It was Si Woo Kim who held off an epic 11-under 61 from Patrick Cantlay to take the win at The American Express.
Now, the TOUR heads southwest to the Pacific Coast of California just north of San Diego for the Farmers Insurance Open at Torrey Pines. This will be the first of two events hosted at the site this year, as the South Course will also serve as the host for the 2021 U.S. Open.
After a couple of weeks on shorter, bermudagrass tracks, the players will be met with a big boy course and poa-annua greens. It will be the first event of the year where distance will be a real advantage in attacking the 7,765-yard South Course, which is reflected in the recent results of some of the top names in golf.
Many of them are set to return this week including three of the top seven players in the world in Jon Rahm, Xander Schauffele, and Rory McIlroy.
The tournament will feature both the North and South Courses, with players set to see the North Course in one of their first two rounds, and the remainder of the event to be played at the South Course. Most of my focus in this article will be on the South Course, but let’s do a quick review of the North.
The North Course at Torrey Pines will play as a 7,265-yard Par 72, with a traditional four Par 5, four Par 3 set up. It does, however, have a different putting surface than the South, as players will spend their 18 holes around the North on bentgrass greens.
Last year, the North Course played more than two and a half strokes easier than the host course through the first 36 holes, making for an interesting stacking target in DraftKings Showdown the first two days. That trend is consistent year over year for this tournament, making it imperative for players to play well when they have their chance on the North Course to start the week.
Over the past five years, there has been a wide range of winning scores from 6-under to 21-under, but those two seem to be the outliers. In three of those years, the winning score fell between 10 and 15-under, which should be the expectation this year. It’s still early in the week, but right now the winds aren’t expected to be anything crazy, and that is typically the biggest variable around Torrey Pines.
As I noted earlier, the Torrey Pines South Course is set to play at 7,765 yards as a Par 72 with speedy poa-annua greens that will run near or beyond 13 on the Stimpmeter. It will feature four Par 5s, which rank as the four easiest holes on the course.
The theme this week will center around the bombers, as the length of the course has led to a notable advantage for the longer hitters off the tee, and the fact that it rates as one of the toughest courses to hit fairways means length will far outweigh accuracy. In fact, defending champion Marc Leishman was one of the worst players in the entire field last year as it relates to hitting fairways and only managed to hit three of them in his final round 65 (he also made every putt he looked at).
Each of the nines is capped by a reachable and scoreable Par 5, creating great drama down the stretch for the cut on Friday and in the final round on Sunday. It will be imperative for players to take advantage of all four of these holes, which yield birdie or better more than 30% of the time and play about a quarter stroke under par on the whole.
The Par 5 18th is a signature finish where the Sunday hole location is at the bottom of a slope giving players a backstop to bring their approach in close but also bringing the pond in play if they come in with too much spin. You might remember this most recently as the site of Rahm’s first TOUR win, where he drained a long putt down the slope to close out the 2017 Farmers Insurance Open.
While the Par 5s are the scoring opportunities, the Par 4s will likely decide the event. They make up six of the seven toughest holes on the course, and all play over par on average.
The 12th, listed at 505 yards on this year’s scorecard plays as the hardest hole on the South Course. It yields birdie less than 6% of the time while punishing players with a bogey or worse nearly 40% of the time. There is no doubt that players will be happy to walk away with par each round at the 12th.
In total, there are six Par 4s that measure more than 450 yards in length, which make up a good portion of the tougher holes at the South Course and can provide an interesting stat to break down this week.
The Par 3s aren’t as tough from a scoring perspective as we’ve seen in recent weeks, but right before the difficult 12th, the 215-yard 11th is the toughest of the four short holes. That back-to-back combination will make for an interesting start to a Thursday or Friday round for players who go off the back nine, as it could go the wrong direction in a hurry.
The other really notable Par 3 is the 16th, which starts the final stretch on Sunday. It’s a tricky little hole at just 184 yards, and while birdie is possible, a missed green can quickly bring bogey into play.
As I look into my stats for the week, in addition to the standard Strokes Gained tee-to-green metrics, I will lean toward the bombers over accuracy when given the opportunity but will also keep my focus on those who score well on Par 4s and 5s.
The switch to poa greens should not be overlooked either, as it’s a completely different putting surface than anyone played in Hawaii and last week. Some players will thrive on it and some simply hate it. That will show in their putting splits. Lastly, Birdie or Better Percentage should always be something you look at for DFS, and this week, Bogey Avoidance will be just as important.
I mentioned it briefly in my Strokes Gained look ahead article on GolfBet, but Tony Finau stands out as the top player for Torrey Pines based on Course History.
He has a run of five straight top-18 finishes in his last five trips to the Farmers, including three in the top six. His fourth-place finish in 2017 was the best of the bunch, and he, of course, comes into this week off of a fourth-place finish at the American Express where he was tied for the 54 hole lead.
It may just be the added year of history that puts Finau above Rahm because Rahm’s history is equally impressive, if not more impressive.
He has the win I noted in 2017 but was also the runner up to Leishman in this event last year, a fifth in 2019, and a 29th from 2018. He comes into this week with the lowest odds in the field, just edging out McIlroy for that claim, and rightfully so with this track record.
One of the players who fits in the “loves poa” category is definitely Brandt Snedeker. He, of the pop stroke putting style, has a way of managing the sometimes uneven surfaces and finding the bottom of the cup.
Sneds has done that quite well at Torrey Pines where he won in the strange, windswept 2016 version of this event and also finished third here in 2020. Add to his record another ninth-place finish from 2017 and a couple of other made cuts to round out his last five years of good history, but also note he has been in terrible form with three straight missed cuts.
Photo Credit: David Cannon/Getty Images.
Pictured: Jon Rahm.