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2020 Farmers Insurance Open picks: Why Jason Day is too good to pass up

January 22, 2020

The PGA Tour schedule says the season began in September at the Greenbrier, but the season didn't really begin until the Sentry Tournament of Champions at Kapalua. Actually, any golf fan will tell you it doesn't really, really begin until Torrey Pines.

As members of the golf betting community, we've been following these events closely, of course, but even we can agree that the Farmers is when everything gets rolling, especially when Tiger Woods is in the field. Everyone's attention—the diehard fans, the casual fans, the fringe fans—will be on Torrey Pines, as it should. Not only is Big Cat teeing it up, so too are Rory McIlroy, Jon Rahm, Jason Day, Hideki Matsuyama, Justin Rose, Xander Schauffele and Jordan Spieth. It's a big-boy field on a big-boy course, making the event one of the toughest to handicap, but also one of the most fun to watch.

Thankfully, we have the best panel of experts in the industry to help us decipher all the information. Just like every week, we have a caddie offering his insight from the range and putting green at the 2020 American Express; picks from Jason Sobel, a senior writer at The Action Network, which is becoming the leader in sports betting and handicapping analysis, and is growing its presence in golf; two of the most respected experts in the daily-fantasy community, Pat Mayo of DraftKings and Brandon Gdula of FanDuel; Lee Alldrick of FanShare Sports, which tracks DFS ownership and sentiment; and Columbia University senior lecturer and Ph.D. Lou Riccio, who uses predictive analysis and modeling to forecast winners in golf.

Will Tiger make history and capture PGA Tour win No. 83? Can Rory overtake Brooks Koepka, who is not in the field, for World No. 1? Can Rahm continue his ridiculous run of form? Read on for our complete betting analysis for the 2020 Farmers Insurance Open.

(Check out the 33 minute mark to hear Alex Myers and Christopher Powers discuss their best bets for this week's American Express)

2020 Farmers Insurance Open Golf Picks To Win (Odds from MGM Sportsbook)

Anonymous Caddie Picker of the Week: Jon Rahm (+750) — John drives the ball extremely well which is an absolute must around Torrey. He has a great short game which will come out around a long course with smaller greens. And, he has some good history around there.

Pat Mayo, DraftKings/Fantasy National analyst: Jason Day (40-1) — Much like the dumpster fire that was Francesco Molinari last week, I’m good burning my money on the two-time champ at 40/1 odds. There’s no difference if he’s second or 156th when you’re betting outrights; and I’m confident if he’s in it on Sunday, he can win. The number’s too good to pass on.

Brandon Gdula, FanDuel/numberFire editor: Xander Schauffele (16-1) — Xander certainly has the length to contend at Torrey Pines. He enters having missed three cuts here before finishing 25th last year. Schauffele, though, is coming off a 2nd at the Sentry Tournament of Champions, his fourth top-10 in four events (albeit with small fields). Schauffele is no stranger at the top of the leaderboard in tough events, and his promising poa putting splits put him in plus-expected-value territory.

Dr. Lou Riccio, Columbia University: Tiger Woods (11-1) — Justin Rose is the top pick in my model, but I don't think he's playing up to form of late. Tiger seems energized by the Presidents Cup and he obviously loves the course. I like him to make some history this week with win No. 83.

Jason Sobel, Action Network senior golf writer: Tony Finau (28-1) — Yes, for a second straight year, I'm lobbying for Finau at Torrey. This isn’t a case of bias. Finau won a World Junior title and had a pair of top-six finishes at Torrey Pines before last year’s T-13 result. Fresh off a T-14 last week that was good enough to provoke some optimism, but not quite good enough on the weekend to make him overly popular, I like all the trends here. Even after picking him last year, I still feel like this is a venue that perfectly suits his game.

Stephen Hennessey, Golf Digest associate editor: Hideki Matsuyama (20-1) — By every metric, Hideki’s one of the best players in the world. Winning is the only thing missing. It’s tough to define exactly why an elite tour player like Hideki hasn’t won since the 2017 WGC-Bridgestone. The Japanese star continues to be in contention, an amazing 29 times finishing in the top-20 across the world in the past two years. I’ll back him in spots that really fit his game, which Torrey absolutely does, evidenced by his T-3 last year.

Christopher Powers, Golf Digest assistant editor: Xander Schauffele (16-1) — Gone are the days of the X man opening at 40- or 30- or even 25-1. He'll more than likely be in the teens to 20-1 territory until further notice, and I still like him this week anyway. He's just that good. I'm ignoring is poor history at Torrey and just focusing on recent form: T-10, 2nd, T-10 (Hero), T-2 in his last four starts, and both those second-place finishes were in a playoff. He should be more motivated than ever to get back in the win column.

Lee Alldrick, FanShare Sports golf expert: Rickie Fowler (25-1) — Fowler ranks extremely high in our Course Suitability Ranking this week (for Torrey Pines South), helped by being first in the field for putting on fast, Bentgrass greens. He also ranks 18th in the field for strokes-gained: tee-to-green over the last 3 months and comes in off of a top 10 last week.

Results from this season: We correctly predicted seven of the first 13 winners to start the season. FanDuel's Brandon Gdula has predicted four victories on his own, netting +130 units this season alone (the equivalent of being up $1,300 on $10 bets), after predicting Justin Thomas' win at Kapalua. Our tour caddie, and DraftKings' Pat Mayo, also had JT as their pick to win. FanShare Sports' Lee Alldrick picked Rory McIlroy at the WGC-HSBC Champions, giving him three winning predictions early in the season. Three members of our expert panel correctly picked the favorite in the fall at the CJ Cup, Justin Thomas (8-1), so we have a lot of positive momentum. Check out everyone's records in the betting card above.

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Sleepers/Dark Horses That Could Win at the 2020 Farmers Insurance Open(odds from MGM Sportsbook)

Caddie: Cameron Champ (70-1) — If you can drive it well at Torrey you can eliminate a lot of the bite to the course, and Champ does that extremely well. Paired with plenty of power he also has the ability to advance his ball well in thick rough. He may be a good outside pick this week.

Mayo: Matthew Wolff (70-1) — Taking the Jon Rahm angle on the Wolffman. First time in Farmers, but possesses the main skill set which can overpower Torrey Pines South: Distance. Plus, he has the short game and putting stroke required to win this event.

Gdula: Byeong Hun An (60-1) — An is volatile — having finishing top 14 (four times) and missing the cut (three times) in his past seven events — but that has merit when seeking outright winners, which requires high-end variance. An has the distance and overall ball-striking to contend. He just needs to putt.

Riccio: Henrik Norlander (175-1) — Save for a poor first round and a poor final round at the Amex, Norlander has been lights out in his last three events. In his last 12 rounds he's shot 68 or lower nine times, resulting in two of his three career top 10s on tour (T-5 at RSM, T-9 at Sony Open). He's made only three appearances at Torrey, missing the cut twice and tying for 43rd in 2016, but he's in good form and 175-1 is an enticing number.

Sobel, Action Network: Nick Watney (100-1) — In his last six starts, Watney has made the cut four times, each one a top-30 result. He plays his best golf on his native West Coast. He can make birdies in bunches, as he showed at times last week. And his record in this event shows only a pair of MCs in the last 11 years, while buoyed by a victory and four other top-10 results.

Hennessey, Golf Digest: Byeong Hun An (60-1) — If you backed Ben An last week, you know the guy was 5-under through his first six holes at the American Express, getting our hopes up briefly. He sputtered after a quadruple bogey on a par 4 at the Nicklaus Tournament course, leading to an opening-round 70 that led to him not even making the cut. An was 25-1 or 30-1 last week, and now you’re getting a much higher number this week. His ball-striking stats are still elite, and he’s one of the best scramblers in the world, a key strength here, as you’re likely to miss more greens than usual on this long layout. We’ll sweat Ben An again ... except this time we won’t get too excited if he starts out hot.

Powers, Golf Digest: Patrick Rodgers (250-1) — Rodgers flashed here in 2017, grabbing a share of the 54-hole lead before shooting a final-round 72 to tie for fourth. He's shown the ability to contend on numerous occasions during his time on tour, but still has not converted it into a victory, and really hasn't found any consistency. Once he gets that win, that should change. He's got great numbers on poa, and has been putting very well of late.

Alldrick, FanShare Sports: Brendan Steele (100-1) — Steele ticks all the boxes this week, he ranks well in our Course Suitability Ranking and ranks 4th in the field this week for Opportunities Gained over the last 3 months.

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Players to Fade This Week (who will disappoint)

Caddie: Scottie Scheffler (40-1) — I know he's been playing some amazing golf lately and is one of the hottest players in the world but he's valued too high this week. Torrey is a different beast and it's going to place a premium on driving accuracy which will wear on him throughout the week.

Mayo: Tony Finau (28-1) — I love Finau, except when we’re talking about the outright winning market. After last week he now trails Andrew Landry in career PGA wins. At double his odds, sure, but he lacks the win expectancy of those in odds range.

Gdula: Tony Finau (28-1) — Finau is a great fit for Torrey Pines overall, but in terms of sheer win equity, he’s not a promising value. The field is a tough one, and his 13th-place finish at this event last year came after much better lead-in form than he has now.

Riccio: Patrick Reed (28-1) — Gotta be able to consistently find fairways at Torrey, which is not Reed's strong suit. Even with finished of T-13 and T-23 in his last two Farmers appearances, I'm staying away.

Sobel, Action Network: Jason Day (40-1) — This isn’t exactly an off-the-board fade, considering Day hasn’t played since a missed cut at the Mayakoba Golf Classic two months ago and withdrew from the Presidents Cup due to a lingering back injury. The former No. 1 is all the way down to 44th in the world ranking — behind guys like Shugo Imahira, Jazz Janewattananond and Victor Perez — and even before his latest absence, he was hardly challenging for titles, with just one top-20 finish since last year’s Masters. That said, he does own a strong track record at Torrey Pines, including two wins and two other top-five finishes, but those tempted by Day based on name recognition and course history shouldn’t be overly enticed.

Hennessey, Golf Digest: Rory McIlroy (6-1) — I don’t think Rory McIlroy gets enough credit for how good his 2019 season was. He had four worldwide wins, and 12 top-five finishes in 25 starts. Truly incredible. My logic for fading him here is the extremely low number (6-1) in a very strong field. Rory hasn’t played competitive golf in more than two months, so I’m willing to say he doesn’t earn a victory this week, which he needs to do to back him in any format at this low number.

Powers, Golf Digest: Scottie Scheffler (40-1) — Scheffler has been hot hot heat over the last two months, but he's also been playing in some pretty weak fields. The big boys are all coming out this week, and while I don't doubt he can hang with them, I'd like to see him do it first.

Alldrick, FanShare Sports: Sungjae Im (33-1) — I’m a big fan of Im normally, but this isn’t a course where he should be a 28/1 shot in my opinion. He loses 0.5 shots per round putting on fast, Bentgrass, historically.

2020 Farmers Insurance Open Golf Picks: Matchups

Caddie: Ryan Palmer (-115) over Charl Schwartzel (Bookmaker.eu) — Charl has been struggling for a while now and you don't come to Torrey to find your game. Ryan has some good history around here and he has the ability to grind rounds out. I favour Ryan.

Mayo: Keegan Bradley (-150) over Phil Mickelson (Sportsbook) — Phil’s in a tailspin and Keegan, while he can’t putt, is his usual self in the ball striking department. And that’s led to a pair of Top 10s over the past three years at Torrey Pines.

Gdula: Hideki Matsuyama (+116) over Tiger Woods (FanDuel) — While it’s always scary to pick anyone over Tiger at this course, Woods hasn’t picked up distance on the field at Torrey Pines the past few years. Flat out, there’s value on Hideki, who rates out longer off the tee and comparable to — if not better than — Tiger over a 50-round sample in the most relevant stats for this week.

Riccio: Jon Rahm (+115) over Rory McIlroy (Draftkings) — This one could literally go down to the wire, and if so I like Rahm, who closed the door in style here for his first tour victory in 2017.

Sobel, Action Network: Cameron Champ (+100) over Lanto Griffin (Sportsbook) — Look, I’ve enjoyed the rags-to-riches story of Griffin, who won in Houston a few months ago and has a bright future. But this matchup is clearly mispriced. Champ, while not the overnight superstar we made him out to be (yet), has now finished 33rd or better in six straight tournaments. He's now undervalued as bettors tend to have long memories. Against Griffin, on a course that suits big bangers, he's a juicy play.

Hennessey, Golf Digest: Jon Rahm (+110) over Rory McIlroy (MGM) — Rory’s a strong favorite over Jon Rahm in this matchup, but Rahm has won this event before and had as good of an end to 2019 as Rory did. Rahm already knocked off the competitive rust at Kapalua earlier this year, too, so there’s a lot to like with these plus-odds in this matchup.

Powers, Golf Digest: Carlos Ortiz (+100) over Denny McCarthy (DraftKings) — A quick glance at Ortiz's strokes-gained numbers will show you he's an all around, solid player. McCarthy, meanwhile, is an extremely good putter, maybe one of the best, but is severely lacking in other areas of his game. At Torrey Pines, I'll take the all-around guy at even money.

Alldrick, FanShare Sports: Rickie Fowler (+100) over Justin Rose (DraftKings) — Fowler is my pick to win this week whereas Rose has not played a PGA Tour event since December and ranks just 108th in the field this week for strokes-gained: putting on fast, bentgrass greens.

Matchup results last week: Gdula: 1 for 1 (Kevin Kisner (-110) over Francesco Molinari); Sobel: 1 for 1 (Talor Gooch (-125) over Matt Every) Alldrick and Tour Caddie: (1 for 1 (Sungjae Im (-140) over Tony Finau); Powers: Pushed (Sungjae Im over Rickie Fowler); Riccio: 0 for 1; Mayo: 0 for 1; Hennessey: 0 for 1.

Matchup results this season (assuming each matchup is a one-unit wager): Alldrick, FanShare Sports: 9 wins, 2 losses, 1 push (up 5.38 units); Tour Caddie: 6 wins, 3 losses, 1 push (up 2.53 units); Riccio: 7 wins, 5 losses, 1 push (up 1.6 units); Mayo: 7 for 13 (up 0.65 units); Action Network: 6 for 12 (down 0.5 units); Gdula: 5 for 11 and a push (down 0.61 units); Powers: 1 loss, 1 push (down 1 unit); Hennessey: 0 for 2 (down 2 unit).

Top 10 (odds from FanDuel Sportsbook)

Caddie: Jordan Spieth (+500) — There's something about tougher courses that bring some of Jordan's best golf out. It's fun to have him back out this week, I think he'll rattle off a gritty top 10.

Mayo: Carlos Ortiz (+1500) — After going nuclear through swing-season, Ortiz has cooled a bit to kick off 2020, but sets up well for Torrey Pines. Over the past 36 rounds, per www.fantasynational.com, the Mexican is in the top third of driving distance gained, top 20 around the green, and 10th in par 4s gained on holes from 450-500 yards. Additionally, poa is his preferred putting surface, gaining over a half stroke per event in the las two years.

Gdula: Sebastian Munoz (+800) — Munoz can be had for a pretty nice number on FanDuel Sportsbook. He has a balanced stats profile and is 36th in distance over the past 50 rounds, according to Fantasy National. That also comes with some solid small-sample putting splits on poa.

Riccio: Jordan Spieth (+500) — Spieth has the fourth-best chance of winning this week, according to my model. That's enough for me to like him top 10 as well.

Sobel, Action Network: Gary Woodland (+270) — I actually like Woodland at +550 for a top 5 even more. Much like my Finau selection, I’m eschewing some of the bigger names in favor of a course horse who seems destined for another solid week here. Woodland has been top-20 at this tourney each of the last four years, which might suggest he’s better suited for a top-20 wager than top-five, but I’ll go bigger on a confident, major-winning Woodland.

Hennessey, Golf Digest: Sungjae Im (+320) — More than 3-to-1 on your money for a player who seems to consistently be around the top 10 every week? Sungjae has the power and elite iron game to play well at Torrey Pines, so a top-10 bet with these odds seem very enticing.

Powers, Golf Digest: Jason Day (+270) — I actually bet Day at +450 on DraftKings, but on FanDuel he's +270. Pretty major discrepancy, and that's not the only one either. Byeong Hun An, who some of our experts like this week as a longshot, is 60-1 on both MGM and FanDuel. On DraftKings he was 90-1 (!!) on Tuesday, and has now dropped to 75-1, which is still pretty good. Always have multiple books, people. Where was I ? Oh yeah, J-Day top 10. Two wins and a T-5 in his last five starts here. That's enough for me.

Alldrick, FanShare Sports: Brandt Snedeker (+340) — Snedeker has made his last 9 cuts in a row which includes 4 top 12 finishes. The Torrey Pines South Course will suit Snedeker’s strengths and his short popping putting technique ranks him 7th in the field this week for Shots Gained Putting on fast, Bermuda greens.

Top 10 results last week: Everybody went 0 for 1

Top-10 results for the year (assuming a one-unit wager): Mayo: 2 for 12 (up 6.1 units); Alldrick: 2 for 13 (up 1.5 units); Gdula 2 for 13 (down 2.7 units); Powers: 1 for 2 (up 0.65 units); Action Network: 5 for 12 (down 2.3 units); Riccio: 1 for 13 (down 9.5 units); Hennessey: 0 for 2 (down 2 unit); Tour Caddie: 0 for 12 (down 12 units)

About our experts

Dr. Lou Riccio, a PhD senior lecturer, teaches rational decision making at Columbia's Graduate School of Business and has served on the USGA's handicap research team for three decades. His predictive analysis and modeling helps him make expert picks for our column.

Pat Mayo is known as one of the pre-eminent experts in daily-fantasy sports and golf handicapping specifically. Mayo is a 17-time fantasy sports-writers association finalist, the most of any writer this decade, and Mayo won the 2019 Fantasy Sports Writing Association Daily Fantasy Writer of the Year and Podcast of the Year awards, along with the Fantasy Sports Trade Association Best Video award. Mayo is on the board of governors at www.fantasynational.com. Here’s a link to watch his complete DraftKings preview of the 2019 Wyndham Championship.

Brandon Gdula, a senior editor and analyst for NumberFire, a FanDuel daily-fantasy analysis company, recently won the 2018 fantasy sports-writers association Golf Writer of the Year (congrats, Brandon!). Gdula also co-hosts the DFS Heat Check podcast.

Jason Sobel is a senior writer for The Action Network. For more analysis from The Action Network, click here.

Lee Alldrick of FanShare Sports started out writing an article highlighting the best bargain plays for fantasy golf under his twitter handle @DKGolfBargains. His success at this prompted FanShare Sports to enlist him as a guest writer, which evolved into him writing the weekly Under The Radar article. As a U.K.-based expert, Alldrick’s insight into European Tour regulars and low priced, low owned plays has provided an invaluable edge for readers when it comes to DFS GPPs.