(CBSLA) — The Farmers Insurance Open continues its long run at Torrey Pines this week, as the PGA Tour moves through its West Coast Swing. Tiger Woods is missing the event to continue recovering from his recent back surgery. But Jon Rahm and Rory McIlroy are among the biggest names in a field that includes three of the world’s top-10 players and more than half of the world’s top 25. They will split their time between Torrey Pines’ North and South Courses.
Rahm returns to action after withdrawing from the American Express with an injury he sustained at the gym. The No. 2-ranked player has performed well on this course, winning the event in 2017 and placing in the top five the last two years. McIlroy makes his 2021 PGA Tour debut after a third-place finish at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Golf Championship. Ranked seventh in the world, he has also found success at Torrey Pines, with top-five finishes the last two years. Xander Schauffele is the only other top-10 player making the trip to La Jolla, California. Ranked just above McIlroy, Schauffele tied for fifth at the Tournament of Champions earlier this month. But he’s missed the cut four of his five appearances at the Farmers.
Jordan Spieth and Brooks Koepka are both looking to climb the rankings. Spieth, who once resided near the top of the rankings, now finds himself at 91st. Koepka is 12th, but is also used to being ranked higher. “Jordan Spieth and Brooks Koepka coming back, both with new swing coaches, are pretty notable stories, says Mark Immelman, CBS Sports golf analyst and on-course reporter. “Spieth obviously has been struggling and sought out counsel from a different instructor, as has Brooks Koepka.”
Marc Leishman shot 15-under to take the event last year, topping Rahm by a single stroke. Justin Rose, one of only two champions from the last 10 years to skip this year, put up an impressive 21-under to win the event the year before. On the other end of the spectrum, Brandt Snedeker’s six-under par was enough for first place in 2015.
“The defending champion, Marc Leishman, is always a good one to keep an eye on,” notes Immelman. He played solidly in Waialae a few weeks ago. His game seems to be trending in the right direction. And all of the Australians here, because of the Kikuyugrass, the Eucalyptus trees, the Pacific Ocean, still very much like home to them. So the Aussies always play well around here. Leishman has, Adam Scott has, Jason Day won around here. I’ll keep an eye on Marc Leishman certainly.”
A wide range of winning scores means playing conditions matter. The area is likely to see sunny skies and temperatures around 60 degrees for much of the tournament. Rain could dampen the festivities on Friday, however. The biggest concern at coastal courses is wind, which can whip in off the ocean and change playing conditions very quickly. The wind is forecasted to be relatively calm at Torrey Pines in the coming days, but could always change.
Named after a rare tree that grows in the area, Torrey Pines is among the most picturesque golf courses on the PGA Tour. The public facility’s North and South courses sit along the magnificent Pacific coast cliffs, north of San Diego. The North Course is a par-72 measuring 7,258 yards. The South Course, the Tour’s longest last year, is also a part-72, though it stretches to 7,765 yards. It will host the U.S. Open in June, making the Farmers a bit of a preview for the season’s third major.
With a long course such as the South, bombers come in with a distinct advantage. And they will need that length on the par-5 ninth and 13th, both of which stretch over 600 yards. Staying on the fairways is another issue. The percentage of fairways hit in regulation comes in below the Tour average, meaning accuracy also has its place.
“With the adjustments made to the South here a couple of years ago by Tom Weiskopf, it’s not the pushover that it used to be,” says Immelman. “Still both golf courses ask you to be pretty long and pretty accurate off the tee. Both golf courses have demanding green complexes that are small. To me in the South is a little smaller than the North course the expanses of the green. So, it asks you to hit quality iron shots. And then you have to have an element of sort of stick-to-itiveness. The course is like a war of attrition, especially the South. And it’s a major championship-style venue, where par is a good score. So if you can drive it in play and hit quality iron shots, and then have that resilience about you, you’ve got the recipe for success around here.”
Jon Rahm (7-1)
Rahm always seems to play well at Torrey Pines, with a win and two top-fives in his last four appearances. He was top five in shots gained: off-the-tee (.756) and shots gained: tee-to-green (1.344) in 2020.
Rory McIlroy (8-1)
McIlroy has found similar success at the Farmers, finishing in the top five the last two years. He was similarly strong last year in shots gained: off-the-tee (.702) and shots gained: tee-to-green (1.314). And McIlroy just has a knack for finishing the weekend in the top 10.
Xander Schauffele (14-1)
Schauffele’s best finish at the Farmers is 25th, and that was the only time he’s made the cut. But he’s ranked sixth in the world, and he’s coming off a fifth-place tie at the Sentry Tournament of Champions a couple weeks ago. Like Rahm and McIlroy, his shots gained: off-the-tee (.648) and tee-to-green (1.239) were among the best on last year’s Tour.