For the second time in three years, a familiar backdrop on the West Coast Swing is pulling double duty in the same season. After Pebble Beach Golf Links hosted both the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am and the U.S. Open in 2019, the South Course at Torrey Pines does the same this year.
It’s why the Open Doctor, er, architect Rees Jones, renovated the South Course two years ago. It didn’t miss a turn as host of the Farmers Insurance Open in 2020, so this is the latter of the opportunities for U.S. Open qualifiers and would-be hopefuls to play in the season’s third major a peek to prepare for the monster piece of property in La Jolla, California.
Scroll past the projected contenders for how the South Course compares to the North Course that co-hosts, an explanation of the tournament’s format and more.
POWER RANKINGS: FARMERS INSURANCE OPEN
Tuesday’s Fantasy Insider will include Brooks Koepka, Rickie Fowler, Adam Scott, Matthew Wolff and Jordan Spieth among other notables.
Torrey Pines South already is a beast. At 7,765 yards, it’s the longest course on the PGA TOUR, so the USGA likely won’t need to fiddle with it much for its presentation of the U.S. Open in five months. In the truncated season of 2019-20, it checked in as the fourth-hardest par 72 at 0.534 strokes over par. Although a firm, fair test, that’s still not as challenging as it has proven to be for the Farmers Insurance Open.
Unlike Pebble Beach’s early adjustment of narrower fairways and longer rough two years ago, Torrey Pines can get away with saying, “Here I am. Come get me.” It rewards distance off the tee, but in 2021, that’s almost a wash given the proliferation of muscle across membership. To pivot to underscoring the value of hitting fairways ignores the same in respecting the entirety of the exam. Last year, the South Course ranked inside the top-15 toughest in fairways hit, greens in regulation, proximity to the hole, putting: birdies-or-better (a measure of scorability), scrambling and par-3, par-4 and par-5 scoring. It still is what you think it is.
Of course, Torrey Pines isn’t a stranger to hosting a U.S. Open. We’ll examine that more when the major arrives, but it can’t be overlooked now that Tiger Woods, whose victory in the 2008 U.S. Open here is one of eight professional victories on the course. He’s sidelined for a while after having back surgery on Dec. 23.
Each of the 156 entrants of the Farmers will play Torrey Pines North once before the 36-hole cut. After alternating with the South before the cut, those among the low 65 and ties at the conclusion of two rounds will attempt to tackle only the South in the third and final rounds.
In its fourth year post-Tom Weiskopf overhaul, the North Course averaged 70.574 last year. That’s in the heart of the expectation during the FedExCup era. Compared directly to the South for the two rounds during which both courses are used in 2020, the North averaged 2.97 strokes easier in the first round and 2.47 strokes easier in the second. It’s also a stock par 72, so there’s pressure on every golfer to capitalize on his walk on it.
En route to his one-shot victory at 15-under 273, Marc Leishman carded a 4-under 68 in the first round on the North. It was the second straight year (Justin Rose, 63, 2019) that the winner opened on the easier of the pair. That’s statistically notable after eight consecutive years in which the champion rotated to the North in the second round, but neither “trend” deserves as much attention as the weather conditions.
Moderate winds and the threat of rain increase into Friday before both factors relent, but daytime highs may not eclipse 60 degrees throughout. That means that the ball won’t fly as far, which already is a variable along the coastline. Early starters also may be slowed by the marine layer. While possible, these elements are not likely for the return in mid-June.
ShotLink is used only on the South Course, so full-tournament data that includes measured strokes and Stroked Gained analytics reflect only three rounds. This didn’t prevent the tournament from slapping a three-hole stretch on the outward side of the North with a nickname. The par-4 second, par-3 third and par-4 fourth now are known collectively as The Undertow.
Prior to Weiskopf’s work, each hole regularly averaged under par, but they’ve evolved into one of the most difficult three-hole sprints on the schedule. Last year, the field averaged 0.697 strokes over par in the two rounds that the North hosted. Since 2017 champion Jon Rahm navigated them in par-bogey-par, each of the last three winners penciled in pars on all three holes.
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: Power Rankings
TUESDAY*: Sleepers, Fantasy Insider
* - Rob is a member of the panel for PGATOUR.COM’s Expert Picks for PGA TOUR Fantasy Golf, which also publishes on Tuesday.
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