Weekend Betting At Farmers Insurance Open: Favorites Rise To Top

FairwayJay chips-in coverage, comments and tips on the weekend at the Farmers Insurance Open

Viktor Hovland (-9) leads into the weekend with Rahm, Reed, Finau, Scott and Palmer just 1-shot back 

Tournament favorites and some of the top players on Tour have risen to the top of the leaderboard heading into the weekend at the Farmers Insurance Open. The weather got rough at both the North and South courses Friday, as Torrey Pines golf course got pounded with significant rain, hail and howling winds that caused some delays. Scores went higher, and the longer and tougher South Course had one of its highest scoring days in the history of the tournament.

Tournament leader Viktor Hovland didn't care. He shot a sizzling 7-under par 65 to take the lead at 9-under par and lead by one stroke over six top challengers. A chip shot away are five other top-30 players in the world golf rankings - tournament favorite Jon Rahm, Patrick Reed, Tony Finau, Adam Scott and Ryan Palmer. Also 8-under par is Lanto Griffin and another tournament favorite Rory McIlrroy (-5) is lurking and looking to move up on moving day Saturday. 

With 36 holes to play, the adjusted tournament odds to win the Farmers Insurance Open look like this as provided by leading online sportsbook BetOnline. 

+400 - Viktor Hovland (-9)
+400 - Jon Rahm (-8)
+550 - Tony Finau (-8)
+600 - Patrick Reed (-8)
+700 - Adam Scott (-8)
+800 - Ryan Palmer (-8)
+1200 - Lanto Griffin (-8)
+2500 - Peter Malnati (-7)
+2500 - Rory McIlroy (-5)

If you like Rory McIlroy to win at this stage of the tournament, you'll want to bet him at BetOnline, as most other leading online sportsbooks have his odds half of that from +1100 to +1400. I'll add that McIlroy hit 32 Greens in Regulation (GIR) in his opening 36 holes at the Farmers, tying his second-most through 36 holes during his PGA Tour career. 

Weekly PGA Tour Betting and Updates

I cover weekly PGA Tour events from a betting perspective for a number of media outlets and websites each week. In addition to noting the odds and tournament favorites, I add some 'Golfers to Watch' that includes players in the next tier of mid-range golfers along with some big longshots. I add some tournament match-ups of interest and to bet each week, along with some of the players to consider as 'Fairway Favorites and Longshots' to target for top 5, 10 or 20 finishing position as well. 

Periodically I'll tweet out a round-by-round match-up of interest to bet if I've taken the time to evaluate the action, stats, odds and situations developing throughout the tournament. 

Thursday I fired out a Round 2 match-up on Max Homa over Steve Stricker, and Homa delivered a winner with a 4-under 68 on the North Course Friday while Stricker shot 70. I noted the weather and felt Stricker would struggle as a shorter hitter. 

Top Scores on the South Course and Round 3 Picks

The final two rounds are on the South Course only, and the top scores on Thursday and Friday are worth noting, especially players who played the South Course Friday. On a day that Hovland shots a sizzling 65, the South Course scoring average was 74.68. Hovland's 9.68 strokes gained total is the 3rd-best round on the South Course since tracking began in 2004 (total rounds: more than 5,400).

The best scores from notable players on the South Course Thursday and Friday included:

Viktor Hovland (-7), Ryan Palmer (-6), Peter Malnati (-6), Rory McIlroy (-4), Jon Rahm (-3), Adam Scott (-3, Tony Finau (-3), Jason Kokrak (-3). 

Hovland, Scott and Kokrak had the best days on the South course Friday, and Jon Rahm said after playing the North course that "those who played the North today, we should be really fortunate to play that course today." He said the conditions were much more difficult Friday with very bad weather and howling side winds. Fairways are much more difficult to hit on the South Course, and Rahm added, "South today is brutal, I mean absolutely brutal." 

Hovland's 65 on Torrey Pines may be one of the very best rounds of the year when 2021 is completed. Hovland's comments after his round spoke to the tough conditions. "I think especially playing a tough course like the South Course, you can't really fake it, especially in these conditions," he said. "Playing a hard golf course and then playing well, that I think is what gives me the ultimate kind of belief that I played really well today."

I mentioned in some of the other coverage of the Famers Insurance Open that Rahm and Hovland would be players I would likely target at the U.S. Open. If you like Hovland, bet him now as his odds will drop from +5000 or better following this event, and espeically if he goes on to win or finish top 5. 

Viktor Hovland ranks No. 1 in the field in Strokes Gained: Tee-to-Green and Ball Striking through 36 holes. Ryan Palmer is No. 3 and 4 in those categories. Longshot Henrik Norlander (-2) ranks No. 2 and 3 in those stats, but his putting is worst in the field. Rory McIlroy ranks top-5 in both those strokes gained categories. Hovland is also No. 1 in Fairways Gained and No. 2 in GIR Gained. 

Round 3 match-ups: We'll stick with one of our pre-tournament guys who has also already cashed a tournament match-up, Sam Burns (-122). He's matched against Alex Noren at leading online sportsbook, Bookmaker, where you can also lay 0.5 (half a shot, ties lose) and take a plus price on Burns (+105). Burns shot 72 on the South Course Friday while Noren carded a 74 with five bogeys. Noren's SG: Approach stats rank No. 153 in the field and his SG: Ball Striking is not much better. Burns is No. 5 in Fairways Gained, and much better than Noren thus far. Both golfers are 6-under Par into the weekend, but Noren is a stronger candidate to struggle and slide down the standings. 

Betting Data and Insights 

My update at Forbes included the most bet golfers and Farmers Insurance Open betting data from leading online sportsbooks. As usual, the top of the market and betting favorite drew most the publics betting action in the outright win market. Rahm, Finau, McIlroy and Matthew Wolff were well supported. But bettors got burned by Matthew Wolff, and match-up bettors were left holding the bag as well when Wolff withdrew with a hand injury that has flared up and been bothering him. That type of news would be worth knowing, but it also speaks to the hazards of betting golf and how some of your bets can unexpectedely find the deep rough or even go out of bounds. 

Wagering on outrights is not the way to beat golf betting or the bookmakers, as tournament match-ups, props, top finishing position or round-by-round match-ups are a more prudent play towards making profit. The payoffs are not as great, and mixing in some win bets can be part of your betting portfolio. But outright win bets should not be a primary wagering tactic or represent a higher percentage of your bets or allotted bankroll for a weekend of wagering on the PGA Tour. 

Consider this example. If you bet Rory McIlroy before the tournament, he was at odds near +800. Would you rather have him at +800 prior to the tournament having to beat 155 golfers, or +2500 with 36 holes to play and tied for 14th place? Betting on favorites below 20/1 offers little or no value pre-tournament.

Finding a flyer or value like Sam Burns (-6), who I noted as a 'Golfer to Watch' and a 'overlooked contender' at +9500, is a more prudent play. Burns was a player I felt you could support in the top finishing position market. I noted his current form and stats including positive Strokes Gained numbers. Like betting a horse to hit the board and finish in-the-money, Burns is in position to cash in at solid odds with a top 10, 20 or 30 spot, which even paid +225 for top-30. Burns was also our top tournament match-up pick, and that bet has already cashed and is in the bag, as the match-up opponent MacKenzie Hughes missed the cut.

Another 'Golfer to Watch' on our radar and betting interest was Adam Scott, who I noted that despite sub-par recent stats, would 'be back in his groove soon', and Torrey Pines was a good place to start. He looked like he was going to shoot a round in the mid-60’s Friday before the conditions got rough. He finished with the second-best round of the day of 69 on the South Course. Scott finished T2 in his only start at Torrey Pines in 2019. 

U.S. Open at Torrey Pines

Another reason to watch this tournament more closely is that Torrey Pines South is the host course for the 2021 U.S. Open in June. The course will play differerent and be far more difficult in June for the U.S. Open setup/ Thicker heavier kikuyu rough and firmer, bouncier greens will be just part of the challenge in dryer and faster conditions. The course will also play as a Par 71 with hole No. 6 converted from a Par 5 to Par 4. Golf Digest reported today that "We’re going back to more old-fashioned U.S. Opens where we put a premium on accuracy off the tee. You’re going to see that at Torrey Pines."

At least watch the scores this weekend from some of the top players and any golfers that make a move up the leaderboard with stronger strokes gained stats. A power player will likely emerge as a winner this week at the Farmers event, and more so at the U.S. Open, where Tiger Woods won in a 19-hole playoff over Rocco Mediate at Torrey Pines. I attended that event in person with a trip to the California coast, and those two players were the only golfers to finish under par (-1). 

While it's a sure bet that Tiger Woods won't win again at Torrey Pines this summer, golf fans are at least hoping he'll return and play after having another back surgery recently and ruled out for at least a few months. Regardless, golf is in good hands with elite, top talent and so many world class players from early 20's to mid 40's in age. The Farmers Insurance Open and U.S. Open will produce strong, proven players with power games to win. 

You can bet on it. 

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