FARMERS INSURANCE OPEN: The strongest field that we’ve seen thus far in 2022 has gathered in lovely La Jolla, California this week for the Farmers Insurance Open, an event that has been a fixture on the PGA Tour schedule for nearly 70 years. There is one significant change this year, however, as the Tour has decided to make it a Wednesday to Saturday event in order to avoid having to televise the final round opposite Sunday’s NFL conference championship games. This sets us up for a brilliant sports weekend: a Saturday evening spent watching the final round drama unfold at Torrey Pines followed by six hours of do-or-die football on Sunday. Sign me up!

There are plenty of big names in attendance this week, with 12 of the world’s top 20 set to tee it up, but the star of the show will be the course(s), as Torrey Pines is a well known, much-loved classic that was last in the spotlight seven months ago when it hosted the U.S. Open, won by Jon Rahm. The setup might not be U.S. Open-tough this week, and the North course will be used for a round, while the Open was held exclusively on the more difficult South, but the shots and sightlines remain the same, and the cool January air should make the lengthy South course play even longer, so it won’t be a cakewalk out there. Only once in the past six years has the winner of this event gone deeper than 15-under, and one of the rounds is always on the easier North course, which really illustrates how the South course presents a stiff challenge regardless of weather, setup, or anything else. At 7,765 yards, it’s an absolute beast, and the shorter players are at a significant disadvantage this week. We want bombers, and we want bombers who have played well at Torrey Pines before, as this is one of those tournaments where the same names seem to pop up on the leaderboard year after year. I’d think long and hard about backing anyone who doesn’t have an established track record of success here.

One player whose name always seems to surface on leaderboards at Torrey is World No. 1 Jon Rahm, who won this event back in 2017 and won the U.S. Open in June. Rahm is the favorite anytime he tees it up these days, but he’s an especially dangerous person on this piece of property, and he’s very much deserving of his spot atop BETDAQ’s Win Market. Take my advice and sprinkle some money on him as a hedge, and then pick out a couple more with friendlier odds if you must. There are some weeks when it’s wholly appropriate to back the favorite and if you ask me this feels like one of those weeks. With that in mind, here’s what I’m thinking:


Recommendations to BACK (odds in parenthesis)

Jon Rahm (8.0)- Rahm was a machine last season, finding the top-10 sixteen times in 25 worldwide starts, and he’s kept right on rolling in 2022, shooting an astounding 33-under in a runner-up finish at Kapalua, a performance that included a third-round 61 and would’ve set a new PGA Tour scoring record had not Cam Smith nipped him by a shot to set the record himself. He followed that up with a T14 at The American Express last week, breaking par in all four rounds but expressing displeasure with the amateur-friendly course setup, which, from his perspective, deemphasized tee-to-green skill and turned it into a big putting contest. Torrey Pines will present a challenge better suited for someone of Rahm’s considerable abilities, though he generally always makes it look easy here, finishing 5th in this tournament in 2019, runner-up in 2020, and T7 last year to go along with his victory in 2017 and, of course, his U.S. Open triumph in June. Rahm is the best player in the world, he knows it and is playing like it, and he’s proven time and again that he’s really difficult to beat at Torrey. The price is short, but not short enough to scare me off.

Will Zalatoris (36.0)- Exploding onto the scene last season with nine top-25 finishes in his first 11 starts as a PGA Tour member, a stretch which culminated in a runner-up at the Masters, Zalatoris cooled off a bit over the second half of the season before finding his groove again at the end of summer, posting three top-15s in four starts over August and September. A few weeks off over the winter seems to have done him well, as he returned to action with a T6 at The American Express last week, firing a blistering 61 on Friday. It just feels like a victory is right around the corner for Zalatoris, and there are a couple of reasons to suspect that it might happen this week: one, poa annua seems to be his favorite putting surface based on the stats and he’ll be on poa greens this week, and two, he played very well in this event last year, breaking par in all four rounds and finishing 7th. He’s definitely worth a bet at a price like 36.0.

Keegan Bradley (92.0)- As mentioned, this is one of those tournaments where the same names seem to populate the leaderboard every year, and Bradley is one of those names, racking up five top-25s in this event in nine career starts, including a T4 in 2017 and a T5 in 2018. Clearly Torrey Pines suits his game, and that game was looking pretty good in Bradley’s only start of 2022, as he broke 70 in all four rounds en route to a 12th-place finish at the Sony a couple of weeks ago. It was his second top-15 in his last four starts stretching back to the fall, so Bradley has been sniffing contention and just might break through at a place where he nearly always plays well. He’s a tremendous value at better than 90/1.