The PGA TOUR crew stays in the Golden State for this week's Farmers Insurance Open.
It's another event that uses multiple courses before the cut. Unlike last week, this week is a bit more traditional with a 36-hole cut of Top 70 and ties.
This event always garners a pretty strong field but it's really star-studded this year. We have Tiger Woods making his season debut. Rickie Fowler will be making his 2019 debut. Rory will be making his event debut. Then you can go down the field list and see other notables like Jon Rahm, Justin Rose, Jason Day, Jordan Spieth, just to name a few.
There is one notable missing from the field. That would be Phil Mickelson who is skipping his hometown event. He won this event three times before a 2001 renovation that drastically lengthened the course. Since then he has finished outside the top 40 in 10 of his last 17 visits. Then he lost out on a bid to renovate the North Course. He's just not the biggest fan of this property at the moment.
A field of 156 golfers heads to La Jolla, California, to battle with Torrey Pines. Due to the sunlight at this time of year, two courses are used before the cut line.
Torrey Pines South Course (Host Course):
The South Course was first used in 1968 and it played as a par 72 that stretched to 7,021 yards. Fast forward 50 years and now they are playing it at a whopping 7,698 yards. If you make the cut this week, you will play this course three times.
The big renovation came after the 2001 edition as they prepped it for the 2008 U.S. Open. It's now the longest course on the regular PGA TOUR rota and it's one of the toughest tests on an annual basis.
There are six par 4s that play at 450 yards or longer. You better have your driver dialed in or it'll be a long week.
For grass types we get some interesting one this week with Torrey Pines featuring Kikuyugrass that gets overseeded with ryegrass on fairways and rough. Then on the greens golfers will deal with poa annua greens.
After this year's event they will be doing a gradual reworking of the course to get it prepped for the 2021 U.S. Open. If you are planning to make the trip to play the course over the next year then you should expect construction and likely some "temporary holes."
Torrey Pines North Course:
Renovations are nothing new for Torrey Pines as the North Course was renovated just a few years ago (2016). It's now a par 72 that plays around 7,250 yards.
The North Course was previously more of a pushover course but now it holds its own. A big part of that is the Bentgrass greens that were installed to replace the old poa annua surfaces. They now get the greens stimping at 12+ feet which is closer to the South Course, and makes scrambling a bit tougher if you short-side yourself.
It seems likely that poa annua will eventually creep back into the greens but even last year golfers were still raving about the pureness of the bentgrass surfaces.
Golfers will play just one round on the North Course but it will still provide plenty of the fantasy goodness.
Since 2014 it ranks 3rd in terms of Eagle Rate (of the courses that are still on the rota). The renovation didn't change that as it yielded 12 eagles last year. A pretty srong ratio when you consider it's just 156 rounds played on the North Course each year.
If you are playing round-by-round formats then the North Course is definitely the one to target for fantasy scoring.
Still getting back into the grind after the holidays, let's circle back to the recent-form debate. If we look at the 19 podium finishes here over the last 5 years then we see that 18 of the golfers had played at least one event in the last 7 weeks. The exception was Jason Day who won the event last year after 8 weeks off. Overall, 16 of those 19 had played at least one event in January. We just saw Mickelson nearly win off a long break but overall that's not a common trend.
As for experience at the event, there have been three first-timers that found the podium here since 2014. All three of them came in the last two years so that suggests that the North Course renovations might have reset the course knowledge advantage just a bit.
Sifting through some past quotes over at the Fantasy Golfanac, let's try to break down the course to see how they will play...
Justin Rose: "They’re as pure the second year as they were the first year, there’s no poa on them at all, they roll beautifully. They’re hard to read, though, for some reason."
Phil Mickelson: "The reason why this course plays so long is that we’re at sea level, we get a day like today where it was a little bit cooler and the ball just doesn’t quite fly as far as normal, but that was actually offset a little bit with how firm the fairways were because the ball was running. So the course didn’t play probably as long as it did a couple weeks ago when I played here and it was wet."
Tony Finau: "Yeah, the North course is good, too, but my length is more of an advantage on the South. It’s a little bit longer and not quite as firm so the balls don’t roll out as much, so my length is a bigger advantage I think on the South than the North. I was able to show that I can play the North pretty well as well."
Alex Noren: "I mean, it is a ball-striker’s course, but also if you miss a few shots here — at the end of the day you can still manage to maybe get it onto the green because there’s an opening to every green, you can run it up from the rough. I think you’ve got to play strategically, you can go for a few pins if you’ve got a good lie, and if you don’t, you’ve got to play smart to avoid bogeys."
Geoff Ogilvy: "If we played firm strategic courses more often, we would practice to get better at that test. But 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."
Overview: Golfers back up the notion that distance is a bit factor here, especially on the South Course. Noren brought up a good point that even if you miss the fairways you can likely run it up to the green and be just fine (if you're scrambling skills are above par). Ogilvy is a big fan of course architecture and reading between the lines, he's not a big fan of Torrey Pines which promotes bomb-and-gouge.
Looking at grass types, geography, course attributes, and past performance, here are a few courses/events that I think could prove to be a good pointer this week:
Silverado Resort and Spa
Pebble Beach Pro-Am
Golfing in the region looks be nicely correlated as Scottsdale, Silverado, and Pebble are all out West. The sample size for Augusta and Sheshan were a bit small but I still included because the small-sample numbers were jumping off the page.
Overall, I'd say the common factors are the ability to hit a lot of drivers and/or comfort in the region.
Thursday: Sunny with a high near 69 degrees. Light winds.
Friday: Mostly sunny with a high near 68 degrees. Light winds.
Weekend: Beautiful conditions with temps staying in the upper 60s and light winds.
It looks like another stellar weather week, just like we saw last week in the desert. If we are nitpicking then Thursday morning started may be at a slight disadvantage as they get their weeks started with temps in the lower 50s before it warms up by noon.