The PGA TOUR stays in the Golden State for this week's Farmers Insurance Open. They hop on over from La Quinta to La Jolla as they ready to do battle with Torrey Pines.
After the first three events of the new year have produced a combined winning score of 72-under, we should expect the birdies to stop flowing this week, at least at the South Course. Nine of the last 10 winners of the Farmers Insurance Open have failed to eclipse the 15-under mark.
The event will feature a full field of 156 golfers, thanks to the use of two courses over the first 36 holes. Golfers will play one round at the North Course and three rounds at the South Course, as long as they advance past the 36-hole cut line.
It's another week of splitting courses before the cut. Last week we saw a trio of courses utilized to account for pro-am partners and the amount of daylight available at this time of year.
This week, they just need two courses, as there is no pro-am portion to worry about during the event.
Torrey Pines South (Host Course):
Calling the South Course long would be an understatement as it's played at sea level while stretching out to nearly 7,800 yards.
Seven of the par 4s play over 450 yards, so you won't be pulling as many wedges as you might on a normal TOUR stop.
The test becomes about driving the ball well and striking it well with your mid and/or long irons. A true ball-strikers course.
The greens average just 5,000 square feet which is certainly smaller than TOUR average which usually floats around 6,500 square feet.
Once golfers reach the putting surfaces they'll have to deal with tricky, poa annua greens which can often get bumpy as the day progresses.
Torrey Pines North:
This course would fit in rather well with last week's rota at the AmEx, as birdies fly off the shelf at the North Course.
Looking at the scorecard we see a par 72 that plays to a more reasonable 7,258 yards.
All four of the par 5s play under 560 yards, accessible to the entire field.
Tom Weiskopf led some renovation efforts after the 2016 Farmers which saw the poa annua greens swapped out for bentgrass and the bunkers completely overhauled and moved around strategically.
The result was a few years of tougher scoring, likely as the grass matured, but now it's as easy as ever. Last year the field averaged a 28% birdie or better rate which would rank it among Kapalua as the easiest on TOUR and also yielded a field average bogey rate of just 10% which would also be the lowest on TOUR, alongside La Quinta Country Club.
Golfers will need to do their scoring on the North Course because the South just doesn't offer up that many low rounds.
Sifting through some past quotes, let's try to break down the course to see how it will play.
Justin Thomas in 2022: "That's the thing about this place, you can't necessarily fake it around, you have to drive the ball well, you have to hole out well, make a lot of those putts, four-, five-, six-footers, and on these poa annua greens get really, really bumpy and it can be tough to kind of get the ball in the hole sometimes."
Geoff Ogilvy in 2017: "If you keep presenting Torrey Pines South, for example, where the farther you hit it the bigger advantage you have, we're just going to go home, plug in the Trackman and hit it as hard as we can."
Gary Woodland in 2016: "It's nice to have the length, because I'm able to hit irons into some of these par-5s that guys aren't getting home to. That gives a huge advantage. I'm able to hit iron off some of these shorter holes. Which gives me a chance to get the ball in the fairway a lot easier than a lot of guys."
Many talk about the advantage of driving distance at Torrey Pines but Thomas talks about the all-around game that is typically required at Torrey Pines. Patrick Reed said something similar ahead of his title defense last year, "It's one of those golf courses where you really have to think your way around this place. It's not just set up and hit driver and just attack. You actually have to have a pretty good game plan going into this place."
Using historical data we can look at overperformance and underperformance at this week's host course and compare that to all of the courses played out on TOUR. Here are the ones that shared a lot of overlap:
Bay Hill Club and Lodge
Quail Hollow Club
Muirfield Village GC
These aren't wedge-heavy layouts. These are all courses that force you to hit more mid irons, long irons, and woods.
Wednesday: Sunny with a high of 67 degrees. Winds at 8 to 12 MPH.
Thursday: Sunny with a high of 67 degrees. Winds at 11 to 16 MPH with gusts potentially reaching 30 MPH.
Buckle up for round two as heavy wind gusts look to make things really interesting. There will likely be narratives tossed around about which course you want to play on the tougher day but it hasn't really mattered too much in recent Farmers that have featured big scoring gaps before the cut.
Golfers to Watch
He's won four of his last six worldwide starts and that becomes four of his last five if you don't count the "exhibition" Hero World Challenge. Oh, on top of that he also has a crush on Torrey Pines and the surrounding area, "This is my favorite golf course and golf tournament pretty much. Golf course, for sure, just because there's a lot of good history for me. I played good here in college, I also loved the city of San Diego. Now, when it comes to personal, Kelley always loved the city of San Diego. Before we met, her and her parents came here almost monthly to the Hilton right here at Torrey Pines. My first and only Monday qualifier we drove from ASU to here to Torrey Pines, missed it by one, drove back. The next year I end up winning the tournament. We also got engaged here at Torrey Pines, not on the golf course, on the hikes just past it. So there's a lot of good reasons for me to be happy every time I come here no matter how I play."
He proved a clean bill of health last week with a T3 finish at the AmEx. Now, he gets a home game at Torrey Pines. Local comfort hasn't always yielded results for Schauffele, though. He missed the cut in four of his first five tries at the Farmers. He has settled in more recently, snagging a T25 in 2019, a runner-up finish in 2021, and a T34 last year.
He suffered the lowest of lows when he surrendered a huge lead at the Sentry Tournament of Champions. On the flip side, he went an entire week with just three bogeys at Kapalua, they just happened to come at the wrong time. You would hope he was able to reflect and think about the positives instead of dwelling on the downside. This will be his first start since that Sunday "collapse" at Kapalua so it will at least be interesting to watch to see how he responds.
There is no slowing this rookie down. He's posted top 15s in seven of his first eight starts. He ranks 39th in driving distance and 88th in accuracy. That sounds like a good recipe for success at Torrey Pines, or any course really. Best of all, his driver isn't even his best weapon as he ranks top 10 in strokes gained putting and that's historically been a strong area for him during his ascent to the big stage.
The two-time Farmers champ arrives with a bit of form at his sails. He has posted finishes of T21 or better in five of his last six starts, finding his groove just in time for Torrey Pines which he's played so well at over the years. The Aussie has four other top 10s to go along with his two wins at the Farmers, in 13 starts at the event.
He's eased his way back from his back troubles with a T11 at the Sentry TOC and T36 last week at the AmEx. He's historically played better as the courses get tougher so this week's test may be more his speed. That was certainly true last year as he held a share of the 54-hole lead before posting a runner-up finish at week's end.
Ranking the Field
1. Jon Rahm
2. Xander Schauffele
3. Justin Thomas
4. Collin Morikawa
5. Sungjae Im
6. Max Homa
7. Will Zalatoris
8. Tony Finau
9. Maverick McNealy
10. Taylor Montgomery
11. Hideki Matsuyama
12. Si Woo Kim
13. Taylor Pendrith
14. Jason Day
15. Sahith Theegala
16. Adam Hadwin
17. Thomas Detry
18. Cam Davis
19. Keegan Bradley
20. Alex Smalley