Gdula's Golf Simulations: Farmers Insurance Open

The PGA Tour heads to Torrey Pines. Who is the most likely golfer to win -- and where may there be betting value?

Volatility is the name of the game in golf, and picking winners isn't easy. With fields of 150-plus golfers sometimes being separated by how a putt or two falls each week, predicting golf can be absurdly tough.

We'll never be able to capture everything that goes into a golfer's expectations for a week, but we can try to account for that by simulating out the weekend and seeing what happens.

The Process

Over the years, I have made plenty of tweaks to my original golf model, which use a combination of the OWGR's field strength numbers and datagolf's field strength numbers to adjust each golfer's score relative to the field (on the PGA Tour, the European Tour, and the Korn Ferry Tour). The ultimate goal is to place a score from the Waste Management Open, the BMW International Open, and the Knoxville Open on level playing fields. This adjusted strokes metric lets me see how golfers are performing across all tours. From there, a golfer's adjusted stroke data is combined with their round-to-round variance to see how the field is likely to perform when playing out the event thousands of times.

In addition to that long-term adjusted form, I factor in course-level adjustments for course fit. I let the data do the talking and don't make many tweaks. Golfers with a small sample get regressed to a low-end PGA Tour player.

This week at Torrey Pines (South and North), we need distance. That is reflected in the simulation results.

Here are the most likely winners for the Farmers Insurance Open, according to the model.

Golfer Simulated
Made Cut%
Win Odds
Jon Rahm12.5%52.2%91.1%+700
Rory McIlroy9.1%43.7%87.5%+750
Xander Schauffele7.4%40.1%85.5%+1300
Harris English5.1%32.3%81.8%+2300
Tony Finau3.2%24.7%76.6%+2100
Adam Scott3.0%22.4%72.8%+4500
Hideki Matsuyama2.8%23.2%74.8%+2900
Patrick Reed2.6%20.6%71.6%+2900
Scottie Scheffler2.4%20.8%73.2%+2900
Brooks Koepka2.3%19.1%71.2%+3100
Viktor Hovland1.8%17.8%70.3%+2300
Bubba Watson1.8%17.5%69.8%+4500
Jason Day1.7%16.5%68.8%+3700
Corey Conners1.6%15.6%67.0%+7500
Sungjae Im1.5%15.5%67.7%+2900
Gary Woodland1.5%15.2%66.6%+6500
Louis Oosthuizen1.3%13.7%64.9%+6500
Matthew Wolff1.3%14.2%65.1%+3200
Billy Horschel1.2%13.9%65.7%+4600
Jason Kokrak1.2%13.8%65.0%+6500
Harold Varner III1.2%12.5%63.3%+16000
Will Zalatoris1.0%9.2%49.9%+4800
Ryan Palmer1.0%12.1%63.3%+6500
Adam Hadwin1.0%11.1%60.1%+15000
Ryan Moore1.0%10.8%55.3%+19000
Rickie Fowler0.9%11.0%61.6%+7500
Kevin Streelman0.9%12.6%63.5%+19000
Joel Dahmen0.9%10.2%60.5%+16000
Cameron Tringale0.8%10.0%60.1%+14000
Erik van Rooyen0.8%10.8%60.9%+15000
Carlos Ortiz0.8%10.9%60.7%+9000
Lanto Griffin0.8%9.8%59.5%+15000
Talor Gooch0.8%11.0%61.8%+10000
Sam Burns0.8%9.7%58.7%+8000
Cameron Champ0.7%9.8%59.3%+7000
Mackenzie Hughes0.7%8.9%56.6%+16000
Doc Redman0.7%8.9%56.7%+16000
Cameron Davis0.7%8.8%56.6%+6500

It's very toit at the top with Jon Rahm, Rory McIlroy, and Xander Schauffele in the mix. After some adjustments, they comprised 29.0% of the wins out of the 10,000 simulations this week. Rahm and McIlroy in particular are Torrey Pines gurus. Rahm enters with elite form as usual, but the odds are too steep for me on those two. Rahm is valued appropriately but is coming off an injury.

Schauffele has the length to contend here and always rates out as a strong win pick because of his adjusted data. Schauffele is priced exactly where he should be, so while there's no actual value, he's the best bet among the favorites.

There's value on Harris English at +2300 and Adam Scott at +4500. Will Zalatoris gets a boost because of the distance angle and is +4800.

The mid-range (golfers between +2100 and +6500) should command most of our attention. Look at the past winners here -- Marc Leishman, Justin Rose, Jason Day, Rahm, and Brandt Snedeker -- and see that they are all big names. The stats show that we need to target golfers who are good in all three tee-to-green facets and putting.

I've bet Bubba Watson at +4500 so far and have since added Adam Scott (+4500) and Gary Woodland (+6500).