Max Homa’s title defense, low scores and the return of Michael Block lead 2024 Farmers Insurance Open Wednesday highlights

SAN DIEGO — Record rainfall caused flooding and power outages across the county in the days leading up to the 2024 Farmers Insurance Open, which made for a soggy start to the PGA Tour’s annual trip to Torrey Pines.

A whopping 107 of the 156 players in the field were even par or better on a calm Wednesday at the 36-hole muni gem along the cliffs of the Pacific Ocean (No. 39 in Golfweek’s Best public courses list). And yes, the often gettable North Course produced significantly more birdies than the tricky South Course.

Kevin Yu leads the way after a bogey-free, 8-under 64, but the 25-year-old’s birdie fest wasn’t the only notable story from the first round. From a title defense in the making to signature event bubble watch and another sponsor exemption in the mix, here’s what you need to know about Wednesday at the 2024 Farmers Insurance Open.

Lift, clean and birdie

2024 Farmers Insurance Open
Ryo Hisatsune looks on on the 18th green during the first round of the 2024 Farmers Insurance Open at Torrey Pines in San Diego. (Photo: Ray Acevedo-USA TODAY Sports)

Preffered lies are in play for the first two rounds after the heavy rains earlier in the week, and the field took advantage.

Yu picked up where he left off last week after a T-3 finish at The American Express and is in contention once again down the California coast. Thirty-three players were 4 under or better in the first round, and of those players, 27 played the North Course, including the top eight on the leaderboard. Patrick Cantlay and Ryo Hisatsune sit T-2 at 7 under, with Hideki Matsuyama and Shane Lowry, Thomas Detry, Aaron Rai and Alejandro Tosti all T-4 at 6 under.

Just how much easier was the North compared to the South on Wednesday? The North (69.70) played more than two shots easier than the South (71.96). Nicolai Hojgaard shot the low round of the day on the South, a 5-under 67 to sit T-9.

Homa's title defense

After his two-shot win over Keegan Bradley last year, Max Homa is back to defend his title this season in his eighth Farmers Insurance Open appearance. If he were to lift the trophy once again, Homa would be the first player to defend his title at Torrey Pines since Woods won four consecutive years from 2005-2008.

The 33-year-old got off to a shaky start on the South Course and was 2 over through seven holes but played the back nine 4 under to sit 2 under at T-47 after the opening round, six shots off the lead.

Byrd is the word

Torrey Pines and the folks at Farmers Insurance have been supporters of the Advocates Professional Golf Association for some time now. The circuit aims to bring greater diversity to the game of golf, and one of its star players is in the mix after the opening 18 holes.

Marcus Byrd was surprised with a sponsor exemption earlier this week and the six-time APGA Tour winner came out swinging with a 4-under 68 on Wednesday and is in good position to make his first PGA Tour cut in just his fifth start. A former standout player for Middle Tennessee State who led the Blue Raiders to a pair of Conference USA titles, Byrd is familiar with Torrey Pines following his 2023 APGA Farmers Insurance Invitational win.

Pebble Beach bubble watch

2024 Farmers Insurance Open
Michael Kim putts on the 18th green during the first round of the 2024 Farmers Insurance Open at Torrey Pines in San Diego. (Photo: Ray Acevedo-USA TODAY Sports)

The PGA Tour’s new season format for 2024 puts quite a bit of importance on events like the Farmers that come a week before signature events like next week’s AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am.

Ryan Fox entered the week No. 32 in the Official World Golf Ranking and would qualify for the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am if he moves inside the top 30 in next week’s ranking. He’s currently T-48 at 2 under.

The Aon Next 10 and Aon Swing 5 are eligibility pathways for players who aren’t already qualified to play their way into signature events. The Aon Next 10 for the next two signature events was previously determined through the FedEx Cup Fall standings from 2023, but the Swing 5 is still in play.

The top five players not otherwise exempt who earn the most FedEx Cup points from the Sony Open in Hawaii, American Express and Farmers Insurance Open will qualify for Pebble Beach. The top five players not otherwise exempt who earn the most FedEx Cup points during those three events and the WM Phoenix Open will qualify for the Genesis Invitational.

Grayson Murray (500 points) and Christiaan Bezuidenhout (300 points) are in good shape, with Justin Thomas (145 points) and Kevin Yu (145 points) seemingly secure as well. That leaves the final spot up for grabs.

Carl Yuan (122.500 points) holds a slight advantage over Michael Kim (102.217 points), Matthieu Pavon (98.563 points) and Keith Mitchell (98.417 points). Kim (T-9), Pavon (T-34) and Mitchell (T-72) are all within striking distance, but it could be for nothing as Hisatsune, who sits T-2 and a shot out of the lead, is ninth with 85.917 points and could jump them all with a high finish.

Blockie is back at it

2024 Farmers Insurance Open
Michael Block plays a shot on the tenth hole during the first round of the 2024 Farmers Insurance Open on the Torrey Pines in San Diego, California. (Photo: Orlando Ramirez/Getty Images)

Michael Block became a social media sensation with his T-15 performance at the 2023 PGA Championship, and after his showing at Oak Hill the Southern California club pro picked up three more PGA Tour starts at the Charles Schwab Challenge, RBC Canadian Open and World Wide Technology Championship.

His 15 minutes of fame were just that as Block missed the cut in all three events and broke 70 once in six rounds. Before his PGA start last year, Block also missed the cut at the American Express and Farmers Insurance Open.

Back at Torrey Pines this year, Block shot a 3-under 69 on the North Course to sit inside the projected cut line with the South Course awaiting on Thursday. Who knows, maybe Blockie has a bit more magic up his sleeve.

Story originally appeared on GolfWeek