The U.S. Open will head to Torrey Pines and San Diego this summer, but first the coastal track plays host to this week's Farmers Insurance Open.
Former world No. 1s Jon Rahm and Rory McIlroy headline the field, as several big names use this week as an opportunity to get a lay of the land ahead of this year's third major. Both the North and South Courses will be used early in the week, with the South playing host to the third and fourth rounds. It's one of the Tour's sternest tests, boasting a combination of long par-3s, thick rough and difficult poa annua greens.
Rahm headlines the DraftKings salary list, one week after he was a late scratch from The American Express, followed by McIlroy. But I've got my eye on the third player in line, as Tony Finau headlines the stars to roster in DFS after missing out on yet another chance for that elusive second win:
Tony Finau ($10,700 on DraftKings): Want to capitalize on one of the Tour's most consistent players without fear of him letting another opportunity to snag a trophy slip away? Then DFS may be the best option when it comes to Finau. It was another Sunday to forget for the veteran, who was solid but made a couple of crucial errors while slipping to fourth place in Palm Springs. But he remains a solid roster option, with top-15 finishes in six of his last nine starts dating back to last summer, and his record at this event is exemplary. Finau has never finished worse than T-24 in six prior starts, with three top-6 finishes over the last four years. The difficulties of the South Course play to his advantage with length off the tee and strong approach play, and that combination should be a big reason why he's near the top of the leaderboard again this weekend.
Bubba Watson ($8,800): This is Watson's first start since the Masters, and there's always a bit of a question about what you're going to get from the two-time major champ. But it's usually pretty good around these parts. Watson won this event in 2011 and has three other top-10 finishes, including a T-6 result last year in his first appearance since 2014. Like Finau, the southpaw has plenty of firepower off the tee and this is one of the courses where sheer power and distance can often be rewarded. But Watson has been an elite ball-striker this season, ranking second on Tour in SG: Tee-to-Green, and he closed out the year with two top-10 finishes before the Masters. Don't be surprised if he returns to that form this week on a course where he has had plenty of success.
Xander Schauffele ($10,400): Schauffele is one of the Tour's most consistent players, and normally this would be a green-light situation as the San Diego native is back in familiar territory. But this actually been one he has struggled with recently, missing the cut in four of five prior appearances. The only time he saw the weekend was a T-25 finish in 2019, as he has broken 70 just once in 12 rounds across the two courses. Whether he has been pulled in two many directions during a de facto home game, and whether the pandemic conditions might actually eliminate some of the variables that impacted him previously, remains to be seen. But it's enough of a cautionary tale to scare me off, given the high price point and strong stable of talent around him in that general salary zone.
Rickie Fowler ($8,000): Another example of course form painting an unflattering portrait. Fowler was nails at Torrey Pines early in his career, finishing T-20 or better in each of his first four appearances. But since 2014 he has made the cut just twice, never finishing inside the top 60. Fowler picked up a Farmers Insurance endorsement in 2012, and his relationship with the company means this tournament tends to take on some extra importance (not to mention additional sponsor obligations during event week). That hasn't translated into results, to put it mildly. Throw in the pressure he's facing to get back into the OWGR top 50 by March (currently 61st) in order to qualify for the Masters, and it's not a situation where I'm looking to count on him even after he rallied for a T-21 finish last week that marked his first top-25 finish since July.
Brandt Snedeker ($7,000): I mentioned Snedeker in another piece this week, and I'm still buying into the former champ in this format as a DFS bargain. Snedeker's course history at Torrey Pines is nearly unrivaled, with two wins among seven top-10 finishes since 2010. While he hasn't had a top-10 finish in a year and has plummeted outside the top 100 in the world as a result, the last time he was in contention was - you guessed it - at this event a year ago, when he finished T-3. Snedeker has played well here in good conditions, and he has won when a storm nearly blew the field away. I'm willing to take a chance here and buy low on a veteran who can be streaky at times but who clearly feels comfortable on a course that knocks so many in the field on their heels with regularity.
Jamie Lovemark ($6,200): This is a bit of a risk, but I see some positive signs in the Southern California product. Lovemark finished T-40 last week in Palm Springs, shooting four straight rounds under par, and earned OWGR points for the first time in nearly a year as a result. Injuries have long been a concern and have limited his potential, but Lovemark has always been one of the longer players on Tour and that should suit him well this week. He has been a regular at this event, making the cut in six of nine prior trips, and has turned each of his last three weekend appearances into top-40 finishes. He has made the cut in each of his first two starts this year, finishing T-67 at Sony, and could be a viable addition if you're looking to round out a roster.