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Culp's Corner

Farmers Insurance Open Preview

by Josh Culp
Updated On: January 24, 2022, 12:33 pm ET

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The PGA TOUR is just three tournaments into the new year and we've already seen a combined winning score of 80-under-par across those events.

Those insane scoring rates should plummet this week as the TOUR heads to Torrey Pines for the Farmers Insurance Open.

Only once in the last nine years has the winning score gone lower than 15-under at the Farmers. Let's jump right in and talk about this tougher test. 

Also worth noting, the tournament will start a day early, on Wednesday, to avoid going head-to-head with the NFL Playoffs. 

The Courses

This week's event features a full field of 156 golfers. Due to morning fog delays and early sunset times, they utilize two courses before trimming the field to the top 65 and ties. 

Torrey Pines South (Host Course): 

The South Course is a beefy par 72 that stretches out to 7,765 yards from the tips. 

As the host venue, golfers will play the South Course in three of their four rounds this week. 

Distance is the name of the game at the host layout. Three of the par 3s play over 200 yards. Seven of the par 4s stretch out past 450 yards. Three of the par 5s exceed 570 yards with two of them being 615+ yards. 

There is really no letting up and you'll need to use every club in your bag. Played right at sea level, the course somehow manages to play even longer than the yardage on the card. The big hitters will need to dust off the cobwebs from their long irons because you need them at Torrey Pines. 

For as much as distance is talked up at Torrey, just remember that Brandt Snedeker has won here twice and K.J. Choi has racked up a pair of runner-up finishes. There are certainly routes for success for the shorter hitters, it's just a tougher task. 

We know that distance is preferred off the tee, but what about accuracy? Marc Leishman showed that it's only optional two years when he won the Farmers while hitting just 27-of-56 fairways including just three on Sunday. 

Looking at the grasses, golfers will see ryegrass and kikuyu from tee-to-green with poa annua putting surfaces that be ramped up to be quite speedy. 


Torrey Pines North: 

Looking for a break from the brute, golfers will get one round at the North Course this week. 

This par 72 checks in at 7,258 yards on the scorecard this week. That is pretty standard length but seems rather short when you compare it to the South Course. 

Taking care of business on the par 5s at the North is crucial because all four of them play under 560 yards. Looking at common courses played in the last decade, only La Quinta Country Club and Glen Abbey yield higher eagle rates than the North Course. It helps to have the driveable, par-4 seventh to help pad those eagle stats, as well. 

Off the tee, the fairways are somewhat narrow but the rough is not penalizing. It's very susceptible to the bomb-and-gouge approach. 

Looking at the scoring environment, the field generally averages around 1.5 shots under par at the North Course which is around 2.5 shots tougher than the South. If you don't fire a 3-under or better at the North Course, it will feel like you are getting lapped. 

For grasses it's similar to the South with ryegrass and kikuyu from tee-to-green but bentgrass on the putting surfaces, rather than the poa annua you see at the South. 


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Quotes on the Course

Alex Noren: "I mean, it is a ball-striker’s course, but also if you miss a few shots here and there it’s not — at the end of the day you can still manage to maybe get it onto the green because there’s an opening to every green, you can run it up from the rough. I think you’ve got to play strategically, you can go for a few pins if you’ve got a good lie, and if you don’t, you’ve got to play smart to avoid bogeys." 

Geoff Ogilvy: "If you keep presenting Torrey Pines South, for example, where the farther you hit it the bigger advantage you have, we’re just going to go home, plug in the Trackman and hit it as hard as we can." 

Rory McIlroy: "Yeah, the length factor. Par 5s are very gettable, there’s two reachable par 4s. There’s tee shots I hit today offline that if you hit those tee shots on the South course, you get penalized a lot more, whereas you’re giving yourself birdie looks as long as you don’t hit it behind a stray tree that’s somewhere in the rough. Yeah, you can sort of just let it rip a little bit more on the North course."

Keegan Bradley:  "I really like that you can hit driver on every hole, which is very rare. So basically going to hit driver on every hole but par 3s and I like that. It’s nice, deep rough. Just got to play well."

Phil Mickelson: "The reason why this course plays so long is that we’re at sea level, we get a day like today where it was a little bit cooler and the ball just doesn’t quite fly as far as normal, but that was actually offset a little bit with how firm the fairways were because the ball was running." 

Length, length, and length are the main talking points at Torrey Pines. 


Correlated Courses

Using historical data from this week's venue, we can look for other courses across the PGA TOUR schedule with crossover success (or failure). Here are the courses that pop up frequently:  

Augusta National
Muirfield Village GC
Quail Hollow Club
TPC Sawgrass

The theme of the week is fast greens and big events with strong fields. Plenty of drivers and long irons are used at all of these venues. 


The Weather

Wednesday: Sunny with a high of 72 degrees. Winds at  4 to 8 MPH. 

Thursday:: Sunny with a high of 72 degrees. Winds at  5 to 10 MPH. 

It's an early start this week and golfers will see nearly identical conditions on days one and two, if the forecast holds. 

Josh Culp

Josh Culp joined NBC Sports Edge in 2014. The DFS enthusiast from Iowa State can be found on Twitter @futureoffantasy.