If you bird-dog my decisions in PGA TOUR Fantasy Golf, you'd have learned that I held true to my promise to avoid the Stadium Course at PGA WEST during each of the first three rounds of The American Express. It wasn't an atypical approach for me, and it really didn't matter due to the ease of the host courses.
It should this week.
Unlike last week's shootout played over three tracks that now rank among the four easiest of 17 played this season, the disparity between the North and South Courses at Torrey Pines should compel you to divide your lineup so that you get three starts on the North in each of the first two rounds. (Only the South is used post-cut.)
In the three editions of the Farmers Insurance Open since the North Course was redesigned, the scoring differences between the courses has been 1.49, 1.40 and 1.89 strokes, respectively. That takes into account all four rounds on the South, which has played both easier and harder in rounds three and four.
With the North having matured and potentially returning to its placement among the easiest par 72s of the season, and with the South toughening in advance of the 2021 U.S. Open, fantasy scoring should reflect the difference of the challenge. Don't waste it.
PGA TOUR Fantasy Golf
My roster for the Farmers Insurance Open (in alphabetical order):
You’ll find my starters in Expert Picks.
Others to consider for each category (in alphabetical order):
Scoring: Cameron Champ; Tony Finau; Rickie Fowler; Sungjae Im; Maverick McNealy; Scottie Scheffler; Cameron Smith
Power Rankings Wild Card
Brandt Snedeker … Someone has to rank second to Tiger Woods in all-time earnings at the Farmers Insurance Open. With two wins (2012, 2016), two seconds and a third among seven top 10s in 13 appearances, Snedeker has a firm handle on the silver. Arrives rested after a T12 at Waialae, three months after his previous start. It's also been more than 11 months since he's missed a cut in a non-major.
Marc Leishman … In short, he's at the stage of his career during which he rises up when the challenge is greatest. Sure, you can argue that that's not an airtight profile, but it should test your trust in the Aussie. If it does, then you'd be hard-pressed to rule him out as a contender. It doesn't hurt that he's 9-for-11 at the Farmers with two seconds among four top 10s. It's one of those rare instances when his talent supersedes his baseline value as a warrior in the wind.
Lanto Griffin … Before the win in Houston and seven other top 20s this season, there was his lone appearance at Torrey Pines in 2018. He finished T12 for what was his only top 25 in 26 starts as a PGA TOUR rookie. No doubt he couldn't wait to get back here.
Francesco Molinari … Shootouts leave collateral damage, so you can ignore his missed cut at PGA WEST. The Farmers Insurance Open allows for his grit and patience to fuel him into the weekend. His default strength as a ball-striker is ideal for the test.
Pat Perez … Favorite among the locals, he presents as a flier for conservative gamers with only one cut made in his last three appearances (during what was akin to a second wind of his career), but that was a T4 in 2017. Furthermore, after a difficult 2019, he's survived five straight cuts and sits 39th in the FedExCup.
Grayson Murray … The three-time Junior World champ (2006-2008) has cashed twice in three appearances at Torrey Pines and he's fresh off a T10 at PGA WEST where his 27 birdies ranked second only to champion Andrew Landry's 31. The additional layer of value for Murray is that even if he doesn't fulfill the terms of his Major Medical Extension (six starts remain, including the Farmers), he'll remain fully exempt as a Korn Ferry Tour graduate.
Phil Mickelson … This is where it all started for the World Golf Hall of Famer. In his first PGA TOUR start, he missed the cut at Torrey Pines in 1988. Now in his 30th appearance (and 619th TOUR event), inconsistency has planted him in this section often enough that loyal readers would have been surprised only if he didn't land here yet again.
Bubba Watson … The 2011 champ hasn't appeared since 2014, so the learning curve on both courses retreats almost all the way back to the start line. Only two top 25s in the last 10 months.
Byeong Hun An … No, this isn't a knee-jerk reaction from what happened at The American Express (where he erected a snowman in the first round and eventually missed the cut). It's likely that even with a favorable finish, he'd have fallen out of favor for the forecast given his preference of playing aggressively. In his only prior appearance at Torrey Pines, he placed T49 in 2017. Risky gamers should be happy with that result again if you latch back on.
Billy Horschel … Flier at best given inconsistent form of late. Despite a pair of eighth-place finishes at Torrey Pines since 2016, it's not the kind of track where he'd expect to lock in à la Andrew Landry at PGA WEST last week.
J.B. Holmes … From 2014-2018, he went 5-for-5 at Torrey Pines with three top 10s and a T23, but since winning at Riviera 11 months ago, he's gone for only one top-30 finish in a full-field, stroke-play event. He also battled a shoulder injury in the fall.
Denny McCarthy … The third time probably will be the charm for the 27-year-old who missed the cut in his first two appearances, but there's no reason to reach in this field even though he's 35th in the FedExCup.
Harold Varner III
Returning to Competition
Jason Day … There's no love lost between the Aussie and gamers after he withdrew from the Presidents Cup with a back injury, but at least that event doesn't count in our world. Presumably feeling good again, he's back after what amounts to two full months off, which is not unusual for him at this time of year. He's a two-time winner at Torrey Pines (2015, 2018) with a total of five top 10s. Do not hesitate to roster him in every format.
Jordan Spieth … While Torrey Pines has proven to be a tough fit in his four prior appearances, speculative investors need to remain faithful. He bailed on the Sony Open in Hawaii due to an illness, and he hasn't pegged it in an event with a cut in five months, but he's missed so few cuts throughout his struggles that there's little risk in making room. Obviously, it's the only way that you can be on board when he returns to the top of the leaderboard.
Bo Hoag … Go figure. The week that I laud him in the Rookie Ranking, he ruins the narrative and calls it quits during his third round of The American Express due to the flu. He needs to be back to 100 percent to tackle Torrey Pines in his debut, but gamers are advised not to roll the dice.
Charles Howell III … What a fortnight for the usually reliable 40-year-old. He missed the cut at The American Express for the first time in 12 appearances and now he's sitting out the Farmers Insurance Open for the first time since his debut in 2003. He's 17-for-17 in the tournament with three runner-up finishes among eight top 10s. Needless to say, concern hovers over health or another matter that's interrupted his expectation to compete. Watch this space.
Adam Schenk … Rose to 81st in the FedExCup with a T14 at PGA WEST. Three top 25s on the season.
Troy Merritt … Off to a solid but unspectacular start to the season with five cuts made in seven events but with no better than a pair of T30s. Given his inability to make noise at Torrey Pines (where he's 0-for-5 since 2011), this is a stop that he won't lament passing.
Brice Garnett … After opening the season with four paydays in five starts, he's missed three straight cuts. His record at Torrey Pines isn't inspiring, so gamers won't miss him this week, anyway. Currently 97th in the FedExCup.
Matt Every … He withdrew during his second round of the Sony Open in Hawaii with a back injury, and then closed out The American Express with an 82 to finish last of 74 who survived the 54-hole cut. While 3-for-7 on the season and fully exempt, it's been a rough restart following his suspension.
Rafael Campos … The rookie is 161st in the FedExCup with five straight paydays in the fall, but he's missed his last three cuts.
Power Rankings Recap – The American Express
Power Ranking Golfer Result
1 Sungjae Im T10
2 Rickie Fowler T10
3 Scottie Scheffler 3rd
4 Charles Howell III MC
5 Harris English T48
6 Byeong Hun An MC
7 Tony Finau T14
8 Brian Harman T21
9 Kevin Kisner MC
10 Vaughn Taylor T43
11 Jason Kokrak MC
12 Phil Mickelson MC
13 Francesco Molinari MC
14 Henrik Norlander T68
15 Paul Casey T21
Wild Card Matthew Wolff T61
Sleepers Recap – The American Express
Bronson Burgoon T43
Danny Lee MC
Peter Malnati MC
Maverick McNealy T37
Seung-Yul Noh MC
Birthdays among active golfers on the PGA TOUR
January 21 … none
January 22 … Graham DeLaet (38)
January 23 … Jamie Lovemark (32)
January 24 … Jim Knous (30)
January 25 … Andrew Putnam (31)
January 26 … Adam Schenk (28)
January 27 … Jonathan Byrd (42)