Torrey Pines in prime time on a Saturday night.
Those of us on the East Coast aren’t worthy of such a treat. But we shall happily accept it. To avoid conflict with the NFL conference title games this year, the PGA Tour shifted the Farmers Insurance Open to a Wednesday – Saturday schedule. The leaders are scheduled to finish around 8 p.m. Maybe we’ll be fortunate enough to enjoy a hole of sudden death.
Either way, it’s the best full-field event so far in the ‘21-22 Tour season with 12 of the top 20 players in the world in the 156-man field navigating two golf courses for a share of the $8.4 million purse.
All the competitors will play one round each on the North Course and South Course at Torrey Pines before convening Friday and Saturday on the beastly South (let’s call it 7,600 yards) and routinely one of the 10 most difficult tests on the PGA Tour. The North is friendlier (and also features bentgrass greens).
The South is demanding because it tests every aspect of a player’s game. Weaknesses will be exposed. There are six parv4s measuring between 450-500 yards. Roughly half the approach shots are struck from 175 yards or farther to the flag. The fairways are narrow and there’s just enough rough to be aggravating and deter attacking the corner hole locations.
The cut has dipped as low as 5 under in recent years but it’s more common for 1 or 2 under to be enough to earn those precious FedEx Cup points. Fairways will be missed. The best players in the world find the short grass only 52 percent of the time on the South Course compared to the Tour average of 62 percent. The greens are also more difficult to find than the average stop on Tour so an elite short game is a common thread of recent champions. And about 70 percent of the birdies converted are on putts 10 feet or less.
The weather forecast looks great. Plenty of sunshine, a light breeze and temperatures in the upper 60s, lower 70s. The fish tacos will certainly be tasty. As always, good luck.
- Joseph Bramlett, Cameron Davis, Charley Hoffman, Doug Ghim, Kyle Stanley, Sahith Theegala, Dylan Wu
Golfer power rankings
25. Adam Hadwin – He’s made the cut in his last three trips to Torrey Pines, including a T-18 a year ago. Arrives in good form, having made six consecutive cuts. Finished T-25 at the AMEX, gaining 2.4 shots Tee-to-Green at the PGA West Stadium Course.
24. Francesco Molinari – Now a West Coast resident, Molinari has thrived in his career on difficult courses that require solid ballstriking and a sharp short game. He gained 4.7 shots Tee-to-Green in a T-6 in the desert last week and has a pair of top-15 finishes at Torrey Pines in the last five years.
23. Ryan Palmer – Torrey Pines has been very good to the veteran Texan, who started his season with a well-rounded T-20 two weeks ago at Waialae. Last year was his second Farmers runner-up in the last four years and he has a pair of top 25s in the span as well.
22. Matthew Wolff – Not sure what happened to Wolff last week, however, we’ll write it off to rust accumulated during a two-month break from competition. He has a solid record on the North Course, ranks third in the field in driving distance, fifth in proximity from 200 yards plus and 26th in SG: Around-the-Green.
21. Mito Pereira – It’s a new year but we still love Mito, who is making his first trip to Torrey Pines. The course and man should form a lucrative union. He’s elite from 175-200 yards and possesses the power to attack the South Course’s par 5s.
20. Keegan Bradley – Another veteran who has made a nice living on the cliffs overlooking La Jolla. Finished 4-5-35-16 in the four years prior to 2021, when he skipped the event. Gained nine shots Tee-to-Green and 4.4 on approach in a T-12 at the Sony Open.
19. Patrick Rodgers – Scrambles and putts well on his native poa annua greens, ranks top 20 in the field in SG: Total at Torrey Pines South over the last 12 rounds and fits the power profile. Other than a few loose tee shots, played well last week in his 2022 debut, a T-40 at the AMEX.
18. Tom Hoge – Gained 7.3 shots Tee-to-Green at the Stadium Course last week in a runner-up at AMEX, which was his second top 5 in the last three starts. Now, arrives at Torrey Pines, where he finished fifth in 2020 and 12th in 2018. He’s eighth in proximity from 175-200 and 10th from 200-plus.
17. Luke List – The putter is his weakest club but poa annua is his best surface (50th in the field). His ballstriking has been excellent – fourth in SG: Tee-to-Green over the last 24 rounds, fifth in proximity from 175-200 – but the surprising stat reveals he leads the field in SG: Around-the-Green over the last 36 rounds. Made the last four Farmers cuts with a T-10 and T-12.
16. Talor Gooch – Finished T-3 here in 2019, jumpstarting his career, and has made the cut in all four appearances. Enjoys the West Coast swing and his game is built to thrive at Torrey Pines. He has an excellent short game and impeccable distance control with his irons and is top 25 in the field in poa annua putting.
15. Bryson DeChambeau – Briefly held the lead in the frenetic final round of last summer’s U.S. Open at Torrey Pines and his power should give him a better edge on the softer fairways this week. The native Californian putts well on poa annua but wonder if he can overcome his below average short game and contend this week.
14. Max Homa – Won in Los Angeles. Won in Napa. Obviously feels right at home in California and has never been in a better mental state, feeling comfortable on the PGA Tour and motivated the make the U.S. Presidents Cup team. Finished 18th and ninth in this event the last two years. He’s a steal at his fantasy price.
13. Xander Schauffele – Almost a forgotten man in recent months. Perhaps the three-plus year official victory drought has contributed. Hasn’t missed a cut since the PGA Championship at Kiawah and one of his two top 10s in the stretch was a T-7 at last year’s U.S. Open. Also finished runner-up in last year’s Farmers.
12. Dustin Johnson – Difficult to predict the state of Johnson’s game considering his last official tournament was the CJ Cup in mid-October. Still, would be unwise to overlook him on a course where he finished 19th in the U.S. Open, gaining 3.2 shots on his best surface, poa annua. Expect he’s ready to wash away the taste of a rare winless year.
11. Sungjae Im – Nothing special on his Torrey Pines resume – 52-36-32 in the Farmers and a T-35 in the U.S. Open. He’s second in the field in SG: Tee-to-Green over the last 24 rounds, though, and the Iron man has missed one cut since June and finished in the top 15 in five of the last six events.
10. Sam Burns – Last eight tournament finishes (oldest to most recent): 2-21-8-18-1-14-5-7-19. Made the cut in his last three Farmers appearances with an 18th as his best showing. After winning twice in the last year, is poised to climb from 13th in the OWGR into the top 10 and remain there for a while.
9. Justin Thomas – Making only his third Farmers appearance – tied for 10th in 2014 and missed the cut the following year. Despite a rare off week with his irons, finished T-19 in the 2021 U.S. Open on the strength of his best putting effort of the year (4.8 shots gained). Felt like he struggled at Kapalua; finished fifth. His caddie Jim MacKay knows the South Course well.
8. Brooks Koepka – Hasn’t had a top 10 since The Open Championship. Looked out of sorts at Kapalua, spraying tee shots in a T-28. The course and field should have a major feel so perhaps that will bring out his best. Simply a gut instinct call here, the models do not agree, just remember he was in similar form when he won in Scottsdale a year ago.
7. Hideki Matsuyama – Why can’t he win in consecutive starts? He’s 20th in the field in proximity from 175-200 yards and 200-plus. He finished T-12 here in 2018 and T-3 in 2019 and it’s obvious a huge burden was lifted when he slipped into the green jacket.
6. Will Zalatoris – Feel confident he’s going to win this year and it just might happen at Torrey Pines, the perfect setting for towering iron shots. Obviously on point after gaining 3.7 shots on approach at the Stadium Course in a T-6 at the AMEX. Best putting has occurred on poa annua greens. Finished T-7 last year with an impressive stat line.
5. Maverick McNealy – Another young player on our short list to win his first event in 2022 and the California native may as well take a step toward stardom in prime time against outstanding competition. While he’s average from 175-200 yards, he’s 10th from 200-plus. Combine those tools with 10 putting on poa annua and short game artistry and he could become the first to make the Farmers his first victory since Rahm in 2017.
4. Marc Leishman – He’s made $2.7 million at Torrey Pines. You may have heard this one before but I once watched him hole out from off the green five times in 16 holes in a practice round on the South Course. He’s gained shots Tee-to-Green in his last six tournaments and 12.8 on the greens the last two years here.
3. Tony Finau – Just cruising his tee shots out there 310 yards or so, Finau is another fixture on leaderboards at Torrey Pines. Never worse than 24th in seven consecutive starts, he’s landed in the top 6 four of the last five years, including a runner-up a year ago. Ballstriking and putting looked fine last week in the desert just needs to tidy up around the greens.
2. Jon Rahm – The clear favorite in Vegas and top salary in fantasy. Is he worth it? Probably. The world’s best returns to the cherished site of his first major championship. He’s had a career of highlights on the 18th green at Torrey Pines South alone. Probably doesn’t receive enough credit for his consistent excellence over the last three years – his T-14 last week was only his second finish outside the top-10 since May.
1. Daniel Berger – No matter how I dissected the numbers this week, Berger kept rolling to the top. He leads the field in proximity from 175-200 yards, is 15th from 200-plus, top-20 in poa annua putting and third in SG: Tee-to-Green over the last 24 rounds. Won last year up the coast at Pebble. Gained 6.2 shots on approach in a top 5 at Kapalua. Finished T-7 in the U.S. Open and will build on that for his fifth PGA Tour victory.