Power Rankings: Farmers Insurance Open
January 21, 2019
By Rob Bolton, PGATOUR.COM
Inside the PGA TOUR
Farmers Insurance Open preview
It's impossible to think of Torrey Pines Golf Course without associating it with Tiger Woods in some way at any point in time dating all the way back to his days as a junior. The seven-time champion of the Farmers Insurance Open is making his 18th appearance on the site where he also claimed the most recent of his 14 victories in a major – the 2008 U.S. Open.
While he's made it look easy at times, the chase never ends. Just as every career evolves, so do courses and tournaments. The last two editions of the Farmers contested on the North and South Courses in La Jolla, California, have yielded a new normal for the 156-man fields that descend. Scroll beneath the ranking for more on this and why the test will change again in advance of next year's edition.
Tuesday's Fantasy Insider will cover numerous notables who don't appear above, including Jordan Spieth, Rickie Fowler, Xander Schauffele, Hideki Matsuyama, Patrick Reed, Keegan Bradley and Desert Classic champion Adam Long.
It wouldn't be wrong to cite that this is Woods' first start at the Farmers all the way back from multiple back surgeries and proper recoveries. He tried, tried and tried again in 2014 (T80/MDF), 2015 (WD) and 2017 (MC), and last year's T23 served as a glimpse of what was in store for the remainder of the season than it was a gauge of his capability. Now, his expectations at Torrey Pines are aligned fairly with his history on the course. It's just that the vice versa isn't reflective.
Since the reveal of Tom Weiskopf's redesign of Torrey North in 2017 – his comprehensive update added 206 yards to reach its current length of 7,258 yards – the last three rounds on the North rank inside its top-seven highest of 24 in the FedExCup era. (All golfers alternate one round on the North and South Courses in the first two rounds. After the 36-hole cut falls, only Torrey South hosts the third and final rounds.)
Meanwhile, after 7,698-yard Torrey South played to its history as one of the most stringent tests found anywhere on the PGA TOUR in 2017 – which, to add another layer of perspective, was its easiest of a four-year stretch – both of last year's rounds slot inside its top-four easiest in the FedExCup era. Still, the overall scoring averages between the courses varied by only 1.49 and 1.40 strokes in 2017 and 2018, respectively. In each of the last three editions prior to Weiskopf's work, the difference was no lower than 3.29. (Four-round scoring is baked into Torrey South's averages contributing to those comparisons.)
The fairways on both courses have remained among the toughest to find, and distance off the tee continues to define contenders, but the bentgrass greens on Torrey North are measurably harder to hit in regulation despite the fact that they're 40 percent larger than pre-redesign. As they mature and with Mother Nature's assistance, GIR splits should rise from the 11.6-per-round clip, but Woods and Co. are still logging experience with the putter.
If the would-be winner wanted to target specific soft spots on both courses, it'd be the par 3s on the South and the par 5s on the North. Of course, since both are par 72s, proficiency in par-5 scoring overall will help characterize the champion. Aggressors on the North also are benefited because of the larger putting surfaces and the knowledge that they'll be able to salvage par three out of every five times on average. Rough on both tracks is allowed to grow to at least three inches.
In a strange trend that challenges the definition of phenomenon, each of the last eight winners of the Farmers Insurance Open rotated to the North Course in the second round. Beginning with Bubba Watson's 65 in 2011 and extending through Jason Day's 64 last year, the scoring average of the eight champs on Torrey North is 66.13. (Jon Rahm debuted the redesign with 69 in 2017.)
ShotLink is utilized on Torrey South throughout the tournament, but because it's not employed on the North, statistics that use lasered measurements apply only to rounds on the South. This includes distance of all drives, proximity to the hole and all strokes-gained data. For example, strokes-gained putting rankings will represent only golfers who log 54 holes on the Poa greens of the host course.
Downright dandy conditions are in store all week. Clouds will be evident, but wind might not be. Daytime temperatures will climb into the mid-to-upper 60s. Depending on atmospheric variables, a marine layer cannot be ruled out to make an appearance on any day, but if it does, the ocean view from atop the cliffs will pay off the patience after it burns off.
After the PGA TOUR leaves town, Torrey South will be the focus of numerous upgrades. Tees, bunkers and landing spots around greens will be modified in part for improvements in irrigation. The greens themselves won't be touched. All of the attention is necessary in advance of the 2021 U.S. Open scheduled to be contested on the course.
ROB BOLTON’S SCHEDULE
PGATOUR.COM’s Fantasy Insider Rob Bolton recaps and previews every tournament from numerous angles. Look for his following contributions as scheduled.
MONDAY: Rookie Ranking, Qualifiers, Reshuffle, Medical Extensions, Power Rankings
TUESDAY*: Sleepers, Fantasy Insider
WEDNESDAY: One & Done
* - Rob is a member of the panel for PGATOUR.COM’s Expert Picks for PGA TOUR Fantasy Golf presented by SERVPRO, which also publishes on Tuesdays.