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The tournament makes an early Wednesday start
The hottest player in the world - Jon Rahm - returns to his favorite course
Two winners in last week’s column
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- Will Zalatoris is the outright pick at +1800 with Bet365
- Max Homa top 10 at +110 with Unibet
- Lanto Griffin top 40 at +188 with Bet365
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There are two distinct course traits on the West Coast Swing.
The first was in evidence at last week’s The American Express which was played entirely on resort courses with predominantly Bermuda grass on the greens.
This week’s Farmers Insurance Open is typical of the other strain in that the host club Torrey Pines is perched on the Californian cliff tops, features blustery (occasionally stormy) breezes, bumpy greens, traditionally designed tests and stunning views.
Last year Luke List lifted the trophy after a play-off against Will Zalatoris.
He had a good tournament record and that tends to be typical of winners as does high quality because of the 23 champions in the 21st century 16 had won a major championship (and among the exceptions were a World Golf Championship winner, a FedExCup champion and a man who lost an Open playoff).
It’s a second week of multi-course tournament play for the PGA Tour but this time the prospect is a little more straightforward.
Ahead of the weekend, the field play the North Course at Torrey Pines once. It has been toughened up but the 7,258-yard par 72 is still the spot to get into the red ahead of the weekend.
The field also plays one pre-cut round at the South Course before playing the final 36 holes there too.
It’s 7,765 yards long, another par-72, it has tricky Poa Annua greens, it plays as long as the yardage suggests it might and it is good enough to host the US Open.
You sense that there are many eggheads at the headquarters of the Official World Rankings with their head in their hands at the moment because quite how Jon Rahm is not number one is an algorithmic conundrum that is making them look a little silly.
His form is a little short of sensational with four wins in his last six official starts including two in two this calendar year.
And the field is unlikely to have any respite this week because this stretch of the Californian coast is his favorite in all the world. It is where he won the US Open in 2021 and in six tournament starts he has a victory and another four top-seven finishes.
Of the other leaders in the market Collin Morikawa did finish fourth at the 2021 US Open but has blown two significant 54-hole leads in the last two months, Tony Finau has four course top 10s but has missed the cut on his last two visits, Justin Thomas has a best finish of T10th from four visits and that was on debut, and, with the exception of 2021, local man Xander Schauffele has a bafflingly poor record at Torrey Pines.
Will Zalatoris is not yet a major championship winner but in his brief career, he has proved he has the capacity to reach that level.
In fact, since joining the PGA Tour he has completed 10 majors, finished top eight in all but two of them, been second three times, and lost a playoff at last year’s PGA Championship.
He’s good and he has form in the tournament as well.
He finished seventh in 2021 and was the 54 and 72-hole co-leader last year before being beaten by Luke List in extra holes.
He made a winning breakthrough at last year’s St Jude Championship whereupon he got injured and that explains why he is not a shorter price this week.
But T11th at the Tournament of Champions was a decent start to the year and he made the cut last week in an event he was unlikely to contend in - he needs a tough challenge.
Take him each way in the outright at +1800 with Bet365 - it’s the industry best price paying five places.
Wary of Jon Rahm last week our second pick was in the top 20 market and earned success by following rookie Taylor Montgomery as he ticked off an eighth top 20 in nine starts this year.
Rahm remains a big threat this week so we’ll retain the policy but, although Montgomery remains odds against, we’ll look elsewhere for our selection.
We’ll keep it simple too.
Californian Max Homa loves playing on home soil and especially when there is Poa Annua on the greens.
In fact, his last 11 starts in such conditions have reaped nine top 20 finishes (a tally that includes three wins).
Take him to make the top 20 yet again with Unibet offering +110.
We also landed more success in the top 40 market when Thomas Detry continued his fine form with T26th.
Again, rather than keeping our chips on the table, let’s look elsewhere.
We’re also taking Lanto Griffin’s course and conditions record book against recent results.
Because Griffin had back surgery last July and made his return to action last week on the second-tier shooting rounds of 71-69-81-76.
There’s no getting away from that poor finale but get this: he’s landed four top 40s in five starts at Torrey Pines and he’s landed 10 top 40s in 15 starts on Poa Annua in California.
Odds of +188 at Bet365 for another top 40 are worth taking given those persuasive numbers.
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Tournament: The Farmers Insurance Open
Location: North and South Course, Torrey Pines, San Diego
Date: Thursday, January 25 - Sunday, January 28
How to watch: Wednesday-Thursday 3-7 p.m. ET (Golf Channel), Friday 3-5 p.m. (Golf Channel), 5-8 p.m. (CBS). Saturday 2:30-4:30 p.m. (Golf Channel), 4:30-8 p.m. (CBS). And all four days on Sky Sports.
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Matt Cooper has been a sports journalist since 2009 with his work appearing at ESPN, Sky Sports, NBC, Sporting Life and the Planet Sport Network among many others, in addition to guest appearances on the BBC and CNN. Although a specialist in golf, who has traveled the world to cover the sport, Matt has also covered rugby, cricket, football and the Olympics. Email: [email protected]More info on Matt Cooper
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