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The Starter - Farmers Insurance Open

Jan 24th 2023

Nick DeMott

Updated throughout each tournament week, 'The Starter' will provide key news, notes, and other nuggets prior to the first tee time on Thursday morning. Think of it as an all-in-one resource to help guide you in the days leading up to the start of the tournament, as you prepare your fantasy golf lineups and entries. As soon as we receive valuable news updates on things such as tee times, featured groups, withdrawals and other course reports we’ll be sure to post them all here.

Brief Recap of The American Express

  • Jon Rahm wins The AmEx for the second time in his career.

    • 9 career PGA Tour victories.

    • 4 wins in his last 6 starts worldwide (2-for-2 in 2023).

    • First 2x winner on the PGA Tour this season.

    • Moves to No. 1 in the FedExCup Standings.

    • Moves to No. 3 in the Official World Golf Rankings.

  • Rahm's scoring average on the PGA Tour this season is 66.33 (12 rounds).

  • Xander Schauffele finished T3 in his first start since withdrawing from the Sentry Tournament of Champions with a back injury. He made the first Albatross on TOUR this season en route to a final round 62 (-10).

  • Davis Thompson finished runner-up in just his 20th career start on the PGA Tour. The rookie moved from 169th to 59th in the Official World Golf Rankings.

  • Thompson made 5 eagles at The AmEx, which tied the record for the most eagles ever in a single PGA Tour event.

  • Ben Griffin moved into the OWGR top 100 (97th) for the first time in his career. He was outside the top 1,000 in world rank this time a year ago.

  • Taylor Montgomery added a solo 5th-place finish to his impressive rookie season resume.

    • 9/9 on made cuts

    • 8 top 15s

    • 4 top 10s

    • 2 top 5s

  • Chris Kirk finished T3 for back-to-back top 5 finishes (the first time he's done this since 2014).

  • Tom Kim bounced back from the missed cut at the Sony Open by finishing T6 at The American Express.

  • Victor Perez won the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship on the DP World Tour, which moved him to 2nd on the European Ryder Cup team's points list.

Farmers Insurance Open (January 25th-28th, 2023)

  • Torrey Pines Golf Club (North and South Course) - La Jolla, California

  • Event #13 of the 2022-23 FedExCup Regular Season

  • Full-Field Cut Event

  • Wednesday Start (Saturday Finish)

Overview

The "West Coast Swing" makes its next stop this week in San Diego for the Farmers Insurance Open, which has been the event's title sponsor since 2010.

The event itself dates back to the 1950s and has been played at Torrey Pines in La Jolla since 1968.

Torrey Pines has hosted the U.S. Open twice (2008 and 2021), with the 2008 edition being remembered well for Tiger Woods defeating Rocco Mediate in an 18-hole playoff while battling through a severe knee injury that would require surgery afterward. More recently, Jon Rahm won the 2021 U.S. Open held at Torrey Pines.

From a difficulty perspective, Torrey Pines (South) offers a tougher test of golf than what we've seen so far in the birdie-fest-filled start to 2023. This is due in part to the length of the course and the presence of penal rough. Being located on the coastline can also bring windy conditions into play.

The Farmers Insurance Open features a two-course rotation in Torrey Pines South and North, where half the field plays each once on Wednesday or Thursday. After a traditional 36-hole cut, the final two rounds are played at the more difficult and more well-known South course on Friday and Saturday.

For the second season in a row, the Farmers Insurance Open gets played from Wednesday through Saturday in order to avoid conflict by being broadcast at the same time as the AFC and NFC Championship games on Sunday. A wise decision by the PGA Tour.

The Courses

Torrey Pines North and South differ pretty drastically from one another. Here are the basic differences:

Torrey Pines - North Course

  • 7258 Yards (Par 72)

  • Bentgrass greens

  • Average green size: 6,000 sq. ft.

  • 42 sand bunkers

Torrey Pines - South Course

  • 7765 Yards (par 72)

  • Poa greens

  • Average green size: 5,000 sq. ft.

  • 82 sand bunkers

The disparity in length is the biggest factor here. An additional 500 yards at the South course is significant and this manifests itself in how much more difficult the scoring is at Torrey Pines South.

Field scoring average at Torrey Pines by course split, last four seasons:

Torrey Pines - North Course

  • 2022 scoring average: 68.77 (-3.23)

    • Birdie-or-better: 28.17%

    • Bogey-or-worse: 10.43%

  • 2021 scoring average: 70.13 (-1.87)

    • Birdie-or-better: 23.02%

    • Bogey-or-worse: 12.53%

  • 2020 scoring average: 70.57 (-1.43)

    • Birdie-or-better: 22.58%

    • Bogey-or-worse: 14.12%

  • 2019 scoring average: 69.84 (-2.16)

    • Birdie-or-better: 24.89%

    • Bogey-or-worse: 13.06%

Torrey Pines - South Course

  • 2022 scoring average: 72.35 (+0.35)

    • Birdie-or-better: 19.11%

    • Bogey-or-worse: 19.39%

  • 2021 scoring average: 73.34 (+1.34)

    • Birdie-or-better: 17.36%

    • Bogey-or-worse: 22.74%

  • 2020 scoring average: 72.53 (+0.53)

    • Birdie-or-better: 18.19%

    • Bogey-or-worse: 20.02%

  • 2019 scoring average: 71.73 (-0.27)

    • Birdie-or-better: 20.43%

    • Bogey-or-worse: 17.83%

Torrey Pines (South) not only routinely ranks as one of the longest courses on the PGA Tour, but it also presents some of the narrowest fairways. In 2022, only 58.8% of fairways were hit at the South Course which is 7.1% below the PGA Tour average. This just contributes further to the scoring being at more of a premium.

Winner's Profile - How Luke List gained strokes on the field in 2022:

  • SG Total: +8.70

  • SG T2G: +7.44 (5th)

  • SG OTT: +1.29 (21st)

  • SG APP: +5.46 (4th)

  • SG ARG: +0.72 (32nd)

  • SG PUTT: +3.72 (8th)

Luke List defeated Will Zalatoris in a playoff at last year's Farmers Insurance Open.

Entering the final round sitting T19 on the leaderboard, List shot a 66 (-6) to come from behind to claim victory at Torrey Pines. Difficult courses like Torrey seem to lend themselves better to golfers charging up the leaderboard on the final day.

I'm not sure there's a ton to glean from List's strokes gained numbers. List is a known great ball striker who had an outlier great putting performance at Torrey Pines.

Strong ball striking certainly helps on a lengthy course like Torrey. Will Zalatoris, who came so close to winning last year's Farmers, ranked 1st in SG: Approach and 8th in SG: Off-the-Tee while losing strokes putting.

In 2021, Patrick Reed won with his excellent short game--ranking 1st in SG: Around-the-Green and 10th in SG: Putting. In 2020, Marc Leishman won by ranking 1st in SG: Putting while losing strokes around-the-green and off-the-tee. So there are certainly more ways than one to get the job done at Torrey Pines.

The Field

  • Field Changes (-): Max McGreevy, Mark Hubbard, Chez Reavie, Chris Stroud, and John Huh all pulled out of the field.

  • Field Changes (+): Ben Crane (alternate), Arjun Atwal (sponsor exemption), Camilo Villegas (sponsor exemption), Cody Gribble (alternate), Scott Brown (alternate), William McGirt (alternate), and Sean O’Hair (alternate) were all added to the field.

  • Field Changes (+): Monday Open Qualifiers = Caleb Surratt, Robert Garrigus, Harrison Kingsley, and Spencer Levin.

  • Five golfers in the OWGR Top 10 are in the field (Jon Rahm, Xander Schauffele, Will Zalatoris, Collin Morikawa, Justin Thomas).

  • Ten golfers in the OWGR Top 25 are in the field.

Tee Times & Groups for Rounds 1 & 2

INJURY REPORT (as of 10AM ET, 1/24)

IN FIELD

Xander Schauffele (back) - OWGR 6th

Xander returned from his back injury last week at The American Express and finished in a tie for 3rd. After Round One, he noted that a bit of soreness still existed but it got better after each day of the tournament in Palm Springs.

Given how well Xander played at the AmEx, it appears like he’s mostly over this injury. It’ll still be worth keeping an eye on given the nature of back injuries and the possibility of a tweak or setback happening.

Dean Burmester (toe) - OWGR 58th

Burmester confirmed after Round One of The American Express that he did break his toe back on Christmas Eve and that it prevented him from practicing much leading up to the event. He added that it was still causing him some pain and that if it wasn’t his “baby toe” he likely wouldn’t have played.

He managed to play pretty well through whatever amount of pain he felt last week, shooting 65 (-7) on Thursday before ultimately fading back to a T54 finish.

Lanto Griffin (back) - OWGR 178th

Griffin had microdiscectomy surgery on the L5-S1 disc in his back on July 26th and has not played in a PGA Tour event since then. He says he originally ruptured the disc in May 2020 and then re-ruptured it in January 2022.

Griffin saw his first competitive action at a Korn Ferry Tour event in the Bahamas last week, finishing T66. He posted on his Instagram after the event saying it “feels great to be back and playing pain free.”

Jhonattan Vegas (undisclosed) - OWGR 150th

Vegas made his first start of this PGA Tour season last week at The American Express. He had been out since last August with what he referred to as a “recurrent injury” on his personal Twitter account.

He underwent arm surgery last April, though returned to competition shortly afterward. It’s unclear if Vegas’ absence from events in the Fall was due to this same issue.

Vegas missed the cut at the AmEx though did shoot 8-under-par over his three rounds.

James Hahn (neck) - OWGR 312th

Hahn returned to action at The American Express last week after WD’ing from the Sony Open in Hawaii the week prior with a neck injury. He missed the cut at the AmEx after shooting 73-71-73 over the first three rounds.

Kyle Stanley (undisclosed) - OWGR 679th

Stanley withdrew a few days prior to the start of The American Express last week. It’s unclear why Stanley decided to pull out of the event, though it’s worth noting that he’s been playing this season under a major medical extension for an undisclosed injury. Stanley missed the cut at last week’s Sony Open in Hawaii, and he has yet to make a cut in three total starts on the PGA Tour this season.

J.B. Holmes (back) - OWGR 1,776th

Holmes last played in a PGA Tour event in 2021 at the Fortinet Championship. He’s playing under a major medical extension which gives him 26 starts to try and earn enough FedExCup points to regain status on TOUR.

OUT OF FIELD

John Huh (elbow tendinitis) - OWGR 177th

Huh WD'd from the Farmers Insurance Open on Monday. He also withdrew just prior to his Round One tee time at The American Express last week, with the PGA Tour’s media page saying it was due to elbow tendinitis. He pulled out of the field for the Sony Open the week before that too, likely as a result of this same elbow injury.

Horses for Courses

Farmers Insurance Open golfers with the highest “True Strokes Gained” (avg. adjusted strokes gained) at Torrey Pines South Course (min. two starts):

  • Jon Rahm +2.47 (22 rounds)

  • Collin Morikawa +2.32 (7)

  • Will Zalatoris +2.11 (9)

  • Xander Schauffele +1.70 (17)

  • Jason Day +1.54 (31)

  • Justin Thomas +1.52 (11)

  • Tony Finau +1.52 (24)

Jon Rahm’s course history at Torrey Pines:

  • 2017 - Win 

  • 2018 - T29

  • 2019 - T5

  • 2020 - Runner-up

  • 2021 - T7

  • 2021 (U.S. Open) - Win

  • 2022 - T3

Farmers Insurance Open golfers with the highest “True Strokes Gained” (avg. adjusted strokes gained) at Torrey Pines North Course (min. two starts):

  • Jon Rahm +4.15 (6 rounds)

  • Robby Shelton +3.06 (2)

  • Beau Hossler +2.71 (6)

  • Tony Finau +2.38 (8)

  • Will Gordon +2.23 (2)

  • Ryan Palmer +2.18 (9)

Weather Report (as of 5PM ET, 1/24)