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The stars have shown up this week for somewhat of a major preview.
Yes, the South Course at Torrey Pines will look a lot different in the hands of the USGA this summer than it will this week as it plays host to the Farmers Insurance Open. But that hasn't stopped big names like betting favorite Jon Rahm and former world No. 1 Rory McIlroy from heading to San Diego this week as the West Coast Swing heats up.
While players will get in one round on the easier North Course, there's nowhere to hide on the brutal South. Strong iron play and bogey avoidance are prerequisites, and players will need to conquer fickle poa annua putting greens. Throw in this year's dicey weather forecast, with winds already whipping the coastal layout early in the week, and it could prove to be an unpredictable week.
That's why I'm steering clear of the big names at the top of the odds chart, opting instead for some value picks further down the sheet. Here's a look at who I have my eye on, starting with a player who just got back into the winner's circle earlier this month:
To Win (odds via PointsBet Sportsbook)
Harris English (+2500): No reason to back down now that English got his hands on a long-awaited trophy. Prior to his victory this month at Kapalua, the veteran's only two Tour wins came just months apart so there's reason to believe this could be the first of many for a player who has been among the Tour's best ball-strikers for the last 18 months or so. English has a strong record at this event, with three top-15 finishes in his last six starts highlighted by a playoff loss in 2015. His pristine iron play will once again give him a leg up on one of the Tour's most difficult tracks, as will his ability to steer clear of the big number (he's 10th on Tour this season in bogey avoidance). With Rahm and McIlroy weighing down the odds at the top, this is an appealing price for a player with a potent combination of recent form and course history.
Billy Horschel (+6600): This is another intriguing number for a proven winner who has three straight top-25 finishes, including a T-7 result at Sony just two weeks ago. Horschel played the last 36 holes in the final group alongside Tiger Woods when Woods cruised to a win at this event back in 2013, and he has since added a pair of top-10s while missing the cut just once. Horschel often leans on a strong short game to get into contention, but at this event two years ago he ranked 20th in SG: Approach. A similar uptick in iron play could be timely for a player who has a strong track record on U.S. Open venues when miscues are punished and par can often become the target.
Cameron Davis (+7000): This has been an event, and venue, where the Aussies tend to shine. Marc Leishman rallied to win last year with a memorable final round, while Jason Day has won this event twice. Davis might be the next to follow in their footsteps, still well down the odds list despite a third-place finish last week in Palm Springs. While he hasn't won yet on Tour, he did beat a solid field to win the Australian Open at age 22 and has been trending in the right direction in recent months. Davis has made the cut in each of his three prior appearances at Torrey Pines, getting better with each result despite failing to break par in the final round on the South Course. If he solves the weekend riddle this time around, he could keep the Aussie flag flying.
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Top-10 Finish (odds via PointsBet)
Gary Woodland (+625): Look no further than the 2019 U.S. Open to see what Woodland can do on a major-caliber course that features poa annua greens. Woodland hasn't quite been the same since leaving Pebble Beach with the trophy, but that's largely because of a nagging hip injury. After some offseason treatment, he said last week at the AmEx that he "borderline wanted to cry" after finally playing pain-free. A T-16 finish in Palm Springs is promising, and while he may not be ready to win again just yet at +8000 I think he has a great chance to contend on a course that should play to his strengths, and one where he racked up four straight top-20 finishes before last year's missed cut.
John Huh (+800): Huh is flying under the radar but picking up solid finishes, with top-25 results in four of his last five starts. He didn't miss a beat last week in Palm Springs, finishing T-21 in his first start since November, and boasts some Strokes Gained stats that many of his peers would covet: 17th this season in SG: Approach and 21st in SG: Tee-to-Green. The former Rookie of the Year is a regular fixture at Torrey with a pair of previous top 10s, having only missed the cut once in nine prior appearances. One of those strong weeks came in 2016, when he finished T-8 despite some wild final-round weather.
Brandt Snedeker (+1200): I just can't pass up this eye-popping number on a veteran who has a clear affinity for this tournament. Snedeker has won here twice, including the memorable 2016 event that was marred by inclement weather, and he has seven top-10 finishes since 2010 including a T-3 result just last year. He hasn't cracked the top 10 anywhere since, and this week dropped out of the top 100 in the world rankings for the first time in more than a decade, so there's ample reason to be saddled with a lofty price. But I'll side with strong course history and take my chances.
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