Coop's Farmers Insurance Open Preview
For the second consecutive week extra holes were needed to determine a winner and this time it was Jon Rahm who came out on top. The first two weeks of the calendar season I didn’t have the winner in my player pool but I was fortunate enough to have Rahm last week. I ended up with six in my player pool finish T20 and my two big winners were Aaron Wise and Beau Hossler. Unfortunately Austin Cook took my winnings way down on Sunday as he played his worse round of the year.
It’s time to get excited as we have now made it to the first full field tournament that will be played on a difficult golf course. The past few weeks we have seen many players score well on some of the easiest courses on tour. These courses allowed players to overcome bad shots and still make pars quite often. All that changes this week as you will need to be on top of your game and play solid all around golf. This week when you hit bad golf shots it will be difficult to overcome.
The Farmers Insurance Open is played over two courses, Torrey Pines South and North. In round one and two each golfer will get there shot at both courses while the weekend will be played at the South course. The North course is the easier of the two and you will want to take advantage of the scoring opportunities that it will provide. The North course is a par 72 course playing around 7250 yards. It features bentgrass greens that will be the fastest the players have seen this year. The course is traditional in set up with four par 3’s and 5’s to go along with ten par 4’s. Many of you may be familiar with the South course as it has hosted US Opens. To put it simple this is a beast of a course that will play as a par 72 at over 7600 yards with the same traditional set up as the North course. The greens are poa anna which is similar to bentgrass and will play fast, around 12-12.5 on the stimpmeter. The rough will be some of the thickest seen on tour and can be very penal. The course is defended by strategically placed bunkers, thick rough and its length.
As mentioned previously this week the golf is going to be a little different because the winning score will probably be around -8 to -10. I will be looking for players who have showed solid results in the state of California, long hitters who can keep the ball in the fairway and solid ball strikers. The stats that I will be focused on are strokes gained tee to green, strokes gained approach, total driving, par 5 scoring and scrambling as it really takes a solid all around game to win this tournament. I will also be looking at par 4’s 450-500 yards as between the two courses there are ten. I did mention long hitters but don’t disregard the players who are short and straight as some have posted solid results at this tournament. If you look at previous results you will see that many and I mean many top notch players have missed the cut at one time or another and some multiple times. I would not be surprised to see the 6/6 be very low and 4/6 and 5/6 lineups will cash. Although this is a challenging tournament first time players have had fairly good success so don’t immediately discard anyone who is a first timer. Jon Rahm won on his first attempt, CT Pan finished second, JJ Spaun finished ninth, Si Woo Kim placed 18th and Tony Finau 24th. If you are looking for a first time winner or a rookie to win this week you should reconsider as no rookies have won here and the last first time winner was a name I am sure everyone is familiar with in Jay Don Blake in 1991. Finally, only four international players have won this tournament. Gary Player in 1963, Jose Maria Olazabal 2002, Jason Day 2015 and Jon Rahm last year.
FIVE PLAYERS AT THE TOP
There are five players this week that will command the most attention and most likely almost all lineups will will start with one of these players. Getting these five players correct will be key to having a successful week. Last year Dustin Johnson, Jason Day and Rickie Fowler all missed the cut and contributed to making the 6/6 fall below 2%. Taking a wild stab but I would not be surprised to see two of the five miss the cut this year. Let’s get started with Jon Rahm as he is the defending champion and he comes into this tournament fresh off his win last week. Rahm has been playing golf at a very high level as in his last three starts he has two wins and one second and if you go back farther he has several T10’s as well as another win. Many people, including myself are skeptical of playing the winner from the previous year or the winner from the previous week. In this case Rahm falls in both categories. I am hoping this brings ownership down on Rahm as I intend on playing him heavy this week. You can look at all the stats and you will find Rahm at the top or near the top. Phil Mickelson has made the comment that Rahm has the ability to take his game to another level when needed and thrives in pressure situations something only a few select can do. Rahm is aware that Tiger is playing this week and he knows that Tiger has dominated this course. You can’t tell me that in the back of Rahm’s head he is not thinking its my time to make a statement that I am now the player and this is my course. I would not be surprised to see Rahm go out and win this tournament by four plus strokes making his statement to Tiger and the rest of the golf world that he is the best player.
Hideki Matsuyama enters this tournament for the fifth time with two missed cuts and finishes of 16th and 33rd. Hideki is very good at striking the ball off the tee and in the fairway as he ranks very high in both. What Hideki struggles with is the short stick and for that reason I will most likely pass this week. Poa Annua has a reputation of being tough tricky greens to putt on especially in the afternoon. My intuition tells me this is why Hideki has never had a great finish at this tournament. In addition I am sure it’s challenging for Hideki to not look ahead toward the next tournament at Pheonix were he has been dominant.
Rickie Fowler has not had good success recently at this tournament missing three of the last four cuts with a 61st sandwiched in between. Prior to that Fowler had shown very good results with a 5th, 6th, 13th and 20th in four of his first five appearances at this tournament. Typically you see those type of results inverted as a player has the tendency to struggle more often than succeed at challenging courses early in his career. When I see results like this I ask myself what outside of golf can effect these poor performances and there are only two. First, Fowler became the Tournament ambassador in 2013, the first year of his three consecutive missed cuts. Second and what I feel is more likely the contributing factor is he played Abu Dhabi the week before all three times. If I can get Fowler at 15% or less this week I am more inclined to play him but if he starts to approach 20% I will most likely put his share into Rahm. Fowler is playing good golf but in order to beat Rahm this week you will need to be playing exceptional.
Justin Rose was the hottest player in the world at the end of last season winning three of his last six tournaments while finishing fourth, fifth and tenth in the other three. Rose competed last week at the Abu Dhabi tournament on the Euro tour and finished 22nd. Rose had his best finish last year at this tournament placing fourth while he has made 5/8 cuts last year was his first T20 finish. What sticks out to me from last year for Rose was he needed a 65 to accomplish his finish of fourth as his other three rounds were 71,73,72. Other concerns I have for Rose is that over his career he ranks 95th SG putting, 63rd SG OTT and 78th scrambling with the latter two really concerning. Rose will be popular, perhaps the highest owned of the top guns but like I said about Fowler you have to be playing exceptional this week. One more note on Rose, he has never played Abu Dhabi the week before playing this tournament. I have not heard much this week about the flight/rest angle which is surprising.
We finish up with Jason Day making his first start of the 2018 calendar year. Day has made 5/8 cuts with a win and two other T10 finishes while most recently missing the last two cuts. Many in the DFS community were down on Day last year because he didn’t win any tournaments and wasn’t producing T5’s like he had the two previous years. When you look at Days’s actual results from last year they were not bad at all. I looked at Day’s tournament history form 2-3 weeks before his missed cuts vs his best finishes at this tournament and could not find any correlations. Day has not played any golf this year and his last two tournaments in the fall he placed eleventh. Day also played in the Australian Masters finishing second in a fairly week field. Day enters this tournament making his last nine cuts which include three T10’s and no finish worse than 27th. Late on Monday it also came out that Day will not have his normal caddie this week as he is still in Australia trying to get his visa cleared. I don’t consider these critical as he has only been with his current caddie for less than one year and his replacement for this week is a good friend who he has played several rounds of golf with. For me this week it will all come down to the ownership on Day as I will not play him if he is chalky.
Edit Wednesday 5pm I have decided to go with Rahm and Fowler up at the top.
IS THE TIMING RIGHT FOR THAT BIG WIN
Tony Finau comes in this week as one of my two favorites. Finau has played here three times finishing 24th, 18th and 4th. I think Finau’s game is a very good fit for this course as evident by his results. Finau can hit the ball long and the greens are to his liking as they are not bermuda. Finau has had the reputation for putting bad on bermuda and much better on bentgrass but over the latter part of 2017 Finau started to putt better no matter what the surface was. I saw a post from Josh Culp that Finau changed to a conventional grip at the TPC Boston and since doing so has gained strokes putting in four of five tournaments. If you look at Finau’s career stats at Torrey Pines who has excelled off the tee placing 10th in strokes gained, has been solid at putting coming in at 35th while his par 5 scoring has let him down as he is only 60th. Finau will be popular this week and if he scores well on the par 5’s he may be raising the trophy come Sunday evening.
Next up is Gary Woodland who has made 6/8 cuts with his best finish being tenth. DK has priced Woodland over 8k this year and it means he really needs to produce to pay off his price as last year he was often in the mid to low 7k. Woodland is scoring well on the par 5’s, over the last three weeks he ranks number one and last eleven weeks he ranks 22nd compared to the field. When you compare SG stats for Woodland’s career at this tournament to his last three weeks they all line up and his scrambling is actually significantly better recently verse how he has performed at Torrey Pines. Woodland also has good stats when it comes to birdie or better along with par 4 scoring.
JJ Spaun is back in my blog for a third week as I will continue to ride him as that first win is going to happen soon. Spaun missed the cut last week and I expect many people to jump off Spaun this week. The only thing that will help the ownership for Spaun stay around 15% is he finished ninth last year in his first appearance at this tournament. Spaun continues to strike the ball well as he is T10 in all SG approach and off tee. Unfortunately the putter for Spaun is just as bad as his ball striking is good. I am hoping Spaun gets the magic back in his putter this week just like he showed last year at this tournament as he was number one SG putting.
Hopefully Shane Lowry will go overlooked this week. Lowry has made the last three cuts at this tournament with finishes of 33rd, 13th and 7th. Anytime we are playing on a course that has hosted the US Open you should highly consider Lowry as he has played well over his career on courses that are similar to the US Open. DK has priced Lowry up this week as I was expecting him to be in the low 8k to high 7k. I am hoping this will lower his ownership as he will now have to produce a solid finish to pay off. In addition Lowry has not played much golf recently which should help suppress his ownership. If you look at Lowry’s most recent results which were ten plus weeks ago he was playing well finishing 2nd, 12th, 8th and 12th. I wouldn’t look to much into the lack of play for Lowry as he has had the same schedule the last couple years and been able to produce solid results at this tournament.
Ollie Schnierdjans has made two appearances at this tournament with finishes of 9th and 49th. I am hoping people don’t look as deep into his 49th as I have and it lowers his ownership just a smudge as his 49th could have easily been a T10. Two years ago Ollie shot a 69,72,72 in his first three rounds and then the bad weather came and he shot a 81 in the closing round. Last year Ollie shot 69,69,71,71 which means he has played 7/8 rounds at this tournament finishing no worse than par and his one bad round was weather induced were the field avg was 78. Ollie has not played the par 5’s well in his two appearances placing 75th in the field rankings but he is between 20th and 25th in SG Total, SG Approach, and SG OTT while his putting has been solid. If Ollie can continue his solid play and improve upon his par 5 play he could be looking at a very good finish come Sunday.
TIGER, PHIL and THE REST OF MY FADES
Let’s start with Phil who has made eight of his last twelve cuts at this tournament but has missed the cut in four of the last six attempts. A mix of Father Time and a new breed of talented young golfers is catching up to Phil and making it very difficult for him to make the cut when he plays. Phil didn’t play great golf last week at the Career Builder and ended up missing the cut. Perhaps you can chalk that up due to his ambassador duties. I have no interest in Phil this week due to his recent results and his recent form at Torrey Pines.
Tiger is making his 2018 debut at one of his favorite tournaments as he has won here seven times and if you include a US Open win that takes it to eight. I enjoy watching Tiger and I hope he stays healthy and can compete the entire year as he is good for all aspects of golf including DFS. Tiger played in the Hero Challenege in November and played well on a easy course that he played several times leading up to the tournament. I played around 50% Tiger at the Hero as I felt the set up benefited him as the course was easy and had five par 5’s. This week Tiger is not playing at the Hero challenge and the test will be much more difficult. If you recall the Hero tournament Tiger struggled in round three as the wind was up making the conditions difficult. Tiger ended up shooting a 75 only better than three of his peers. This week the weather may not be the obstacle as much as the challenging course and Tiger has not shown me he can handle difficult conditions since his return to golf. Tiger will be popular because he is Tiger and scored well at the Hero but I will be passing this week.
Brendan Steele has been consistent at this tournament making 6/7 cuts but his best finishes are 17th and 20th. The one thing that concerns me about Steele this week is you need to score on par 5’s. If you go back and look at the last eleven weeks worth of stats Steele ranks 38th in par 5 scoring amongst the field. Take it back only three weeks and Steele ranks 45th. One more point on Steele, if you look at his career stats at this tourney his best SG stat is approach at 24th. Currently over the last three tournaments this year Steele ranks 66th in SG approach. I am sure Steele will have some ownership this week and I feel it’s a good time to pivot off him as I feel there are other players around his price range that can be had at lower ownership along with better results
Xander Schaufflee went to college at San Diego St and I am sure he has played this course several times but as a pro he has missed the cut on both attempts. As a matter of fact the X man has missed several cuts on West coast swing courses over the last 2-3 years. When you look at his career stats at Torrey Pines he has hit the ball off the tee very well but he has been horrible at putting, approach shots, scrambling and par 5’s as he ranks in between 70th and 95th in the previous mentioned stats. Until X man can show me he can play out West I will be passing.
Chesson Hadley is underpriced this week based off his results since the beginning of the fall swing and he is going to be very popular this week. Hadley started out the fall tour with two top five finishes and since then his results have been solid but they are trending in the wrong direction. What sticks out to me is that Hadley has achieved all his success on easy courses as he has played no tough courses. During his run of success he has not played a course near the level that Torrey Pines will provide and until I see him succeed on a tough course I will pass as his two previous finishes at this tournament are 58th and a missed cut.
WHO ARE MY WILDCARDS THIS WEEK
Last week I was blown away that one Brandt Snedeker was 22% owned. I wrote up last week that Sneds would be a play if I could get him at 5% or less so I stayed away. Sneds is a West coast guy but he didn’t have awesome course history at the Career Builder which makes me believe he was solely played due to his name and the price tag that came with it. As I said a few weeks ago don’t play a guy for his price, play him for his stats, form, and course history. Anyways, on to this week were he is a course stud. Sneds has made 10/11 cuts with two wins, two second place finishes and four more top tens. It will be interesting to see how the DFS community reacts to Sneds and his ownership this week after he missed the cut last week. Sneds is priced up this week at 9k! I firmly believe Sneds will come in at under 5% ownership due to his price and results he posted last week. So help me understand this, around 15-20% of lineups this week will start with Tiger Woods while Sneds will be under 5%. Woods has the best course history, he has missed the last four cuts at this tournament, he has only played one competitive tournament in 12 months. Sneds has the second best course history, he has finished 9,1,19,MC in his last four appearances at this tournament and played last week giving no indication that his injury was still a concern. Much like Jimmy Walker at the Sony Open I will play Sneds this week strictly due to his course history, which by the way is much better than what Walker was at Sony. Is there a better place to get your game headed in the right direction than at the course you have played your best golf?
JB Holmes is making his 2018 debut this week at a tournament were he has made 9/12 cuts with two top ten finishes. You will probably hear people saying they are going to avoid Holmes due to this being his first tournament this year and I hope that is the case as it will drive down his ownership. Holmes has made his last four cuts at this tournament and when he played the week before or a couple weeks before at the TOC in Hawaii he had his two best finishes of 2nd and 6th while when he didn’t play the week before he finished 22nd and 33rd. Holmes is a big time hitter and has the game to compete. Holmes will be low owned this week and I am willing to take the chance playing him with the hope of a T20.
Alex Noren is making his debut in this tournament and I am interested to find out why as he is a Euro tour player who usually only plays in the states when there is a major or world golf championship tournament. For those of you who don’t know Noren is currently ranked 19th in the world golf rankings. Looking back at his US Open record he has made 1/5 cuts and I only bring this up as Torrey Pines has similar trates. Noren will be low owned this week and I am willing to take chances on him even though he has not played well on this side of the pond.
Patrick Cantlay has only played as a pro at this tournament once and he missed the cut four years ago. Cantlay is a totally different player now verse four years ago. I have mixed feelings on Cantlay this week as there is no doubting his talent and his very good results. What has me worried is he has not shown great success in California over his career but again he is not the same player then as he is now. I will most likely not make a decision on how deep to go with Cantlay until Wednesday night. Can he really win this tournament or produce another T15 result. Out of all the players I am considering playing this week Cantlay is the player I am most undecided on. Edit Wednesday 5pm I have decided to go heavy on Cantlay as I needed another player in this price range due to avoiding Day now.
Last week I was on Peter Uihlen and he played solid golf as I felt the courses at the Career Builder set up well for his game. Once again this week I feel Torrey sets up well for his game as he is a long ball hitter that has solid stats but nothing stands out as very good. This will be Uihlen’s first appearance at Torrey Pines and as I mentioned earlier some players have seen success here on there first trip. I expect Uihlen to be under 10% owned this week.
Edit Wednesday 5pm I have added ownership of the following Grillo, Bradley, Lovemark, Vegas, Suri, Si Woo, Stanley, CH3, Horschel and Glover. Some is to offset Molinari and Hoffman who I am fading, some are just good plays but I can’t talk about every player. I have also went away from Sneds as I only had a few shares, not enough to go overweight his projected ownership so I added his shares to Lowry.
WOULD I BE CRAZY ENOUGH TO PLAY THESE LOW OWNED PLAYERS
Every so often you see a player or two who pops off the radar when it comes to course history. More often than not the players who pop are your Spieth’s, DJ, Hideki type of players but occasionally you can find one or two under the radar players who has that course history like Chris Kirk and Brian Stuard had at the Sony Open. This week we have a large number of players who fall in the under the radar category. Let’s start with someone who you may be familiar with in Hunter Mahan. Mahan has made 10/11 cuts including ten in a row at this tournament. He does have two sixth place finishes but the majority of his finishes are not great including his last three. Last year Mahan only made 10/25 cuts and his best finish was 16th and in the majority of the cuts he made the finish was 50th or worse. Mahan has solid stats ranking 22nd to 38th in SG OTT, SG Approach, and Par 5 scoring. The knock on Mahan has always come with his putter as he has the tendency to miss several short putts.
Next I bring you Nick Watney who has made 10/12 cuts at this tournament with six top ten finishes including a win. Unfortunately for Watney those two MC have happened over the last two years. Last year Watney made 13/21 cuts with 13th being his best finish. Watney is coming off a 50th place finish last week were he putted well and scored good on the par 5’s. Watney will need to keep that play up and improve his game off the tee along with hitting his irons better. If he can do this he has a chance to regain his old form at Torrey Pines.
Jonas Blixt has made 5/6 cuts at this tournament with a top ten and a couple other solid finishes. Last year Blixt made 11/24 cuts with 18th place being his best performance. So far this year Blixt has made 3/5 cuts. When you look at current and career stats at Torrey Pines for Blixt nothing says play me. Blixt is priced up this week and will be extremely low owned. Playing Blixt this week is nothing more than a gut feeling based on course history.
If you played DFS golf last year you may be familiar with Robert Streb as he got on a roll at the end of the year making 11/12 cuts including a second place finish at the Greenbrier. Streb has made his last three cuts at this tournament while only missing one with finishes of 9th, 18th and 19th. Unfortunately Streb has missed his last three cuts with the most recent being the Sony Open. I wouldn’t worry about this because if you look at his performance at the Sony Open and Career Builder he often misses the cut or places 50th or worse and then comes to Torrey Pines and plays well. To no surprise Streb’s stats over his career are solid placing 7th in both SG Total and Approach and around 40th par 5 scoring.
Michael Thompson has made 6/7 cuts at this tournament with two T20 finishes. Last year Thompson made 8/19 cuts but what is interesting is in the eight cuts made five were T20 finishes. Thompson had to end his season early after playing the Travelers with a shoulder injury. Thompson came back to play the final two fall season events making both cuts but has since missed the cut in his only appearance a few weeks ago at the Sony Open. Much like Blixt, Thompson has horrible stats and I would only play him due to his course history and how comfortable he feels playing at Torrey Pines. I will mention that Thompson has plenty of skin in this tournament as he has three starts left on his medical exemption and needs to score 37 FedEx points in order to maintain his status.
Jim Herman has made 4/5 cuts at this tournament finishing anywhere from 31st to 51st. Herman made 13/24 cuts last year with six T20 finishes and two inside the T10. Out of everyone I have mentioned Herman probably has the least upside as I see him more as a cut maker verse a player who could potentially T20. Herman has been solid off the tee and with his approach game over his career at Torrey Pines.
Harris English has made all five cuts at this tournament including a second place finish. I have a feeling that English will be the highest owned of the seven golfers in this section and could easily see ownership over 10%. English is coming off a solid performance at the Career Builder were he finished T11. I had wrote the previous about English before pricing was released. I was expecting English to be sub 7k. Fortunately DK has priced him at 7.4k which will keep his ownership down as most will click on the more well known names that fall between 7.5k and 7.2k. Over his last two tournaments English is ranked inside the top 25 in par 5 scoring and birdie or better %. English also putts very well on poa greens as he is nearly three strokes better on this surface verse others.
To summarize these seven players I don’t recommend playing them if you are throwing a single bullet, in single entry contests or even if you play 10-15 teams. If you are like me and throw out 60-100 teams each week then I would be willing to take some flyers on a couple of them. If any of them are over 5% owned I probably would not play them but if I can get Jim Herman for less than 1% and throw him on four teams it may be worth it. So why did I even mention them. For whatever reason they play some of there best golf at this course which is a plus. In all likely hood the 6/6 will be low and if you take a shot with one or two of them as your sixth player and they make your team 6/6 you will get there weekend points and if you luck out with a T20 and have the other five golfers you may end up with a high finish.
Edit Wednesday 5pm I have faded Blixt and Herman. I added sprinkles of the following Tway, Connors, Jones, Flores, Huh.
FOR MANY ITS TIGER WEEK BUT FOR ME ITS TIME TO JUMP ON THIS GUY
Some of you are probably familiar with Sang-Moon Bae but many are probably wondering who he is. Bae is from South Korea and made his return to the tour this year after serving his required two years in the military. Before Bae left for the military he was playing very good golf and he does have wins on the PGA tour. So why am I bringing up someone who has only made one of six cuts since his return. There are two things I like this week for Bae. First if you look at his stats from his last two tournaments he is hitting the ball exceptionally well. Bae ranks number one in the field over his last two tournaments in SG OTT, 28th SG Approach and 19th SG Total. Were Bae is losing all his strokes is putting and around the green. Which brings me to point two on why I like him. This week we are changing greens from bermuda to poa annua. I think this is important because if you look at Bae’s results he enjoys poa. Bae has never missed a cut at this tournament in four appearances. On top of that just down the road is Riviera Country Club, host of the current Genesis Open but formerly known as the Northern Trust Open. Riviera has poa greens, Bae has never missed a cut at Rivieria with with finishes of 8th, 12th, 8th. Whether you decide to play him or not keep an eye on him as the Genesis Open is only a couple weeks away. I prefer to play him now as he will be less than .25% as last week he was owned by only .33%.
That is all for this week. Good luck to everyone and hopefully someone from the RG community comes home with that 100k. Thanks