The PGA Tour lands at Torrey Pines this week and Niall has five tips to get behind.
The North and South courses at Torrey Pines take our attention Stateside this week for the Farmers Insurance Open. An intriguing affair awaits with McIlroy and Tiger making their first appearance of the year. Tiger has won this a mind boggling 7 times and holds every chance of making it 8. He was in imperious form during the Presidents Cup and the stature of him that week suggested to me that he believes he is nearing peak performance once again. He hasn't been far off that anyhow with three wins in his last sixteen events, with a handful of those being total write offs due to illness and fatigue. Woods gets a later start time at this event due to the two course rotation which is a huge help to his ageing spine. I'll swerve him this week simply because of the break. I'm not a huge fan of investing in folk after a lay off and especially at short prices. McIlroy is similar and I think there are better options further down the field. As ever the South Course holds the key to unlocking the winners prize here and those who can hit it long off the tee and SG:OTT will be an important stat. That being said you'll need all facets of your game in fine working order to score well here.
One could be excused for ignoring TONY FINAU's (25-1 / 8 places) price every week but despite the strength of field this represents one of Tony's best chances to get over the line this year. Finau is the course dog here and it'd be foolish to ignore his chances. He plays Poa Annua greens like the best of them and has started this year in fine form with 5th in Hong Kong and a top 15 last week in the Desert. 'His win rate is shocking' I hear you cry. Indeed it may be, especially for the price he goes off for these events. Nevertheless some find it more difficult to win, especially until they land a big fish. This would be a big fish for Tony and finishes of 24-18-4-6-13 represent just about the best in the field for those who have not won at Torrey. His record on the South Course is terrific and he just has to be supported regardless of the lack of value in his price.
2pts each-way T. Finau 25/1 (1/5 8 places)
RYAN PALMER's (50-1 / 8 places) price has shortened as the week has continued but can't be left off any staking plan at Torrey. Palmer is enjoying a spectacular spell of golf having not finished outside the top 20 in any of his last four events, with those events being littered with some of the best golfers in the world. 4th at the Sony last time out was a great effort only coming undone on the par 5 72nd where a birdie would have gotten him into a playoff. At the age of 43 he looks to be playing some of his best stuff and his last two appearances here have seem him finish 13th and a runner up, beaten in a playoff. He plays the South course well here and looks sure to perform once again.
1pt each-way R.Palmer 50/1 (1/5 8 places)
Collin Morikawa looks well equipped to contend here having played a lot of golf in this state but his price puts me off. I may however be having a few quid on the exchange. Harris English is another who looks a decent price but I remain unconvinced that he'd get over the line in this field. Instead I'll double down on CAMERON SMITH (40-1 / 8 places) who I was expecting to be shorter in the market this week. Smith's early jaunts to Torrey resulted in two missed cuts but he has gotten the hang of it since improving each year with finishes of 33-20-9. The Australian scrambled over the line at the Sony despite not playing anywhere near his best stuff. He has gained strokes on the field on every round at the South Course bar one in his last 9 efforts. Sungjae Im shorter than him in the market is a puzzle to my mind and I believe a lot more improvement is on the way for the Aussie. His exchange price is huge, something I can't get my head around, but nevertheless to my eyes the 40/1 at 8 places looks value.
1pt each-way C.Smith 40/1 (1/5 8 places)
KEEGAN BRADLEY (80-1 / 8 places) has a lot to play for now he sits outside the top 50 in the world and is one of those who has to be fully respected when it comes to Torrey Pines. Two top 5 finishes in his last three outings here highlights Bradley's love of this place and having started the year in fine fashion with a top 15 in Hawaii he can be expected to go even better here in California. Over 20 rounds at the South Course dating back to 2012 Keegan has gained an average of 1.4 strokes per round against the field. It has been his performances on the easier North Course that have stopped him in his tracks of winning this these past few years. Bradley starts on the North Course on Thursday and if he gets off to a fast start it will be hard to see him out of the mix come Sunday evening.
1pt each-way K.Bradley 80/1 (1/5 8 places)
TALOR GOOCH (125-1 / 8 places) must be on our list at Torrey given his brief history at this track. His first appearance here saw him finish 51st but that doesn't tell the full story. He was 7 under through three rounds and lying 12th before the pressure got to him and he finished with a disappointing 80. Last year he put those demons to bed with four rounds in the 60s to finish in a tie for 3rd. Gooch is a talented sort who has landed a few blows on the big tour despite not a ton of experience. Last year he finished 4th in the Desert before his top 5 here at Torrey. Another top 5 landed in Houston in the fall series and a top 20 last week is another positive. I consider Gooch on a good mark with the handicapper and could well outplay his odds of 125/1. Others who were close to making the list included CT Pan, Pat Perez, Tom Hoge and Scott Stallings.
0.75pt each-way T.Gooch 125/1 (1/5 8 places)
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