The field this week is set at 152 golfers. This isn’t a Pro-Am—the top 65 players and ties will make the weekend after Friday’s cut—but we do have a bit of venue quirk here again as two courses will be in play. Players will each play the Torrey South and Torrey North course once on Thursday and Friday, and then switch over strictly to the South Course this weekend. As for the field there’s still no Tiger Woods (back) as he isn’t likely to make an appearance until March or April, but we do have several other past champions in the field as Jason Day (2015 and 2018), Marc Leishman (2020) and Jon Rahm (2017) are all in attendance.
Those three will be joined by the likes of world number seven Rory McIlroy (making his first PGA TOUR appearance of 2021), number six Xander Schauffele and number 12, Brooks Koepka. McIlroy was in contention last week over in Abu Dhabi, while Schauffele has now been off two weeks since making his debut in Hawaii. These three represent the next three highest ranked players after world number two Jon Rahm, who did pull out of last week’s event due to a reported back issue. The injury isn’t suspected to be major at all but is worth noting nonetheless. Schauffele, Rory and Brooks will all be looking to break their year-plus long winless streaks at the tournament this week.
Torrey Pines—San Diego, California
South (home course) 7600-7700 yards, par 72
North 7200-7300 yards, par 72
As mentioned above, two courses are in play the first two days with weekend golf being exclusively on the South course. As for how the venues set up, Torrey Pines South is a completely different challenge than what the players will have been exposed to so far this year. It’s consistently ranked as one of the hardest courses on the PGA TOUR, and yields one of the lowest birdie or better percentages every season. Last year it played as the 7th toughest on the PGA TOUR and +.534 above par, despite relative calm conditions.
Torrey North will play much easier than the South, but it was renovated a couple of years ago to modernize it and represents a decent challenge on its own now. Last year the North played quite a bit easier overall ranking as just the 33rd toughest course (out of 41) so players will still need to get some scoring done there to compete.
The North course features four reachable par-5s and you’ll almost certainly need a good under-par round from your player here if they are going to advance to the weekend. On the South course playing the par-5s well is also important as they are generally the only birdie holes on the course, and possibly the only holes that will play under par for the week. Length isn’t the only factor that makes Torrey South a difficult test, but six of the 10 par-4s on the course do measure in at over 450 yards in length, while only one measures in at under 400.
The players will also be putting on poa annua greens (on the South course anyway, the North is now Bentgrass) which can be very difficult to maneuver. A few of the other courses on the West Coast swing also use some type of poa annau (Pebble Beach, Riviera) and many of the players this week will be more comfortable than others on this surface.
Pretty much everything is tougher here as the field’s scrambling stats, fairways hit and GIR % are all significantly lower here than the PGA TOUR average, while the venue also produces one of the highest amounts of 200+ approach shots of any venue on the PGA TOUR. Good drivers and long iron play is an absolute necessity here as Torrey Pines South also consistently ranks as one of the hardest courses to hole putts on from inside of ten feet. Expect a tough scoring week which could be made even more difficult by the weather (see below).
2021 Outlook: We could definitely be getting some choppy weather this week, and this is an event that isn’t a stranger to poor weather (go back and watch the 2016 final round). Heavy winds and cooler weather move in at the start and it looks like highs will hover in the 55-61 F range all four days. Thursday calls for a nice a.m. but also for winds to pick up in the p.m., into the 12-14 mph range with some rain later in the day. That rain and wind will carry over into Friday which looks miserable with 15 mph winds and rain in the forecast all day (as of writing). The good news is that the weekend looks cool but clear and with less wind. The first two rounds are going to be eventful and a grind so look for higher scoring than normal and for a potential wave split to develop if the afternoon winds on Thursday pick up as forecast.
Last 5 winners
2020—Marc Leishman -15 (over Jon Rahm -14)
2019—Justin Rose -21 (over Adam Scott -19)
2018—Jason Day -10 (over Alex Noren and Ryan Palmer playoff)
2017—Jon Rahm -13 (over Charles Howell III and CT Pan -10)
2016—Brandt Snedeker -6 (over KJ Choi -5)
- Recent form does not seem to be a huge deal at this event (at least for the winners) as only two of the last eight winners had recorded a top-10 performance on the year before winning here (Snedeker in 2016 and Day in 2015).
- Eight of the last 10 winners had a South/North draw—meaning they played the South course on Thursday and the North on Friday (exception was Justin Rose in 2019 and Leishman in 2020).
- Six of the past seven winners (exception Jason Day in 2018) had made at least one professional start in the calendar year before winning here.
Winners Stats and Course Highlights
Marc Leishman ($8,700)
2020 lead-in form (T28-T69-T43-3rd-WD)
- Leishman’s win here was a bit of anomaly last year as he didn’t exactly blow the doors off with his ball-striking and instead rode an insanely hot putter over the weekend to a win.
- Solid Poa putters like Brandt Snedeker have almost as good a shot here as the big hitters despite the longer setup as many players struggle with the bumpy Poa greens and you will generally see lots of missed putts here this week.
- Still, this is a venue where you want to emphasize distance and consistency off the tee as the longer par-5s are where scoring needs to be done. The top-10 here is often littered with players in the top-50 in Driving Distance or SG:OTT stats.
- Leishman did miss almost every fairway in the final round here last season but distance and solid off the tee play does matter here although it can obviously be made up for with better than average around and on the green play.
Finding Values (DraftKings Sportsbook)
Odds to win are one factor to think about when picking players (but not the only thing, so be careful putting too much weight on them). This section is going to detail a few of the players who have the best fantasy value comparative to their DraftKings Sportsbook odds of winning this week.
- Corey Conners $7,700 and +7000
- Gary Woodland $7,800 and +7000
- Francesco Molinari $7,800 and +7000
- All odds provided by DraftKings Sportsbook and all odds subject to change.
HORSES FOR COURSES
1. Jason Day (best finish: win – 2018, 2015): Despite often coming in cold to this event, Day has a fantastic record at Torrey Pines. He’s now posted two wins and five top-10s here over his career and was T16 here last season despite coming in with poor form. Day finished 2020 with strong results, including a T12 and T7 finishes in two of his last three events, so don’t be shocked if he competes here again for the win.
2. Tony Finau (best finish: T4-2017, T6-2018): Finau’s length off the tee has provided a clear advantage for him at this week’s venue where he’s a perfect six for six in terms of cuts made and he has never finished worse than T24 here in his career. He leads the field in strokes gained total here the past five years and was T6 at this event last season. The only thing he hasn’t done at this week’s venue is win.
3. Marc Leishman (best finish: 2020-win, T8-2018): Leishman has been in contention at Torrey Pines numerous times throughout his career and finally broke through for the win here last season. Over 11 career appearances here he’s only missed the cut twice and has two runner-up finishes and a victory to his credit, making him a clear lead horse for this week.
4. Jon Rahm (best finishes: 2017-win, 2nd-2020): Rahm nearly chased Leishman down for the win here last season. He notched his first ever PGA TOUR win here back in 2017—in dramatic fashion—and is second in strokes gained total here over the past five years, despite not playing in 2016. The highest ranked golfer in the field, he’s also got one of the best course histories this week.
5. Gary Woodland (best finish: T9-2019, T10-2014): Woodland has played this event each year since 2011 and over his last seven visits to Torrey Pines he’s only finished outside the top-30 here twice. In 2019 he shot his best ever round at Torrey with a 66 and finished T9—his best finish ever at this event. He’s dealt with injury issues and form issues of late but did bounce back with a decent T16 finish at the Amex last week.
Top Recent Form
1. Harris English ($9,800, Recent finishes: T32-win-T5): English leads the field in strokes gained total stats over the last six events and has now finished T6 or better in three of his last four starts, which includes his win at the TOC. He lost in a playoff at Torrey Pines in 2015.
2. Billy Horschel ($8,200, Recent finishes: T7-T24-T5): Horschel has been in a pretty solid zone of late, landing top-10s in two of his last three starts. He was T7 at the Sony and gained over 8-strokes putting at that event.
3. Tony Finau ($10,700, Recent finishes: T4-T31-T8): Finau ranks sixth in this field in strokes gained total over the last six events and has top-10’s in two of his last three starts. He was briefly in the lead on Sunday at the Amex but fell back to a T4 finish.
4. Carlos Ortiz ($7,500, Recent finishes: T14-T37-T8): Ortiz now has three top-15 finishes in his last four starts, including a win at Houston in the week before the Masters last season. He finished T14 at the Sony Open where he gained over +5.0 strokes putting.
5. Matt Jones ($7,000, Recent finishes: T21-T11): Jones comes in having made six cuts in a row and with three top-25 finishes over his last five starts. He’s been lighting it up on the greens of late, gaining over +2.2 strokes putting in each of his last three outings.
DRAFTKINGS DFS STRATEGY
Cash Games: Balanced approach with Hideki and Day a good option
The top two players in this field set up well for this week’s venue but both are coming off strange weeks where back issues hampered them. Ignoring the $10K range and starting with consistent tee to green players in Jason Day ($8,600) and Hideki Matsuyama ($9,300) here doesn’t seem like an absurd strategy as a result. Both rank top-12 in bogey avoidance, have good to great course histories here and were in the mix in big events to end 2020. Harris English ($9,800) and Marc Leishman are two other players in this range who look solid for HUs and 50/50 lineups as well. Further down the consistency of Charles Howell III ($7,500) and Emiliano Grillo ($7,600) should also be valued here and Howell especially has paid off here, year after year. Other potential cash targets in this range include Max Homa ($7,400) and Carlos Ortiz ($7,500).
Tournaments: Buy low on Koepka and Schauffele
Xander Schauffele ($10,400) is a San Diego native but has missed the cut here in four of five attempts. It should lead to low GPP-ownership though and we have seen several of the top players here compile multiple missed cuts at Torrey before eventually breaking through. Koepka bowed out early last week but the US Open style venue at Torrey is much better suited to his game and we shouldn’t forget that two of his last three events in 2020 were top-10s. If you want a more balanced approach, bypassing Schauffele and using Matt Wolff ($9,100-see below) is a move I’d endorse as well. His off the tee play alone should put him in the mix this week and sentiment will be low. Other GPP targets here include the likes of Will Zalatoris ($8,100), Louis Oosthuizen ($8,000), Alex Noren ($7,400-see below), Patrick Rodgers ($6,800) and Wyndham Clark ($6,800).
MY PICK: Matthew Wolff ($9,100)
Wolff opened his season with a T41 last week at the Amex where he closed with three unforgettable, under-par rounds to finish at 8-under for the week. I wouldn’t dwell on the lack of production there for too long though as this is a player we know can ramp up in a hurry. The 21-year-old still gained +3.0 strokes on his approaches in the final two rounds combined and was his usual menacing self off the tee, landing third in driving distance. The claustrophobic Dye setup at TPC Stadium is never going to suit Wolff much (perhaps later in his career) but the expansive Torrey Pines property certainly should.
A California native, Wolff nearly toppled the entire PGA TOUR when he shot a 63 at TPC Harding Park—another longer West coast venue—in the final round of the PGA Championship last year and should feel equally comfortable on the Poa greens at Torrey this week. Despite a lackluster Fall, he still ranks third in SG: Approach stats and fifth in SG: Ball striking over the last 50 rounds and has the kind of length and power to succeed over time at Torrey, a venue he shot four-under on, in rounds three and four last season. We’ve seen winners here start their seasons slow and then pop here on the drastic venue change and Wolff seems like a player who could accomplish that similar kind of feat this week. He’s a nice target for me on this course every season and a solid upper tier target at barely above $9K in price.
MY SLEEPER: Alex Noren ($7,400)
Despite the length of the course in play this week I wouldn’t overlook Alex Noren here as a pretty viable DFS play and good dark horse candidate. The Swede has been superb at getting himself into contention at these longer PGA TOUR venues over his career (despite his lack of length), and as a strong putter he sets up similar for this venue as former champion Brandt Snedeker in that he can often make up for his lack of off the tee prowess here on and around the Poa greens (that players tend to struggle on).
A playoff loser at this event in 2018, Noren’s game took a solid turn to the uptrend in late 2020 and he managed his way to top-20 finishes at both PGA Championship and US Open last season, both venues which should compare favorably to this week. The 39-year-old also struck the ball quite well at The American Express, gaining strokes on his approaches in all three of his measured rounds there and likely would have finished much higher if not for a bad week on the greens. With poor weather in play here and an event with a history of star players underperforming, embracing the variance with a putter-reliant player like Noren makes a lot of sense to me in GPPs this week, and at just $7.4K in price he’s a fine sleeper for what should be a lower scoring week on DraftKings.
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