2024 Farmers Insurance Open Preview

2024 Farmers Insurance Open Preview

The PGA Tour rolls on with its California swing in La Jolla! A strong field returns to one of the toughest golf courses on the schedule for the 2024 Farmers Insurance Open at Torrey Pines. As always, here is your early deep-dive of the 2024 Farmers Insurance Open and a preview of how to bet.

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2024 Farmers Insurance Open Preview

The Field

For years, the Farmers Insurance Open would mark the unofficial start of the PGA Tour season. This would typically be the first event where all the top players in the world, either those who were playing on the PGA Tour or played over on the Middle Eastern swing on the DP World Tour, would come together. It also would typically be the season debut for Tiger Woods.

But with the golf world divided in the war between the PGA Tour and LIV, as well as the new scheduling format this season, the field strength at the Farmers Insurance Open has suffered in recent years. Without a signature event status, it’s now sandwiched between big events with big prize pools. This event has now become optional to play.

However, there are still a few big names in the field. Highlighting the field is defending champion Max Homa. Max has played excellent golf since last summer, including a win in South Africa and as the best player on the United States Ryder Cup team last fall.

He struggled a bit recently on bermuda courses, but Max Homa has thrived on California golf courses featuring poa annua greens. He certainly can repeat in 2024.

Other notables in the field include Ludvig Aberg, Patrick Cantlay, Tony Finau, Sungjae Im, Collin Morikawa, Xander Schauffele, and Justin Thomas.

For the full field, click here.

The Golf Courses

Torrey Pines is a municipally owned golf course built in 1957 on the site of an old U.S. Army Base just north of San Diego. William Bell designed the golf course. It features two 18-hole tracks on the north and south sides of the property. The PGA Tour has made Torrey Pines a regular stop on the tour since 1968.

Starting in 2000, the U.S. Open began to have an appetite for municipal public golf courses in their effort to #growthegame. Along with fellow municipal golf course Bethpage Black, Torrey Pines was picked by the U.S. Open to host the 2008 event. They hired Rees Jones to redesign the golf course so that it was suitable for championship play.

The revisions to the South Course included a significant lengthening to counter advancements in golf technology. It also repositioned greens closer to the canyons to bring them into play. Finally, Jones added numerous fairway bunkers to challenge the professionals off the tee. The golf course is now a beast. From the tips, it plays as long as 7,800 yards.

I’ve spent several years breaking down the history and design of the South Course at Torrey Pines. And if you’ve read this column for the last few years, you know that I’m not a big fan of the golf course. So if you’d like to see those comments, click here.

But I’m not going to rehash all the negative comments. You’ve come here for information, not my opinion. So this section is primarily going to focus on the recent changes made to the golf course before the 2021 U.S. Open. This space will also discuss the differences in golf course setup between the Farmers Insurance Open and the U.S. Open.

First, let’s discuss some recent changes to the South Course. Over the last few years, Rees Jones made a few subtle changes to make Torrey Pines South. A few new tee boxes were added to make some holes play a little differently. A tightly mowed collection area was also added behind the 9th Green.

But the most significant change made to the golf course was with the fairway bunkers. Increased driving distances forced his hand. New fairway bunkers were added to make it more challenging off the tee.

Bunkers were also shifted closer to fairways to allow balls to roll down into them. Every Par 4 and 5 on the golf course got some sort of bunker alteration. Either existing fairway bunkers were brought in closer to the fairway, or a new one was added to the landing zone.

The work to the first hole is a great example of this:

1st Hole – Before

2024 Farmers Insurance Open Preview

1st Hole – After

2024 Farmers Insurance Open Preview

The short bunker was moved up the fairway. It’s now 320 yards off the tee to the middle of that bunker. In addition, before the renovation, a small swath of rough provided a barrier between the bunker and the fairway.

Balls that just trickled off the fairway could get caught up in the intermediate rough. Now, the fairway transitions to the bunkers themselves. There’s less margin for error off the tee now than there was before.

But while this increased the need to keep the ball in the fairway, that was always the case at Torrey Pines. The problem with this approach is that even for the more accurate guys, finding fairways at Torrey Pines is a difficult task. With fairways only averaging 28 yards wide, the driving accuracy % for this event is typically well below PGA Tour averages.

And even if a shorter player does find the fairways, the golf course is so long that they’re faced with long approach shots all tournament. That means fewer greens in regulations hit overall for them too.

Unless they’re wizards on and around the green, these types of players are seriously behind the eight-ball at Torrey Pines South.

Who’s not behind the eight ball at Torrey Pines? Guys who love to hit drivers where everything is right out in front of them. Long and straight off the tee is so key at Torrey Pines.

These guys can look ahead of them down the fairway, pick their target, and wail away. And should they find the rough, they have the club head speed to hit it close to the green and get up and down for par.

Another difference between the U.S. Open and the Farmers Insurance Open is the agronomy. Naturally, this golf course has Kikuyu fairways and rough. That’s the turf conditions at the U.S. Open.

But the fairways and rough are overseeded with rye grass this week. While the rough is still plenty thick, it’s a little more forgiving because the ball can occasionally sit up in it. It’s also way less grabby than the Kikuyu can be.

Lastly, the greens play a little slower for the Farmers Insurance Open than it will for the U.S. Open. The greens ran about 13.5 on the stimpmeter for the 2021 U.S. Open. For the Farmers Insurance Open, they’ll run closer to 12 or 12.5.

That’s still faster than normal on the PGA Tour. And it’s much faster than what these players have seen for the last few weeks. It’ll be a big adjustment to navigate on these fast Poa Greens.

Three of four rounds of the Farmers Insurance Open are on the South Course, which is much longer than the North Course. Gamblers should make the South Course their primary focus for the week. But we can’t forget about the North Course, though. Everyone will have to play that one on either Thursday or Friday.

Tom Weiskopf redesigned the North Course in 2016. Weiskopf enlarged greens, removed eighteen bunkers (mostly of the fairway variety), and cut down dozens of trees due to a beetle infestation.

While the removal of the trees disappointed some, it opened up the golf course significantly and gave way to spectacular views of the coastline.

The most beneficial change to the golf course was the simplest one. They decided to flip the nines so the Back Nine plays along the canyons and the Pacific Coastline.

This provides a dramatic finale to a round and ensures a golfer walks off with fantastic memories, no matter how poorly they might play.

Betting Strategies

To begin the 2024 Farmers Insurance Open Preview, here is general information about the North and South golf courses at Torrey Pines.

  • North Course: 7,258 Yards
  • South Course: 7,765 Yards
  • North Course: 72
  • South Course: 72

At the 2021 U.S. Open, the 6th hole played as a long Par 4. For the Farmers Insurance Open, it will play as a Par 5, which is what it typically plays for everyone.

Average Green Size
  • North Course: 6,000 sq. feet
  • South Course: 5,000 sq. feet

The North Course greens are about the size of the PGA Tour average. The renovation in 2016 to expand the greens helped get them closer to the average.

The South Course greens, however, are smaller than PGA Tour average. But they play even smaller based on their construction. Each green is sectioned off into quadrants, which makes the targets even tinier. A couple of yards offline from an intended target, golfers may be facing a long lag putt and the threat of walking away with a three-putt.

  • North Course
    • Greens: Bentgrass
    • Fairways: Kikuyu overseeded with rye grass
    • Rough: Kikuyu overseeded with rye grass – 4″
  • South Course
    • Greens: Poa Annua
    • Fairways: Kikuyu overseeded with rye grass
    • Rough: Kikuyu overseeded with rye grass – 4″

The agronomy at both the North and South course are nearly identical. But the difference is a big one. The North Course greens are bentgrass. They roll much smoother than the greens on the South Course. That’s one reason why players often put up very good scores over on the North Course in the tournament.

The South Course greens, however, are the infamous poa annua. Putting on them is extremely difficult. In fact, putting at the South Course at Torrey Pines features some of the toughest putting conditions annually on the PGA Tour. Since 2015, Torrey Pines South features the 5th toughest greens to putt on. That includes low rates of putts made from under 5 feet and from 5-15 feet.

The rough on both courses, however, is not ideal to try and hit approach shots out of. Not only is it long ryegrass, but it’ll be as thick and hearty as it is all year, given the cooler and wetter climate in La Jolla. That helps promote maximum growth of the grass.

Past Champions (with approximate pre-tournament odds)
  • 2023: Max Homa (20/1)
  • 2022: Luke List (75/1)
  • 2021: Patrick Reed (25/1)
  • 2020: Marc Leishman (55/1)
  • 2019: Justin Rose (14/1)

Last week at the American Express, longshot winners reigned supreme. At the Farmers Insurance Open, however, typically, the winner comes from near the top of the odds board. The South Course values things like elite driving and good long iron play. Typically the best players in the world are better than everyone else in these categories.

And that’s probably why favorites ultimately prevail. If you’re going to pick a longshot, they must possess length off the tee and good long iron play. That’s the recipe for a 75/1 Luke List type winner.

Average Scores
  • North Course
    • 2023: -0.54
    • 2022: -3.23
    • 2021: -1.86
  • South Course
    • 2023: +1.61
    • 2022: +0.35
    • 2021: +1.35

The scores on the North Course are much lower than that on the South Course. While both golf courses feature narrow fairways and thick rough, there are not as many fairway bunkers to contend with on the North Course. In addition, the greens are bigger, it’s a shorter golf course, and the greens have bentgrass.

Putts roll way better on those greens than they do on the South Course. Players are able to make more putts for birdies on the North Course than on the South Course.

Weather can significantly impact the tournament. In that case, the question arises whether one would rather play the North Course in worse conditions (because it’s easier) or the South Course in worse conditions (because it’s brutally impossible in these conditions). It’s vital to take advantage of the North Course and get off to a fast start.

As such, should weather significantly impact one day across the first two rounds, it’s preferable to play the North Course in the good weather, and then try and scrape together an even par or +1 round on the South Course in worse ones.

Predictive Skillsets

Here are the predictive skillset charts for Torrey Pines South and North (per DataGolf). This chart will preview what types of players should excel at the 2024 Farmers Insurance Open.

South Course

2024 Farmers Insurance Open Preview

North Course

2024 Farmers Insurance Open Preview

Both predictive skillsets are remarkably similar between the South and North Course. There is slightly less predictability with approach play skill and success on the North Course as opposed to the South Course.

That is probably due to the overall shorter scorecard yardage on the North Course where much of its length is in the Par 3’s as opposed to the Par 4’s.

As far as the predictive skillsets on the South Course, the biggest area that stands out is driving distance. There is a very high correlation of players who possess length and success to Torrey Pines South. Given the nearly 7,800-yard scorecard, the need to hit the driver on almost every hole and very difficult fairways to hit that are surrounded by thick, rough driving distance has an edge at Torrey Pines South.

There also is a higher than PGA Tour average in predictability with approach play, around the green, and putting. Simply put – Torrey Pines South is a big boy golf course. The cream generally rises to the top at this golf course. And the best players in the world are good in multiple areas.

On long, demanding golf courses where players hit driver often and ask players to hit long approach shots to small targets, the wheat is separated from the chafe. There’s no faking it at Torrey Pines South.

Approach Shot Proximity

Here are the types of approach shots players will hit at Torrey Pines South (per the 2023 Farmers Insurance Open on DataGolf). This will preview what types of approach shots players will hit at the 2024 Farmers Insurance Open.

2024 Farmers Insurance Open Preview

The 2024 Farmers Insurance Open is a test of how well players can hit shots from over 150 yards, with a higher emphasis on shots from over 200 yards. Only 30% of approach shots will come from less than 150 yards at Torrey Pines South.

And a few of these likely will come from players who miss the fairway on one of the Par 5’s and are forced to lay up for a short wedge into the green for their third. This distribution is a stark difference from the wedge-dominated shots players were asked to hit at the 2024 American Express last week.

While there isn’t data available for the North Course, here is an estimation of the yardages players will hit approach shots from based on an examination of the golf course on Google Earth (assuming fairways hit):

  • <150 Yards: 27.8% (~5 shots/round)
  • 150-200 Yards: 27.8% (~5 shots/round)
  • 200+ Yards: 44.4% (~8 shots/round).

All four Par 3’s on the North Course are over 200 yards. Players will enjoy a perfect lie off a tee for half of the long approach shots on the North Course. The same cannot be said for the South Course.

Taking this into account, this is the overall mix of shots players will hit this week at the 2024 Farmers Insurance Open:

  • <150 Yards: 29.4% (~5.3 shots/round)
  • 150-200 Yards: 35.2% (~6.3 shots/round)
  • 200+ Yards: 35.5% (~6.4 shots/round)

Follow the tips in this preview, and one should put together a solid betting card and DFS lineup for the 2024 Farmers Insurance Open.

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