Farmers Insurance Open 3-Ball Picks and Predictions: Who Should You Be Backing to Start Hot?

Farmers Insurance Round 1 matchups, 3-Ball picks and analysis from Andy Lack. Find out who to target in the matchup markets this Wednesday. The PGA Tour returns to San Diego and Andy is here to kick off the tournament with some early winners.
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Farmers Insurance Open 3-Ball Picks and Predictions: Who Should You Be Backing to Start Hot?

The PGA Tour travels to sunny La Jolla, California this week for the Farmer's Insurance Open, an event that many refer to as the "real" start to the golf season. I cannot argue with that sentiment. This is the best field we've gotten since the FedEx Cup playoffs, featuring six of the top 10 players in the official world golf rankings, and we are traveling to a long and difficult golf course that will be a far cry from the birdie-fests we've seen to open the season.

I'm speaking of course about Torrey Pines, a 36-hole municipal golf facility owned by the city of San Diego that has been a mainstay on the PGA Tour for over 50 years and counting. Players will rotate their first two rounds between the North and South course, and then those who make the cut will play the weekend at the South course. The South Course is the far more difficult of the two courses, measuring 7,765 yards on the scorecard, and featuring small and devilishly difficult Poa greens. It's imperative to score on the much more manageable North course, which measures a full 500 yards shorter, and features pure Bentgrass greens, a far less beguiling surface.

Overall, the formula for Torrey Pines is quite simple. Players who hit the ball long off the tee and are elite long iron players have a built-in advantage here. Nearly 50% of approach shots at Torrey Pines South come from over 175 yards, and it should not come as a surprise that elite long-iron players such as Jon Rahm, Jason Day and Marc Leishman have experienced so much success on this track. While length off the tee and elite long iron player certainly provide a distinctive advantage, we've also seen short game wizards such as Patrick Reed and Brandt Snedeker find their way to the top of the leaderboard as well.

Let's dig into my round one 3-ball selections.

Click here for the latest Farmer's Insurance Odds.

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Round 1 Matchup: Gary Woodland (+200) vs. Corey Conners (+130) vs. Keith Mitchell (+200)

Selection: Gary Woodland @ +200 (Bet $100 to Win $200)

This 3-ball will be teeing off on the far more difficult South course, which I believe should play right into the hands of Gary Woodland. The former U.S. Open winner at Pebble Beach, another difficult California golf course with Poa greens, has had a relatively disappointing start to the season. Woodland showed flashes with a ninth-place finish at the CJ Cup, but he has since missed his last three cuts, including last week at the American Express. In my opinion, this is a perfect time to buy low on a four-time PGA Tour winner who fits Torrey Pines to a tee. Woodland finally travels to a course where his driver and long iron play actually give him a massive leg up, and 10 made cuts and five top-20s in 11 appearances here back up that theory.

Corey Conners and Keith Mitchell on the other hand, are two players I'm a little more dubious about. I think Keith Mitchell makes sense in a vacuum because his driver definitely classifies as a weapon, but he is still a below-average long iron player and has an abysmal history on Poa greens. Corey Conners is clearly the best player and ball-striker of this bunch, but he ranks 131st in this field in strokes gained around the green and 132nd in Poa putting. Conners is a good long iron player, but if he doesn't have his best in that department, too much pressure will be placed on his abhorrent short game. I'll side with Woodland in this spot to continue to improve on his impressive record at Torrey Pines.

Round 1 Matchup: Robert Streb (+170) vs. Dylan Frittelli (+200) vs. C.T. Pan (+150)

Selection: C.T. Pan @ +150 (Bet $100 to Win $150)

C.T. Pan is actually one of my favorite sleepers on the board this week, and I will gladly increase my exposure to him with this round one 3-ball. The reason why I like Pan is simple, he has an extremely well rounded game and he's shown us before that he can really heat up on Poa greens. In fact, there have been two separate occassions at Torrey Pines where he's gained over five strokes putting. Pan is not elite at anything, but he doesn't have any glaring weakness either. Torrey Pines is the type of course that exposes glaring weakness, and his opponents in this 3-ball unfortunately have quite a few of those.

I do like Dylan Fritteli's length off the tee, but that hasn't taken him very far recently because he is such an abysmal iron player. Frittelli ranks outside the top 100 in this field in proximity from 175 yards plus, and he has lost strokes to the field on approach in seven of his last ten starts. There's even less to like about Robert Streb, who ranks outside the top 100 in driving distance, Poa putting, and he is actually a bottom-10 long iron player in this entire field. Pan at +150 is an easy one.

Round 1 Matchup: Hideki Matsuyama (+110) vs. Joaquin Niemann (+225) vs. Jason Day (+225)

Selection: Joaquin Niemann @ +225 (Bet $100 to Win $225)

Joaquin Niemann is a player I am very bullish on long-term, and I expect him to kick off his season with a bang this week at a course that should suit him well. The former Greenbrier Classic winner is an excellent off the tee and an above average long-iron player. I worry about his short game, but it's an area of his game that seems to be consistently improving. Last time Niemann got a crack at Torrey Pines, he gained 7.1 strokes ball-striking at the U.S. Open. I'll be looking to play Niemann in all markets this week, and I expect him to get off to a hot start.

This matchup is all about the number. It's hard to besmirch Hideki Matsuyama right now, whose won twice in his last four starts. My issue with Matsuyama is that he is such a volatile putter. In a single round of golf, Matsuyama is historically far more likely to lose strokes putting than he is to gain strokes putting, and I have hard time believing that he is double as likely to beat Joaquin Niemann over an 18 hole sample size. With Jason Day, I understand that he has won twice at Torrey Pines, but he's simply not that guy anymore, and his price is largely inflated due to course history from before his body started breaking down. Niemann has been a different class of player than Jason Day for over a year now, and I cannot endorse them being priced the same in a matchup. I'll take my chances with the young Chilean.

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Andy Lack is a PGA Tour writer and podcaster from Manhattan, New York. Andy came to OddsChecker in January 2022 after previously writing for Golf Digest, GolfWRX, Rotoballer, and the Score. Andy is also the host of a golf betting and daily fantasy podcast, Inside Golf Podcast, as well as "The Scramble” with Rick Gehman, and a recurring guest on the Pat Mayo Experience. In his free time, Andy is still grinding away at his lifelong dream of qualifying for the U.S. Amateur, and if not writing, can likely be found somewhere on a golf course.

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