When the wraparound season was introduced in 2013-14, it made possible the fact that a rookie could win the first tournament of the season. It took three lid-lifters but Emiliano Grillo became the first rookie to triumph at the Frys.com Open in October. The new schedule also opened the door for rookies to qualify for the Hyundai Tournament of Champions, which previously led off the season. Three rookies have competed in that tournament now.
Among the other wrinkles is the fact that the PGA TOUR hasn’t gone this deep into a season without a course averaging over par since, well, potentially never. Scores are, of course, archived, but scoring averages weren’t maintained in earnest until 1983.
The Farmers Insurance Open is the 11th tournament of 2015-16. All of the 13 courses that have hosted (or co-hosted) events this season have averaged under par, and significantly at that. Sea Island Resort’s Seaside Course, a par 70, ranks as the hardest in relation to par thus far at -0.687. Nine of the tracks averaged easier than 1.180 strokes under par.
The feast will end this week at Torrey Pines in La Jolla, California. At 7,698 yards, the South Course is annually the longest in a non-major and it ranked as the second-hardest par 72 last season with a scoring average of 73.518 last year. Its final-round split of 74.054 was a season high. Torrey South is also one of only three courses to rank inside the top-10 most difficult in fairways hit, greens in regulation and scrambling. In other words, it’s the test that fans who love to see the best challenged can expect.
Measuring 646 yards shorter from the tips, the par-72 North Course at Torrey Pines will serve as the site for half the field on both Thursday and Friday. Only the South is played after the 36-hole cut falls. The fairways on Torrey North always rank among the toughest to split, but it’s where hopeful contenders will need to make hay as its par 4s and par 5s finished among the top-10 easiest of all courses in 2014-15. Last year’s field hit 74.16 percent of the greens in regulation to touch a five-year high. (Only Torrey South is measured for ShotLink purposes.)
Jason Day defends this week. His winning aggregate of 9-under 279 matched Scott Stallings’ from 2014. (They share the highest here since Fuzzy Zoeller’s 6-under 282 in 1979.) For perspective on the value of going low on the North Course, both of the 36-hole leads during the weeks that Day and Stallings won were 10-under. Each of the last five champions played the North Course in the second round, but all of the last nine winners submitted a score in the 60s on the pushover. To find the last score that didn’t qualify for that club, you have to go back to 2006 when seven-time champ Tiger Woods opened his fourth title with a 71 on Torrey North.
Weather often plays a role at Torrey Pines, primarily in the form of a morning marine layer along the Pacific Ocean. This week’s forecast includes quite acceptable conditions through Saturday, but all bets are off for the final round as there is a decent chance for rain, gusty winds and a daytime temperature that will fight to touch 60 degrees.
POWER RANKINGS: FARMERS INSURANCE OPEN
1 Jason Day 2 Brandt Snedeker 3 Phil Mickelson 4 Rickie Fowler 5 Bill Haas 6 Jimmy Walker 7 Charles Howell III 8 Jamie Lovemark 9 Patrick Reed 10 Hideki Matsuyama 11 Shane Lowry 12 Dustin Johnson 13 Zac Blair 14 Marc Leishman 15 Scott Stallings