Golf in 2018 is underway and after two weeks in Hawaii, The PGA Tour now begins its second consecutive week in California. Fresh off of a victory at The Career Builder Challenge in La Quinta, the young Spaniard, Jon Rahm, will look to make it two in a row – a couple of separate ways – as he defends his title at Torrey Pines Golf Course in beautiful La Jolla for The Farmers Insurance Open.
Rahm has been on a meteoric rise up the world-rankings list ever since he hit the scene a couple of summers ago at The US Open at Oakmont. The now 23-year old came to Torrey Pines last January ranked 137th in the world. He drained a 60-foot eagle putt on his 72nd hole of the tournament to win his first PGA Tour event and moved to 46th in the world. Coming in this week, he is the number two ranked golfer on the planet. That is something.
Rahm has a great deal of length off of the tee, he hits greens in regulation, and he is an excellent scrambler – and that is a welcomed skill set at a beast of a place like Torrey Pines. Both the North and South Courses are utilized for The Farmers Insurance Open. Every player will get a taste of each track on Thursday and Friday and it is only the 7700-yard South Course that is reserved for the weekend. Something to note that each of the last seven winners in a row here have drawn their North Course round on Friday rather than opening with it on Thursday. The North Course has always been easier than The South but not so much last year as only a stroke and a half separated the scoring average between the two. Tom Weiskoph was brought in before last year’s event to make some changes to The North Course and so far, it seems to have worked. The greens on both courses are expected to be fast, in the 12 to 12.5 neighborhood on the stimpmeter but interesting to note that the North Course greens are bentgrass and the South Course is Poa Annua.
But the biggest story this week is the return of Tiger Woods. It was a similar set up last season. Tiger looked okay at his Hero World Challenge event in the Bahamas and everyone was on the edge of their seats to see what he would do at Torrey Pines, a place he’s won at eight times as a professional. He ended up missing the cut and it was not long after this that he underwent back surgery. Well, the back surgery appears to have been very successful. He was promising once again in the Bahamas a couple of months ago and here we go again with all eyes on the former champ, who’s odds to win this week are 20-1. In my 2018 Season Preview, I predicted that Tiger would not win a tournament this year but at the same time, myself and the rest of the golf world included, would sure love to see that magic return. Whether you are a Tiger fan or not, when he finds success on the golf course, it is good for the game in a massive way and I think we can all root for that.
Jon Rahm (+9.16 Pinnacle) As we mentioned, the defending champ has all of the tools to compete at this venue and he’s hot coming in with a win last week and a second-place finish at Kapalua to begin the new year.
Rickie Fowler (+13.24 Pinnacle) Fowler won Tiger’s Hero World Challenge back in December and he kicked off 2018 with a 4th at Kapalua. He has struggled here in recent trips however, going CUT-CUT-61-CUT the last four years.
Justin Rose (+1500 5Dimes) Rosey is looking primed again to make another run at Augusta with two recent wins – and he wasn’t too shabby here last year either, taking 4th after owning a 36-hole lead.
Hideki Matsuyama (+1608 Bookmaker) Matsuyama hasn’t been exceptional at this course but he has been playing awful well, going back to his Top 5 finish last summer at The PGA Championship. He is looking to win for the 3rd time in a row next week in Phoenix. Does that create a look ahead distraction this week?
Jason Day (+2058 Bookmaker) Speaking of distractions, Jason Day has had very little consistency in his golfing life for what feels like well over a year. This is Day’s first appearance of 2018. He won this tournament in 2015.
Marc Leishman (+24.86 Pinnacle) This Aussie actually ranks higher in the world now then his fellow countryman, Day. A combination of length and accuracy off of the tee has vaulted Leishman to three Top 10 finishes here in his nine visits.
The Long Shots
Tiger Woods (+2050 5Dimes) Twenty-to-one odds isn’t exactly “Long Shot” territory but I feel Tiger is a long shot to win this week and ought to be priced closer to 50-1. He’s played one time in a year since having major back surgery and while that one time showed some great progress, I believe this guy is still a very long way away from winning a golf tournament – on an extremely difficult golf course no less.
Gary Woodland (+3708 Bookmaker) I’ve always been a fan of Woodland at The Sony in Hawaii and sure enough, he’s coming off of a 7th place finish there two weeks ago. He’s pretty sharp here in La Jolla as well without ever having missed a cut in eight career visits to town.
Kevin Streelman (+102.86 Pinnacle) Not perceived as a “Bomber” but he still gets it out there, is very accurate off of the tee, and hits greens in regulation. Streelman took 3rd here two years ago and this season he’s yet to miss a cut while finishing Top 20 four times already. Not bad at around 100-1.
Tony Finau (+3552 Bookmaker) This guy is a “Bomber” and I also believe he is on the rise in the world rankings. He took second in Napa back in October and then 11th at The WGC-HSBC. He hits greens in regulation from both the fairway and the rough – which will be important this week – and he’s been steadily progressing in his results here, finishing 24th in 2015, 18th in 2016, and 4th last year. He plays tough golf courses well as evidenced by his results in Major Championships. Torrey Pines is that type of course. I think he may have a better chance than 35-1 here this week.
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