Welcome to our weekly PGA Tour gambling-tips column, featuring picks from GOLF.com’s expert prognosticator, Brady Kannon. A seasoned golf bettor, Kannon is an on-air host for VSiN, the Vegas Stats & Information Network, and host and creator of Longshots, the network’s golfbetting show. You can follow Kannon on Twitter at @LasVegasGolfer, and you can read below to see his 5 favorite plays for the Farmers Insurance Open, which kicks off Wednesday in La Jolla, Calif. Keep scrolling past Kannon’s picks, and you’ll also see data from Chirp, a free-to-play mobile platform — and GOLF.com affiliate — that features a range of games with enticing prizes, giving fans all kinds of ways to engage in the action without risking any money.
For me, the “pre-season” is over and we’re on to Torrey Pines. I like to use the first three weeks of the year for observation and assessment, and I dumb down (and minimize) my wagering accordingly. Now, we shift to “big boy” golf on a course that measures more than 7,700 yards in gorgeous La Jolla, California. It’s time to up our gambling game as well. We should also tip our hats to the PGA Tour for its astute scheduling. The folks in Ponte Vedra modified their calendar a few years ago to get out of the way of NFL Football, and this week they are doing it again, hoping to end this tournament on Saturday to avoid competing with Conference Championship Sunday.
I noted that Torrey is a beast of a track. I am referring to the South Course, where three of the four rounds will be held. But each player will also get a round in on the North Course on either Wednesday or Thursday, prior to the 36-hole cut. The North Course is easier than the South. Not as easy as it was before Tom Weiskopf beefed it up in 2016. But in the years since that redo, tournament scoring averages have still been around one-and-a-half strokes lower on the North than on the South.
Total Driving, a combination of length and distance off the tee, has always been a telling stat at Torrey. The fairways can be difficult to hit, the rough is thick, and the greens are on the smaller side of Tour average. The greens also feature Poa Annua turf. It is a spongier type of grass and can get bumpy, especially later in the day. Some players take to Poa Annua, and others don’t.
Putting will be key this week — and so will scrambling. Because this golf course is so long and the greens are on the smaller side, hitting greens in regulation will be a challenge, so when they are missed, getting up and down will be crucial to one’s success.
As for correlated courses, I looked at Quail Hollow and Winged Foot. I also took Pebble Beach into account. Though Pebble is not similar in layout or design to Torrey, it is a California coastal course with small Poa Annua greens. We often see the same players have success at both courses.
6 picks I like to win the Farmers Insurance Open outright and finish Top 20
Xander Schauffele (12-1)
The San Diego native has struggled many times at the Farmers but seems to have righted the ship. In three of his last four visits, Schauffele has finished 25th, 2nd, and 34th. He also took 7th here at the 2021 U.S. Open. Schauffele finished last season ranked 3rd on Tour for Total Driving. He ranks 2nd in this field for Strokes Gained Approach over his last 36 rounds, 14th in Scrambling, and 4th in SG Putting on Poa Annua. He was also 5th at Winged Foot in 2020 and has finished as high as 14th at Quail Hollow. Last Sunday, he fired a 62 in the closing round of the American Express. Let’s hope he continues to be that dialed in.
Tony Finau (+1375)
Finau has been among the most successful players at Torrey Pines for nearly a decade. In eight trips to La Jolla, he’s finished Top 6 four times and three times in the Top 25. He has also started winning golf tournaments, notching back-to-back victories last summer and taking home top honors at the Houston Open this past fall. He was 8th at Winged Foot in 2020, has a 16th at Quail Hollow, and a 23rd at Pebble. Not much more needs to be said. He’s a horse for the course and he’s been in form.
Taylor Pendrith (+7550)
Like Finau, Pendrith is abig hitter. He finished last season ranked 38th in Total Driving and he’s 4th so far this season. He’s only been on Tour for a few years, which makes him a relative newbie. But he finished 23rd at the U.S. Open at Winged Foot in 2020. He also took 16th here at Torrey last year in his first-ever appearance in the Farmers. He’ll need to find a hot putter this week if he’s going to win but over the last 36 rounds, he is Top 35 in this field for SG Off the Tee, Ball Striking, and on approach.
Scott Stallings (120-1)
Scott Stallings has ascended to 55th in the Official World Golf Ranking. Much of this has to do with his red-hot summer in 2022, when he recorded five Top 10 finishes in just three months. He’s picked up where he left off, having yet to miss a cut this season. He’s a horse for this course, too, with a win here in 2014 and a 2nd and a 25th to follow that. His ball striking is tremendous, and he ranks 18th in this field for Scrambling over the last 36 rounds. Stallings has also finished 3rd, 7th, and 14th at Pebble Beach.
Emiliano Grillo (130-1)
As I did my research, I was surprised to see how promising some of Grillo’s results have been. He has finished 14th and 9th at Quail Hollow, and 12th here at Torrey Pines. The bad news is that he has missed the cut here the last three years — and maybe that has to do with his putting and scrambling. He’s as weak in those two areas as he is strong off the tee, on approach, and in overall ball striking. Grillo was 17th on Tour last season in Ball Striking and remains in that position this season. In Total Driving, he ranked 6th at the end of last season and he’s currently 25th. He has two Top 5 finishes already this season and finished 2nd twice last summer. He’s a long shot for a reason, but I expect him to have a good week.
Jhonattan Vegas (220-1)
He’s missed a few cuts here at the Farmers but when he’s made it around for the weekend, he hasn’t finished worse than 39th in the last eight years. He also made the cut here at the 2021 U.S. Open. I did see one golf tipster this week describe Glen Abbey Golf Club, in Ontario, as a correlated course. If that’s true, all Vegas did was win there back-to-back, in 2016 and 2017. Vegas fits our theme of the week. Total Driving, Ball Strikers, Big Hitters. That’s Torrey. Much like Grillo, Vegas will need to find a hot short game for four days, to be in the mix. He’s done it at Quail Hollow in the way of an 8th place finish.
Full Tournament Head-to-Head Matchups
I like two plays in this category:
Xander Schauffele (-210) over Hideki Matsuyama
Taylor Pendrith (+105) over Adam Hadwin
Who Chirp users like to win
Jon Rahm — 50%
Justin Thomas — 13.02%
Xander Schauffele — 12.43%