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Distance Matters: Rahm, English and Other Top Picks at Torrey Pines

By: Kyle Cunningham-Rhoads

Players who excel on longer holes should reign this week, which is very different to what we’ve seen on tour so far this year.

The Farmers Insurance Open is our second consecutive tournament where the first two rounds will be split between two courses. Last week, the two courses played similarly with no real difference in total distance or layout. This week is different.

Torrey Pines North is the easier of the two and will only be played once this week. It’s a par 72 playing 7,258 yards, which is on the short side of a par 72. It consistently plays a couple of shots under par, and will be the best opportunity for scoring during the tournament.

The South course, which is also the site of this year’s U.S. Open, will be played three times by those who make the cut, and it’s long. Also a par 72, the South course plays a whopping 7,765 yards. Distance is vital here with four par 5s, just one par 4 playing under 400 yards, seven par 4s playing over 450 yards, and three par 3s of 200 yards or more. We’ve mentioned Abraham Ancer and Russell Henley a few times this year, but this is not the course for them.  

Here are the players our golf model pinpoint as having the greatest increase in projected shots gained on Torrey Pines South compared to an average PGA course: 



And players projected the lose the most:



For the most part, the best players are going to play well on the toughest courses like Torrey Pines South, so most of the top players are gaining strokes on a course like this. In fact, the top five in odds are all expected to gain strokes:



Erraticism won’t kill you here as there is only one hole with water in play, a stark contrast from last week where water existed in abundance.

Torrey Pines South


Jon Rahm, of Spain, is the favorite to take home the win this week at Torrey Pines, according to our model. (AP Photo/Frank Franklin II)

Jon Rahm

Of all the players in our database, only Dustin Johnson would be expected to beat Rahm at Torrey Pines South. We expect Rahm to score in the top three in par 5s, long par 4s, and long par 3s, which encompasses 15 holes on this course. He has the length required to put himself into position, and a reliable short game to save par if he misses the green. His position as the favorite is well deserved, and he leads our model with an 8.6% chance of winning.


Harris English hits from a bunker on the seventh fairway during the first round of The Players Championship golf tournament in Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla. Harris is an underrated pick to win this week. (AP Photo/Chris O’Meara, File)

Harris English

Xander Schauffele and Rory McIlroy are second and third in our model, but English is being underrated a little. He’s fourth with a 4.9% chance to win and, as we alluded to before, the course fit is excellent for him. His long irons are spectacular, giving him the edge over the field on long par 3s and putting him sixth in projected scoring on long par 4s. His putting is consistently above average, so he’s unlikely to implode on the greens and has been known to hole out. Both should come in handy on a course with greens that average only 5,000 square feet. He’s notched five top 10s in his last eight tournaments and that run figures to continue.

Jason Day

Day hasn’t teed it up since midNovember, so there is always a risk in backing a player who might have some rust. In Day’s case, the layoff could have been great for his back. Before his layoff he played well at the Houston Open, which took place at a course we see as comparable to Torrey Pines South. He gained strokes on all hole types there, but really played the par 5s well, gaining 3.3 strokes over the field across the tournament. This week, we have him projected for a repeat performance on par 5s, where he’s projected to score in the top 10 in the field. He’s also played this tournament well, coming up with a win, a T6 and T16 in his last three trips.

Bubba Watson

A course where distance means considerably more than fairways? Sign us up for Bubba week. He played great down the stretch last year with two top 10s in his last four tournaments and played reasonably well at the Masters until a finalround 78. His short game is always a concern, but he does play well on longer courses, and his volatility always makes him a great bet to win. He can put up some ugly numbers, but he also has the ability to leave everyone in the dust if his ballstriking is at its best. 


Talor Gooch hits from the bunker on the fourth hole during the final round of the CJ Cup golf tournament at Shadow Creek Golf Course in North Las Vegas. (AP Photo/David Becker)

Talor Gooch 

We’ve already listed Gooch as a player who is best suited by a course like Torrey Pines South and we love his chances this week. He shook the rust off last week with a firstround 74 before shooting a combined 13under par over his next two days. He’s made the cut in each of his three trips to the Farmers Insurance Open, including a thirdplace finish in 2019. His best holes are long par 3s, long par 4s, and long par 5s, and on a course where saving par on tough holes is crucial, Gooch should perform well.

Carlos Ortiz

We already mentioned our Houston Open comp for Torrey Pines South, and here’s your Houston Open winner. Ortiz gains the secondmost strokes in the field by playing at a course like Torrey Pines compared to an average course, which makes him an appealing option this week. He’s projected to score ninth in the field on long par 4s this week, gaining 0.756 strokes per round.

Charl Schwartzel

This tournament is unlikely to see a longshot winner, but Schwartzel is our super long-odds pick to surprise. If he pulls off a shocker, it’ll be through the par 5s, where Schwartzel is expected to gain a little over half a stroke per round. He runs hot and cold but can string together birdies in a hurry. 



Jon Rahm ($11,300)

Xander Schauffele ($10,400)

Harris English ($9,800)

Hideki Matsuyama ($9,200)


Bubba Watson ($8,800)

Jason Day ($8,600)

Adam Scott ($8,300)

Will Zalatoris ($8,100)

Louis Oosthuizen ($8,000)


Gary Woodland ($7,800)

Jason Kokrak ($7,700)

Corey Conners ($7,700)

Talor Gooch ($7,600)

Carlos Ortiz ($7,500) 


Kevin Streelman ($6,900)

Charl Schwartzel ($6,700)


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