The PGA TOUR stays in California this week as Torrey Pines’ North and South Courses hosts the Farmers Insurance Open. The courses are both par 72, but three of four rounds will be played on the South Course, which measures a ridiculous 7,700 yards long.
The North Course comes in at a more palatable 7,200 yards. The winning score usually hovers somewhere around the 10-under range despite the last two winners (Marc Leishman and Justin Rose) posting scores of -15 and -21.
The purpose of this article is to highlight the best cash game/single-entry plays on the DraftKings main slate; however, these players are often great options in any contest type.
My analysis will frequently reference Strokes Gained, a set of proprietary metrics generated by the PGA TOUR using millions of data points to calculate how many shots on average it takes a player to get the ball in the hole from every distance and situation. Strokes Gained is now available in the FantasyLabs PGA Models.
There are a variety of Strokes Gained-related metrics, but the six main categories that you need to know include:
- Strokes Gained: Off-the-Tee (SG: Off-the-Tee)
- Strokes Gained: Approach (SG: Approach)
- Strokes Gained: Around-the-Green (SG: Around-the-Green)
- Strokes Gained: Putting (SG: Putting)
- Strokes Gained: Ball-Striking (SG: Ball-Striking), which is SG: Off-the-Tee + SG: Approach
- Strokes Gained: Tee-to-Green (SG: Tee-to-Green), which is SG: Ball-Striking + SG: Around-the-Green
For more information on Strokes Gained data and how to use it, check out this article from Bryan Mears on The Action Network, which unpacks each of the above metrics in detail. I also recommend Chris Murphy’s Strokes Gained column each week, which highlights golfers to buy and fade following each round of play at that week’s PGA TOUR event, and Matthew Vincenzi’s weekly “Stats That Matter” column, which highlights which Strokes Gained sub-metrics matter the most for a given course. The following players listed are based on DraftKings scoring and pricing.
Bubba Watson ($8,800 DraftKings)
Bubba will be making his first start of the new year. However, it’s one of the few tracks on tour where we can confidently consider him in cash games. He’s played here four times since 2011 and has a win, two top 25’s and a T-6 last season. The South Course measures at a massive 7,700 yards and its really hard to compete without having distance off the tee, which bodes well for Bubba considering he ranked 10th on TOUR in driving distance last season.
His rolling numbers coming into the week are off the charts, as over his past 16 rounds in this field Watson ranks No. 1 in SG: Tee-to-Green, and second in both SG: Off-the-Tee and SG: Approach. Torrey has some similarities to Riviera, where Watson also has elite history. There are cases to be made for fading the highest priced guys this week as they all come with slight warts. Jon Rahm withdrew last week due to some back tightness, Rory McIlroy is flying home from Abu Dhabi and Tony Finau is slightly more expensive ($10.7k) than he usually is in this type of field. You can start your cash builds with Bubba and feel confident about it.
Jason Day ($8,600 DraftKings)
Day’s history at Torrey Pines ranks second to none, as he’s posted two wins, two top fives and a T-9 since 2013. Due to a bevy of injuries he’s has not been the player he once was when he was ranked No.1 in the world a few years back, but he seems to always get up for the tournaments he’s had success at.
Day’s been solid enough Tee-to-Green, ranking 32nd in this field over his past 12 rounds, and he ranks 15th in total strokes gained in that same time frame due to his elite putting and short game. His $8,600 tag on DraftKings is very reasonable for his upside and at the very least he should give us a made cut.
Ryan Palmer ($8,400 DraftKings)
Despite the relatively strong field this week, you can make the argument Palmer is about $600 too cheap for the way he’s been playing. He stubbed his toe in Round 1 of the Sony Open, but then shot 65, 65, 69 over the final three days to finish 41st. Before that he had been rolling, finishing fourth, fourth and 17th in his previous three starts. His string of strong play should continue this week at Torrey Pines, where he’s gone 21st, 13th and 2nd over the last three years here.
He’s been really clicking in every facet of the game of late, ranking 12th in this field in SG: Approach, 13th in SG: Putting and eighth in total strokes gained, all over his past 12 rounds. We’ve seen Palmer contend in strong fields before and at his fair price of just $8,400 on DraftKings, he makes for a rock solid cash game play.
Adam Scott ($8,300 DraftKings)
Scott has only played Farmers once, finishing second here in 2019 behind Justin Rose. We know he has the length off the tee to contend, and he’s one of the best players in the world with a long iron. Scott’s ball striking has been very strong of late, as he sits 13th in SG: Approach across his past 12 rounds.
His putting is always an issue but should be less of a factor on the quick poa greens we have this week. Poa is also Scott’s preferred putting surface, as he averages about .38 strokes fewer than other surfaces. Scott played decent during the Hawaii swing, but he seems to thrive more on grind it out types tracks like we have this week at Torrey. Anytime we can get him in the low $8k range on DraftKings he will be cash game viable.
Gary Woodland ($7,800 DraftKings)
Woodland finally showed some signs of life last week, finishing in a tie for 16th place at the American Express. He came out this week and said he’s finally playing golf without pain in his hip, which is something he hasn’t done in about six months. Clearly it showed, as he posted his best result in quite some time. Woodland has missed only one cut at Torrey Pines in his career, which surprisingly came last season, but prior to that he’s posted three top 20s and two top 10s since 2011.
The former U.S Open champ gained strokes off the tee in all three recorded rounds last week, and while he lost strokes on approach in two of his three rounds, he did gain a very strong 2.8 strokes on the field in his second round. All we needed to see was that his game was trending in the right direction, which we definitively did. A healthy Gary Woodland should never be $7,800 in any field, let alone on a track where he has a ton of success. You would be hard pressed to find a better play in the $7K range on DraftKings this week.
Charles Howell III ($7,500 DraftKings)
Howell was a staple of this article last week, but failed to come through for us, missing the cut by a few strokes after an early double bogey in Round 2. However, we will not let recency bias affect our thinking. Howell has a ridiculous four top 10’s and three top 20’s in nine starts at this event, and while he’s not the longest off the tee, he has the short game to compete anywhere. At $7,500 on DraftKings, all we’re looking for really is a made cut, and it’s hard to imagine CH3 missing two cuts in a row at two tracks he loves. Fire him up with confidence.
Will Zalatoris ($8,100 DraftKings)
Zalatoris will be making his 2021 debut at a venue that squarely rewards driving distance and strong approach play. The rookie ranked eighth in driving distance and 17th in Par 5 scoring in his limited time on TOUR last season. He also sits No. 1 in this field in SG: Approach across his past 16 rounds. We have seen Zalatoris play elite golf at big-time events, evidenced by his T-6 in his first career start at the U.S Open back in September. If he can navigate the bumpy poa greens this week, he has final group potential and a clear path to his first TOUR victory. He’s an elite option at just $8,100 on DraftKings.