FARMERS: After a stunning week that saw the rise of a new young star, the PGA Tour returns to a venue that has been a regular stop on the schedule since 1968 while also hosting multiple USGA championships.

I’m talking about Torrey Pines, of course, a place that is perhaps best known for Tiger’s dramatic 2008 U.S. Open victory, when he outdueled Rocco Mediate in a playoff while gimping around on an injured knee. But the cool thing about Torrey is that it’s a true municipal golf course which is owned by the city of San Diego and open to the public year round, with the exception of the weeks leading up to this tournament.

There are two courses on property, the North and the South, and both will be in use over the first two rounds this week before all the action moves to the tougher South course over the weekend. The South is an absolute monster, measuring 7,765 yards from all the way back, and prodigious length off the tee is almost a prerequisite for success there. One look at a recent list of champions here tells you all you need to know, as you’ll see names like Luke List, Justin Rose, Jason Day, and Jon Rahm… bombers, all. Last year’s winner Max Homa may not hit it quite as far as some of those guys, but he did average 304.8 yards per drive last season, so he ain’t exactly short. Bottom line: hitting the ball a long way will give you a big advantage this week. Period.

One notable aspect of both the North and South courses is the poa annua greens. Rarely seen on Tour outside of a couple of West Coast and island venues, poa annua is characterized by little white sprigs of turf that make it less consistent and arguably more difficult to read than a surface like bentgrass. Some guys, like current LIV player Dustin Johnson, are known as poa annua sharks, while others struggle on it. Therefore, it’s more important than ever to do your homework when handicapping the field this week. With that in mind, here’s what I’m thinking:

WIN MARKET

Recommendations to BACK (odds in parenthesis)

Tony Finau (25.0)- We know that Torrey rewards length off the tee and a good feel for poa annua greens, and Finau has demonstrated that he possesses both in spades. Perhaps that’s why he’s enjoyed so much success at this tournament, finishing 13th or better in 6 of his past 7 appearances, including a runner-up in 2021 and a T9 last year. His game appears to be sharp after a top-25 at the AmEx last week, where he posted four rounds of 68 or better, and he’s just three starts removed from a T4 at the Grant Thornton Invitational, a team event where he partnered with the LPGA’s Nelly Korda. The knock on Finau used to be that he doesn’t win enough, but with 6 victories now under his belt I think we can put that to rest– this guy can close the deal, and given his record at Torrey it wouldn’t surprise me one bit if he were the man holding the trophy come Sunday afternoon. Plus, his price is a bit friendlier than some of those at the very top of the market. I’m in.

Harris English (78.0)- Though he doesn’t exactly fit the description of a “bomber”, English hits it far enough, averaging nearly 300 yards off the tee last season, and he’s been on fire rolling the rock for the past year, ranking first on Tour in putting average from outside 50 feet and second from inside 9 feet. That goes a long way towards explaining his success in 2023, when he racked up ten top-15 finishes and had near-misses at the Arnold Palmer Invitational (T2) and Wells Fargo (T3). Torrey Pines has been good to English over the years and he’s made some big check at this tournament, finding the top-15 three times and finishing runner-up back in 2015. He should be full of confidence this week after starting 2024 with a T14 in Kapalua and a T10 at the Sony, and he feels like a great value at nearly 80/1.

S.H. Kim (148.0)- Kim is still a young player finding his way on Tour, but he has shown the ability to contend when he’s right, most recently finishing runner-up in September’s Fortinet Championship. A West Coast guy who played collegiately at Stanford, Kim has posted some good results on poa annua greens, including a T20 in this tournament last year, and he absolutely bombs it off the tee, averaging nearly 309 yards per drive. He got off to a solid start this year with a T30 at the Sony, shooting 64 on Friday, so there are no concerns about his form, and during his brief career this has been the time of year when he’s made his money. He’s got a better chance this week than his price would indicate.


THE STRIKER Sat: FA CUP MANCHESTER CITY v CHELSEA
THE STRIKER Sat: Premier League Preview
DAQMAN Thurs: Cheltenham NAP
DAQSTATS Thurs: Newmarket NAP
WEEKEND GREYHOUND PREVIEW: with BARRY CAUL
THE ULTRA Fri: Serie A & La Liga Preview
THE EDGE IPL Fri: Lucknow Super Giants v Chennai Super Kings
THE EDGE IPL Thurs: Punjab Kings v Mumbai Indians
PGA Tour: RBC Heritage preview/picks
THE ULTRA Thurs: Europa League Quarter Finals
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