 yards while the North course is a mere pitch-and-putt by comparison measuring a shade under 7,100 yards. The field will split the first two rounds of the week between these courses before migrating fully to the South Course for weekend play. With such a drastic difference in the length between the courses we can take a strategic approach in roster construction by targeting players who begin Thursday play on the shorter and more ‘getable’ North Course. Although this strategy is not absolutely necessary, it certainly puts you in a good position to grab some early points on the field.
For those who enjoy a bit of the ‘ol nostalgia, Torrey Pines South played host to the 2008 US Open in which Tiger Woods went on to win on essentially one leg as he battled through multiple stress fractures in his left knee. Woods’ play was incredible that week and it serves as a lasting memory of the Tiger we all knew. Fast forward to last year’s Farmers Insurance Open and you’ll find Aussie superstar Jason Day hoisting the trophy. Although Day wasn’t spectacular throughout the tournament, managing to shoot only one round under 70, his efforts were enough to take the title in a 4-man playoff over the likes of Scott Stallings, J.B. Holmes and Harris English.
This week, we’ll be keying in on five main statistical categories:
- Current Form
- Course History
- Driving Distance
- Birdie Average
- Bogey Avoidance
With 3/4 rounds being played on the monstrous South Course this week, distance off the tee is at a premium. Players who are able to position themselves with mid to short irons into these greens will have a massive advantage over the shorter players who are forced to come in with long irons. Current Form and Course History are always the most important combination to success in my mind. If a player is comfortable at a certain venue and is playing good golf, look out. Birdie Average has snuck its way into our method for madness this weekend as it has proven to be a very valuable statistic for GPP play. The difference between 0.5pts for a Par and 3pts for a Birdie is massive so keying in on guys who rack up birdies puts you at an advantage over the rest of the playing field. The reason we’re incorporating Bogey Avoidance this week is pretty simple; bogeys do not help you win tournaments nor up your fantasy score. On a track as long as Torrey South, bogeys are inevitable but being able to limit their frequency gives you a leg up on your opponents. Without further ado, let’s take a look at some guys we’ll be targeting this week.
High End Targets ($9,000+)
*Note: Jason Day ($12,000) WD from Wednesday’s Pro-Am with flu-like symptoms and his status for Thursday’s round 1 of the Farmers is uncertain at this point*
• Brandt Snedeker
Brandt comes in as one of the top plays of the week and he’s been playing fine golf with a T3 finish at the Hyundai and a solo 2nd at the Sony. His course history is among the best in the field this week having made 4/5 cuts since 2011 and never finishing higher than T19 in any of those made cuts including a win here in 2012. According to The Fantasy Golf’s model (a model I’ve found to be extremely accurate and effective over the last year) Sneds comes in ranked 52nd in Driving Distance. He continues that pace with a 52nd place ranking in Birdie Average which is bettered just slightly by his 41st place ranking in Bogey Avoidance. His game is extremely well rounded and shows very few weaknesses. His putter is definitely his biggest asset and if it gets hot, look out as he can pour them in from everywhere. Never before has a first time PGA Tour winner won this event and I don’t see that changing this week so we should feel very good about riding Brandt.
• Patrick Reed
Ohhh the difference a week can make! At the CareerBuilder Challenge last week everyone was on Patrick Reed. Fast forward a few days and nobody seems to be talking about him. Reed just never got it going last week in the Coachella Valley but don’t let that scare you off this immensely talented player. Finishing 2nd at both the Hero Challenge in December (yes, it was a small field, I know) and the Hyundai Tournament of Champions in Hawaii earlier this month, Reed followed up with a mediocre T56 showing at last week’s CareerBuilder. Although he last played the Farmers in 2013 where he finished T39 I’m confident that Reed’s game sets up well for this course. He comes in ranked 84th in The Fantasy Golf’s model in terms of Driving Distance, 23rd in Birdie Average and 62nd in Bogey Avoidance. He’s familiar with Poa greens and has found himself in contention on these types of surfaces before. Notably at last years US Open before he was derailed with a third round 76. My biggest reason for being on Reed this week is that I perceive him to be a contrarian GPP play. After upsetting so many with a middle of the pack finish last week we should be able to buy this superstar at low ownership and feel confident in doing so.
• Bill Haas
Reliable Bill. The man that in my mind is best suited to anchor every one of your teams this week. Haas is the type of player that you’d think would struggle on the long and torturous South Course but he’s the epitome of an outlier. He doesn’t hit the ball as long as we’d like for this event nor does he rack up the amount of birdies that some others do but he’s riding a streak of incredible play as his results from the McGladery at the end of 2015 to last week’s CareerBuilder read: T33, T5, T18 and T9. He’s also proven to be one of the most consistent golfers at this event with his 2011-2015 results showing finishes of T9, T4, T9, T43 and T19. Current Form and Course History, check. Haas rates out as the 153rd ranked golfer in terms of Driving Distance but makes up for it with an elite ranking of #3 in driving accuracy. On much of the same page, Bill rates out as the 142nd ranked golfer in Birdie Average but bounces back with a very solid 23rd place ranking in Bogey Avoidance. Haas is proof that we can sacrifice some parts of the game and make up for it with another. Although he doesn’t hit it overly long, he’s extremely accurate. He may not make a ton of birdies, but he rarely bogeys. I feel extremely good about having Haas on my teams this week and you should too.
• Charles Howell III
When will this man win a damn tournament again? The supremely talented American just can’t seem to catch a break when he needs it most. Having gone winless since the 2007 season, CH3 has been putting himself in contention to win and just failing to close it out. Honestly, I view Charles as more of a cash game play this week (and most other weeks) but a case can be made to roster him in GPPs as well. He sets up well for this course with a model Driving Distance ranking of 21st and Bogey Avoidance ranking of 51st. However, where he becomes a fringe tournament play is his 154th Birdie Average ranking. That number is just simply too low in my eyes to make him an elite tournament option. Howell III comes into the week with a lot of momentum as his last two starts have resulted in T11 and T13 finishes. Couple this with his wicked course history of T14, T43, T9, T37 and T5 from 2011-2015 and you’ve got yourself a wonderful play this week.
Mid Range Targets ($8,900 – $7,000)
• Jamie Lovemark
Chalk, chalk, chalk! Lovemark is likely to be one of the highest owned players this week but it’s for good reason. Last week he found himself in the final group along side eventual champion Jason Dufner but couldn’t muster a Sunday charge and eventually slid a few spots down the leaderboard. Golf, however, is a game such that when you’re on, you’re really on and Lovemark is walking proof of this. Coming in with a model Driving Distance rank of 11th he certainly has the distance to get himself around the South Course. His new found confidence has been on full display in his back-to-back top 7 finishes at the Sony and CareerBuilder last week. Having last played the Farmers in 2014 and finishing T28, Lovemark makes a case for a highly owned yet strong GPP play this week. If you need any more reason than that, check his DK player profile photo and notice the striking resemblance to Ders from Comedy Central’s, Workaholics.
• Daniel Berger
One of the true fan favorites, Berger has cemented himself as a figure on the PGA Tour. Going back to an earlier comment, no first time winner has ever won on this track and I do not believe that will change this week so Berger is making our radar here as a solid point producer rather than someone we expect to win. He has all the skills required to compete here and I certainly believe he will be able to do so, I just don’t believe we’ll be seeing the nice ‘1 WINS’ beside his name come Sunday evening. Berger got his start to 2016 by playing the Sony a few weeks ago where he coasted to a pedestrian T42 finish. The Florida State product made his first appearance at the Farmers last year finishing T24. An absolute bomber off the tee (6th in Driving Distance), Berger sets up well for the long South Course. His game is well rounded as he chimes in at 33rd in Birdie Average and 49th in Bogey Avoidance. If he can find his footing on the greens, he should be able to place himself in contention and pave the way to a high finish this week.
• Brendan Steele
Steele got his 2016 season underway last week at the CareerBuilder Challenge where he finished a very respectable T34 and amassed 97.5 DK points. Steele actually strung together 3 consecutive sub-70 rounds until he stumbled to a 74 on Sunday which ultimately stymied his chances at receiving the coveted 5pt bonus for having all 4 rounds under 70. Steele is a bad, bad man whose got all the tools to make it happen at Torrey this week. Coming in 23rd in Driving Distance, 12th in Birdie Average and 32nd in Bogey Avoidance there’s no question he has what it takes to compete down the stretch on Sunday. In his five appearances here from 2011-2015 Steele has finished T17, MC, T27, T28 and T45. We’re hoping this is the year he can break through and notch a Farmers Insurance Open W.
Low End Targets (<$7,000)
• Seung-Yul Noh
We’re at the point in our list where we’re forced to give up certain bits and pieces of what we would like to see in every golfer so digging and hitting on these guys can really differentiate us from the pack. Noh comes in toting fine form as his first two starts of 2016 have yielded finishes of T28 at the Sony and T17 last week at the CareerBuilder. Although he’s not a long hitter by any stretch of the imagination, Noh has enjoyed success at this tournament before. From 2012-2014 he strung together finishes of T27, T27 and T10. Naturally, he followed those strong performances up with a missed cut at last years event but we’re over that and on to this year. Noh is quite a volatile player and this is what makes him appealing this week as he has the potential to go low or blow up in your face. As a Tour winner at the Zurich in 2014, there’s no reason why he can’t repeat that performance this week.
• Martin Laird
Martin Laird’s game at the Farmers Insurance Open is trending in the right direction. After finishing T60 in 2013, he improved to a T37 finish in 2014 before ultimately settling on a T7 finish at last year’s event. Relatively long off the tee as he comes in ranking 38th in the model, the Scotsman will be able to facilitate his round with shorter approaches. His issue off the tee however lies with his lack of accuracy as he doesn’t find nearly enough fairways to give himself a chance to attack pins. If he can somehow find a way to channel his driving from last year’s tournament, we should be in for a cheap treat. With three PGA Tour wins to his name, all in higher scoring events, Laird seems to thrive on the difficult tracks so here’s to hoping he can recreate such success this week.
• Michael Thompson
I’m a really big fan of Michael Thompson this week. His salary versus odds comparison is +16; meaning he’s priced 16 spots lower on the list than he should be in comparison to what Vegas believes his chances of winning are. Furthermore, Thompson has strung together T53 and T28 finishes at the Sony and Careerbuilder to start 2016. It’s always smart to jump on a golfer who is trending in the right direction as it’s only a matter of time until they break through. The 30 year old has enjoyed some success here at the Farmers as he finished T11 at last year’s event. Thompson could’ve made some serious noise at the Careerbuilder last week as he still finished at -14 even though he made 4 Double Bogeys and 7 Bogeys throughout his four rounds. Buying low on a surging, proven Tour winner is a play I always want to make.
Below is a link to The Fantasy Golf’s model which I have used to quote statistics throughout this article for all those who would like to check it out on their own:
Best of luck to all competitors this weekend!