Championship Play-Off Final: Michael Owen’s View
A world class field will compete at Torrey Pines with seven-time tournament winner Tiger Woods making his first start of the year. Jon Rahm, the 2017 champion, is the 9/1 favourite this week.
Players will have one round each at the easier North course and the South course before the cut is made. The final two rounds will take place at the 7,698-yard par 72 South course where power off the tee is a huge asset. A recent trend worth bearing in mind is the last eight winners have all been drawn in the first round at the tougher South track.
Tony Finau did everything but win last year and the American will be determined to add to his sole PGA Tour title. He finished in the top ten nine times last season and his consistency has pushed him into the top ten of the world rankings. Finau agonisingly missed out on the WGC HSBC Champions after finishing second in October and was also runner-up in December’s Hero World Challenge.
This week looks a big opportunity for Finau to land an overdue second victory. The 29-year-old tied for fourth spot in the tournament two years ago and opened with a round of 65 on his way to sixth place last year. His effortless power enables him to attack the two courses and a focused Finau could outscore playing partner Woods. Finau is a confident each way selection at 18/1.
Cameron Champ emerged as a huge prospect with his breakthrough win at the end of last year and looks to have the ideal game to tame Torrey Pines. Champ landed his first PGA Tour title in October after winning the Sanderson Farms Championship. The 23-year-old maintained his form strongly with top tens at the Mayakoba Classic and the RSM Classic.
Champ is one of the longest hitters in the world with an average driving distance of 320 yards. The American can take advantage of the par fives at Torrey Pines and should love the layout of the two California courses. An indifferent showing in Hawaii can be easily ignored and Champ is backed to maintain his meteoric rise in the sport at 33/1 each way.
Brandt Snedeker may not fit into the power hitting mould but he has still established one of the best records at this tournament. Snedeker won for the first time at Torrey Pines back in 2012 and a stunning final round, in brutal weather conditions, enabled him to repeat the victory three years ago. He also has five other top tens at one of his favourite courses in the world.
Snedeker won the Wyndham Championship, after shooting an opening round of 59, for his last title back in August. The experienced American made a solid start to the year and comes in off a tie for 16th place at the Sony Open. Snedeker is almost always a contender at this tournament and looks generously priced to challenge for a third win here at 40/1 each way.
Keegan Bradley has compiled a strong set of results at the California course and is backed to go well again. The American tied for fourth place in 2017 and returned 12 months later to finish fifth. His long, accurate driving is well suited to the demands of Torrey Pines and significantly he comes in this week with renewed confidence.
Bradley ended a six-year trophy drought by winning the BMW Championship in a play-off against Justin Rose back in September. The 2011 PGA Champion looks close to his best again after struggling for a number of years following the ban on anchoring the putter. Bradley finished in the top five no fewer than five times last season and looks ready to maintain his form this year. Take Bradley to challenge for the trophy at 40/1 each way.
JB Holmes has also built an impressive record recently at this tournament and is backed to get himself into contention again this weekend. Holmes was beaten in a four-man play-off by Jason Day in 2015. He challenge again 12 months later, tying for sixth, before finishing fourth in 2018.
The four-time PGA Tour champion recorded a top ten at the Safeway Open in the autumn which again underlined his comfort level playing in California. This will be Holmes’ first start of the year but he comes in fresh and it did him no harm with last year’s top five. He looks worthy of each way support at 50/1.
Tony Finau each way 18/1
Cameron Champ each way 33/1
Brandt Snedeker each way 40/1
Keegan Bradley each way 40/1
JB Holmes each way 50/1