FARMERS INSURANCE OPEN BETTING GUIDE
Formerly known as the Buick Invitational, this year sees a new sponsor in the form of Farmers Insurance for this long-standing leg of the ‘West Coast Swing’. Played on two courses at Torrey Pines GC, California, the event is best known in recent years for its complete dominance by Tiger Woods. Favourite backers are unlikely to prefer any event on the calendar to this one, after Woods won on his last four attempts, and five of his last six. He also won the 2008 US Open here despite playing in severe pain. However with the great man out of action right now, form students will have to work a little harder.
COURSE AND STATS
Form prior to 2001 is basically irrelevant, as it was before Rees Jones redesigned the South Course in preparation of hosting its first US Open. Three of the four rounds are played on the South Course, which at over 7,600 yards has the reputation of being a ‘beast’. Small greens add to the challenge on a course where par is always a good total. In total contrast, the North Course offers a birdie-fest and it is here that players need to make their score ahead of the gruelling weekend.
Despite its length, the South Course doesn’t necessarily favour the long-hitters. Several have thrived, not least Tiger, but equally a number of short, straight-hitting types have prospered since the re-design. Driving accuracy tends to prove irrelevant, and while no stat particularly stands out as more important than the rest, hitting plenty of those small greens in regulation is imperative for success. The best clue for punters lies in previous course form. This is one venue where the ‘horses for courses’ theory stands up, as the gruelling nature of this test ensures some players simply never thrive here.
1.5pts ew CHARLES HOWELL @ 33/1 (GENERAL)
Having twice finished runner-up to Tiger, Howell must have high hopes of going one better in his absence. Apart from those two stellar efforts, the big-hitting Texan confirmed his liking for this course with another pair of top 15s. Recent form is encouraging as he made the top five on his penultimate start at Waialae, another of his favourite courses. Nobody scored better than Howell over the final three days there.
1.5pts ew LUKE DONALD @ 40/1 (SPORTINGBET, STAN JAMES)
In the grand scheme of things, Donald has become an extremely frustrating player. Since he emerged earlier this century as the great British hope this side of the Atlantic, Luke has developed a reputation as something of a bottler and been overtaken by several of his compatriots. Nevertheless, he’s perfectly capable of landing a fourth Stateside success at some point, and if it’s going to be anywhere, Torrey Pines looks the likeliest venue. Luke’s record here is superb, making the top seven four times including twice as runner-up, and never finishing worse than 24th.
As frustrating as his weekend efforts at Kapalua were, we must forgive Glover that blip when carrying the lead in the season-opener. Bearing in mind his previous heroics at the US Open, it would be unfair to label Glover a ‘bottler’ on the basis of one disastrous round. He’s twice made the top four in this event before, including when a much lesser player back in 2006, and clearly has the power to cope with the extreme length of the South Course.
Fresh from a promising top-ten finish on his seasonal debut, Snedeker very much takes the eye in an event that I’ve long fancied him to win. Snedeker first sprung to public prominence when finishing third behind Woods in what was one of his very earliest PGA Tour starts back in 2007. In the years since, he’s strongly left the impression that his game is best suited to long, tough courses so it was no surprise to see him make the top ten in that US Open here two summers ago. This looks the perfect opportunity to make amends for a series of near-misses last summer when carrying this column’s cash.
Sutherland very much qualifies as a course specialist on the basis of his long-term record at Torrey Pines. He’s made the top 15 seven times, including four times inside the top six, which is quite significant for a player of Sutherland’s journeyman status. A further reason to like this 80/1 each-way bet is last week’s 15th place in the Bob Hope Classic. Sutherland ranked second for greens in regulation there, and closed the week in style with rounds of 65 and 66.