As the PGA Tour transitions from La Quinta to San Diego, golf enthusiasts eagerly anticipate the 2024 Farmers Insurance Open at Torrey Pines. This prestigious event brings with it a storied history that seems to grow bigger each year. It showcases the sport’s elite, with top-tier players this year competing for a $9 million purse with $1.62 million to the winner.
To accommodate the NFL playoff on Sunday afternoon, play got underway Wednesday this week with the final round taking place on Saturday with little or no competition from other sporting events. NFL Conference Championships are tough competition for the PGA to compete against at the start of the season, even if they were playing at Torrey Pines.
Torrey Pines was designed by golf course architect William P Bell. His original plan of two 18-hole courses was realized by his son William F Bell in 1957. The North Course was extended by Tom Weiskopf to 7,258 yards in 2016. Weiskopf also reversed the North’s holes to end with scenic views of the Pacific Ocean.
Renovated and redesigned twice by Rees Jones, the South Course plays more difficult, with the tee areas extending the length of this par 72 course up to 7,765 yards. Golfers must also deal with the distractive view of hang-gliders and paragliders, soaring and hovering at the edge of the cliffs on the south end of the course.
The change to a Wednesday start this week at Torrey Pines, even after a torrential rain for three days, didn’t stop Kevin Yu of Taiwan from shooting a bogey-free, 8-under 64 on the North Course. He took a one-shot lead over Patrick Cantlay (65) and Ryo Hisatsune (65) into the second round on the South Course.
“I fell short last week; bogeyed the last hole on Sunday. But yeah, I’ve been playing very good and just keep building momentum,” Yu said. “If I hit a lot of fairways, I can have a lot of chances to get on the green and try to make some putts.”
The Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde personalities associated with the North and South courses, here at Torrey Pines, showed their true colors when the eight lowest scores on Wednesday came on the North Course, which traditionally plays a few strokes easier than the South Course every year. Players have a round on each course before the cut. The final two rounds will be played on the South Course.
A hole-in-one by Hideki Matsuyama was the highlight of the second round. His tee shot on the South’s 165-yard 8th hole bounced a few feet past the pin, then quickly slipped back into the cup. He celebrated by tossing the ball into the gallery.
Stephan Jaeger eagled his final hole on the North Course giving him a 64 and a one-shot lead at -12. He began his day 4 under par after an opening-round 68 on the South Course. An eagle on the 556-yard, par-5 ninth hole, saw him reach the green in 2 shots and then holed his 35-foot putt from the front edge of the green.
Jaeger went from 10- to 12-under par and grab the lead over Denmark’s Nicolai Hojgaard, who was at -11 after a 5-under 66. Belgium’s Thomas Detry and France’s Matthieu Pavon were both two strokes off the lead after shooting 68 and 65, respectively, on the South Course.
The notable PGA Tour players who headed home early after missing the cut at -3 included Collin Morikawa (-2), Sungjae Im (-2), Jason Day (+1), Michael Block (+1) and Eric Cole (+4).
Sunny skies brought smiles to players and fans alike as the 3rd round got underway on Friday morning. In all, 79 players made the cut, leading to threesomes going off on both No. 1 and No. 10 tees. This was the third consecutive year the Farmers Open featured a Wednesday through Saturday schedule.
It’s “déjà vu all over again” is a famous quotation attributed to Yogi Berra, but it sums up what happened during the third round at Torrey Pines North course. The four players at the top of the leaderboard in the morning were the same four players at the top of the leaderboard at day’s end: Stephan Jaeger -11 (68 64 73) birdied the 18th to finish back in 1st place. Nikolai Hojgaard -10 (67 66 73) and Matthieu Pavon -10 (69 65 72) both had pars on the 18th to finish tied for second. Thomas Detry -9 (66 68 73) went from a one-shot lead on the 18th tee to solo fourth, and two shots off the pace, when his third shot found the green’s front pond, resulting in a double bogey.
Pavon (72) was the only player of the top-4 leaders who managed to shoot par or better. There were five players tied for fifth at -8 while nine more were joined at 7 under. The low round for the day was a 68 shared by Will Zalatoris and Ryan Brehm. Through 54 holes, not a single player in the top-9 places has ever won a PGA Tour title, including Jaeger.
The final round began with nine players, near or on top of the leaderboard, who had never won on the PGA Tour even with Stephan Jaeger -11, Matthieu Pavon -10, and Nikolai Hojgaard -10 among them.
The day started with the Farmers Open defending champion Max Homa (-8) making some noise on the front nine when he eagled the par-5 sixth hole to get within two strokes of the lead. He eventually finished T13 after a final round 69.
Xander Schauffele (-9) showed up on the leaderboard early on Sunday with a pair of birdies on the front but slipped back with two bogeys in his final three holes to post 70 and finish T9. Tony Finau (-10) made a move to within two shots of the lead with four birdies on the front but untimely back-to-back bogeys on Nos. 13 and 14 dropped him from the conversation. He finished T6 with a 69.
The final threesome left the 17th green with Matthieu Pavon at -12 after missing a 3-foot putt for a bogey that cut his lead to one stroke. Nate Lashley (-11) and Jake Knapp (-11) were both in the clubhouse. Nikolai Hojgaard (-11) was headed to the 18th tee with the Frenchman.
Pavon’s tee shot on 18 found a fairway bunker about four inches from the front lip. He then hit his second shot about 100 yards into the left rough, leaving him 140 yards from the hole. He muscled his approach shot from heavy rough, over the water, to within 8 feet of the flagstick, after his caddie suggested playing safe for a par and a playoff.
When Hojgaard’s 49-foot eagle putt curved just around the hole, Pavon exhaled and knocked in the winning putt for his only birdie on the back nine. That last putt was a real tester, especially since he had just missed a 3-footer for par the previous hole which trimmed his lead to the slimmest of margins.
“That was the right time to prove I have the guts to finish that tournament, and I did it so I’m so happy about that last hole,” Pavon said.
CBS reporter Amanda Renner asked Pavon, “What’s going through your mind when you walked off with that bogey on the 17th and you had to stand over that daunting tee shot on the last hole?”
“I don’t know. I just tried to stay in the present moment,” said Pavon. “I always keep notes with me, I kind of try to just read them down the stretch. It keeps me in the present moment, like one shot at a time, keeping myself in total control and doing my best. That’s all you can do!”
This was Pavon’s first PGA Tour win, in his 11th career tour start. He is the first player from France to win on the PGA Tour since World War II. He brings home with him the Farmers trophy, a surfboard and a check for $1.62 million. He will also gain access to the rest of the Signature Events on the PGA Tour calendar in 2024, along with invitations into the Masters, the PGA Championship, and the Players Championship.
Nicolai Hojgaard (-12) finished alone in second and picked up a check for $981,000. At 11 under, and tied for third on 11 under, was a trio of Stephan Jaeger, Nate Lashley, and Jake Knapp. They each earned $477,000.