by Greg Logan
LONG ISLAND, New York – Jon Rahm is the hottest golfer in the world with two wins in his only two appearances of 2023, including the American Express Open last week in La Quinta, Calif. The odds of someone winning three straight PGA Tour events normally would be prohibitive, but it’s impossible to ignore Rahm’s incredible track record at Torrey Pines, which is the site of the Farmers Insurance Open that begins a day early on Wednesday and ends on Saturday.
Rahm won the 2021 U.S. Open at Torrey Pines, and his first-ever Tour win was the 2017 Farmers Insurance Open. He has finished in the top 10 in five of his last six appearances at the Farmers, and that doesn’t even include his 2021 U.S. Open win by two strokes.
If the Spaniard has a home course advantage anywhere on the PGA Tour, it is at the picturesque Torrey Pines layout on the cliffs north of San Diego overlooking the Pacific Ocean. The first two days of the tournament are played over the North and South Courses. The final two days are over the tougher South Course. In terms of public courses, the South Course is the West Coast equivalent of Bethpage Black on Long Island, which also is a U.S. Open venue.
It’s a rarity, but every now and then, a PGA Tour star suddenly becomes utterly dominant. Rahm is in that phase right now. So, I am going to project him as my winner at Torrey Pines because there simply is no other horse with a better record over that course. It’s not even close.
PGA Tour statistics reflect Rahm’s dominance. He is third in scoring average at 69.18, tied for first in overall ball striking, second in greens in regulation with a 79.86 percentage, and he is the leader with a streak of making 20 straight cuts. Someone could jump out of the pack and surprise, but Rahm is in a groove right now, he’s one of the best drivers on the PGA Tour, and his comfort level at Torrey Pines is unquestioned.
So, where should bettors go once you get past the obvious choice of Rahm? After examining past results of the Farmers Insurance Open at Torrey Pines as well as the 2021 U.S. Open, it’s clear several other players who have gotten off to good starts in 2023 have strong track records at that venue. My second and third picks to win are Tony Finau and Jason Day. Both finished in the top 20 at the American Express tournament last week, and both clearly love Torrey Pines based on their performance charts.
From 2017-21, Finau had four top-10 finishes plus a T-13 in 2019. So far this season, Finau has the lowest stroke average on Tour at 69.07, and he is the best putter at 1.642. Day is a two-time winner of the Farmers in 2015 and 2018, and he has two top-10 finishes and a top-20 in the past four years. He is coming off a T-18 at the Amex last week, and his troublesome back issues seem to have calmed down.
My next three prime contenders are Xander Schauffele, Taylor Montgomery and Ryan Palmer. Schauffele is coming off a final-round 62 at the Amex last week, and he was T2 at the 2021 Farmers and T7 at the 2021 U.S. Open under more difficult conditions. Montgomery is a Tour newcomer who has performed exceptionally well. He was fifth at the Amex last week and finished T11 at Farmers last year. He currently is tied for first with three top-10 finishes this season and is third in putting (1.654). Palmer is a veteran, who has four top-25 finishes at the Farmers Open in the past five years, including a T2 in 2021 and a first-place tie in 2018, when he lost a playoff to Day.
For some reason, 2020 Farmers winner Marc Leishman is not in the field despite five top-20 finishes in the past six years. But if you are looking to fill out a betting team, others with strong track records at Torrey Pines include 2019 winner Justin Rose and Keegan Bradley. Will Zalatoris tied for first last year and lost a playoff to Luke List, and he had a T7 in 2021. You also might consider Sungjae Im and S.W. Kim to fill out a team. They have been hot and like Torrey Pines.
But my top three picks are: Rahm, Finau and Day. My next three are: Schauffele, Montgomery and Palmer. Good luck!
(Greg Logan, a New York-based sports writer, provides regular golf gambling advice for those who like to bet on golf. But, past performance does not guarantee future success. Greg’s email: firstname.lastname@example.org.)
EDITORS NOTE: Greg Logan picked Jon Rahm to win the season-opening PGA Tour event at Sentry Tournament of Champions at the Plantation Course at Kapalua, Maui, Hawaii, January 5-8.