Today's Free Picks for
Posted Wednesday, June 16
Cutoff time for this event is June 17 at 9:00 AM EST.
Streaming Subscribers: Watch on Sky Sports Golf Channel in the UK Sports group or the Sky Sports Group beginning at 4:00 PM EST on Thursday and every day thereafter.
U.S. Open Course Preview
Each year the Torrey Pines venue in La Jolla hosts the Farmers Insurance Open. The South Course, where the players find themselves this week, hosts 54 holes of that particular tournament, and we’ve seen that this layout has the capability to really bare its teeth when course officials allow.
Given a rejig by Rees Jones and the USGA for the U.S. Open, you can expect an already long and tight golf course to be, well, longer and tighter. The tee boxes will be set back as far as possible, ensuring the stretch will be a handsome 7,698 yards in length Some of the fairways have been tightened with a first cut of rough too, while the principle rough could be a thick, bushy tangle as long as four inches in places.
There has been an element of bomb-and-gouge here in the past – Finau only hit 40% of fairways in his run to T2 in January as one example, but with more danger off the tee presumably finding the short stuff will be of a premium. Even though Bryson might show otherwise, it’s probably not ideal approaching these small Poa Annua greens from the rough – they’re quick in January, so you can only imagine how slick they will run in June.
Weather Forecast for San Diego, CA
It’s a non-Californian summer week. Don’t be mistaken, as there will be almost wall to wall sunshine in La Jolla, but temperatures of 75˚F are not as high as we might expect at this time of year. In truth, there’s not a great deal to write about – the early forecast predicts a settled four days of sunshine and occasional cloud, with wind speeds set between 8-12 mph….although, as we know, for coastal golf, that breeze can quickly get up at the localized level.
What We’re Looking For This Week
There are different approaches one could employ this week. Ultimately, the instinct is to pick those total drivers who hit it long but deliver a high fairway percentage too. But then, as we saw at Winged Foot, sometimes there is a gain to be had in just hitting it as far as you can and leaving wedges into slick greens. We’re not entirely taken with the latter approach, as there does seem to be less margin for error with such a bombastic style, and so instead we’ll be focusing our efforts on those who will at least try to keep their ball in play. Is Torrey Pines’ form of relevance? Of course it is, anyone suggesting otherwise is talking nonsense. Some golf courses just afford a level of comfortability to certain players and less to others – take a look at the Farmers Insurance Open history books for evidence of that. There is a uniqueness to Poa Annua putting that really does have relevance when shortlisting picks, and while the jarring length of the South Course and its small, fast greens are of consequence, drafting players without a pedigree on Poa is something of a no-no this week.
To Win Outright: These are played at BET365 because of their cashout option.
Cameron Smith 55-1
One of the better Poa Annua exponents around, Cameron Smith always seems to shape up nicely ahead of a trip to Torrey Pines. His ability to hit greens from the rough – or let his short game shine when he misses – is crucial at a layout where recovery golf is key. There’s a long history of Australians performing well at Torrey Pines, and the fast conditions are clearly a factor in that – such speed on and around the greens won’t faze Smith in the slightest. Dude ranks 16th ON TOUR in SG: Around-the-Green, 19th SG: Putting and 34th in Scrambling (Risking 0.2 units to win 11).
Garrick Higgo 66-1
A sport not shy of emerging young talents, golf may just have another gem on its hands in Garrick Higgo. This is a guy who, at the tender age of 22, has won five times worldwide in his last 27 starts – the last of those coming at the Palmetto Championship last weekend. He’s the first player since 1988 to win a PGA TOUR event in just his second start, and that is a measure of how far the South African has come in a startlingly short space of time. Thus, while Chesson Hadley was melting down on the final three holes, young Garrick Higgo was as composed as can be but it’s not just that.
Higgo finished third overall last week in Greens in Regulation (GIR) and actually crushed the field in GIR in the final round by hitting 79.9% of fairways. That’s a key point coming into this week. Those fond of waking up to watch European Tour action have known of Higgo for some time. He’s already a three-time winner on the Old World Circuit and won two of his last four starts across the pond, both on the Canary Islands, by a combined nine shots, which pushed him all the way inside the top 60 in the World Ranking. That got him into the PGA Championship, where he made the cut on the number then flashed his all-world potential in the final round, birdieing seven of his first 11 holes and looking remarkably calm while doing so. This kid has killer instinct and the disposition to thrive (Risking 0.2 units to win 13.2 units).
Chan Kim 500-1
A real dark horse that won’t get much attention this week and isn’t likely to win is Chan Kim, who can be found at massive prices everywhere. Chan Kim is worth a look in the place bet markets as a top-10, top-20 or top-40 play or perhaps even as a first round leader. Kim is usually one of the longest hitters, if not the longest, in Japan and just blew away his U.S. Open qualifying field in California to get into this event. He was also 23rd in the PGA Championship, where he gained almost six strokes on ball striking. He’s got five wins in Japan, including two majors in the Far East, on courses that aren’t really set to cater to the bombers. Chan Kim is an Arizona State alum who played a lot of amateur golf on the West Coast, so he’s not going to be a bit uncomfortable in these parts. A complete unknown over here, he’s the type of player who could pop up and have a good week. It’s also notable that Sportsbooks have Kim on the right side of (-104) of making the cut. (Risking 0.1 units to be the First Round Leader (150-1), 0-1 units to win at 500-1 and 0.2 units to finish top-10 at 20-1 for 0.2 units. Total Risk is 0.4 units.
Webb Simpson 55-1
Pinnacle Sports has Webb Simpson at 32-1. Most other joints have him at 50-1 or better. BET365 has him at 55-1. The disrespect for Simspon is completely unwarranted. We suspect that the oddsmakers do not like that Simpson has not played much at this track, as he usually skips the Farmers every year, however, that does not take away the fact that he ranked #12 in the world. Furthermore, we’re not recommending a player that is off his game either, as Simpson has posted three top-12 finishes in his last four starts. Here’s a guy that ranks 15th in this field in total strokes gained over his past 24 rounds, including 13th in SG: Around-the-Green and 15th in Putting. He putts well overall on poa and his short game is a major strength. Simpson is getting penalized by the market and media for not being the longest off the tee at long courses like Torrey Pines, however, he’s one of the best long iron players ON TOUR and knows how to keep the ball in the fairway. Yeah, he can win (Risking 0.2 units to win 11).
Si-Woo Kim 150-1
Another player that is comfortable scrambling out of the rough and chipping around small greens, Si-Woo Kim is one of those guys with the talent to win a major from out of nowhere. The Korean also tends to save his best golf for Poa Annua greens too, and with T9 and T12 efforts at the PLAYERS and The Masters to his name this season, he is clearly comfortable in big time company. A resurgent T9 at the Memorial Tournament in his last start, Kim is capable of almost anything on the golf course when the mood takes him. He ranks 8th ON TOUR in Scrambling, 22nd in SG Around-the-Green and 52nd in Scoring Average (Risking 0.2 units to win outright and 0.2 units to finish Top-5).
Wilco Nienaber 250-1
There is another South African that many of you have probably not heard of but put Wilco Nienaber on your radar immediately. This is a 21-year old kid that is longer and straighter than Bryson DeChambeau. Nienaber hit it ridiculously far, averaging 358.4 yards in his T14 finish at Congaree last week. Around the lengthy Torrey Pines, that distance could prove quite useful, and he has the power to gouge it out of the long rough when necessary.
Nienaber, ranked 143rd in the world, has won on the Sunshine Tour and the European Tour’s Challenge Tour. He earned a spot in the U.S. Open by leading the 2021 Sunshine Tour’s Order of Merit. With a pair of 3-under-par 68s in the Palmetto Championship, he stood five shots behind leader Chesson Hadley and was in position to become the first player to win in his PGA Tour debut since Jim Benepe did so in the 1988 Western Open. Higgo won in his second start and while this field is much tougher, this kid has all the weapons to do some damage (Risking 0.1 units to be the First Round Leader (140-1), 0-1 units to win at 250-1 and 0.2 units to finish top-10 at 18-1 for 0.2 units. Total Risk is 0.4 units.
Head-to-head Matchups for the Palmetto Championship
HEAD-TO-HEAD MATCHUP below is for 72 holes:
Wilco Nienaber +128 over Bernd Wiesberger (Pinnacle)
Both these guys are 250-1 to win outright but it is the kid that has a much better chance. Wiesberger is a 35-year-old tour veteran that has zero PGA Tour victories and that usually finishes 40th or worse when he decides to play on the MAIN TOUR. His last tour event was the PGA Championship on May 23rd. He missed the cut. He’s missed the cut in three out of his last five events on the Main Tour with a 40th and 42nd place finish in the other two. He shot 15 over at last year’s U.S. Open and the only reason he plays on the Main Tour is for a chance to win a major otherwise he would never play in the States. He ranks 146th in Driving Distance while Nienaber will rank Top-3 and probably first. Wiesberger ranks 170th in GIR while Nienaber ranked 14th last week at Congaree.
Sportsbooks offer different H2H matchups but each pro is almost always matched up against someone at similar odds and that is why we get this juicy matchup. Wiesberger favored over Nienaber is wrong and the fact that we get the superior golfer at a price is as sweet as it gets (Risking 2 units).
Cameron Smith -111 over Shane Lowry
We wrote all about Cameron Smith in our “outright winner” section but he’s still very much a dude under the radar. Smith is going to make some major noise soon. We love that he’s played at least 22 competitive rounds at Torrey Pines, so give him both confidence and wisdom on this track among the other factors we mentioned previously.
Shane Lowry played at the Farmers Insurance in 2015, 2016, 2017 and 2018 and was progressively worse each year until he missed the cut the last time he played here in 2018. Don’t get us wrong, as he’s had some good rounds and finishes here but he’s also had some weak rounds and decided to skip Torrey Pines in 2019. There are a lot of stats (Driving Distance, Putting, Accuracy) for instance that are working against Lowry here and while we have a great deal of respect for his talents, he’s very much overvalued here against one of the PGA’s surging studs (Risking 2.22 units to win 2).
Tony Finau -102 over Patrick Cantlay
Patrick Cantlay is coming off a win in his last start at the Memorial Tournament so he’s had two weeks for that to sink in. Furthermore, his stock is very high so that’s one reason to sell high. However, there are other reasons too. Cantlay skipped Torrey Pines in 2020. In 2019, he missed the cut here. In 2018, he just made the cut and finished a pedestrian 51st. In 2017 he skipped Torrey Pines again. In 2014, 2015 and 2016 he was mostly injured but in 2013 he played the Farmers Insurance at Torrey Pines and missed the cut. Cantlay’s history at this venue is a weak one but because his stock is so high, we get Tony Finau at a huge discount to beat him.
Incidentally, you’ll find sportsbooks that have Finau a significant favorite over just a favorite over guys like Patrick Reed, who has outstanding form at Torrey Pines, Justin Thomas, Collin Morikawa, Jordan Spieth and Viktor Hovland for example. Finau is -129 over Hovland, who finished 2nd here back in January. Finau is -125 over JT, -126 over Spieth and -119 over Morikawa but against Cantlay, he’s an underdog and it’s not warranted.
We’re seeing a lot of names being thrown around this week of potential winners but very few are discussing the great Tony Finau. There might not be another pro on the planet that loves this course more than Finau. Tony Finau finished 6th here last year. In 2019, he finished T13th. In 2018, he again finished 6th. In 2017, he finished 4th here and in 2016 he finished T18th. The worst finish in his career at this venue was a T24th back in 2015. Finau also ranks 8th in Scoring Average. Will he beat Cantlay? We don’t know but we do know that Finau LOVES this course while Cantlay has had nothing but misery trying to figure it out (Risking 2.04 units to win 2).
Billy Horshel +140 (Three Balls)
First Round only - Three Balls
Billy Horschel +140
Kevin Kisner +225
Matt Kuchar +170
This is a first round bet that can be found at most sportsbooks and the matchups are usually the same too. +140 is available at BET365 on Billy Ho and we’re going to move in because he should be -140 and not +140.
Billy Ho is 16th in the Fed Ex Cup Race. He’s made the cut in eight of his last nine events with T2, T4, T25 and T23rd among them. He was also a winner at the World Golf Championships-Dell Technologies Match Play event back in March. Billy Ho does always had Torrey Pines on his calendar, as he hasn’t missed this event since 2012. He has two eighth place finishes here, a 13th place finish and 21st place finish among the many other times he has made the cut. He missed the cut here very early in his career but this is a track he knows and loves.
As for the other two, well for Kevin Kisner, it’s been a recurring theme of misery for far too long now. In his last eight tournaments with a cut, he’s cashed only once (T40, Schwab). He’s also 0-for-3 at Torrey Pines and hasn’t appeared in the Farmers since 2014. Meanwhile, Matt Kuchar walked off Muirfield Village during his opening round with an injured left forearm. We weren’t rushing to the window for shares, anyway. Dude hasn’t seen Torrey Pines since the 2008 U.S. Open and there is a distinct reason why pros stay clear of certain venues. Kuchar doesn’t like Torry Pines and the feeling is mutual (Risking 2 units to win 2.8 units).
Total risk is 8.92 units and we'll update this once the event is officially over.
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U.S. Open (Risking 8.92 units - To Win: 0.00)