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Farmers Insurance Open: Stanley can tame Torrey

Kyle Stanley has a score to settle
Kyle Stanley has a score to settle
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Dave Tindall previews this week's PGA Tour event - the Farmers Insurance Open at Torrey Pines in California...

"In the table of biggest Net gain in world rankings points for 2017, Stanley placed 11th after making a massive surge from 258th at the start of the year to 48th at the end. He's now up to 45th."

Main Bet: Back Kyle Stanley e.w. @ 50/1

Each-way terms: 1/5 odds, 7 places

Main Bet: Back Kyle Stanley e.w. @ 50/1

Six years ago, Kyle Stanley was at the centre of two of the most incredible back-to-back weeks in the history of the PGA Tour.

Playing in his third Farmers Insurance Open at Torrey Pines, the American shot 62-68-68 to open up a six-shot lead with 18 to play. He even built it to seven in round four before finding the going tougher as the day went on.

However, he stood on the final tee with a three-shot lead. The closer at Torrey Pines is a par 5 so he could afford seven swishes and still win his first PGA Tour title. He took eight.

It was always going to be a massive task to put it out of his mind and win the play-off and, indeed, he lost out to Brandt Snedeker at the second extra hole.

Stanley got straight back on the horse at the following week's Waste Management Phoenix Open. No-one would have been surprised to see him miss the cut but he performed well for three days, ending Saturday eight shots off the pace.

And then, flipping the script spectacularly from the previous week, he fired a brilliant 65 on the Sunday to storm through and win by a shot.

For a long time, that amazing fortnight was all he was really known for. He lost his card at the end of 2014, struggled horribly with the putter and looked as if he might have had his moment.

But Stanley, still only 30, bounced back last year with a bang and posted his second PGA Tour win by landing the 2017 Quicken Loans National. His winning total of 7-under showed he liked a tough test where his ball-striking could come to the fore and that's what makes him a good fit at Torrey Pines.

Surprise, surprise, he missed the cut at Torrey in both 2013 and 2014 as his game dipped in general but, after making it to the weekend in 2015, he improved to T25 in 2016 and jumped again to T14 last year.

In the table of biggest Net gain in world rankings points for 2017, Stanley placed 11th after making a massive surge from 258th at the start of the year to 48th at the end. He's now up to 45th.

Number one on that same list was Jon Rahm, with Tommy Fleetwood third - last week's winners on the PGA and European Tours. Brian Harman is also high up so it seems that those who flourished in 2017 have made fast starts this year.

Stanley didn't do anything at the Sentry Tournament of Champions but then shot 64-67-65-71 for T10 in the Sony Open on his last start to make it four top 20s in five events on the 2017/2018 wraparound schedule.

That should set him up nicely for another crack at Torrey Pines and, although it doesn't owe him anything, there's a great story waiting to be written.

Back him at 50/1.


Next Best: Back Tony Finau e.w. @ 33/1

Tony Finau's record in the majors - T10, T14, T18 and T27 in just seven played - shows that he likes and can play well in tough conditions.

With single digits under par winning three of the last four Farmers Insurance Opens, Finau will get the sort of test he likes and, indeed, Torrey Pines is right up his street in many ways.

The course suits his monster hitting (currently second in Driving Distance), it's a coastal track where it can really blow (Finau won his only Tour title by the sea at the windy Puerto Rico Open and has played well in his two Open Championship starts) and it features Poa Annua greens.

Finau is ranked 12th on the Future of Fantasy's list of top performers on Poa since 2013/14.

In theory he should flourish, but what about the reality?

The World no. 44 has teed it up at Torrey three times, made the top 25 on every visit, and improved his finish each time. He was T24 on debut in 2015, T18 in the wild Sunday winds of 2016 and T4 last year when starting the final day just one back.

"I think when you hit it with some length, it's a golf course that you can take advantage of, for sure," said Finau of Torrey Pines South (host venue for three of the four laps this week. "Length is I think a big part of playing out here."

As for current form, Finau has been in fine fettle since the second half of last season. After a top five in Canada, his final six starts of 2017 read: 7-7-2-26-11-16. With Betfair paying out on seven places, that means he's been returning the each-way cash.

So far in 2018, he's played just once and finished T32 in the Sony Open. Nothing wrong with that, especially as he closed his week at Waialae with three 67s and also bagged himself his first hole-in-one on the PGA Tour.

Finau looks primed for a big show at 33/1.

Others up to 50/1 I looked at included Gary Woodland at 40s and Patrick Cantlay at 30s.

Woodland has three top 20s here in the last four years although his Sunday struggles have frustrated each-way punters.

Cantlay missed the cut on his only appearance in 2013 but just plays well everywhere now. He's already a winner this season after his November triumph in Las Vegas.


Final Bet: Back Jon Rahm e.w. @ 8/1

Given how the very elite players appear able to rack up back-to-back wins, I'm going to ride the hot horse and go with defending champion Jon Rahm as my final pick.

Sure, it seems unimaginative but a win at 8s does the job just as well as a plucky third place at much bigger odds and, right now, Rahm is the hottest player in golf.

Last three starts? 1-2-1. Last year here? Won by three after slamming the door shut with a 60ft eagle on the iconic 18th.

Those latest three finishes have come in Dubai, Hawaii and California so fly him anywhere and the Spaniard will thrive.

To be up to second in the world rankings already is a phenomenal achievement given that there are so many other young talents being feted so the more I look at the 8/1, the more I think it's okay.

Rahm pulls off the trick of sounding both humble and flowing with confidence at the same time and after his win at the CareerBuilder Challenge on Sunday, achieved with a closing 67, he said: "It was really supreme ball striking on my part today. Especially on the back nine I hit the ball as good as I can, didn't miss many shots. I'm excited it happened the way it did because it's going to make me be a better player.

"It (the win) puts a little bit more on me, I hoped it was going to be on Tiger the whole week and leave me a little bit alone, even though I was defending champion, but for sure this is going to carry a little bit of attention, but in the end I love Torrey Pines and I had a great week and hopefully I can carry the ball striking over and repeat."

Ah, yes, Tiger Woods.

His eight wins here (seven in this event and the 2008 US Open with a gammy leg), along with the two victories for Brandt Snedeker, bode well for Rahm as they confirm it's a horses-for-courses track where players can go in again.

Woods at 22/1 doesn't really interest me even though there was much to enjoy about his T9 at the Hero World Challenge before Christmas. I'd be thrilled to see him contend but that just seems a false price.

Marc Leishman comes far closer to selection due to a pair of second places at this venue while Justin Rose took fourth here last year and was clearly getting sharper by the round in Abu Dhabi. If he can recapture the form he showed at the end of 2017 the Englishman would be hard to stop.

Rickie Fowler should play well here so recent Torrey Pines form of MC-61-MC-MC (2014-2017) is baffling. His backers do have a couple of top sixes (2010 and 2013) as ammunition though.

Hideki Matsuyama hasn't really cracked the code here and will probably just be looking for a solid week ahead of his three-peat attempt in Phoenix next week.


Dave's 2017/18 PGA Tour P/L (based on £5 e/w per selection outrights, £10 win top 5s/10s)

Staked: £310
Returned: £787
P/L: +£477

(After the CareerBuilder Challenge)

2016/2017:
P/L: +£1179.89

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