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Farmers Insurance Open 2023 PGA DFS Preview: Sungjae Im Is Overdue For a Win

Geoff Ulrich

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The Farmers Insurance Open often marks the beginning of the real meat of the daily fantasy golf season, beginning the West Coast swing. Torrey Pines South is always one of the toughest courses the players encounter on the regular PGA calendar, and in 2020 it played as the seventh-hardest venue on tour. The sprawling par 72 carries a lot of bite, with thicker Kikuyu rough and bumpy, fast poa greens.

The Farmers Insurance Open has a regular Friday cut line of top 65 and ties. The one drawback is, because of the lack of daylight at this time of year, there again is a two-course rotation. Players rotate between the North and South courses prior to the cut, getting in one round on each before playing the South only on the weekend.

Don’t forget to check out the Stokastic PGA DFS projections, which has both scoring data and PGA DFS ownership projections. Stokastic PGA DFS projections come out on Monday and will be updated throughout the week.

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PGA DFS Picks: 2023 Farmers Insurance Open Preview

Last year this venue gave had a playoff between Luke List and Will Zalatoris, both of whom have styles that win at Torrey Pines. They are two of the best pure ball strikers in the game when in form and have the consistency with their long irons to handle the long par 4’s and par 5’s.

The last few weeks, players had multiple holes where average tee shots would get them a wedge into the green. But here at Torrey Pines, the most popular baskets of approaches are between 175 and 200 yards and greater than 200 yards. Long approaches will be the norm on almost every hole.

One other important feature of Torrey Pines is the greens, which feature bumpy, fast, unpredictable poa grass. These greens tend to even things out for the less skilled putters, as most players will struggle with three-putts and short misses. Make rates from close range go way down at Torrey Pines, but there are more birdies from longer out (25-plus feet). That’s because of how hard it is to get close to the hole on approach.

For stats focuses, long iron proximity and three-putt avoidance, along with strokes gained tee to green and off the tee, are good places to start.

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Below are some of the top players in the field to watch this week given their recent form and course history:

  1. Jon Rahm: Rahm has started the season by going 54 under par in his first eight competitive rounds. He’s won at Torrey Pines twice in his career already and hasn’t finished worse than seventh at this event/venue in his last seven appearances.
  2. Taylor Montgomery: Montgomery was near the top in Palm Springs before a water ball at 17 dipped him back into fifth for the week. It’s been a solid start to 2023 for the putting maestro, as he has finished top 15 in seven of his last eight PGA starts. This will be an interesting event for him, however, as he is just 148th in this field in strokes gained on approach.
  3. Tony Finau: Finau made his second start of the season last week and finished in a tidy 16th place. He hit his irons extremely well, gaining three strokes on approach over the two measured rounds. As one of the longest hitters in the game, Finau has handled Torrey Pines well, finishing sixth or better at this event in four of his last six starts. He has a lot of confidence, and now the venue shifts in his favor.
  4. Jason Day: Day has really turned his career around over the last six months. He finished 18th last week, and that was his fifth top-25 finish over his last six starts. A revamped swing looks like it’s given him the ability to swing consistently hard without reinjury, and he’ll now get a crack at one of his favorite venues on the PGA Tour in Torrey Pines — where he’s won twice as a pro.
  5. Stephan Jaeger: Jaeger has now made the cut in 11 of his last 12 starts on the PGA Tour. As a shorter hitter, his lack of distance will hamper him, but shorter hitters like Patrick Reed and Brandt Snedeker have tamed Torrey Pines with great short games and immaculate putting. Jaeger ranks fifth in strokes gained around the green and was near the leaders after two rounds at this venue during the 2020 U.S. Open. He’s a dark horse to consider for DFS and bets.

Field notes: Joining Rahm this week from the top 10 in the OWGR will be Xander Schauffele (6), Will Zalatoris (7), Justin Thomas (8) and Collin Morikawa (9). Both Zalatoris and Schauffele deserve some attention for injury issues; Schauffele has an ongoing back problem that seems likely to cause him to miss time at some point this season, and Zalatoris has already been seen adjusting his swing to compensate for back injuries sustained last season. One player that is making his debut this week is Cameron Champ. Champ had a horrendous end of the season, missing three cuts in a row, but he did place eighth at the CJ Cup. His off-tee game makes him live to make some noise, and he did finish 16th at this tournament in 2020.

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Farmers Insurance Open Past Winners and Winners Stats

2022: Luke List (80-1)

  • Lead-in: 22/10/11, (List finished 22nd the week prior at the Amex)
  • Stats for week of win: SG:OTT 1.3/SG:APP 5.4/SG:ATG 0.7/SG:PUTT 3.7/SG:TTG 7.4
  • List had a tremendous week ball striking and finally found some upside with his putter. Like many of the world’s top ball strikers, he has the game to find consistent success at Torrey simply because of his consistency in that area.
  • List also led the field in strokes gained putting from 10 to 15 feet and was one of the best in proximity from 150 yards and out.

2021: Patrick Reed (28-1)

  • Lead in: MC/21/10, (Reed missed the cut at the American Express the week prior)
  • Stats for week of win: SG:OTT 1.1/SG:APP 0.7/SG:ATG 3.9/SG:PUTT 4.5/SG:TTG 5.8
  • Reed scrambled and putted his way to win in 2021, putting on a fantastic display around and on the greens to win by multiple strokes.
  • He was by no means terrible off the tee or on approach, but his results in those areas don’t match most of the past winners from the last 10 years or so — who usually show really strongly in approach and/or off-tee stats.

2020: Marc Leishman (50-1)

  • Lead-in: 28/69/43, (Leishman didn’t play the American Express the week prior and finished 28th at the Sony)
  • Stats for week of win: SG:OTT -0.4/SG:APP 3.9/SG:ATG -0.9/SG:PUTT 8.0/SG:TTG 3.4
  • Leishman may not have had the best week tee to green when he won, but he’d also played this event/venue numerous times in the past and had some close calls in years prior.
  • He still hit his irons extremely well and obviously went nuclear with the putter, which again was likely helped by the experience factor given Torrey’s tricky greens.

Want to see who is trending as a strong play early? Check out Stokastic’s PGA DFS projections, which will be updated on Monday and throughout the week.

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2023 Farmers Insurance Open Course Preview

Torrey Pines South (Host) – Par 72, 7,697 yards

Torrey Pines North (Thursday and Friday only) – Par 72, 7,258

Greens: Poa Annua (North – Bentgrass)

Designer: William P. Bell and William F. Bell (1957) – Rees Jones (Renovation)

Similar Courses: Pebble Beach, TPC Harding Park

There’s a stark contrast in the two courses in play this week despite both being longer par 72s that play along the ocean in San Diego. Torrey North plays about 400 yards shorter than the South venue and is also a fair bit easier. The routing of the course brings in fewer penalty areas, and the newly installed bentgrass greens are generally easier to navigate.

Players have to play three of their rounds at Torrey South this week, and any round under par on the South course will usually beat the field average on any of the three days. The South course will throw plenty of mid- to long-range approach shots at the players, and the difficulty on approach will stiffen even further if off-tee play is poor. Players see more 200-yard approaches at Torrey Pines than at any other venue on the PGA Tour.

With longer approaches come low green-in-regulation percentages; the average at this event tends to about 5% to 7% under the PGA average. Additionally, longer holes also means more drivers off the tee — which leads to more missed fairways. The pain doesn’t stop there, however, as Torrey also sees some of the highest three-putt percentages every season due to its bumpy poa greens.

This is a true U.S. Open venue, and if the weather stays cool or the wind gets up, it can play difficult, even without an official USGA official overseeing things.


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2023 Farmers Insurance Open Recent Form Watch

Strokes Gained on Approach (Last 50 Rounds)

  • Will Zalatoris
  • Xander Schauffele
  • Collin Morikawa
  • Brendan Steele
  • Tony Finau

Top Approach Proximity Greater Than 200 yards (Last 50 Rounds)

  • Xander Schauffele
  • Gary Woodland
  • Sungjae Im
  • Brendan Steele
  • Emiliano Grillo

Top Three-Putt Avoidance (Last 50 Rounds)

  • Tony Finau
  • Xander Schauffele
  • Robert Streb
  • Maverick McNealy
  • Ben Crane

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Farmers Insurance Open Weather Forecast

Wednesday a.m.: 55-60 F, winds 3-5 mph/0% chance of precipitation

Wednesday p.m.: 60-65 F, winds 7-9 mph/0% chance of precipitation

Thursday a.m.: 50-55 F, winds 7-12 mph/0% chance of precipitation

Thursday p.m.: 60 F, winds 20-22 mph (gusts up to 30mph)/0% chance of precipitation

The weather was a complete non-factor last week, but that likely won’t be the case here. The ocean looks like it will be bringing in heat on Thursday in the form of wind gusts. As of now, steady 20 mph winds are expected to begin just after noon on Thursday, with gusts in the afternoon approaching 30 mph. Wave stacking may be necessary, but don’t make plans until there is an updated forecast Tuesday night.

2023 Farmers Insurance Open Early Betting Targets and DFS Picks

Sungjae Im | BetMGM Outright

Im is well overdue for a win. He has been piling up solid results for half a year now, posting eight top-20s over his last 10 starts alone — a stretch which includes three runner-up finishes. Despite being just 24 years of age, this will somehow be Im’s fifth time playing in this week’s event, and he’s improved his finishing position every year he’s come — posting a career-best sixth place at this venue last season. While his approach game hasn’t clicked yet in 2023, a change in venue may help break that funk. Im ranks second in proximity from greater than 200 yards, so his best strength (long irons) should be on display plenty. He also putted extremely well on the poa greens last season, gaining 4.5 strokes on the greens alone. With Jon Rahm dominating the news, a decent line on Im may be available early Monday. He’ll be worth venturing given his experience and recent form.

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Kurt Kitayama | BetMGM Outright

For bigger odds, Kitayama should be considered at this venue. He grew up on the West Coast and posted his second-ever top 20 on the PGA at Pebble Beach in 2021. Kitayama showed some classy play at times in 2022, pushing both Rahm and Rory McIlroy at the end of events in Mexico and South Carolina on his way to garnering three runner-up finishes. He ranks top 10 in approach proximity from 175 and 200 yards and 200-plus yards, and he will certainly be well rested after missing the cut in his only start of 2023 in Hawaii.

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