Torrey Pines Golf Course is up there with the most highly regarded venues used by the PGA Tour. Despite the name, there are actually two courses – the North and South – used to host the Farmers Insurance Open at this famous and delightful San Diego venue. Of the two it’s the South which is the more famed. It is a legendarily challenging layout which has been the host of major championships and more than a few tantrums and ruined rounds over the years.
The tournament, originally the San Diego Open, has not always been held at Torrey Pines but it has always taken place in the southern California city and dates all the way back to 1952. It always provides the highest calibre field of the PGA Tour’s California Swing. Anybody in any doubt about the quality of golf required to prevail after four rounds at Torrey Pines need only look at the list of winners, which is topped by Tiger Woods who has won this event an incredible seven times. Greats such as Phil Mickelson, Arnold Palmer and Tom Watson are all multiple champions here but nobody can even come close to Tiger’s magnificent San Diego seven.
|2021||Torrey Pines||Patrick Reed|
|2020||Torrey Pines||Marc Leishman|
|2019||Torrey Pines||Justin Rose|
|2018||Torrey Pines||Jason Day|
2021: Patrick Reed
If anybody was going to snap the winning run of international golfers at the Farmers Insurance Open it had to be Patrick Reed. ‘Captain America’ fought back for the USA, stopping the brilliant young Norwegian Viktor Hovland and Henrik Norlander, who were among the group that finished in a tie for second place. They were a distant second though. In an event that so often produces a tight finish, Reed was head and shoulders above the competition in 2021, winning by a very impressive five shots on 274, 14 under par.
Reed ticked all the boxes required of a winner at Torrey Pines. He putted well, he gained almost two shots per round on the field from tee to green and when he missed greens in regulation he was able to rely on his excellent short game to get him out of trouble more often than not.
As is often the case with Reed though, this was not a win without controversy. He caused consternation on Saturday when he declared that his ball was embedded in the rough on the 10th hole when TV replays clearly showed the ball bouncing into its spot. While golf Twitter was going mad, Reed used his superpower of being able to shut out the external noise to focus on the job at hand which he did in excellent fashion. A popular winner, maybe not, but a deserved one, certainly.
2020: Marc Leishman
Gary Player was the only international golfer to win the Farmers Insurance Open (then known as the San Diego Open) from the first event in 1952 through to 2001. Jose Maria Olazabal’s win in 2002 merely got in the way of American dominance as the next 12 editions went to home players but that dominance is no more. Marc Leishman’s win in the 2020 edition made it four in a row for international golfers as the Aussie bested Spaniard Jon Rahm by a single stroke to win.
When Leishman turned up to Torrey Pines for the final day’s play he was already cast in the role of also-ran. Rounds of 68, 72 and 68 were solid but left him with an awful lot of work to do on Sunday. He set about doing that work very quicky, making five birdies on the front nine alone. That put the pressure firmly on the leaders but it was a surprise to see Rahm and Rory McIlroy falter rather than rise to the challenge themselves.
Leishman ended up shooting 65, the lowest score on a Sunday of any winner since Rahm himself back in 2017. Doing it on a golf course of this difficulty reaffirmed the view that Leishman has the game to win major championships. He is certainly more than capable of adding to his current tally of five PGA Tour wins.
2019: Justin Rose
Justin Rose is not the only overnight leader to find the going difficult during the final round of the Farmers Insurance Open. Not by a long stretch. Having won the FedEx Cup just a matter of months earlier, Rose had higher levels of confidence in his game than most others who have seen their lead slip away on Sunday at Torrey Pines though. Indeed, he was able to bounce back from some nervy mistakes early on to ensure that his lead was never lost, only narrowed en route to victory.
There is a reason why PGA Tour events take place over four rounds. Any professional golfer can shoot a low score in competition once or twice but the real test of quality and nerve is to hold it all together over 72 holes. That is precisely what Rose did, becoming the first player in well over 20 years to sign for four rounds in the 60s at this event. That he did so after the South Course was tweaked to be an even more fearsome test ahead of the 2008 U.S. Open says a lot about how well he plots his way around a golf course and how good he can be when all areas of his game are in working order.
This was a fitting win to hammer home Rose’s longevity at the very top level of golf. The number one player in the world became the most successful Englishman on the PGA Tour, topping Nick Faldo’s nine titles. Rose has plenty of catch-up with Sir Nick when it comes to majors but even so, this was an impressive achievement.
2018: Jason Day
Any time a golfer shoots over par in their first round of a tournament their immediate thoughts are about making the cut rather that going on to win. Jason Day knew that he was by no means out of the 2018 Farmers Insurance Open when he shot a 73 on Thursday but nobody expected him to turn things round so impressively.
The Australian took nine shots fewer on Friday than on Thursday to go from a share of 113th place to a share of sixth. From there, the 2015 Farmers Insurance champion knew the game was afoot. Some pretty tough playing conditions meant that 64 was just not out there but Day did very well to hang tough.
In the end he was helped by the unfortunate Alex Noren who shot 73 on Sunday to throw away the 54 hole lead, the Swede eventually losing in a three-way playoff, with US golfer Ryan Palmer his fellow runner up. Like Rose, Day is a player who has proven that his game is capable of taking him right to the top of the world rankings and this was certainly a week - or at least three days - when everything clicked.
Day said afterwards that he got his motivation for this win from the disappointment of his performance at the Australian Open. “It had been four years since I had played in Australia and I wanted to put on a good show in front of the home crowds, but I didn’t do a good enough job and that really frustrated me because I played some good golf,” he said. “Sometimes with a loss and failing it spurs you on to try even harder.” He certainly gave it his all in California and was understandably delighted with the result – a –10 score and the winner’s cheque for more than $1.2m.