2020 Farmers Insurance Open Odds & Mega Preview: Tony Finau & Gary Woodland Worth a Look at Torrey Pines

2020 Farmers Insurance Open Odds & Mega Preview: Tony Finau & Gary Woodland Worth a Look at Torrey Pines article feature image

Marc Serota/Getty Images. Pictured: Gary Woodland (L) and Tony Finau in Atlanta, GA.

  • Torrey Pines -- given its length, tight fairways and long rough -- is a course to target some of the PGA Tour's premier drivers of the ball. In other words, you should be thinking a lot about picking Tony Finau and Gary Woodland at the 2020 Farmers Insurance Open.
  • Golf expert Jason Sobel runs through all of the various ways to bet the tournament, including picks for matchups, top-10 props, his bet to win, DFS tips and much more.

If the PGA Tour was a blockbuster movie, this week’s Farmers Insurance Open would be its official release. Oh sure, there was already a world premiere, festivals catering to industry insiders and plenty of promotion, but this would be the week when those in the general public plunk down 12 bucks a pop, grab a tub of popcorn and a gallon of soda, and really start consuming the product.

Chances are, if you’re reading this preview right now, you also watched Justin Thomas’ nervy playoff survival at Kapalua, Cameron Smith’s similar feat at Waialae and Andrew Landry’s unforeseen triumph in Palm Springs.

But you and I, my friends, we’re still in the minority here.

The masses don’t truly start clinging to the golf season until two things have happened: There’s a weekend without (real) football games being played (shoutout to the Pro Bowl) and there’s a tournament with the biggest stars in attendance (see: Woods, Tiger).

This is the game’s first moment in the sporting spotlight since August, the first time it will create back-page headlines and first-segment SportsCenter highlights in the past five months.

Among those in the field are Rory McIlroy, Jon Rahm, Justin Rose, Jason Day, Jordan Spieth, Rickie Fowler, Patrick Reed, Xander Schauffele, Hideki Matsuyama, Phil Mickelson — and yes, Woods, who will make his season debut.

(For more on Tiger’s upcoming campaign, check out my piece where I took on the admittedly foolish task of not just predicting his schedule, but predicting his results at each of those tournament starts. Bookmark it now and troll me later!)

Over the past few years, not only have those studs showed up, they’ve also showed off.

Rose won last year’s edition, with Adam Scott, Matsuyama, Rahm, McIlroy and Day all T-5 or better; two years ago, Day won and the year before that, it was Rahm.

I hate to be confused with the golf pundits who scream, “Golf needs a massive showing from the best players this week…” because it simply isn’t true. If another Landry-type player (no offense, honestly) wins this week, that doesn’t mean season-long interest and ratings will instinctively drop and the game will somehow become less relevant. Let’s not overstate the importance.

I do believe, though, the pretty inarguable standpoint that golf could certainly benefit from a big-bang beginning while in this spotlight for the first time in a while.

Of course, with so many big-name players in the field, this tourney also offers the first opportunity of the year to find some value just beneath the top tier — which is exactly where I’m starting with my picks.

Odds as of Monday evening and via FanDuel, where Action Network users get a risk-free bet up to $500.

Outright Winner

One player to win the tournament

Tony Finau (+2900)

As President George W. Bush once eloquently stated, “Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me, you can’t get fooled again.”

I, too, have often had a sincere piece of wisdom rudely interrupted by some Roger Daltry vocals bouncing around my head, which might indeed be the case here, as I’m lobbying for Finau as my winner here for a second straight year.

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 Finau’s game. And remember, guys: You can’t get fooled again.

Other OADers

Potential selections for one-and-done options.

Cameron Champ (+5000)

Speaking of not getting fooled again … there’s been a tepid response to the aftermath of Champ’s second win. When he won for the first time during the fall part of last season’s schedule, he was being hailed as the second coming of Brooks Koepka, a long-hitting stud who was just making a few pit stops on his way to a top-10 ranking.

Cliff Hawkins/Getty Images. Pictured: Cameron Champ in Kapalua, Hawaii.

It never happened, of course — or at least, it hasn’t happened yet. The shine quickly wore off the PGA Tour’s newest prize pig, the Collin Morikawas and Matthew Wolffs of the world passing him in the fast lane. When he won again during the fall part of this season’s schedule, the celebration of Champ’s talents was more muted, but he’s already followed with results that have given us reason for optimism.

After a missed cut in his next event after winning the Safeway Open, he has now finished 33rd or better in six straight tournaments. While the markets immediately overpriced him after that first win, Champ is now undervalued as bettors tend to have long memories.

Tiger Woods (+1000)

In that piece I promoted above, I’ve got Tiger finishing T-15 this week, five spots above his result here last year. So, if I think one of the game’s best players will “only” finish 15th , why would I list him for an OAD pick?

A few reasons: First, I’m likely not going to change your mind on anything Tiger; you already know plenty about the seven-time winner of this event and if you like him this week, then pull the trigger.

Second, this is my way of suggesting that you don’t need to save him for a major. In most pools, you can’t pick the defending champion, which rules out the Masters. Unless you’re saving him for The Open, it’s hard to love him at either the PGA or U.S. Open, which means we’re quickly limiting our opportunities.

There are three WGC events, of course, but despite his WGC dominance, he’s never won on any of the current venues. Then there’s the playoff events, always a bit of a crapshoot. Then the Arnold Palmer Invitational (where I’ve taken him in my OADs) and Memorial Tournament, two long-time favorites, and this one.

I know it seems easy to just plug Tiger’s name in anywhere and get a great result, but it’s worth considering those limited options before blindly passing him over this week.


One player to finish top-five

Gary Woodland (+550 for top-five)

Much like the 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.


One player to finish top-10

Xander Schauffele (+230 for top-10)

I had to put one upper-tier player on this list and I think there’s some value in Schauffele, who owns an admittedly unimpressive record here, but could cash in on the local-boy-makes-good narrative. Schauffele has made a living cleaning up in small-field events and owns a results table of 25th-MC-MC-MC at Torrey Pines.

Cliff Hawkins/Getty Images. Pictured: Xander Schauffele in Kapalua, Hawaii.

Each of those facts, though, underlie what should be a growing theme: He’s really, really good. No longer the underrated, under-appreciated little guy, X-man could make a serious run at the world’s No. 1 ranking over the next year, which means we should focus on him beyond WGCs and the Tour Championship. 


One player to finish top-20

Brendan Steele (+470 for top-20)

After a lengthy downturn in his results over the past couple of years, #SteeleSZN is officially back.

After losing in a playoff at the Sony Open, he appeared primed to continue climbing last week’s leaderboard before admittedly running out of steam and hitting three of his final 12 tee shots into the water on Sunday afternoon.

That shouldn’t scare us off this week, though, as he should bring some momentum to a tournament where he owns two top-20 results in nine career starts.

DFS Free Bingo Square

A safe plug-and-play option for DFS

Nick Watney (DK $7,200; FD $8,800)

This category is usually reserved for a big-name player whom I like, but don’t think will win. Case in point: Paul Casey was listed here a week ago and while he wouldn’t have cashed any bets, his T-21 finish likely didn’t hurt any lineups.

This week, I’m going to save you some valuable salary in this spot and instead offer up Watney, who might be the very definition of safe. In his last six starts, he’s 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. 

DFS ‘Dog

A lower-priced option for DFS

J.J. Spaun (DK $6,200; FD $7,100)

I’m not going to sugarcoat this one: Based on recent results, there’s some definite risk involved. In his last seven starts, Spaun has missed the cut five times and failed to finish better than 73rd in the other two. That’s not good.

But the Los Angeles native does own a T-9 and a T-23 amongst his three starts in this event. If you’re looking to stock a lineup with studs and need a low-priced, low-owned option to fill out the bottom, the risk on Spaun could offer a nice reward if he can back up those past solid results.

First-Round Leader

One player to post the low score Thursday

Jon Rahm 

I couldn’t let this entire preview go without a mention of Rahm, who won this tournament three years ago and was indeed last year’s FRL, posting a 62 on the North Course.

But as I wrote in this space last week in relation to the three-course rotation at The AmEx, I’m writing this before tee times have been released. Without a doubt, focus your FRL bets on those playing the North Course on Thursday.

Last year, the lesser of the two Torrey tracks yielded a scoring average of 69.397 in the opening round, while the South Course had an average score of nearly two-and-a-half strokes higher at 71.628.

Matchup Man

One player who should beat comparable players.

Maverick McNealy

This one is a flexible pick, as I just as easily could’ve listed McNealy as a top-20 pick or low-priced DFS option. He’s made the cut in each of his last seven starts and while those results have varied from T-17 to T-53, he still owns value over most others who are priced similarly in the markets. His birdie average of 4.72 per round ranks 13th on the PGA Tour — and offers hope that he’ll continue ascending leaderboards as he starts to limit some of the mistakes.

The Big Fade

One top player to avoid at this tournament.

Jason Day (+2700)

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.

Off Tour

My favorite non-PGA Tour play of the week

Tommy Fleetwood and Martin Kaymer, Omega Dubai Desert Classic (To win)

Hey, more than one blockbuster movie can be released on a given weekend. The European Tour will feature a star-studded field in its own right, with plenty of recognizable faces teeing it up in Dubai.

You won’t find many tourney favorites listed in this preview too often, but Fleetwood (+700 to win) is too enticing at an event where he’s finished T-16 and T-6 the past two years.

You never really know which Kaymer (+2900 to win) will show up, but he seems motivated right now, which should be enough to pique our interest.

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