Another week and it’s another multi-course event in California. Like The AmEx, tee-times over the first two rounds are more condensed than usual, therefore weather bias isn’t really a concern. Though there are other ways into the Farmers Insurance Open first-round leader markets.
On the bentgrass greens at the North Course, tee-times of previous first-round leaders are varied but there is one factor at the South Course that is a touch different and means that despite there not being much case for a weather bias, there is still a preferred section of the draw.
That difference is the fast-growing poa annua greens, which get bumpier and more difficult to putt on as the day’s play progresses. This one small contrast has meant that the earliest players teeing off at the South Course have comfortably had the biggest advantage, with every player (excluding Jon Rahm in 2022) teeing off among the first half of tee-times. These starters will be my primary focus at the South Course.
Whilst a little more freedom is allowed at the North Course, there are a couple of players who I fancy for a hot start; one who has proven an ability to go low there and another, a birdie-machine who has been starting quickly in this early part of the year.
0.75 pts Scott Stallings each way (1/4, 5 places) (First-Round Leader – South Course) - 55/1
Starting at the South Course, and I’m taking former winner and runner-up, Scott Stallings to be ahead of the pack at the end of Wednesday’s opening round.
Stallings has had three top 25s in this event, all coming in three straight years. After he won in 2014, he put up an admirable defence the following year, finishing 2nd and returned for a 25th-place finish the in 2015.
Although he has not been able to match that level of performance since, he shot his best ever round at the South Course in 2022, closing out the event with a 6-under 66 – a score that would’ve seen him take the first round lead in each of the last seven renewals.
He’s started this season with a 42nd-place finish at the Sony Open, looking strong tee-to-green and missed the cut by two in the AmEx. However, he made quick starts in both, firing a 66 to sit 7th after the first round in Hawaii and started even better last week, shooting a 64 to tie the FRL at the Stadium Course.
Hopefully he can keep the speedy starts coming and take advantage of his early tee-time at the South Course.
0.75 pts Lanto Griffin each way (1/4, 5 places) (First-Round Leader – South Course) - 70/1
Lanto Griffin also has the benefit of an early start in the first round at the South. With a good record here and showing positives in last week’s AmEx, he’s a tempting price to lead the way at the close of play on Wednesday.
He has missed just one cut in five Farmers starts, recording a best of 7th in 2021. There, he made a swift start, shooting 66 to sit 4th after the first round, but this was at the easier North Course. However, his excellent closing 65 at the South Course the following year shows he is capable of kicking off his week with an equally impressive start at this more challenging venue.
Griffin was all the way down in 140th after the opening round of the AmEx last week though improved to 39th following rounds of 65, 65 and 68. He was the 5th-best ball-striker in the field during the final round, where he looked particularly strong in approach and if in that same kind of form he can produce a low one on these poa surfaces that he’s putted so well in the past.
1 pt Justin Rose each way (1/4, 5 places) (First-Round Leader – North Course) - 35/1
Onto the North Course and 2019 Farmers winner, Justin Rose can finally get his year going by going low in tomorrow’s opening round.
After initially struggling to shine here, Rose has developed a terrific record in the event. Aside from his win in 2019, he finished 4th in 2017, 8th in 2018, 6th in 2022 and made it five top 20s in six visits with a finish of 18th last year.
Amongst these starts are some stellar rounds at the North Course. Indeed he fired a 65 in the 2017 first round to top the field there and a 67 in 2022 to sit 8th. Though both are dwarfed by his 63 in the opening round on his way to victory in 2019.
Rose has long been somewhat of a first-round specialist and though not quite at it on his first two starts of the year – besides his superb closing 61 in The Sentry – he is an obvious selection in this market.
0.75 pts Alejandro Tosti each way (1/4, 5 places) (First-Round Leader – North Course) - 55/1
My final selection of the week goes the way of Korn Ferry Tour graduate and birdie-machine, Alejandro Tosti. The Argentinian arrives on tour with a wild reputation, though underneath that is a quality golfer who has been starting well this year, even if the final results haven’t been as he’d have hoped.
Tosti enjoyed an excellent year on the Korn Ferry Tour last year, winning once and recording ten further top 10s; showing an appealing birdie-making ability that saw him rank 2nd on tour in birdie average.
Particularly attractive for this week, he displayed a proven ability as a fast starter. He twice held the first-round lead, at the Pinnacle Bank Championship and in the Knoxville Open, whilst sat 2nd after the first round in the Club Car Championship and Veritex Bank Championship; recording three further first-round top 10s.
Tosti has replicated this tendency in his first two starts on the PGA Tour, sitting inside the top 10 after round one of the Sony and recorded one of the ten lowest scores at the Nicklaus Tournament Course in the opening round of last week’s AmEx. If able to take advantage of his naturally low scoring nature, he can get off to his best start yet at Torrey Pines.
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