Jason Day came from two shots off the lead on Sunday to force a playoff where outlasted Harris English, Scott Stallings and eventually J.B. Holmes to win the Farmers Insurance Open at Torrey Pines in La Jolla, Calif. The quartet all posted nine-under-par 279 to get to the extra holes. Stallings and English excused themselves on the 73rd (No. 18 again) hole with matching pars after Day and Holmes made birdie four. Day eliminated Holmes on the second playoff hole, No. 16, by hitting the par-three hole in regulation and two-putting. Holmes missed the green and couldn’t get up-and-down to extend the playoff.
Why This Performance Doesn’t Surprise:
If gamers are new to fantasy golf they learned an important lesson today: Premium players who have had recent success on TOUR and have played well at a certain venue are never a bad idea when selecting a roster for the week. Day closed with 62 at HTOC to finish T3 and followed that up with four rounds in the 60s to finish T17 the next week at Sony.
He was quite warm.
Day finished with 70 on Sunday, two-under-par, to post his third-consecutive Sunday at Torrey under-par on the South Course. The results of those tournaments are T9, T2 and WIN. For the seasoned gamer, it comes as no surprise than Day won on a long, mean course where length and a grizzly short game come in handy.
Why This Performance Surprises:
The ONLY MINOR issue hanging over Day’s head in the gaming world is his, relatively speaking, alarming rate at which he does NOT win. A golf scribe texted on the back nine about how it was almost impossible to believe that Holmes and Stallings had more career TOUR wins than Day. The criticism is fair but that stat no longer exists as they all have three TOUR wins each. Gamers are used to Day clogging up the top 10 but I’ll explain in few why we should expect even MOAR from the Aussie.
How Day Won This Week:
The South Course measured at almost 7,700 yards and had rough that was clearly over four inches just off the fairway and that script favored Day. He hits it a mile off the tee as evidenced this week by his No. 1 rank in driving distance. Hitting it mile is common these days but hitting it a mile into trouble and hitting GIR is what separates the likes of Day and Walker. The farther it’s hit, the less club/more loft can help. Being big and strong also helps and Day checks those boxes as well. Day finished the week T49 in fairways but T8 GIR. Hitting that many greens on course where par is a great score is the recipe for success. His usual solid putting numbers were diluted this week because of all the greens he hit so please don’t read anything into that.
Day used his length and strength plus eight birdies on the North Course on Friday to get into position heading into the weekend. His eagle from the fairway on No. 17 on Saturday put him back in the picture and he took advantage of it on Sunday. He only made three bogeys on the weekend and none in the final eight holes coming in. Day reminded gamers that his putter is still a weapon when he holed a 47-footer the first time he played No. 16 to get to nine-under. In the playoff he blasted the middle of the fairway off No. 18 and then played a fantastic pitch to three feet. On No. 16 he showed off his iron game, and his nerve, as he hit a fabulous five iron to around 15 feet after Holmes flew the green.
The biggest question annually surrounding Day is whether or not he can stay healthy. Some of his best performances have been during times when he’s been weathering lingering injuries. Look at his career: he’s made over $2.9 million in four of the last five years.
Thumb. Back. Ankle. Achilles.
It hasn’t hurt his bank account but just adds to the lore of “what if”.
The GREAT NEWS for gamers is that Day skipped the entire Australian season in late 2014 to get healthy. If his first three events are any indication gamers will unanimously agree this was a smart move. The only questions left for Day to answer are: Can he win a major and can he remain injury-free for an entire season? If he remains healthy, there is NO QUESTION that he could take care of the other half. In 14 weekends in majors he’s finished in the top 10 in half of them. He turned 27 in November. Imagine when he hits his prime!
With This Win:
Win No. 3 on TOUR comes with 500 FedExCup Points, $1,134,000 million and another trip to Kapalua.
Déjà vu All Over Again?
After 28 wins in 45 events last season, the USA will take a backseat this week to the rest of the world. Last week Brooks Koepka joined Bill Haas, Jimmy Walker, Patrick Reed, Charley Hoffman, Bubba Watson, Ryan Moore, Robert Streb and Ben Martin as the USA champs. Sang-moon Bae (Korea), Nick Taylor (Canada) and Day (Australia) are the three international winners in the first 12 events.
Haas, Bae, Martin, Moore and Walker are those who have closed their 54-hole leads as J.B. Holmes and Harris English couldn’t this week. Walker is the only person on BOTH sides of his list as he couldn’t close out his lead at Kapalua. This list is flawed because it doesn’t take into account ties but it’s my list so there.
After 13 first-time winners in 2013 there were only 10 last year. After 11 events in 2015, Martin, Streb, Taylor and Koepka have made their breakthrough.
Defending champion Scott Stallings did everything but win this week as he was eliminated in the playoff on the first hole. He was looking to join J.C. Snead, Phil Mickelson and Tiger Woods as the only back-to-back winners.
Day is the fifth winner in six to not be a major champion. Yet.
No rookie has ever won this event. Zac Blair continues his hot early 2015 with his T11. He was T6 at Sony. Pay attention.
The easier North Course played around three shots easier the first two days. The South Course played 72.824 on Saturday and 74.054 tipped out on Sunday.
For the second year in a row nine-under 279 was the winning score. Since the change from Bermudagrass to Poa annua and the growing of the rough the winning score has been 275, 279 and 279. #hard
Young Guns Versus Prime Time Versus Old Guys
I annually keep track of the age of the winners on TOUR because I’m an ageist.
Bae got the youngsters (under 30) on the board first in 2014-15 followed by Martin and Streb, both 27. Nick Taylor, 26, popped in to close out 2014 before Reed joined the party at a whopping 25 at Kapalua. Koepka, 25 racked up his first win last week in Phoenix and now Day, 27, makes it six youngsters from 12 winners this season.
The old guys (40 and over) haven’t hit the winner’s circle yet in the new season. Freddie Jacobson, 40, was the best “old” guy on this monster as he checked in at T32.
What I learned from the finishers in the top 10 this week:
J.B. Holmes: He had made six cuts from nine at Torrey before this week but nothing registered better than T23 last year. He must enjoy the new changes! He had turned three of his four 54-hole leads into wins so anyone with him in the lineup was giddy on Sunday morning. He converted those leads at TPC Scottsdale (twice) and Quail Hollow. His other lead was at another massive track, TPC San Antonio but faded to T13. In five events leading up to this week he had made four cuts but entered on the back of MC (Sony) and T66 last week in Phoenix. The stereotype was right if that was the angle: He should excel on a massive golf course because he hits it a mile, just like he did winning at Quail Hollow last May. With nothing better than T28 since November 1, this came as a surprise. Weekly gamers need a little more evidence but salary folks are pleased as punch!
Harris English: It took 40 holes for the first dropped shots and 52 to make his first bogey so that’s music to gamers’ ears. So is his T2 for salary cap gamers as that is his second podium in four events in 2015. The weekly gamer scoffs as his T3 and T2 have bookended T30 at Humana and T40 last week in Phoenix. Signs of life were a closing 67 last weekend but with 75-78 on the weekend in his last visit to the South Course, English didn’t find my radar this week. English has a new teacher since August in Scott Hamilton so uneven results are hardly shocking. His all-around game is very solid but he’s remarked how he enjoys playing by feel again. #Noted moving forward.
Scott Stallings: After winning here last year, Stallings disappeared from the top 25 recaps. He resurfaced in the new season and Australia where he was pegging top 25s in succession again. He opened with 67 at Kapalua to get us all excited but T64 at Humana and MC last week hardly inspired. Remember, only J.C. Snead, Mickelson and Woods have defended here. His T2 was a hell of a performance and sadly rewarded those who’s only homework was looking up the defending champion. I won’t make that mistake next year as he joins Brandt Snedeker as defending champs to finish T2 the following year in the last five. Day won’t be overlooked next year either!
Charles Howell III: I was down on CH3 entering the week because he just hasn’t fired this fall or winter on courses he’s usually top tenning. Congrats to those who saddled up that pony one more time as he finished in the top 10 for the third time in six years on this track. That’s now six top 10s in 13 tries at FIO. That’s legit but so was T26, T56 and T71 leading into the week.
Alex Prugh: The first time he played this course as a pro in 2010 he finished T5. Flash forward five years later and he’s T5 again! In 2010, he finished No. 97 on the FedExCup list and had four top 10s. In 2011, he lost his card after finishing No. 164 in 29 events. The upside? He’s the next Ben Martin/Brendon Todd. The downside? He’s only won once as a pro and that was in 2009. This was his first finish inside of T35 in seven events this season. I’ll gladly wait-and-see a little more before investing.
Martin Laird: Huge week this week for Laird coming after his rough finish last week where his normally excellent ball-striking let him down on holes Nos. 71 and 72. The three-time winner excused himself at Phoenix with a bogey-double finish but bounced back this week with T7. And he posted this top 10 with a 76 on Saturday! That’s quite a resilient performance and a great sign for gamers. It shows me that he’s not satisfied and that his form is legit. He was 70th in fairways this week (narrowest on TOUR) but was T4 GIR and third in strokes gained: tee-to-green. That’s impressive iron play. That’s also T15, T5 and T7 in his last three. In 2011 he hit the top 10 six times; he’s done half of that in seven events this season. #ChooChoo
Shane Lowry: His exemplary stretch of golf noted in my Range Rover preview continued this week in his first trips around Torrey Pines. The Irishman now has 11 top 25s in his last 16 events worldwide and seven of those have gone for top 10s. If he’s in the field next week, he’ll be in the Chalk section of the preview. His 68 on Sunday moved him up 25 spots into the top 10. There weren’t many of those going around on Sunday! He made only six bogeys in three rounds on the South. #Strong
Nick Watney: Make it now six top 10s in 11 events on a track he just loves. The roller coaster continues to ride for the NORTHERN California native (read: Pebble Beach) as he backed up his desert 14th at Humana with a desert MC in Phoenix before T7 this week. He mentioned after his bogey-free 65 on Friday that he just needed to start hanging around on the weekend to get his confidence back up. He began Saturday one shot out of the lead and signed for 73 with just one birdie. I LOVE that he only made five bogeys on the week (T1) and racked out 55 pars (first). He did this on the back of finishing fifth in strokes gained total and with ZERO help from his putter (T54 putts per GIR). That’s the recipe folks so get used to it and next week he’ll be in the mix again on courses where putting isn’t the difference maker.
Jimmy Walker: His three events in 2015 have seen him hit the top 10 in three different ways. He couldn’t close out Patrick Reed on the back nine or in a playoff at Kapalua and finished P2. He blew out the field at Sony that wasn’t even as close as the nine shots would indicate. This week he sat one shot out of the lead and was in the final group again in the final round but couldn’t find any momentum to catch the lead or the playoff. Throw out his MC with flu last year and it’s T8, T4 and T7 in his last three. He was my OAD so I’m sour because my expectations for him are that high. He’s done NOTHING to scare off any owners in any format this season and he’s going to be the favorite again next week as he defends at Pebble Beach. And if that’s a surprise let me know so I can join your league!
A quick recap of what happened to the Chalk from my preview column:
Speaking of rough, this part of the column looked like the grass just off the fairways on the South Course. The dog also says ROUGH. I was a DOG this week as multiple big-time players crashed and burned.
Jimmy Walker: Another week, another top 10, T7.
Hideki Matsuyama: He needed birdie on hole No. 36th and didn’t get it so he MC. His putter on the big course was ice cold but that shouldn’t shock gamers. He hit 85.71% of the fairways on the South so think about that for a minute. Similar to English, Matsuyama has gone T3, T78, T2 and MC in 2015 and has four top 10s in eight starts this season. All the tools are there but I’m not sure if we can expect a 23-year old to have it week-in and week-out. Again, the bar is set quite high here based on PERFORMANCES, not emotion or opinion.
Jordan Spieth: Needing an eagle to make the cut his attempt to hit No. 18 in two ended up wet and he packed it up as well. Matsuyama and Spieth were in the same threesome and watching them BOTH not fire was interesting. I’m not sure how many times I’ll type that again this year but I’m guessing NOT MANY. He missed too many fairways this week and his putter didn’t help bail him out. Absolutely no reason to panic over one poor result!
Jason Day: See above, WIN.
Justin Rose: As I tweeted out after his first tee shot on Thursday, Nick Faldo informed us that he might have injured himself after hitting balls earlier in the week and was not 100%. Gamers would love to have that information BEFORE a player tees off, not after the first ball is in the air and Rose’s hand/thumb/wrist is all taped up. Loyal readers of this column know that I NEVER endorse a player after injury or illness. His past history on this course should have dissuaded lining him up this week but his recent form worldwide could have overshadowed that angle. Playing with a taped-up wrist would have eliminated him all together. Gamers, we’re always the last to know so get used to it!
Brandt Snedeker: Nothing above par and nothing in the 60s resulted in a T19 finish, his first outside the top 10 when making the cut in five tries. That’s six top 25s in nine tries and the 2012 champ should be in your lineup annually at this stop! In his last five on TOUR he’s posted T10, T10, MC, T10 and T19 so he’s having a nice and steady start. Stay on board for the break out as the Butch Harmon-izing continues!
Marc Leishman: He began the final round T13 and ready to pounce but 76 of them on Sunday saw him finish T27. That’s five of seven T27 or better at Torrey but only one top 25 in five starts in the new season. Hmmmmmm…
Graham DeLaet: WD with flu before play. Thanks for the heads-up!
Brooks Koepka: Coming off his first win he looked like he was going to make more noise again this week as he opened with 66. His five-putt on the final hole Friday set the tone for the weekend and he never recovered (74-74-74), coming home T41. It is his first finish outside of the top eight in four events this season.
Rickie Fowler: His return to the States in for his start to 2015 hasn’t been Fowler gamers remembered from 2014. His final round 79 resulted in T61 that followed his MC last year. Before that he racked up T5, T20, T13 and T6. His 67 on Sunday in Phoenix didn’t translate like Harris English’s did, sadly. Fowler fans will point out he’s hit the top 10 in nine of his last 12 worldwide events; Crusty pros will point out he’s now three events on the bounce with nothing inside the top 40.
Keegan Bradley: The South Course was playing so tough on Sunday that Bradley’s 73 moved him up five places to T41. He entered the weekend three-under and was in touching distance of the leaders but never fired on a big, bad course that should be right up his alley. This is the first time he’s been out of the top 25 in four weekends in San Diego. To start 2015 it’s been T48, T17 and now T41. Vomit.
Justin Thomas: HOLY SHIT HE’S HUMAN. I’m not fading ANYONE after three-week run of T6, T7 and T17. He remarked on Twitter than four straight events wore him out both mentally and physically. This is a different level than he’s used to but I’m guessing he figures it out quickly. It doesn’t hurt that he’s hanging out with Spieth who knows a thing or two about schedules at this age. Smart kid. Smart kids. I’m on board.
Pat Perez: He did exactly what gamers needed on from him on Friday, 65, after his 75 on the South on Thursday. He sat four-under and right in the mix before his streak of four T22s came to an end. There’s an old saying about streaks: they have an abrupt way of coming to an end. His 77-83 weekend rounds were abrupt. He was 19-over on the South Course this week. Fin.
Gary Woodland: Here’s another player who’s all-or-nothing start is driving gamers batty. He was T2 AGAIN at CIMB late last year and was T3 at Sony but his other three finishes were T56 (2014) MC (last week) and T41 this week. His last four at Torrey are T76, T58, T10 and T41. One of these is not like the other…
Dustin Johnson: Savvy gamers noticed that he was playing the South Course first and stayed away (after the tee times were released). If he would have started on the easier North it could have been different. I still like that he dumped the rust here and not in a birdie-fest. I like that mindset. Next week he plays with his Father-in-law on a track where he’s won twice in terrible weather and led a U.S. Open after 54 holes. Eyes forward.
Coming TUESDAY Afternoon
I’ll publish my weekly preview, Range Rover, around lunchtime, children permitting. I’ll focus on history, current form, course characteristics, winning qualities and those who I think will and will not.
Coming TUESDAY Afternoon Pt. II
Playing the Tips will be up and running this and every Tuesday late afternoon and will list all of the Rotoworld experts picks in the GolfChannel.com game, the Yahoo! Fantasy Golf game, DFS plus the European Tour! Oh, and my One-and-Done feature. Look for it every Tuesday until the Presidents Cup.
And the analysis doesn't end here. Rotoworld's Rob Bolton and I will be co-hosting a one-hour live chat Wednesday at NOON ET. We will be breaking down the field at the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am (Pebble) plus answering your questions. Simply return to the golf home page to join in on the chatter. Don’t forget to follow Rob (http://twitter.com/RobBoltonGolf) and Glass (http://twitter.com/mikeglasscott) on Twitter.