FARMERS INSURANCE OPEN: The PGA Tour heads down the California coast to lovely La Jolla this week, and more specifically to Torrey Pines, where all eyes will be on a certain Spaniard who appears poised for a historic run.
It’s Jon Rahm’s world, we’re all just living in it, apparently. Last week’s victory at The American Express makes Rahm 2-for-2 in 2023 and a winner in 3 of his last 4 starts overall, and he absolutely devours Torrey Pines every time he sees it, winning this tournament in 2017 and logging finishes of 3rd, 7th, 2nd, and 5th in the past four years. Oh, and did I mention he won the U.S. Open at Torrey in 2021? This is approaching Tiger-in-his-prime-at-Augusta territory; it will be a stunner if Rahm doesn’t contend this week.
There are two courses on property at Torrey Pines and both will be used this week, though all the action will move to the more difficult South Course after Friday’s cut. The South Course, which has hosted two U.S. Opens and is the course most people picture when they think “Torrey Pines”, is an absolute monster, measuring 7,765 yards from all the way back. Hitting it nine miles off the tee is almost a prerequisite for success this week, and a look at the recent champions here– Luke List, Patrick Reed, Justin Rose, Jason Day, Rahm– should tell you all you need to know. The North Course is considerably shorter than the South and less demanding off the tee, but both tracks feature the same thick rough and firm poa annua greens, so finding fairways still matters.
As we said, all eyes will be on one man over the next four days, and BETDAQ’s Win Market reflects this, as Rahm is currently trading at 6.0 and the closest to him is Tony Finau at 13.0. It certainly won’t be a cake walk for Rahm– the field is stacked, with names like Thomas, Schauffele, Morikawa, and Zalatoris looking to get on the board with their first win of 2023– but the Spaniard is at the top of his game and is always tough to beat at Torrey, so I’m having a hard time betting against him. That doesn’t mean I won’t take a chance on a couple of other guys as well, however:
Recommendations to BACK (odds in parenthesis)
Jon Rahm (6.0)- Picking the favorite is never much fun in columns like this– you’d always rather be the guy who hits on the 90/1 longshot that no one else was tipping. That said, winning money is fun, and Rahm’s victory at Kapalua earlier this month was a nice little post-holiday bonus for those of us who went in that direction. This week he seems like such a lock to play well that you almost have to bet on him as a hedge, don’t you? No sense in repeating what we already typed out above, but Rahm is going for his 4th win in 5 starts, he hasn’t finished outside the top-10 in this tournament in five years, and his victory at the 2021 U.S. Open just confirmed what we all knew about Rahm and Torrey Pines: this is a match made in golfing heaven. His price here is short, but not short enough.
Hideki Matsuyama (54.0)- With the exception of Luke List last year, recent champions at Torrey Pines have all been cut out of a certain mold: elite, battle-tested major champions who can hit it long and straight off the tee. Well, Matsuyama perfectly fits that mold, and he’s had plenty of success in this tournament over the course of his career, making the cut in each of his last six appearances and logging three top-20s since 2014, including a 3rd-place showing in 2019. Matsuyama’s 2022 season included a pair of victories and a T4 at the U.S. Open, and after taking a couple of months off this winter he’s been back at it this month and has had a couple of events to shake off the rust, shooting 16-under at Kapalua to finish T21 and then playing three good rounds at the Sony before a disappointing Sunday 71 left him in a tie for 48th. But all the ingredients are there, and we’ve seen Matsuyama thrive at Torrey before. He’s certainly worth a bet at better than 50/1.
Patrick Rodgers (124.0)- We haven’t seen much of Rodgers yet in 2023, as he teed it up for the first time this year at last week’s American Express but missed the 3-round cut after shooting 68-75-72. He was playing some great golf towards the end of 2022, however, logging four top-20 finishes in the months of October and November, including a T3 in Bermuda and a T10 at the RSM Classic. I expect him to get back on track this week, partly because we’ve seen what he’s capable of in this event, finding the top-10 here twice since 2017. Torrey Pines isn’t for everybody, but Rodgers is one of the longer guys on Tour, averaging nearly 310 off the tee last year, so he’s able to chop it down to size. A win this week would be huge for his career, but it’s not out of the question– as triple-digit longshots go, he’s a live one.