It was a week for the obvious winners last week as Rahm and Fleetwood both obliged on the main Tours and Garcia romped home in the Singapore Open. Most of my picks were poor and we are still looking for the first returns of the new year. Hopefully they will come this week with a couple of high quality events on both Tours. The PGA Tour stays in California with the Farmers Insurance Open and the European Tour makes its second Middle East stop for the Omega Dubai Desert Classic.
2018 total pts advised = 20.5pts
2018 total pts returned = 0pts
Farmers Insurance Open
This time last year I wrote the following and there is a sense of deja vu in California this week.
“Tiger makes his much-anticipated return to the PGA Tour this week and there couldn’t be a more fitting place for him to return than Torrey Pines. He has won this Tournament 7 times along with a U.S. Open in 2008 which was his last major win. It’s anyone’s guess where he will finish but the signs were good in December so hopefully he will go well as it would be great to get to see a fit Tiger Woods compete again in 2017”
Somehow though Tiger has been cut into 25/1 which is surely the wrong price. It would be special to see him contend again around one of his favourite courses but ultimately he will surely just be looking to make the halfway cut.
Last week’s winner and 2017 Farmers Insurance Open winner Jon Rahm is back to defend as the 8/1 favourite and that is very hard to argue with. He looks to have a great chance but I’m just about happy to leave him out. Fowler, Rose, Matsuyama and Day are up next and they all have claims here given how well they are suited to a tough test of golf. But the bookmakers look like they have their number and barring 2015 winner Jason Day, they don’t have the greatest of records at Torrey.
As well as the South Course each player will have a knock around the easier North Course on Thursday or Friday before the South hosts those that survive the cut on the weekend. In addition to being suited to the tougher South course, if a player wants to contend this week it is important that they adapt also to the North course and record a low score. Historical form around the North may not count for as much as it used to however with the course undergoing a fairly substantial renovation prior to last year’s event.
Torrey has an element of Baltusrol about it where the rough is up and the fairways aren’t overly generous, yet the powerful players can still gouge their ball out and find the green from the rough. This will be easier from nearer the green though and the shorter hitters will definitely need to make sure they are finding the fairway more often than not.
With fast, undulating green complexes it will not only be hard to hold the greens but also to get the ball to stop near the flags. Accurate approach play will perhaps be the most important attribute this week closely followed by scrambling which is always more crucial on long, championship courses where greens will be missed. Unlike recent birdie-fests on Tour, make no mistake this will be a proper test and rather than holing putts this week, it will be more about making pars on the South course and trying to shoot a solid round on the easier North course. The greens at the South course are poa annua and they aren’t for everyone. Course form seems to sit nicely with both Riviera and Glen Abbey, the former also having poa greens.
A very strange thing happened after I decided on my picks this week, I looked at last year’s picks at Torrey Pines and I’d picked out the exact same three players again. So I guess I’m either doing something right or making the same stupid mistakes again! But I really like all of their chances despite them letting me down last year. Sometimes golf is just like horse racing and you have to stick a line through the occasional piece of form.
Cameron Smith returns to Torrey Pines a far more accomplished player than last year having won twice since, once at the Zurich Classic team event and another back home in Australia where he won the PGA Championship at Royal Pines. That’s another long championship course and he has always looked like a player who prefers a difficult course to the normal target golf on the PGA Tour. That was evident at his first major where he finished 4th in the U.S. Open at Chambers Bay. Smith has an excellent short game and currently ranks 13th for bogey avoidance while he finished 2017 ranked 8th in strokes gained: around the green. So far in 2018 he has been playing rather well with two top 20s and having finished 33rd last year he will be looking to improve again with his confidence high.
Gary Woodland is putting very well this year again and currently ranks 14th in strokes gained: putting for 2018. When Woodland is putting well he is capable of winning anywhere but he is another who has the game for long, difficult courses like Torrey. At 50/1 he is similar odds to last year and his predicament is much the same. A player of his talent really has to start pushing on as several of his peers have overtaken him in recent years. Woodland is in fine form after opening his year with a 7th place finish in Hawaii where he did everything well. Another performance like that should see him get involved over the weekend in an event where he has three Top 20s and was sitting 2nd with a round to go before the wind took over in 2016. Woodland also enjoys poa annua greens and finished 4th on the surface in 2016 at Bethpage Black, which has long been considered one of the toughest courses in the U.S. Most things seem to be in Woodland’s favour this week which makes the 50/1 look like a very tempting each way price.
John Huh is the final pick after grabbing a back door 3rd place last week at the CareerBuilder. On paper he is probably a little short off the tee for Torrey but that hasn’t stopped him before as he has some solid course form having finished 6th and 8th previously and he is one of the best around at avoiding bogeys. At least he will be hitting most of his approaches from the fairway as he is usually deadly accurate with the driver. With his talent if he can add more consistency to his game then he could have a good 2018 and he looks worth following while he is in good form.
Cameron Davis announced himself on the scene when he beat a strong field at the Australian Open in December at just 22 yrs old. He is another tall, powerful hitter who thrives on long courses and I’d expect him to be suited to Torrey Pines and the Aussie won’t be phased if things firm up and the win blows over the weekend. I’m going to have a top 20 bet on him.
Given the way that Rahm and McIlroy performed last week without being at their best it is entirely possible that they blow these fields away so I’m going to have small 1pt win saver on the double as they will surely both contend.
Dubai Desert Classic
Link to The Golf Family Preview;
Summary of Bets
Farmers Insurance Open
Cameron Smith – 1pt ew @ 66/1 (1/5 odds 7 places several firms)
Gary Woodland – 1pt ew @ 40/1 (1/5 odds 7 places several firms)
John Huh – 0.5pt ew @ 125/1 (1/5 odds 7 places several firms)
Cameron Davis – 1pt Top 20 @ 9/1 (Betfred)
Dubai Desert Classic
Matt Fitzpatrick – 1.5pts ew @ 20/1
Tyrrell Hatton – 1.5 pts ew @ 25/1
Thorbjorn Olesen – 0.5pts ew @ 66/1
Connor Syme – 1pt Top 20 @ 16/1
Rahm + McIlroy win double – 1pt win @ 53/1
Weekly pts advised = 15pts