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Fantasy Golf Picks — 2021 Farmers Insurance Open Picks, Predictions, Rankings and Sleepers

Pat Mayo breaks down the 2021 Farmers Insurance Open, making his picks and rankings for the event while previewing the course and key stats.

Pat Mayo and Geoff Fienberg preview the course and run through the odds while making their 2021 Farmers Insurance Open Picks. The guys give their fantasy golf picks, provide their one and done strategy for the event from Torrey Pines.

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2021 Farmers Insurance Open: Field

Field: 156 Players
Cut: Top 65 and Ties
Lineup Lock: Thursday, January 28
Defending Champ: Marc Leishman

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As per usual, Torrey Pines is the site of the 2021 Farmers Insurance Open, but there’s an extra wrinkle this year: Torrey Pines is also hosting the 2021 U.S. Open. Because of that, you would have expected ALLLLL the top names to be lurking around the grounds. They aren’t, though.

There’s always the thought that some players don’t want to see a course in such close proximity with two wildly different setups. There are two courses in play this week whereas the U.S. Open will only be contested at Torrey Pines South, and let's face it, while the 2021 Farmers Insurance Open is going to be challenging, the USGA will have this course playing close to impossible by Father’s Day. Plus, a lot of top-end talent will be teeing off in the European Tour’s Dubai Desert Classic this week.

That doesn’t mean this field isn’t great, because it really is. Normally, the San Diego outskirts are where you’d get your first glimpse of Tiger Woods for the year. Tiger will be undergoing his fifth back surgery soon, which will keep him off the links indefinitely. Fortunately for the event organizers, three of the world’s Top 10 players will still be in attendance.

Following his pre-tournament withdrawal a week ago, Jon Rahm is back in action at the site of his breakthrough PGA TOUR victory and he’s joined by world No. 6 Xander Schauffele. Fresh off a third-place result in Dubai, Rory McIlroy is making the trek back stateside for this first PGA TOUR start of 2021.

The second tier is loaded with Patrick Reed, Brooks Koepka, Harris English, Hideki Matsuyama, Matthew Wolff, Viktor Hovland, Adam Scott, Rickie Fowler, Tony Finau, Gary Woodland, Scottie Scheffler, Ryan Palmer, Brandt Snedeker, Francesco Molinari, Jason Kokrak and defending champ Marc Leishman.

Jason Day, Louis Oosthuizen, Bubba Watson, Harold Varner III, Will Zalatoris, Jordan Spieth, J.B. Holmes and Corey Conners will all be making their 2021 debuts this week as well. Georgia Tech teammates Andy Ogletree and Tyler Strafaci, the past two U.S. Amateur champs, along with APGA TOUR Championship winner Kamaiu Johnson are also in the field.

The field of 156 players will rate between the North and South courses for the first two rounds before there is a cut down to the Top 65 and ties after 36 holes. The remaining players will finish the tournament at the South Course over the weekend.

2021 Farmers Insurance Open: Key Stats

Strokes Gained: Approach
Driving Distance Gained
Strokes Gained: Around The Green
Par 4s Gained: 450-500 Yards

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2021 Farmers Insurance Open: Course(s)

Course: Torrey Pines South
Par: 72
Yardage: 7,698
Greens: Poa
Shot Tracker: Yes

Course: Torrey Pines North
Par: 72
Yardage: 7,258
Greens: Bentgrass
Shot Tracker: No

2021 Farmers Insurance Open: Past Winners

2020: Marc Leishman -15
2019: Justin Rose -21
2018: Jason Day -10
2017: Jon Rahm -13
2016: Brandt Snedeker -6
2015: Jason Day -9
2014: Scott Stallings -9
2013: Tiger Woods -14

2021 Farmers Insurance Open: Notes

Since the field alternates between courses for the first two days, target bombers at the easier North Course for DraftKings purposes. If your golfers can start on Hole No. 1 instead of Hole No. 10, that’d be a big advantage too, as there’s a stretch of easier holes from 9-12. There is one drawback, however: There’s no ShotLink at the North Course and minimal cameras. So trying to follow what is going on will be an inaccurate nightmare.

The 2021 U.S. Open will be held at the Torrey Pines South course. The last time Torrey held the national championship? 2008, of course. In one of the most memorable Majors of the millennium, Tiger triumphed over Rocco Mediate in a Monday playoff on one leg.

Torrey Pines South is the longest course in the regular PGA TOUR rotation. At 7,698 yards, 10 of the past 15 winners at the Farmers have finished the season inside the Top 30 in Driving Distance, and the ones who didn’t gain a ridiculous amount of strokes putting on the field.

Three things to target from your picks: Driving distance, iron play from 175-plus yards, around-the-green. While a short smacker like Brandt Snedeker has experienced a lot of success at Torrey Pines, most of the leaderboard is generally congested with bombers who don’t have the yips from just off the green. In the past two years, both winners finished inside the Top 10 of driving distance gained for the week.

In 2020, 20 of the 23 top players on the leaderboard gained against the field in driving distance. In 2019, each of the Top 7 finishes gained against the field.

Very rarely does Strokes Gained: Around The Green factor into the winning score. However, because of the tiny greens on the South Course, pairing an average or above short game with a big driver is the way to crack the Sunday leaderboard. Not the only way, but the path of least resistance. Obviously, fairways + distance off the tee will equal a slew of GIRs, which would be optimal, but that’s just simply unfeasible for three rounds on this course with the average scrambling percentage hovering around 52 percent. If you feel the need to put shorter hitters in your lineups, make sure they gain strokes off the tee through their accuracy and know how to hit a long iron. There are six par 4s measuring over 450 yards and five of them are inside the six most difficult holes on Torrey Pines South and all played over par. Holes No. 12 and No. 15 are two of the 50 toughest holes on TOUR almost every year, majors included.

Of the top 15 finishers a year ago, only two lost strokes to the field around the greens: Marc Leishman (-0.9) and Beau Hossler (-1.2). They combined to gain over 10 strokes putting so it even itself out. The year previous, only four of the top 20 dropped strokes around the greens, and none more than -0.6.

With larger greens and shorter holes, GIR rate and scrambling percentage at the North Course are above TOUR average. Three of the par 5s on the North Course also generate more eagles than any par 5 on the South. It’s also almost 500 yards shorter.

The driving accuracy percentage of players who made the cut generally hovers around 50%. Both courses sport some of the most difficult fairways to hit every season. Between both courses, Since 2012, Torrey Pines South and Firestone CC South were the only venues ranked inside the top 10 of lowest driving accuracy percentage each season. While no longer played on TOUR, a glance at historic performance from Firestone CC is encouraged to find some crossover hints. It’s worth noting Tiger has won eight times apiece at each of those courses.

Both courses average more three-putts than TOUR average.

Ten of the past 12 winners have posted a top 10 at this event prior to winning. Jon Rahm won in his first start in 2017. Scott Stallings in 2014 was the other exception.

Seven of the eight par 3s between the courses are over 200 yards. Keep it consistent: Long irons and short game if you want to tread water on these holes.

Although Poa Annua putting surfaces tend to run slower on average, except greens on the South Course to run faster because of the windy and dry conditions. After renovations in 2016, there’s actually a split in grass type between the putting surfaces at the courses when the North Course switched to bentgrass.

No champion has hoisted a novelty check after posting a score over par on the North Course since 1983. Justin Rose became the first player in nine years to win this event starting the North Course. Then Marc Leishman accomplished the same feat in 2020.

Tony Finau, Jon Rahm, Brandt Snedeker, Charles Howell and Marc Leishman have the most Strokes Gained: Total over the past five years at the Farmers Insurance Open. Of note, Finau, Rahm, (along with Ryan Palmer) dueled down the stretch at The Memorial in 2020.

Over that five year span, in a minimum of three starts, Tony Finau, Brandt Snedeker, Jon Rahm, John HUH???????, Beau Hossler, Ryan Palmer, Russell Knox, Kevin Tway, Cameron Davis, Billy Horschel, Charles Howell and Adam Hadwin have made the cut in each appearance.

In a minimum of 10 weighted rounds at the South Course, only seven players are averaging at least one stroke gained putting per round: Michael Kim, J.J. Spaun, CT Pan, Brandt Snedeker, Cameron Smith, Adam Hadwin and Aaron Baddeley.

2021 Farmers Insurance Open Picks

Jon Rahm

Is there a worry this gym injury that forced him to withdraw a week ago impacts Rahm’s game? Sure. Not enough to fade him, though. Rahm won in his debut and has finished inside the Top 5 in three of four career starts, with no result worse than T29. Beyond the perfect skill set of distance and short game for Torrey Pines, Rahm just dominates in California. Since 2017, Rahm’s never missed a cut on a California course in 14 starts and only finished outside of the Top 20 twice.

Ryan Palmer

In his 14 weight rounds at Torrey Pines South, Palmer is averaging a stroke gained on the field per round on approach. That’s the most of any player in the field who has played at least 10 rounds on the South Course outside of Marc Leishman. And outside of a disastrous final round at the Sony Open a few weeks back, Palmer is playing some of the best golf of his career. He’s ascended to No. 28 in the world golf rankings, has gained strokes putting in four straight events and finally gets to tackle a course where his distance and be a real factor.

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Pat Mayo is an award-winning video host and producer of long and short-form content, and the host of The Pat Mayo Experience daily talk show. (Subscribe for video or audio). Mayo (@ThePME) won the 2020 Fantasy Sports Writing Association Daily Fantasy Writer of the Year and Golf Writer of the Year awards, along with the Fantasy Sports Trade Association Best Sports Betting Analyst award, and was a finalist for four FSWA Awards in 2020 (Best Podcast, Best Video, Daily Fantasy Writer of the Year, Golf Writer of the Year). His 21 FSWA nominations lead all writers this decade and are third-most all-time. Mayo has been recognized across multiple sports (Football, Baseball & Golf), mediums (Video, Writing & Podcasting), genre (Humor), and game formats (Daily Fantasy and Traditions Season Long). Beyond sports, Mayo covers everything from entertainment to pop culture to politics. If you have a fantasy question, general inquiry or snarky comment, ship it to Mayo at and the best will be addressed on the show.

I am a promoter at DraftKings and am also an avid fan and user (my username is ThePME) and may sometimes play on my personal account in the games that I offer advice on. Although I have expressed my personal view on the games and strategies above, they do not necessarily reflect the view(s) of DraftKings and I may also deploy different players and strategies than what I recommend above. I am not an employee of DraftKings and do not have access to any non-public information.

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