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Scouting the Routing: 2024 Farmers Insurance Open

Collin Morikawa - PGA DFS lineup picks daily fantasy golf advice

With three of the last four winners on the PGA Tour reaching final scores of 29-under-par, golf fans will be salivating at the prospect of a venue with the capability of sending golfers in both directions on the leaderboard. Enter Torrey Pines South: a golf course that has crowned two U.S. Open Champions since 2008 and routinely ranks as one of the more difficult tests on the entire golfing calendar.

This event will also feature the inclusion of some of the brightest names in the game: including five of the Top 12 players in the Official World Golf Rankings, the much-awaited Torrey Pines debuts of Ludvig Aberg and Min Woo Lee, as well as the start of life on the PGA Tour for three of Europe's most highly regarded talents, Ryan Fox, Adrian Meronk, and Nicolai Hojgaard.

Before we get into the odds board on tap for golf bettors Monday morning, this piece will serve to set you up to make those crucial decisions before the market shifts later in the week. Without further ado, here is my comprehensive scouting. report on Torrey Pines South and the 2024 Farmers Insurance Open!

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The Golf Course(s)

Torrey Pines South Course - Par 72; 7,765 yards

Torrey Pines North Course - Par 72; 7,258 yards

Past Champions

  • 2023 - Max Homa (-13) over Keegan Bradley
  • 2022 - Luke List (-15) over Will Zalatoris (playoff)
  • 2021 - Patrick Reed (-14) over Finau/Hovland/Schauffele/Palmer/Norlander
  • 2020 - Marc Leishman (-15) over Jon Rahm
  • 2019 - Justin Rose (-21) over Adam Scott
  • 2018 - Jason Day (-10) over Alex Noren and Ryan Palmer (playoff)

 

Torrey Pines by the Numbers (Off-The-Tee):

  • Average Fairway Width -- 26.5 yards; 3rd narrowest on the PGA Tour
  • Driving Accuracy -- 52.8%; 5th Lowest on Tour
  • Average Driving Distance -- 288.8 yards; 16th highest on Tour
  • Missed Fairway Penalty -- 0.34; 18th highest on Tour
  • Strokes Gained: Off-the-Tee Difficulty: -0.024; 8th toughest on Tour

Tipping out at nearly 7,800 yards, and featuring the second-highest average length of Par 4's/5's on the PGA Tour, Torrey Pines South makes it abundantly clear what sort of driving profile it will favor this week. Unlike the last two weeks at Waialae and PGA West, playing for position off the tee with a fairway wood/driving iron is completely out of the question, and the exceedingly narrow 26-yard-wide fairways around the South Course mean that even the most accurate drivers of the ball will be missing 35-40% of their fairways this week.

This combination of immense length and difficult-to-hit fairways means that distance is oftentimes all that matters around Torrey Pines in a player's mission to gain strokes off of the tee. Last year, only one player managed to rate out inside the top 12 in SG: OTT whilst sitting below 300 yards in average driving distance, and to do that, Collin Morikawa had to beat the field average in accuracy by nearly 30 percentage points (78.6% vs. 50.4%).

By contrast, Dean Burmester rated out 5th in last year's field off the tee despite hitting just 40% of his fairways on the week. Joseph Bramlett gained over half a stroke per round with a paltry 38% accuracy rating, and Kurt Kitayama gained 0.45 shots off of the tee in his Thursday round despite hitting just 3 of 14 fairways on the day.

Simply put, if you want to give yourself the best chance at leading this field in the most important driving metric, distance is far and away the path of least resistance. While the rough penalty at Torrey Pines has sat at over 1/3 of a shot since 2021, the noticeable lack of penalty on offer for wider dispersion patterns is another key factor in the extreme distance bias we've seen. Since 2015, the South Course has surrendered a penalty fraction of just 1.7% (4th lowest on the PGA Tour), and a reload rate over six times lower than what we've historically seen at the PGA West Stadium Course featured last week.

Although we have seen a path for an exceedingly accurate driver of the ball to separate themselves with pure precision (Collin Morikawa, Sungjae Im, and Corey Conners have all put up stellar driving numbers around Torrey Pines despite rating out well below field average in distance), cases like these are very much in the minority when projecting for this week's most prolific drivers. I'll be weighing driving distance as highly as I have all year to this point -- it's far and away my most important stat within the off-the-tee catalog in this week's modeling.

 

Torrey Pines by the Numbers (Approach):

  • Green in Regulation Rate -- 61.0%; 11th lowest on the PGA Tour
  • Strokes Gained: Approach Difficulty: +0.001; 16th easiest on Tour
  • Key Proximity Ranges:
    • 200+ yards- (has accounted for 26.3% of historical approach shots)
    • 175-200 yards (20.0%)
    • 150-175 yards (19.6%)

While the sheer scale of this property will cause driving to be at the top of mind for many handicappers this week, the number one historic throughline for success at Torrey Pines has been elite iron play. Top 10 finishers at the South Course have gained nearly a stroke per round to the field on Approach (2.6x the amount they gain off the tee), and only one of the last five Farmers Champions have done so whilst ranking outside the top 5 in SG: Approach for the week.

As you'd probably expect at a golf course measuring nearly 7,800 yards, we don't expect to see a ton of wedge shots into the greens at Torrey Pines. Last year, a whopping 70% of approach shots came from over 150 yards, and nearly one-half of those came from outside of 200. From Jon Rahm, to Jason Day, Tony Finau, and Max Homa, it's difficult to find anyone who's had repeated success around Torrey Pines that doesn't also rate out exceptionally well in long-iron proximity.

When modeling for this week's best iron players, I'll be looking specifically at a player's long-term acumen from 150+ yards (both in Proximity to the Hole and Strokes Gained per shot), as well as a historic proficiency at other venues that require you to hit a high percentage of long irons (Quail Hollow, Bay Hill, Muirfield Village, etc.). While I do expect the greens this week to be a bit more receptive than the courses in this subset, any player who has continually proven himself capable of raising his approach baselines around these demanding tracks should have no trouble conquering the second shots the South Course has in store this week.

 

Torrey Pines by the Numbers (Around the Greens):

  • Scrambling Percentage -- 52.1%; 5.5% below Tour Average 
  • Sand Save Difficulty -- (-0.001); 13th toughest on Tour
  • SG: Around the Green Difficulty: +0.005; 15th toughest on Tour

With a Green in Regulation rate projected to fall into the low 60s, and a scrambling percentage that sits 5.5% below the Tour average, Torrey Pines has all the ingredients necessary to be considered a short-game test. Over the last 12 years, Top 10 finishers here have gained more shots around the greens (0.40 per round), than they have off of the tee (0.37), and only 1 champion here since 2015 has managed to do so whilst losing strokes with his short game.

The biggest test on tap for players attempting to scramble around Torrey Pines will undoubtedly come from the rough. Torrey Pines has ranked 5th and 8th over the last two years in regards to SG: ARG difficulty from the rough, and the 3.5-4 inch ryegrass grown around these greenside surrounds will test players in a way we haven't seen since last year's FedEx Cup Playoffs.

With this in mind, I do believe this is a viable week to include some short-game metrics within your modeling. In particular, I'll be looking at a player's history around the greens of similarly defended courses with high rough (Muirfield Village, Bay Hill, etc.), as well as a comprehensive scoring model that includes Bogey Avoidance, Sand Saves, Scrambling %, and Strokes Gained in Difficult Scoring Conditions. No matter how elite your ball-striking splits have been coming into this week, it's difficult to imagine any Farmers Champion attaining that title without a few crucial par saves down the stretch.

 

Torrey Pines by the Numbers (Putting):

  • Average Green Size -- 5,000 square feet 
  • Agronomy -- Poa Annua
  • 3-Putt Percentage: 4.1%
  • Strokes Gained: Putting Difficulty: -0.020; 2nd toughest on Tour

Although the gaudy scorecard yardages and thick rough are the attributes most closely associated with the test facing players at Torrey Pines this week, there is a legitimate argument to be made that the green complexes at the South Course are actually its greatest hurdle. This week starts a run of three venues in four weeks that feature pure poa annua greens - a putting surface predominantly found on the West Coast known for its splotchy coloration and uneven texture. Take one look at the slo-mo clip of Tiger Woods' putt on the 18th hole of the 2008 U.S. Open, and you'll get a general sense of the challenges players will face:

This inconsistent roll (and the indecision it creates), makes poa annua one of the most difficult surfaces to navigate for those unused to its properties. As a result, Torrey Pines has ranked either 1st or 2nd in putting difficulty inside of five feet in six of the last eight seasons, and #1 in putting difficulty from 5-15 feet on five separate occasions since 2016. Players without any experience on this surface (or worse, an extensively negative history), will receive a sizeable reduction in my projection this week.

Notably, every champion here since 2018 had at least one instance of positive poa annua history to draw from in the lead-up to their win (+3.5 SG or better). I'll be looking for similar trends when weighing the viability of potential winners this week.

 

Key Stats Roundup: 

  • Huge week for Driving Distance. I'll have that weighed even beyond more comprehensive driving stats like SG: OTT/Total Driving. Accuracy stats are more or less a throwaway in my modeling this week
  • Long-Iron Play: Specifically looking at Proximity splits from >150 yards as well as a player's history around other long-iron intensive courses
  • Around the Green Play is a factor for me as well this week. Special emphasis on ARG splits at venues with high rough guarding the greens, as well as scoring stats like Bogey Avoidance, Scrambling %, and Strokes Gained in Difficult Scoring Conditions
  • Long Term Poa Annua Putting
  • Par 5 Scoring
  • SG: Total on Long, Difficult Golf Courses

 

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The Sunday Shortlist

Before the odds come out on Monday morning, here are 2-3 names I’ve identified as significant targets upon my initial research.

Collin Morikawa

Unlike the last few weeks, where longshots proved to be an everpresent threat to take down the tournament, my outright betting strategy this week will primarily focus on picking my favorites among the many marquee names at the top of the board. One quick look at the recent winners here at Torrey Pines should tell you everything you need to know: Jon Rahm, Justin Rose, Patrick Reed and Jason Day are all Major Championship winners who have spent substantial time inside the top 10 of the Official World Golf Rankings. Max Homa is a name we expect to join that elite club very soon, and although neither Luke List nor Marc Leishman has been able to ascend into that top tier, they each possess elite traits that have made them quite capable on the biggest stages in the sport.

Enter Collin Morikawa: a two-time Major Champion who has reached as high as #2 in the OWGR, and who comes into this week back in a similar vein of form that saw him reach those heights at the ripe age of 25. Collin recorded a 5th-place finish to start the year at The Sentry (leading the field on Approach in the process), and continued a run of six consecutive worldwide top 25s since last year's Open Championship.

Over a long-term sample, nobody in this field can match Collin's prowess with a long-iron (#1 in Approach Proximity from 150-200 yards; #3 from 200-plus), and in three starts around Torrey Pines (including the 2021 U.S. Open), Morikawa has flexed that elite ball-striking to the tune of 1.83 strokes gained per round.

Even more importantly, however, might be the fact that Morikawa finds himself back on the poa annua surfaces he grew up on in Southern California, and at a venue that has seen him record finishes of 3rd and 4th over his last two appearances. In fact, over his last four starts at the Farmers here at Torrey and the Genesis Invitational at Riviera (both SoCal courses that feature similarly diabolical poa annua greens), Morikawa has gained a combined 12.3 strokes putting in 16 rounds.

With his metronomic ball-striking ability, an affinity for difficult scoring conditions, and an extensive history on these green complexes, it's difficult not to make Morikawa my favorite play on the betting board this week. Given his recent run of form, I don't imagine bookmakers will be eager to cut us a deal on Collin's outright number, but there also aren't many players I'm comfortable betting to win this tournament in general. Any price in the 12-14/1 range would be within my tolerance.

 

Xander Schauffele

I more or less gave away my hand in the first write-up of the section, but this is a venue where I'd be very comfortable betting two of the top 5-6 names and calling it a week. Xander Schauffele also has my undivided attention at the top of the odds board, as the San Diego kid comes into his annual homecoming with two Top 10 finishes already to his name in the New Year. Schauffele is the only player in this field who can threaten Morikawa's reign as the best long-iron player in this field, as from a strokes gained standpoint, he's actually outpaced Collin on a per-shot basis over the last two seasons (+0.099 to 0.082).

Xander already holds the title as one of the most reliable putters in the game, but that mark is only further bolstered on the poa annua greens at Torrey Pines. Schauffele has gained strokes putting in each of his last five starts at the Farmers Open (averaging over a stroke gained per round in that time), and possesses the requisite firepower to bully Torrey Pines in ways Collin could only dream of. Xander's gained strokes off-the-tee in each of his nine starts at Torrey Pines, and comes into this week off the back of a field-leading +3.99 strokes gained with his driver at Kapalua.

Again, this is far from the most imaginative selection, but I don't feel this is a tournament where you need to dig too deeply into the proverbial bag to make. your selections. Schaufflele has every tool I'm looking for on a week like this, and the field does seem to fall off pretty severely after the first 7-8 names. If we can get Xander at a similar number to what I project for Collin, I'd have no problem pinning all my hopes on the two SoCal kids.

 

 

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The Chicago Bears were extremely active this offseason and will head into the 2024-2025 season trending up. Despite finishing last in the NFC North with a 7-10 record last year, the Bears are surely in a better spot now in the division. That's because of their successful offseason. Chicago traded for veteran wide receiver Keenan Allen and signed... Read More