Fantasy Golf Picks: Farmers Insurance Open Sleepers & Starts
Farmers Insurance Open
Defending Champ: Jason Day
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Each passing week delivers stronger fields on the PGA TOUR. The Farmers Insurance Open is no exception. Dustin Johnson, Rickie Fowler (fresh off a win at Abu Dhabi), Justin Rose, Hideki Matsuyama, Paul Casey, JB Holmes and Shane Lowry join defending championship Jason Day in making their 2016 full-field debuts. Tack on Brandt Sneaker, Phil Mickelson, Patrick Reed, Bill Haas and Jimmy Walker, and baby, you got a stew going; you have quite the collection of top end talent.
For traditional Fantasy purposes (and those interested in wagering on the first round leader), there’s a key piece of information you need to know: The Farmers Insurance Open is played across two courses Thursday and Friday. Half the field will get Torrey Pines North to open their tournament, the others, Torrey Pines South. Rounds three and four will be played on Torrey Pines South. Just remember:
Like, really hard.
Measuring 7,698 yards, Torrey Pines South is almost 700 yards longer than its northern counterpart. This gap in distance led to a massive scoring discrepancy between the two layouts in 2015. Last year, Torrey Pines South played +1.52 strokes to Par, which was the sixth toughest among 52 PGA TOUR courses. Torrey Pines North was essentially the opposite, allowing players to fire -1.77 to Par, the seventh easiest course of 2015.
Although only one round will be played on the easier course, optimizing your lineup over the first two days is a simple way to gain Fantasy points on the field. (Full TEE TIMES.)
Farmers Insurance Open Key Stats
Birdie or Better (200+ Yards)
Putting > 15-Feet
Par 3 Efficiency 200-225
Yes, there are four “key stats” on this list, but let’s be clear, driving distance trumps all. Honestly, keep it that simple. Use the other stats to differentiate between the bombers if you want, but just make sure your guys crush it off the tee. Seven of the last 11 winners of the Farmers Insurance Open ended the season ranked 23rd or better in Driving Distance. It’s not to say ONLY deep drivers can win, it’s just a better bet.
If you want to go contrarian and target a shorter hitter, you have to make sure they’re both precise with their irons and a lights out putter. Oh, and be certain they are comfortable rolling it on Poa Annua greens…
Poa annua is a variety of annual bluegrass found on golf courses around the country and frequently used on golf greens. Because there are hundreds of varieties that often mix together, poa putting surfaces may look spotted with lighter and darker shades of green. More importantly, the blended poa greens tend to be inconsistent when it comes to putting speed. Many golf courses attempt to limit or control poa growth and the invasion of poa grasses on bent grass greens. However, because golfers carry the seeds on their shoes, poa can invade almost any course.
Pebble Beach Golf Links, a longtime host to PGA Tour events and major championships, provides a perfect example of the difficulties golfers face on poa annua greens. Pebble Beach’s poa greens have been both lauded and criticized over the years by the pros who play on them. Poa greens tend to hold footprints longer and get bumpy as the grass grows later in the day even if they were cut in the morning, critics say. Pros note that keeping putts less than 4 feet on their intended line can be very difficult. In spring, poa develops a seed head that makes greens so slow that golfers need an aggressive stroke to get the ball to roll all the way to the hole on longer putts.
Not only is there a skill to putting on these types of inconsistent surfaces, players need to be able to keep their composure if a perfectly read putt doesn’t fall. Many late collapses have been seen at Torrey Pines, just ask Kyle Stanley.
If you want to compare Poa Annua courses to find some common names, go for it…
Farmers Insurance Open Picks (Opening Round Course; Target North Course Thursday & Friday)
Dustin Johnson (SC) & Jason Day (NC)
Keep it simple in your Yahoo A-List. It’s funny thinking back to a year ago when Jason Day made the Farmers Insurance Open his third career victory. Fast-forward 12 months and he has seven PGA wins. Even in a strong field, make sure to have Day on your roster. he’s just so safe. Now, you can attempt to conserve a Day start if you roll out Dustin Johnson as your starter, though. We all know about DJ’s driving distance, but his prowess on Poa greens should be a clincher. Johnson has the second most strokes gained on Poa grass versus all grass types combined (2.82 vs 1.56), that’s second best after 2014 Farmers winner Scott Stallings.
Note: Jason Day pulled out of the Pro-Am Wednesday morning with flu-like symptoms. Keep him in your lineups unless he withdraws from the main tournament. If he does, replace Day with Rickie Fowler.
Charles Howell III (NC), Justin Rose (SC), Graham Delaet (NC), Brandt Snedeker (SC)
Sticking with the chalk selections, Justin Rose may be making his first start of 2016, but when you’re dealing with the No. 7 player in the world, rust shouldn’t factor into your selection process. If anything, course history is more of a concern than his lack of reps. Rose missed the cut to kick off his extended cold streak last season, and doesn’t have a finish better than 22nd in his last six tries at Torrey Pines. Doesn’t matter. The Brit’s long game off the tee and pedigree separate him from the rest of his grouping… Charles Howell III does his best work on the West Coast, and has the current form to propel him into the starting lineup at the Farmers. CH3 has finished T17 or better in six of seven events this season, and has a quality track record at Torrey Pines - six T10s in 13 tries… Brandt Snedeker is the outlier short-hitting, quality putter that excels on Poa greens. He won this event in 2012, has another two victories at Pebble Beach, and even claimed his lone Canadian Open title at Glen Abbey - All Poa greens. Combine his scorching 2016 form (2nd/T3) with his Poa proclivity, and you have to consider Snedeker a favorite, even in a strong field… Now that Graham Delaet appears to be fully recovered from the back problems that plagued him throughout 2015, he can start gearing up for that ever-elusive first career win. The Canadian bomber comes to Torrey Pines having played six of his past eight rounds in the 60s, with an underrated course history in San Diego. Although he skipped last year’s event, Delaet posted back-to-back T10s in 2014 (2nd) and 2013 (9th). With his length off the tee (34th), ball striking (22nd), birdie average (28th), and GIRs (14th) sitting among the highest in the field, he’s positioned to churn out another high-end finish.
Jamie Lovemark (SC) & Daniel Berger (NC)
No, there hasn’t been a first-time winner at Torrey Pines since Jay Don Blake in 1991, but I like Jamie Lovemark regardless. The 28-year old, former NCAA Champion is currently in the midst of the best stretch of his PGA career. He’s posted three consecutive T10s (T9/T7/T6), and checks all the boxes you want for Torrey Pines: 11th Driving Distance, 23rd in SG: Total, and 25th in putting from inside 10-feet. I ran through a slew of players for my last spot. You can make compelling cases for Smylie Kaufman, Anirban Lahiri, Bill Haas and Paul Casey, however I feel like it’s BERGERTIME!!!!!!!! Daniel Berger finished T24 in his first trip around Torrey Pines and, a year later, now ranks sixth in Driving Distance, 20th in Birdie Average, eighth in proximity from > 200 yards, 36th in SG: Putting, and 13th from the key Par 3 distance. Again, it sucks that history is working against him, but Berger doesn’t need a win to produce big Fantasy numbers.
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