2023 Farmers Insurance Open Golf DFS Fades & Pivots: Brendan Steele Rising Above Popular Plays

The Farmers Insurance Open marks a big change in the golf schedule. Gone are the easy resort-style courses where 20 under par is the norm; now there are manicured courses with thicker rough and tougher greens, meaning more bogies and doubles and fewer birdies. The Farmers will again play at Torrey Pines South this year, mixing in one round on the North course at the start of the event.

Below are some of the top PGA DFS fades and pivots for DraftKings and FanDuel daily fantasy lineups. Stokastic’s expert PGA DFS projections and rankings can help identify the best picks for the 2023 Farmers Insurance Open.

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PGA DFS Golf Fades & Pivots | Farmers Insurance Open

Both venues this week play as longer par 72s, but Torrey South sets up as a true U.S. Open venue. The 7,600-yard behemoth tests players both off the tee and with longer approaches into poa greens that are very difficult to putt on. This event almost always produces one of the highest three-putt percentages on tour, and experience on the greens and putting on poa can be a big help.

Strong off-tee play is a necessity this week for all the players and can alleviate the stress on the rest of the game. The high rough and longer holes mean a poor drive will greatly enhance a player’s chances of missing the green and bringing bogey or worse into play. For stats purposes, looking at strokes gained off the tee, approach proximity from over 200 yards and three-putt percentage are all good starting points.

Torrey Pines South Stats and Info

  • The most popular basket of approach shots from previous events from Torrey Pines is from over 200 yards, so longer iron shots will be in play this week. Good proximity from 150 yards and beyond is a must.
  • The tougher poa greens tend to equalize things a bit for the poor putters. Three-putt avoidance tends to be key, as making short putts at Torrey Pines is difficult. With a big change in surface, some players may flip their putting stats.
  • Strong off-tee play is essential — in 2021 each of the players in the top 10 for the week gained strokes on approach, and last season seven of the top 10 gained a stroke or more on approach for the week.

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Farmers Insurance Open 2023 DFS Golf Fades and Pivots

High-End Fade: Taylor Montgomery

Projected PGA DFS Ownership: DraftKings: 14.2% | FanDuel: 14.9%

Montgomery continues to sizzle, finishing fifth at the American Express after yet another hugely positive week on the greens with his putter. He has now finished inside the top 15 in seven of his last eight starts on the PGA Tour and ranks near the bottom end of the PGA in strokes gained on approach. It’s extremely rare for a player to have such sustained success while not consistently doing much in the approach department. Torrey Pines stresses players’ long games more than almost any other venue, and even the best putters have struggled at this event.

With Montgomery coming off a grueling week where he was in contention after Round 1 (and had a late water ball to take him out of the running), he’s likely to be emotionally drained at this point and could be a good fade candidate off that angle alone. Adding to the narrative are his sub-optimal approach play, which may finally catch up to him, and the fact he’s projecting yet again to be 15% owned or more.

It would not be shocking to see Montgomery play well again at Torrey Pines, but since he ranks behind at least two players in the $9,000 range in Stokastic’s projections and still has high PGA DFS ownership projections, it makes fading him a lot more attractive.

High-End Pivot: Sahith Theegala

Projected PGA DFS Ownership: DraftKings: 11.2% | FanDuel: 12.8%

Theegala is a nice pivot option off of Montgomery for the simple fact he’s cheaper and has proven his upside is just as solid. While his results tend to ebb and flow a little more, he’s finished sixth or better in three of his last eight starts and had multiple top-3 finishes on the PGA last season. Theegala is also quite familiar with this week’s venue, having played a lot of competitive golf on Torrey Pines South when he was young, and he opened his tournament here with rounds of 67 (North) and 68 (South) last season. The round of 68 was no small feat, considering the toughness of the South course.

Theegala is a few spots below Montgomery in the Stokastic Projections this week, but he is still the second-ranked player from the $8,000 range on DraftKings and trending for PGA DFS ownership projections much closer to 10%. He makes for a solid pivot to bypass the $9,000 range on DraftKings and go for lower overall ownership.

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Mid-Range Fade: Gary Woodland

Projected PGA DFS Ownership: DraftKings: 8.9% | FanDuel: 3.8%

Gary Woodland projects for just under 10% ownership this week, but that feels conservative. He always becomes a popular value target on longer courses simply because he’s posted a lot of good results at places like Torrey Pines over his career. It’s not to say Woodland doesn’t have a better chance of popping this, but his overall body of work over the last few seasons has disappointed more often than not.

Woodland is cheap enough that he’s still popping as a strong play in this range in Stokastic’s PGA DFS projections, but there are also plenty of pivots nearby him with similar skillsets and top-6 probabilities. If riding with some of the more popular names from the top of the board, then pivoting off Woodland to a lower-owned option is a smart way to avoid over-populating with chalk at every level.

Mid-Range Pivot: Brendan Steele

Projected PGA DFS Ownership: DraftKings: 4.0% | FanDuel: 5.4%

Steele could be a player to target who has similar strengths to Woodland and will likely come with half or less of the ownership on DraftKings. He hasn’t found his rhythm on the greens yet in 2023 — and admittedly that’s the worst part of his game by a mile most weeks — but his ball striking has allowed Steele to make cuts in the first two events of the season despite losing strokes on the greens.

Steele has gained over three strokes on approach in each of his first two starts and ranks top 10 in proximity from 175 yards and out. He’s missed the cut at this event two years running, but his form to begin the year looks solid and he’s posted numerous top-20s at Torrey Pines, a venue he almost always has on his schedule. Steele is a solid pivot who ranks right below Woodland this week in the Stokastic PGA DFS projections, making him an ideal pivot play in larger-field GPPs.

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Geoff Ulrich

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