O.K., you talked us into it: We’ll go ahead and spend a second week in sun-drenched California.
This week, the PGA Tour settles in for the Farmers Insurance Open. The tournament will be held on the North and South courses at fabled Torrey Pines. After last week’s tournament, with Si Woo Kim winning The American Express event at La Quinta, we’ll head around 130 miles south to the San Diego area and another slice of paradise.
Yes, we know, we’ve had four straight weeks of golf at amazing golf sites, with many more in the upcoming weeks and months. Hang on because this ride is only going to get better. Can you say stunning Scottsdale?
But before we leave sunny SoCal to check out the desert landscaping in Arizona, we turn our attention to beautiful Torrey Pines.
This is a tale of two distinct golf courses as the North and South layouts offer stark contrasts, especially when it comes to scoring.
You might be asking if the scoring difference on two courses within a driver and a wedge of each other can be that different to PGA Tour players? The answer is a resounding yes.
Jon Rahm and Rory McIlroy have opened as slight favorites to win at Torrey Pines this week. ðŸ‘€
— Golf Digest (@GolfDigest) January 25, 2021
Take 2020 for example. For the first two rounds, players recorded a cumulative score of 221-under-par on the North Course. Pretty impressive scoring and confidence-building rounds for the players. Now, take a look at the South Course where players came in at 201-over-par. That’s right, over par. Pretty depressing scoring and head-scratching rounds.
So that tells us that players better go flag-hunting early and often when they are on the North and then hang on for dear life when they are playing the South. That’s easier said than done, especially when players head to the first tee knowing they have to score well on one course and then knowing they likely won’t score well on the other. Talk about pressure on both rounds, this is it.
That brings us to another huge factor. Would you rather play the South Course first and get it out of the way or play the North Course first and try to put up an impressive, and low, score? It’s all in the luck of the draw.
Last year’s winner, Marc Leishman, played the North Course first and put up a three-under-par 69 and was off and running. He started the final day four shots off the lead but rallied with a seven-under-par 65 to beat Jon Rahm by a stroke and third-place finisher Rory McIlroy by three shots (along with Brandt Snedeker).
This event also signals the return of many of the heavy hitters. The field includes 23 of the top 50 in the world rankings. That means the stakes are now going to start ramping up and the margin for error — any error — for players will certainly become slimmer.
Leishman has been all over the map recently. He went from a T-70 at the ZOZO event in Vegas to a T-13 at the Masters. He followed that up with a MC at the Mayakoba. He posted a T-5 in the QBE Shootout team event and then had a great time in Hawaii with a T-24 at the Tournament of Champions and then a T-4 at the Sony Open.
He took last week off from The American Express so he should be well rested from his Hawaii success stories and all set to try and defend his title.
And it’s actually not a surprise that he finally won at this event. He’s had five top-10s here as well as a couple of runner-up finishes before last year’s win.
Confident? You bet. A repeat winner? Why not.
But don’t count out Rahm. With his wife expecting their first child in the coming months, Rahm’s likely to hit as many events as possible in the coming weeks as he will probably take some time off once the baby arrives. And he’s coming off missing an event he had scheduled, last week’s American Express tournament, following an injury suffered in the gym. He said he could have played but didn’t want to make it worse.