Farmers Insurance Open: Count on course horse Keegan
The PGA Tour stays in California this week and Dave Tindall has three each-way picks for the Farmers Insurance Open at Torrey Pines...
"At Waialae, Bradley gained 7.285 strokes Tee-to-Green and that ball-striking bodes well for taking on the South Course."
Each-way terms: 1/5 odds, 7 places
Main Bet: Back Keegan Bradley each-way @ 40/1
Tiger Woods' ridiculous amount of wins at Torrey Pines immediately plants the idea that this is a horses for courses event.
As well as being the scene of his last (but perhaps not final) major win in 2008, Woods won this tournament on seven occasions and in the last three years we've seen both Jason Day (2018) and Brandt Snedeker (2016) claim the trophy for a second time after previous wins.
Digging deeper, I also noticed that in the last four years there have been 10 instances of players scoring back-to-back top 10s at the Farmers. That's a very healthy strike-rate.
Those with the chance to extend that sequence this time are, in price order, Jason Day, Justin Rose, Marc Leishman, Alex Noren, Keegan Bradley, J.B. Holmes, Ryan Palmer, Pat Perez and Harris English.
The one I like best is Bradley at 40s.
In fact, Bradley has already contributed to the stat by finishing fourth in 2017 and fifth last year. Prior to that he also made the top 25 in 2011, 2012 and 2014 so this is a test he relishes time after time.
Bradley's career had stalled for a while but last year he made a big move back up the world rankings, jumping from 77th to 30th in the second half of 2018 thanks to a win in the BMW Championship, the penultimate FedEx Cup play-off event, a top four in Canada and a T6 in the WGC-HSBC Champions.
His good form is well entrenched now. The 2011 USPGA winner hasn't missed a cut since June's US Open and not finished outside the top 30 in his last seven starts.
True, T27 in the limited-field Sentry Tournament of Championship means I'm cooking the books a little but he backed that up with T29 in the Sony Open where he ranked third for greens in regulation.
Overall at Waialae, Bradley gained 7.285 strokes Tee-to-Green and that ball-striking bodes well for taking on the South Course which, as always, hosts three of the four rounds and is one of the toughest par 70s on the PGA Tour.
Next Best: Back Brandt Snedeker each-way @ 40/1
All the above reasoning about course horses means I don't quite get why Brandt Snedeker is 40/1 this week.
The Californian hasn't exactly got Tiger's course-form figures but nevertheless they're hugely impressive.
Starting from 2007 they read: 3-MC-9-42-2-9-1-2-MC-19-1-9-45.
That's two wins, two seconds, a third and three other top 10s.
Given that plethora of course form, you'd think his current result were really quite average to be quoted at 40/1. Except they aren't.
Snedeker played both Hawaii events and after feeling his way back with T22 at the Sentry TOC, he improved with four rounds in the 60s to take T16 in the Sony Open.
His short game was particularly good at Waialae and that's always held him in good stead here.
Snedeker was in the top six for Scrambling in all four of his top twos here and putted well too.
He's not the classic bomber who typically does well at the course but he finds a way to get it around and arguably his finest hour came here in 2016 when defying brutal winds to win with a 69.
That was just under nine shots better than the field average.
The 38-year-old captured his ninth PGA Tour win when landing August's Wyndham Championship after opening with a 59 and gave us a glimpse into the current state of his game at the Sony a couple of weeks ago.
"I am fully healthy. Body feels great. Last week was a good first week of the year to kind of see where my game stacked up. I drove it great; just didn't really make a lot of putts last week and my wedge game was a little bit off.
"Came here with those two main focuses this week, make sure my wedge game was on point and really focused on my putting. Today went well; drove it pretty good."
Why does he love this tournament so much? "It's always great to be back in San Diego. This is a place that's very near and dear to my heart. This is kind of where my career started and had a lot of success here over the last four or five years. So I love coming here."
And something a little more scientific? "The greens, I have no problems adjusting to these greens whatsoever. I come in hitting the ball right speed, reading the right lines, and when you do that, and you have that kind of confidence, it kind of bleeds into the rest of your game.
"So I never really panic around here. I always know I'm one round away from playing really well. So it kind of all blends into being a great fit for me."
I've heard enough. Get stuck in at 40/1.
Outsider Pick: Back Martin Laird each-way @ 125/1
"It's probably my favourite event of the year. How can you beat being out here on the South Course with these views and this weather. Farmers is always a fantastic event. When you get weather like this, it's tough to beat it. I just love being here and it shows with how I play. I generally play pretty good here because of that."
Martin Laird said that in 2016 and he backed it up with T8 that year after finishing T7 in 2015.
The last two years? Not so good. A missed cut in 2018 and an MDF exit in 2017 after a third-round 76.
Nevertheless, it certainly makes sense why the high-ball hitter does well here. He can get soft landings on these small greens with his towering irons.
Sometimes the weather can affect that but the forecast this week is for light winds all four days.
He also likes what he sees from the tee. "I don't know, it just kind of sets up for my eye. There's a lot of tee shots I like the look of. Some weeks it's the opposite and this week it happens to be the case for me."
Laird is 125/1 for a reason, of course, and current form shows MC-MC. However, the first of those was in November while he didn't quite make it through to the last day of the Desert Classic.
His round scores in those two events include a 65 (R1 last week), a 68 and a 69 and he hit just under 80% of his greens in the Desert Classic so the dial on his tuner perhaps isn't far away from finding a big hit.
Starting with his T7 here four years ago, Laird has six top 10s in California and the Arizona-based Scot has always played well on the West Coast since moving out there.
He gave another example of that in the Sanderson Farms Championship in October when also T7.
When interviewed last week, Laird revealed: "Obviously coming out your first round of the new year and making nine birdies is always going to be nice. I've been playing nicely the last week at home and was excited to get here and nice to take it on the course."
That was after not picking up a club for six to seven weeks so hopefully the freshness/rust balance will play out well across the full week and Laird can put in a challenge.
Finally, can Tiger Woods triumph again?
He'll have some backers, especially as Phil Mickelson showed last week that it's possible for the 40-somethings to click straight into action after a long break.
But Phil was 40s at the Desert Classic and Tiger is 14s here so I'm not as inclined to give him the benefit of the doubt despite his phenomenal record.
Dave's 2018/19 PGA Tour P/L (based on £5 ew per selection outrights, £10 win top 5s/10s)