Winter came to California this year for a change and the PGA Tour makes its annual stop at one of the loveliest cities in America, heading to La Jolla for the Farmers Insurance Open at Torrey Pines, the site of this year’s U.S. Open.
The typical Southern California sunshine probably won’t appear until the weekend as the first two rounds will be played in cool, rainy conditions with temperatures hovering in the 50s. Such weather won’t make Torrey Pines South, routinely one of the most difficult layouts on the Tour schedule, any less difficult.
The 156-man field will also play one round at Torrey Pines North, which is where the birdies are. Be sure to check your lineup this week and if it can be adjusted, use players teeing off on the North course as much as possible on Thursday and Friday.
The purse is $7.5 million with $1.35 million to the winner. Torrey Pines South measures in excess of 7,700 yards and plays to a par 72. It demands par-4 excellence and rewards powerful players. Over the course of 72 holes, the best players will certainly rise to the top of the leaderboard.
CADDIE CONFIDENTIAL: Welcome to the first installment of our “Caddie Confidential” series, with monthly inside-the-ropes perspective on rotating golf topics. First up, we get caddie insights from a season without galleries.
Putting is always important but ballstriking reigns supreme. Players with a track record of playing well in California and more specifically here received special attention this week. The Tour has been on Bermuda greens the last three weeks and the poa annua requires a different stroke. Chasing pars from the greenside rough is a fruitless proposition. A fair portion of fairways and greens is the best path to success.
We’ve been a week ahead or behind on a handful of players so far this season but are trusting the process and expecting even better results ahead. Expect a strong leaderboard and sunny skies on Sunday afternoon and may our players names be there.
As always, good luck.
Golfer power rankings
25. John Huh – Finished sixth in SG: Tee-to-Green (7.6) last week at the AmEx and has made the cut at Torrey Pines in eight of nine starts, including two top 10s.
24. Patrick Rodgers - West Coast product has thrived or crashed in recent trips to Torrey Pines – two top 10s, three missed cuts. Gained 1.5 strokes Off-the-Tee last week in a missed cut at AmEx but should offer good value.
23. Si Woo Kim – Dominated the PGA West Stadium Course to the tune of 54 bogey-free holes en route to his third PGA Tour victory. Has four top 25s in last seven starts and has made the cut in three of four appearances at Torrey Pines.
22. Doug Ghim – Stellar ballstriking produced a T-5 last week in the desert and continued a hot trend (four top 25s in last six starts). Shot 10-under and finished T-20 in the 2019 Farmers.
21. Gary Woodland – Had four consecutive Farmers top 20s before missing the cut last year as he endured a post U.S. Open victory slump. Finished T-16 last week despite obvious rust in short game and putter. Putts his best on poa annua.
20. Talor Gooch – Finished 21st last week despite losing 5.7 strokes around the greens. Short game has been much more reliable at Torrey Pines where he’s reached the weekend the last three years, including a third in 2019. Poa annua is his preferred grass to roll.
19. Charley Hoffman – Gained 8.3 strokes Tee-to-Green last time out and the 44-year-old Tour veteran said earlier this week he’s increased his driver clubhead speed to 120 mph in competition. Making his 24th Farmers start, has three top 10s, and three top 30s in his last four Tour events.
18. Xander Schauffele – Has 24 top 25s in his last 26 starts. The lone missed cut? Last time the PGA Tour circus came to Torrey Pines. His hometown struggles are inexplicable, but his game is void of weakness and to omit him would be more egregious than missing the sunset over La Jolla.
17. Corey Conners – Finished T-29 in lone Farmers appearance in 2018. His solid tee-to-green game is built for the rigors of Torrey Pines South and the beefed up North. Short game and putter are improving. Closed last season with five consecutive top 25s. Making his first start of 2021.
16. Sungjae Im - If not for his third round fiasco on the ninth hole, Im would’ve been in the hunt for the AmEx trophy late Sunday afternoon. Has a second, fifth and 12th in the last five tournaments and has played the weekend on both visits to Torrey Pines.
15. Viktor Hovland – Missed the cut here in lone appearance in 2019 but he’s a more polished player now. Top six in the field in SG: Tee-to-Green and SG: Approach over the last 36 rounds on poa annua, the surface he conquered to win the 2019 U.S. Amateur at Pebble Beach.
14. Harris English – The Sentry TOC victory was the ultimate confident booster and the sight of Torrey Pines won’t diminish such feelings. He has a pair of top 10s here and has developed into of the game’s most consistent and best ballstrikers.
13. Jason Day – Always unpredictable of late although Torrey Pines has been the site of cash collection throughout his career – two wins, five top 10s, $3.3 million earned. Finished seventh at RSM and 12th at Mayakoba to wrap last season.
12. Tony Finau – Don’t hold his inability to win against him, not this week anyway. Finau has flourished at Torrey with six consecutive top-25 finishes, including a pair of top 10s.
11. Billy Horschel – In a sweet groove of late and has two top 10s in 10 appearances at the Farmers. He’s 33rd in SG: Ballstriking and 31st in SG: Off-the-Tee in the field over the last 36 rounds on poa annua in difficult scoring conditions.
10. Jason Kokrak – Top 25s in three of his last four trips to the greater San Diego area. Doesn’t always putt his best on poa annua but gained 1.7 strokes on the greens here last year. Beating a strong field at Shadow Creek last fall was impressive.
9. Patrick Reed – Knows how to get it around Torrey Pines, improving each of the last three years from T-25 to T-13 to T-6. Had a rough round at the Nicklaus Tournament course last week but there’s no need for Reed backers to worry.
8. Cameron Davis – Don’t be surprised if he’s in the field in East Lake later this year. Fits the modern profile and was impressed with his poise down the stretch last week to finish solo third. Has made it to the weekend in all three Torrey starts.
7. Louis Oosthuizen – Lone appearance at Torrey Pines was a T-41 in 2017 and likes the difficult, demanding courses where quality ballstriking is rewarded. Also putts his best on poa annua greens. Such a syrupy swing never rests.
6. Marc Leishman - His game is back in form and he returns to a course where he won last year and also has a T-2 and T-8 since 2014. Gained 6.1 strokes on approach at the Sony and similar precision will serve him well on these small targets.
5. Ryan Palmer – Has finished T-2, T-13 and T-21 here the last three years and is playing some of the best golf of his career. Has top 5s in two of his last three starts.
4. Adam Scott – Have a hunch Torrey Pines could have a major championship feel this week and not many players are more reliable in the game’s biggest events. He’s second in SG: Tee-to-Green and first in SG: Short Game in the last 36 rounds on poa annua greens when the scoring is difficult. Finished runner-up in lone appearance at Torrey in 2019.
3. Hideki Matsuyama – Finished 19th at Sony despite losing 3.6 strokes on the greens – although he did have one torrid nine-hole stretch. Good news? Poa annua typically treats him well. T-12 in 2018 and T-3 in 2019.
2. Rory McIlroy – Couldn’t close the deal at Abu Dhabi last week and the climate this week will be much different, however, he can handle cool, damp, breezy conditions. His T-3 and T-5 in only trips to Torrey make him an easy choice also.
1. Jon Rahm – He’s 43-under in four starts at Torrey Pines with a win, second and T-5. Skipped last week after tweaking his back in the gym but obviously feels fine or wouldn’t be here this week. Won’t even need any 72nd hole theatrics to claim the first place check here this time.