Before we get to this week’s contest, a brief recap of what happened at last week’s American Express.
Yes, we did have 5 former Bulldogs in action, and spoiler, none of them won the tourney. Sepp Straka shot an opening 72 and needed a good 2nd round to make the 3 under par cut. His +1 on the front meant a monumental back nine was necessary. The three pars and two birdies weren’t bad, but the 3 bogeys were bad and the triple bogey on 17 was just cruel. Hudson Swafford needed the same kinda Friday round. His first hole? Double. His last hole? Double. You get the picture. Russell Henley stayed away from the big number, he just didn’t have enough small numbers and was two short of the cut.
Chris Kirk made the cut with a couple to spare, hung around on Saturday, and moved up 15 spots with a 68 on Sunday to get a T16. Brian Harman stayed on the leaderboard through the first 3 rounds and was only 2 shots back on the first tee Sunday, yet his slow final round start allowed the leaders to pull away and his 71 was only good for T8. Now on to this week’s contest:
Tournament: Farmers Insurance Open, January 28-31, 2021
Course(s): Torrey Pines GC (South), 7,765 yards, par-72. Torrey Pines GC (North), 7,258 yards, par-72 (La Jolla, CA just north of San Diego)
Purse: $7,500,000 total, and $1,350,000 to the winner.
Defending Champ: Marc Leishman. The Aussie-turned-Floridian started hot and stayed just ahead of everyone else; which included former champs Jon Rahm and Brandt Snedeker.
Fun Fact: A lot can be made of the field, filled with past winners and multiple-time winners like Jason Day, Phil Mickelson, Tiger Woods (more because he’s not playing due to recent back surgery) and the US debuts of Rory McIlroy, Jon Rahm, and Jordan Spieth. For me, the real story is the one of Kamaiu Johnson - it’s a tale that will warm your heart. **
TV Times: Thu-Fri 3:00-7:00 p.m. ET (Golf Channel). Saturday, 1:00-3:00 p.m. ET (GC), 3:00-6:00 p.m. ET (CBS). Sunday, 1:00-3:00 p.m. ET (GC), 3:00-6:30 p.m. ET (CBS).
‘Dawgs in the Field: Sepp Straka, Harris English, Keith Mitchell, and the 2021 debut of Bubba Watson.
The Farmers Insurance Open is a staple on the West Coast Swing, an early season full field event in the usually good weather of San Diego on very good golf courses. And many times it serves as the first tournament for many of the top pros. They might skip the long flights to Hawaii and choose not to play the pro-am events before and after this. But a chance to play Torrey Pines, especially the highly regarded South course, brings the big guns out of their winter hibernation.
You may have heard that Tiger Woods will delay his 2021 season as he recovers from recent microdiscectomy, his fourth back surgery. Though the press release made it sound as if this was minor surgery, opening up your back and spine that many times gives me a serious pause. He has a lifetime exemption, has won on this particular course 8 times, and lacks for nothing. So don’t be surprised if we don’t see Tiger until Augusta in early April.
Jon Rahm is also coming off a minor injury supposedly coming from a session in the training trailer. He’s now a Calloway staff member so we’ll see how the club change and rust affect his performance. Rory McIlroy is coming off a 3rd place finish in the Middle East where he held the lead going into Sunday. There were concerns that the ever-changing US travel policies might prevent him from playing Thursday, but I guess money talks.
With the big names coming out, a lot of entrants who grew up here in SoCal, and apparently some dicey and cooler than normal weather, it’s really anyone’s game. I’d love to see Bubba make some noise with his golf game and not just his (actually enjoyable) social media but I have no clue where his head and his game are at. He did win the 2011 edition of this event for his 2nd career PGA Tour title, and just a few months after his father passed away from cancer. He famously held off local favorite Phil Mickelson who almost holed out from the fairway. I just hope we have all four Bulldogs make the cut and give us something to watch this weekend besides Tom Crean’s second half defense. And as always...
**Late Edit: Johnson had to withdraw due to testing positive for COVID-19. In addition, his mother was rushed to a central Florida hospital with COVID-19 complications. Johnson must remain in southern California to quarantine. I feel bad for the guy, on many levels.