Farmers Insurance Open 2024 Tips: Morikawa the man at Torrey Pines

 | January 22 | 

22 mins read

jamie worsley pga tour

Jamie Worsley is back with his comprehensive preview of the Farmers Insurance Open and has five more selections for you, as always on the PGA Tour. 

Farmers Insurance Open Tips

  • 4 pts Collin Morikawa to win - 12/1 
  • 1.75 pts Sahith Theegala each way (1/5 - 8 places) - 28/1 
  • 1.25 pts Harris English each way (1/5 - 8 places) - 40/1 
  • 1.25 pts Sepp Straka each way (1/5 - 6 places) - 40/1
  • 1 pt Taylor Moore each way (1/5 - 8 places) - 100/1

The PGA Tour continues to knock it out of the park with storybook finishes. At last week’s AmEx, highly-rated amateur, Nick Dunlap held off several high-profile challengers in the final round to become the first amateur winner on tour since Phil Mickelson won the Tuscon Open in 1991, and only the fifth amateur in the tour’s history to record a win.

Sunday’s final round was nothing like the sensational 12-under-par 60 that he shot at La Quinta on Saturday, to forge into a three-shot lead. He showed grit and determination, responding from a double-bogey on the 7th - which caused him to lose his lead - by making zero further costly mistakes for the rest of his round, recording three birdies and eight pars coming in.

As Sam Burns unravelled with back-to-back double bogeys on the two closing holes, Dunlap made a gutsy up-and-down on the last to stay one shot clear of South Africa’s Christiaan Bezuidenhout and etch his name into the history books.

He was already a recognised talent but with this win huge things will now be expected of the Alabama native. It will be fascinating to see how his career takes shape from here.

The West Coast Swing continues and with quite a change of pace, as the players head to Torrey Pines for one of the most challenging events on tour, the Farmers Insurance Open. Which has a Wednesday start date once again, to avoid clashing with the NFL during the final round on Sunday.

TOURNAMENT HISTORY

The Farmers Insurance Open is the latest incarnation of what was the San Diego Open when first played in 1952. It has had several other title sponsors over the course of its existence; most recently it was sponsored by Buick from 1992-2009, before Farmers Insurance stepped in for the 2010 edition and have remained associated with the event since.

It is another multi-course event, taking place at both Torrey Pines South and Torrey Pines North over the first two rounds. The cut-makers then return for two final rounds at the more famous South Course, which is a two-time host of the US Open.

This is one of those events at which Tiger Woods enjoyed a ridiculous level of dominance, winning a record seven times in fifteen renewals from 1999-2013. He equalled the record winning score in his first victory here in 1999, shooting -22 to match George Burns score from 1987 and with his eight-stroke demolition of the field in 2008, he also holds the record for the highest margin of victory.

Phil Mickelson is the man closest to him in overall wins with three, coming in 1993, 2000 and 2001. Whilst the group of two-time winners includes Arnold Palmer (1957, 1961), Tom Watson (1977, 1980) and most recently Jason Day - winning in 2015 and 2018.

Amongst the list of other former winners are Gary Player (1963), Jack Nicklaus (1969), Jose Maria Olazabal (2002) and Jon Rahm (2017).

Last five winners:

  • 2023 – Winner: Max Homa (-13); runner-up: Keegan Bradley (-11)
  • 2022 – Winner: Luke List (-15, playoff); runner-up: Will Zalatoris (-15)
  • 2021 – Winner: Patrick Reed (-14); runners-up: Tony Finau, Viktor Hovland, Henrik Norlander, Ryan Palmer, Xander Schauffele (-9)
  • 2020 – Winner: Marc Leishman (-15); runner-up: Jon Rahm (-14)
  • 2019 – Winner: Justin Rose (-21); runner-up: Adam Scott (-19)

Max Homa produced a brilliant final-round display last year, coming from five back at the start of the fourth round and firing a 6-under 66 to claim his sixth PGA Tour title. He returns this year and aims to become the first player to successfully defend the trophy since Tiger in 2008.

THE COURSE

This week’s courses:

Torrey Pines (South): 7765-yard par 72; 10x par 4s (389-505 yards), 4x par 5s (564-621 yards), 4x par 3s (177-227 yards)

Torrey Pines (North): 7258-yard par 72; 10x par 4s (322-495 yards), 4x par 5s (520-556 yards), 4x par 3s (202-241 yards)

Each of the courses used at Torrey Pines initially opened for play in 1957 and were originally designed by William Bell, though have gone through a couple of renovations in the last twenty years.

Rees Jones was brought in to tweak the South Course in 2001 and 2019, preparing it for major championship consideration. These changes includes the recontouring of all greens; repositioning of some; bunkers moved to more strategic positions to combat the modern pro and around 500 yards in length was also added. It was awarded the US Open for the first time in 2008, which was won by Tiger Woods and upon returning to Torrey Pines, the 2021 renewal was won by Jon Rahm.

Tom Weiskopf completed renovations to the North Course in 2016, where he reduced the number of bunkers by a third; increased the size of the greens by about a third; added a new drivable par 4 and slightly widened the fairways.

The two courses combine to provide us with a demanding test, with the Farmers Insurance Open averaging a winning score of -12.5 over the last ten renewals, though it’s fair to say that most of these demands come from the South Course.

With three rounds played there, it makes sense to focus more on that course but that isn’t to say the North has no importance. Whilst similar enough in look and style – with both sat on a cliff-edge and offering some memorable views of the Pacific - there are several elements that make it the much easier test.

Length is the key one. It is over 500 yards shorter than its neighbour and though the par 3s are all long, and there are several tougher par 4s, there is a bounty of serious birdie chances. All of the par 5s are there to be got at, with each at sub-560 yards and there are also two drivable par 4s: the 322-yard 7th and 339-yard 11th. With fewer penal bunkers; larger, slower (bentgrass) greens and more generous fairways, you really must make the most of your round there.

Do that and it makes your job at the South Course a little easier, but not much. This 7765-yard behemoth is the longest regular course used on tour and is more a test of brute-force ball-striking than finesse and creativity.

Most holes are open and exposed to conditions, with only a smattering of trees dotted aside the fairways. There is little in the way of prominent doglegs, though it makes up for this with some of the narrowest fairways on tour (possessing the 3rd-lowest driving accuracy percentage in the last five years), which often slope towards the ocean and can leave you with uneven lies.

Hitting them is made more challenging by strategically placed and penal bunkers that litter the fairways, forming the primary defence of the course in general. Whilst gnarly, 4-inch-thick kikuya rough provides you with zero respite if managing to avoid the sand.

The firm poa annua greens are small at an average of 5000 sq. ft and are sloped rather than undulating. Many are placed at an angle and tough to hit; though even tougher to putt on, particularly later in the day as they become bumpy. There is no real imagination around them, just further heavy bunkering and thick rough.

There are small elevation changes throughout, which are particularly noticeable on the par 3s as all play downhill. The 201-yard 3rd is the most picturesque hole on the course, offering spectacular views of the Pacific and a green apparently perched precariously on the cliff-edge.

Water is a scarcely used feature, only coming into play on the closing 570-yard par 5. If you avoid the bunkers and rough off-the-tee on this straight, narrow fairway, you are then able to attack the green. However, water protects the dramatically sloped putting surface to the front and with large bunkers on both sides, it is far from a gimme birdie. We’ve seen players finish with eagles here to aid their challenge and equally, those who have dunked it into the water to end their hopes.

THE STATS

Key stats:

  • SG: Approach
  • Greens-in-Regulation
  • Proximity from 200 yards+
  • SG: Off-the-Tee
  • Driving Distance
  • SG: Putting (poa annua)
  • Par 5 Scoring

I described this course as a test of “brute-force ball-striking” and it’s the powerful ball-striking types who we should look towards most this week.

Max Homa somewhat fits this description and he particularly excelled with his irons last year, ranking 1st in approach and 4th in greens-in-regulation. This quality iron play was well-represented throughout the top of the leaderboard, with each of the top 6 ranking 12th or better in approach, and 5/6 ranking 13th or higher in GIR.

The 2022 edition saw Luke List overcome Will Zalatoris in a playoff, with both producing elite-level approach play; List ranking 4th in approach/7th in GIR and Zalatoris 1st in approach/5th in GIR.

Hop back to 2020 to find Marc Leishman hitting his irons well when winning, ranking 5th (five of the top 8 were 6th or better) and it was a similar story for Justin Rose’s 2019 win, as the Englishman ranked 5th in approach; his nearest challengers ranking 1st, 6th and 4th.

Additionally, with seven of the eight par 3s across the two courses above 200 yards; all of the par 5s requiring approaches over this; as well as several of the longer par 4s, we should focus closely on the best long iron players, with proximity at 200+ yards looking important.

Though iron play has proven the most significant asset in recent renewals, there’s no doubt this course sets up well for strong (and preferably long) drivers of the ball.

Four of top 7 drivers in the field finished inside the top 10 in last year’s renewal, with Collin Morikawa in 3rd ranking 3rd, contributing to him ranking as the best all-round ball-striker in the field; winner, Homa, was 2nd.

With a top 4 of Luke List, Will Zalatoris, Jason Day and Jon Rahm, 2022 was very power heavy. Each of them ranked inside the top 20 in driving distance and top 25 off-the-tee.

When looking at Jon Rahm, Xander Schauffele, Viktor Hovland and Tony Finau in 2021; Jon Rahm (again) and Rory McIlroy in 2020; Justin Rose, Adam Scott and Hideki Matsuyama in 2019; along with several past winners such as Jason Day and Bubba Watson, past leaderboards in the Farmers Insurance Open are full of adept drivers.

The poa greens here have frustrated many and it would be a huge positive to have players on side who have proven themselves on the surface. Each of the last four winners have ranked inside the top 10 in putting for the week.

Finally, with how gettable the par 5s are at the North Course and how they offer up four of the limited birdie chances at the South Course, making the most of your chances on them will prove pivotal to lifting the trophy on Saturday.

CORRELATING EVENTS (COURSES)

Genesis Invitational (Riviera Country Club)

Whilst not that alike visually, Riviera has much in common with Torrey Pines and looks an obvious place to start.

This fellow Californian and major championship course was designed by George Thomas, with the help of this week’s original designer William Bell. It features speedy poa greens, kikuyu rough and tight fairways which are the 2nd-hardest to hit on tour; one spot above Torrey Pines.

Notable correlating form:

Max Homa:

Farmers (1st) / Genesis (1st, 2nd)

Jon Rahm:

Farmers (1st, 2nd) / Genesis (1st)

Bubba Watson:

Farmers (1st) / Genesis (1st, 1st, 1st)

Scott Stallings:

Farmers (1st, 2nd) / Genesis (4th)

Marc Leishman:

Farmers (1st, 2nd, 2nd) / Genesis (4th, 5th)

Charles Howell III:

Farmers (2nd, 2nd, 2nd) / Genesis (1st)

JB Holmes:

Farmers (2nd, 4th, 6th) / Genesis (1st, 3rd)

Keegan Bradley:

Farmers (2nd, 4th, 5th) / Genesis (2nd, 4th)

Tony Finau:

Farmers (2nd, 4th) / Genesis (2nd, 2nd)

Jimmy Walker:

Farmers (4th, 4th) / Genesis (4th, 4th)

Josh Teater:

Farmers (2nd) / Genesis (6th)

Fortinet Championship (Silverado Resort – North Course)

I’ll stay in California with the Fortinet Championship at the Silverado Resort. Though this densely tree-lined course is significantly shorter, it challenges players with small poa annua greens and narrow fairways, which rank as the most difficult to find on the PGA Tour.

Notable correlating form:

Max Homa:

Farmers (1st) / Fortinet (1st, 1st)

Brandt Snedeker:

Farmers (1st, 1st, 2nd, 2nd) / Fortinet (2nd)

Marc Leishman:

Farmers (1st, 2nd, 2nd) / Fortinet (3rd, 4th)

Luke List:

Farmers (1st) / Fortinet (4th)

Scott Stallings:

Farmers (1st, 2nd) / Fortinet (6th)

Sahith Theegala:

Farmers (4th) / Fortinet (1st, 6th)

Tony Finau:

Farmers (2nd, 4th) / Fortinet (2nd)

Sam Ryder:

Farmers (4th, 10th) / Fortinet (4th)

Patrick Rodgers:

Farmers (4th, 9th) / Fortinet (6th, 6th)

Graham DeLaet:

Farmers (2nd) / Fortinet (5th)

 

Memorial Tournament (Muirfield Village Golf Club)

As a lengthy course with small, firm greens and thick rough, Muirfield Village mimics certain elements of play at Torrey Pines, which make it a popular stop for would-be major champions and contenders.

Notable correlating form:

Jon Rahm:

Farmers (1st, 2nd) / Memorial (1st)

Justin Rose:

Farmers (1st) / Memorial (1st, 2nd, 2nd)

Scott Stallings:

Farmers (1st, 2nd) / Memorial (4th)

Marc Leishman:

Farmers (1st, 2nd, 2nd) / Memorial (5th, 5th)

Max Homa:

Farmers (1st) / Memorial (5th, 6th)

Viktor Hovland:

Farmers (2nd) / Memorial (1st)

Collin Morikawa:

Farmers (3rd) / Memorial/Workday Charity Open (1st, 2nd)

Ryan Palmer:

Farmers (2nd, 2nd) / Memorial (2nd)

Adam Scott:

Farmers (2nd) / Memorial (2nd)

Will Zalatoris:

Farmers (2nd) / Memorial (5th)

Sahith Theegala:

Farmers (4th) / Memorial (5th)

 

Wells Fargo Championship (Quail Hollow Club)

Quail Hollow’s major championship test makes the course favourable to lengthy ball-striking types and it has formed some eye-catching form-ties with Torrey Pines as a result.

Notable correlating form:

Max Homa:

Farmers (1st) / Quail Hollow (1st)

Jason Day:

Farmers (1st, 1st) / Quail Hollow (1st)

Nick Watney:

Farmers (1st, 4th) / Quail Hollow (2nd)

Justin Rose:

Farmers (1st) / Quail Hollow (3rd, 3rd)

Luke List:

Farmers (1st) / Quail Hollow (6th, 9th)

JB Holmes:

Farmers (2nd, 4th, 6th) / Quail Hollow (1st)

Harris English:

Farmers (2nd) / Quail Hollow (3rd)

Patrick Rodgers:

Farmers (4th, 9th) / Quail Hollow (2nd)

Pat Perez:

Farmers (2nd, 4th) / Quail Hollow (6th, 8th)

 

2020 & 2023 BMW Championship (Olympia Fields Country Club)

Next up is Olympia Fields Country Club. This former major championship host has returned to the PGA Tour schedule a couple of times in recent years, hosting the 2020 and 2023 BMW Championships. With small, firm greens and narrow fairways, protected by thick rough and strategically-placed bunkers, it has plenty in common with Torrey Pines.

Notable correlating form:

Jon Rahm:

Farmers (1st, 2nd) / BMW (1st)

Max Homa:

Farmers (1st) / BMW (5th)

Viktor Hovland:

Farmers (2nd) / BMW (1st)

Hideki Matsuyama:

Farmers (3rd) / BMW (3rd)

Sungjae Im:

Farmers (4th, 6th) / BMW (7th)

Tony Finau:

Farmers (2nd, 4th) / BMW (5th)

 

THE WEATHER

Rain has been falling in the area the last few days, but it looks dry from Tuesday onwards and continues this way throughout the event.

Though there is little in the way of wind currently forecast, that can change quickly due to the location of the course and with cold temperatures predicted all week, there’s little to suggest this event will play any easier.

THE FIELD

Xander Schauffele is the top-ranked player in this week’s Farmers Insurance Open field at #5 and joined by a further two from inside the world’s top 10: #6 Patrick Cantlay and #7, defending champion, Max Homa.

Homa is one of seven former winners, along with Luke List (2022), Justin Rose (2019), Jason Day (2015, 2018), Brandt Snedeker (2012, 2016), Scott Stallings (2014) and Nick Watney (2009).

There are a further eighteen players in attendance from inside the world’s top 50, which includes first PGA Tour starts this season for DPWT stars Ryan Fox, Nicolai Hojgaard and last week’s runner-up to Rory McIlroy in Dubai, Adrian Meronk.

Gary Woodland, Daniel Berger and Will Zalatoris continue their returns from injury – the latter two after encouraging efforts in the AmEx last week – and the sensation of that event, Nick Dunlap is back in action, looking for what would be nothing short of a sensational follow-up victory at Torrey Pines.

SELECTIONS

Market leaders: Xander Schauffele 9/1, Patrick Cantlay 10/1, Max Homa 11/1, Collin Morikawa 12/1, Ludvig Aberg 22/1, Sungjae Im 22/1

We’ve had a trio of winners priced at triple digits to kick off the year on the PGA Tour but Torrey Pines is a different animal. Winners are usually of the highest order and have at least demonstrated a decent level of ability to play the course.

This leads me to the quartet of Californians at the top for my headline selection and with an excellent record here, combined with an encouraging start to the season at The Sentry three weeks ago, it’s Collin Morikawa who gets the nod.

4 pts Collin Morikawa to win - 12/1 

 

We were on Morikawa at The Sentry in the hope that he could carry over his form at the end of 2023 – where he won a seventh pro title in the ZOZO Championship – and whilst not getting the win, he certainly looked to be in good shape.

He finished 5th there, signing off the week with an 8-under 65. His renowned precision ball-striking was key in this, ranking 2nd in the field in ball-striking; 2nd in approach and 5th off-the-tee in each of those individual areas.

This is exactly what we’d expect to see from Morikawa, who ranks as the best ball-striker in this field over the last fifty rounds and last season, complimented his elite iron play, ranking 2nd in approach and 7th in greens-in-regulation, with quality off-the-tee, ranking 21st. As the 7th-best par 5 scorer and more at home on these poa surfaces than others, he’s an ideal fit for Torrey Pines.

He showed just how much this event could suit, finishing 21st on debut in 2020 and returned to the event for the first time in three years last year to go even better, finishing 3rd; with a 4th-place finish to Jon Rahm in the 2021 US Open slotted in between.

Morikawa has also won and finished 2nd at Muirfield Village, as well as finishing runner-up in the Genesis Invitational. He’s a major player on big-boy courses and appeals more than anyone at the top end.

morikawa

1.75 pts Sahith Theegala each way (1/5 - 6 places) - 28/1 

Sahith Theegala finished runner-up for us in the opening event of the season at Kapalua and can bounce back from a poor missed cut the following week to contend again at Torrey Pines.

Theegala opened with an electric 64 at The Sentry to lead after round one and after dropping down the leaderboard following more subdued second and third rounds, he rallied on the Sunday, firing a superb 63 to run eventual winner Chris Kirk close, losing out by a shot.

That performance was largely engineered by his ball-striking, as he ranked 6th in GIR, 10th in approach and 13th OTT. Something he wasn’t able to replicate on his latest start, although, I’m willing to forgive that back in his home state and in an event in which he has gone well the last two years.

He played in that 2021 US Open here, missing the cut but was much improved on his Farmers debut in 2022, where he sat 6th at the halfway point but dropped to 25th at the end of the week after losing ground over the weekend. He then returned in 2023, again sitting pretty in 4th after 36 holes but a more solid weekend saw him maintain that position, largely due to his top 5 approach performance.

Theegala won for the first time on tour in the Fortinet Championship at the end of last year and has also recorded top 6 efforts at the Memorial Tournament and Genesis Invitational. He’s another player who will feel at home on this grass and if able to return to the ball-striking performance of The Sentry, I expect him to be one of the main contenders this week.

theegala

1.25 pts Harris English each way (1/5 - 8 places) - 40/1 

There were signs throughout 2023 that Harris English was getting back to the excellence he showed in 2020/21. He’s continued to show promise at the start of 2024 and with a strong record in this event, I see no reason why he won’t go well again.

English returned to full action after missing much of 2022 due to a hip injury and despite generally struggling for consistency, there was a huge amount of positive amongst the negative.

He put up a terrific performance when runner-up in the Arnold Palmer Invitational and finished just a place worse than that when 3rd in the Wells Fargo at Quail Hollow. An 8th-place finish in the US Open rated as his best major display and it was noticeable how all of his best efforts came on similarly tough courses; also recording eye-catching finishes of 12th in the Genesis Invitational and 10th in the BMW Championship at Olympia Fields at the end of the year.

His typically strong short-game was vital in most of the better performances, though whilst the putter has again been firing at the start of this year, it’s been encouraging to see him driving the ball very well; ranking 10th OTT when finishing 14th in The Sentry and 14th when finishing 13th the following week in the Sony Open. Both times showing the rediscovery of a touch of power that had gone missing in the previous couple of years.

The Georgia native may need to show that again this week, at a course where he has gone well several times. His first big performance at Torrey Pines came in 2015, as he shared the lead going into the final round before eventually finishing 2nd, losing out to Jason Day in a playoff. He also recorded finishes of 14th in 2017 and 8th in 2018, though his best performance came in the 2021 US Open, finishing 3rd.

That was the second of three top 10 finishes in the US Open for English in the last five years and with that 3rd at Quail Hollow last year another positive in relation to his ability to perform on these championship courses, he can capitalise on his promising start to this year with a title challenge in La Jolla.

english

1.25 pts Sepp Straka each way (1/5 - 6 places) - 40/1

Sepp Straka has been one of the most improved players on tour in recent years and can use his past positive experiences here to add a third PGA Tour title to his C.V this week.

2023 was somewhat of a breakthrough year for the Austrian. He collected another PGA Tour title when taking home the John Deere Classic and immediately followed that with his best-ever major display, finishing a distant 2nd to Brian Harman in The Open, bettering his previous best from earlier in the season, when he finished 7th in the PGA Championship. This level of performance resulted in a successful first Ryder Cup appearance in Italy.

He continued to look good towards the end of the season, finishing 22nd on his debut DP World Tour Championship appearance and chased home Scottie Scheffler to finish 2nd in the Hero World Challenge. Looking particularly in-tune with his ball-striking and putting over that latter part of 2023.

These were the areas in which Straka excelled most in his pleasing seasonal debut in The Sentry three weeks ago, finishing 12th, but it was the strength of his approach that caught the eye particularly, ranking 6th in the field.

This was indeed the area in which he was strongest last year, ranking 23rd; as someone not short on power and who generally putts poa well, he is a good fit for Torrey Pines.

Straka has missed just one cut in four starts in the Farmers Insurance Open, recording two top 20s when 13th on debut in 2019 and 16th on his previous visit in 2022. Positive records in the Memorial and Genesis, which includes several top 20s, are added bonuses and he can call on those efforts to claim the biggest win of his career this week.

sepp straka

1 pt Taylor Moore each way (1/5 - 8 places) - 100/1

Taylor Moore made a positive start to the year at The Sentry and with an 11th-place finish in the Farmers last year indicating his potential to perform at Torrey Pines, this big-hitting Texan looks a dangerous outsider.

Moore came into this year after a fine second season on the PGA Tour. This included a first victory when impressively holding off some more seasoned challengers in the Valspar Championship and among his other better performances were a 4th-place finish in the Rocket Mortgage Classic and 5th in the St Jude Classic. All culminating in a first start in the season-ending Tour Championship at East Lake.

He started this year a little slowly at The Sentry, shooting 71 in round one to sit 46th of 59 players. However he upped his game over the following days, shooting a 65 in round two and closing the event with a 66 to finish 25th.

The driver did most of the heavy lifting there, ranking 6th and he is a lengthy top 50 in driving distance. His overall approach play ranking is dictated by an underwhelming wedge game; however he is strong with the long irons, ranking 36th in approaches over 200 yards last year and is excellent on the greens, ranking 25th; something he is able to transfer to poa.

That makes his 11th here last year all the more impressive, as he couldn’t quite get anything going on the greens. If Moore is able to replicate the ball-striking effort he put up there and combine it with his usual putting game, he can go even better this time around and give us a big priced winner at Torrey Pines.

taylor moore

You can find all Jamie's latest Golf Betting Tips over on our dedicated golf Insights hub. 

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