Farmers Insurance Open 2016
Round 4 - Brandt Snedeker winds up the winner
February 2, 2016
With his glove tucked in his back pocket and a putter in his hand, Brandt Snedeker walked off the green pumping his arms to celebrate a six-shot comeback to win the Farmers Insurance Open. That was the only part of his victory that looked normal.
He was on the practice green, not the 18th green.
Snedeker never hit a shot Monday.
Having delivered one of the great closing rounds on the PGA Tour on Sunday, all he could do was wait to see if it was good enough when the wind-blown tournament concluded before no spectators because of safety concerns for all the debris on the South Course at Torrey Pines.
The jangled nerves came from watching the forecast, and then the telecast. Snedeker finally went to the putting green and figured the crowd's reaction would let him know if K.J. Choi had made birdie on the 18th to force a playoff. But then he realized there was no crowd.
''I can't tell you how excited I am to be a champion here again, how unbelievable the last 48 hours have been,'' said Snedeker, the first player in more than five years to make the cut on the number and win the tournament. ''Everything worked out perfectly for me. You cannot make up the extreme events that had to happen for me to have this chance, and they all fell in line perfectly.''
It started with Snedeker.
In gusts that consistently topped 40 mph and peaked at over 50 mph, he played the final 17 holes Sunday without a bogey and closed with a 3-under 69, which was nearly nine shots better than the field. The average score (77.9) was the highest for the fourth round at a regular PGA Tour event since the tour began keeping such statistics in 1983.
Snedeker won at 6-under 282, the highest winning scores at Torrey Pines since Fuzzy Zoeller in 1979.
Shortly after he finished Sunday, play was stopped for the third and final time, and for good reason. The relentless wind toppled more than dozen trees across Torrey Pines, including a 60-foot eucalyptus that fell across the left edge of the 15th fairway some 40 yards short of the green.
The forecast was for 25 mph win out of the opposite direction. That was good for Snedeker.
When he woke up Monday morning to start the waiting game, there was hardly any wind at all. That was bad for Snedeker.
But after another two-hour delay to clean up debris, the wind showed up at just the right time and made the conditions just as tough - maybe even tougher for the final groups - as it was on Sunday.
Snedeker hit a wedge for his second shot on the 15th. Choi couldn't reach the green with a 3-wood.
With the final five holes playing into the wind, birdies were scarce.
Jimmy Walker, who was leading at 7-under par through 10 holes when play was halted on Sunday, made four bogeys over his eight holes and shot 77. Choi, who was at 6 under (and tied with Snedeker) made only one bogey, and it was enough to cost him. He couldn't reach the 14th with a fairway metal - another wedge hole on Sunday - and narrowly missed a 6-foot par putt. Choi closed with a 77 and was runner-up.
Kevin Streelman had a 74, with two late bogeys ending his hopes, and finished third.
''The way the wind blew and made those last five holes play so tough on those guys, I feel bad for them,'' Snedeker said. ''They got the raw end of the stick this morning. But that's just the way golf goes, and luckily enough, I played good enough yesterday to get the job done. So it's a special feeling to say the least.''
It was the second time Snedeker has won at Torrey Pines, and he needed help both times. Four years ago, he was in the media center as the runner-up until Kyle Stanley made a triple bogey from the fairway on the 18th hole, and Snedeker beat him in a playoff to complete a seven-shot comeback.
This time, he needed help from the elements.
Snedeker made the cut on the number Saturday and was tied for 27th going into the final round. The wicked weather produced 23 rounds in the 80s, including an 87 by Scott Brown, who shared the 54-hole lead with Choi and wound up in a tie for 49th.
''It's just one of those fluke things,'' Snedeker said. ''There's no way you can control the weather, no way you can predict how it's going to be. Sometimes you get the raw end and sometimes you get the better end, and I obviously got the better end this week.''
He did his part with a great closing round on Sunday. He was rewarded with a trophy on Monday.
Round 4 - Brandt Snedeker leads as storm hits
January 31, 2016
Brandt Snedeker called it one of the best rounds he ever played, one he doubts he could repeat if he had to start over. Still to be determined was whether his 3-under 69 in a raging wind and occasional rain Sunday at Torrey Pines would be good enough to win the Farmers Insurance Open.
He has to wait until Monday to find out.
Not long after Snedeker finished, the final round was suspended for the third and final time because of unplayable conditions. The wind was so fierce that the South Course was evacuated as the gusts started to push out windows in tents.
Stewart Williams, a meteorologist for the PGA Tour, said the peak gust was between 50 mph and 55 mph. Monday will be closed to the public, and the only volunteers on duty will be drivers of the evacuation vans for the players.
''It's like playing a British Open on a U.S. Open setup,'' Snedeker said.
In gusts that frequently topped 40 mph, he delivered a major performance. Snedeker played the final 17 holes without a bogey. Of the 23 players who finished the round, 11 of them shot in the 80s and their average score was 78.9.
Snedeker's one regret was not getting up-and-down for birdie on the par-5 18th hole, fearing that might leave him short of another unlikely victory at Torrey Pines.
He posted at 6-under 282.
As he stood on the 18th tee with the wind at his back, the final group of Jimmy Walker, K.J. Choi and Scott Brown were above him on the ninth tee headed in the other direction. When play was halted, Walker was at 7 under, one shot ahead of Snedeker and Choi. The final group was through 10 holes.
''This course is so tough,'' Snedeker said. ''It's blowing 25 mph, gusting out there and windy and rainy conditions. It's really tough. I wish I could say why I shot what I shot today. It was one of those days where you throw everything out of your mind and go play golf land grind as best as you possibly could.''
The next best score to Snedeker was a 73 by Shane Lowry of Ireland.
There already were 11 rounds in the 80s, and there was certain to be many more. The South Course is a beast in reasonable weather. Throw in the wind and rain, especially on the holes exposed by the bluffs along the Pacific, and this was as tough as it gets.
Billy Horschel hit a 5-iron on the par-3 third hole, which played 147 yards straight downhill. He came up well short of the green. In the same group, Colt Knost hit a long putt that actually blew slightly backward into the hole.
''The first six holes were the hardest I've ever played in,'' said Chad Campbell, who grew up in West Texas and made no apologies for his 79 while playing alongside Snedeker. ''Brandt played one of the best rounds I've ever seen. I don't think he missed a shot.''
Snedeker started the final round six shots out of the lead. He won at Torrey Pines in 2012 by rallying from seven shots in the final round, needing help from a triple bogey by Kyle Stanley on the final hole to beat him in a playoff.
This time, he got some help from the elements.
''To shoot 69 on a day like today, I knew I had to have a forecast like this to have a chance,'' Snedeker said.
He also needed a few good putts. After missing a 15-foot par putt on the opening hole, Snedeker bore down and kept his round from getting away by knocking in a 35-foot par putt on the fourth hole that runs along the ocean, and then a 15-foot par putt on the next hole. When he made the turn, he was off to the races.
The tee on the par-4 12th, the toughest at Torrey, was moved up 56 yards to play at 448 yards. Snedeker hit his approach to a foot, and then rolled in a 40-foot birdie putt on the par-5 13th. He made his fourth birdie in five holes with an approach to 12 feet on No. 14 and then hung on.
''But that chip shot will probably be weighing on my mind,'' Snedeker said.
His approach to the par-5 18th with the wind at his back bounced hard and over the green. The wind was in his face. The thick grass was into him, and Snedeker was worried about coming up short and leaving a long birdie putt down the hill. He was a little aggressive, and the chip rolled just off the green.
Still, it was hard to complain about a 69 in weather typically only found on links courses at The Open Championship.
''I couldn't do it again,'' Snedeker said. ''I don't know how I did it.''
It will be the second Monday finish in four years at the Farmers Insurance Open. Fog was the culprit in 2013 when Tiger Woods won by four shots.
Round 3 - Scott Brown and K.J. Choi top leaderboard
January 31, 2016
Scott Brown and K.J. Choi, both of moderate length off the tee, are tied for the lead at the Farmers Insurance Open at Torrey Pines, where the South Course is the longest all year on the PGA Tour. It helps to hit it straight.
One shot behind was Jimmy Walker, who has plenty of power, but he hit only three fairways Saturday. It helps to make putts.
The mystery of this tournament adds another element for the final round with a nasty forecast. Bracing for increasingly heavy rain and gusts up to 40 mph, the PGA Tour moved up the tee times as early as possible to try to avoid the worst of it.
With 16 players separated by three shots, this could be anybody's tournament.
''I enjoy the grind of it. And I like tough golf courses,'' Brown said. ''And I think we're going to have both tomorrow.''
Choi one-putted his last six holes to salvage an even-par 72 and a share of the lead with Brown, who missed three good birdie opportunities late in his round of 70.
They were at 9-under 207.
One shot behind were Walker and Gary Woodland, who shared the 36-hole lead with Choi and didn't see anything go in until late in his round. Woodland made two birdies over the last four holes for a 73.
''You want it to be as tough as you can,'' Woodland said. ''You want to go out there and earn it. So I hope it's tough, and I hope I have a good day.''
Choi was headed the wrong direction until he made a pair of birdies, saved par on three straight holes and then hit wedge to 3 feet on the par-5 18th for one last birdie.
''The last birdie will help, because tomorrow it's going to be tough,'' Choi said. ''So it was a very good round today.''
Phil Mickelson and Rickie Fowler each missed the cut, though Torrey Pines still has a local favorite to cheer. That would be Michael Kim, the Cal grad who went to Torrey Pines High School and grew up watching Mickelson and Tiger Woods win here. Kim had a 70 and was among four players at 7-under 209.
Another shot back was a group that included Dustin Johnson, who didn't make a birdie until the 13th hole and still managed to limit the damage to a 74.
Choi hasn't won since The Players Championship in 2011, which gave him a five-year exemption that ends this year. He was an assistant captain in the Presidents Cup in October, and showed he still has plenty of game. Giving 30 yards off the tee to Johnson and Woodland, he rarely was out of play and dropped shots mainly on a three-putt bogey at No. 5 and a poor chip across the green at No. 7 that led to double bogey.
But he got back into the mix with his strong finish, particularly the par saves on the 15th and 16th holes.
Brown appeared to be the most relaxed, maybe because of his home life. His wife, Allison, gave birth to their second daughter a week ago Tuesday. Brown said that might have put him at ease this week, and he recorded back-to-back top 10s on the PGA Tour for the first time in 2012 right after their first daughter was born.
But he did not dismiss the work he put in over the offseason with swing coach John Tillery, or even the inspiration from good friend and Aiken, South Carolina, neighbor Kevin Kisner, who has been among the best players on tour over the last year and who routinely beats him in games at Palmetto Golf Club.
Walker already has two victories on California courses - Pebble Beach and CordeValle - and loves Torrey Pines. He just wishes he were hitting the ball where he was aiming.
''It hasn't been real fun,'' Walker said. ''But you got to deal with what you brought with you, so I'm doing the best I can. Just a lot of up-and-downs today. A lot of putts. So all that feels good. So that's a good thing.''
Even with the lead groups struggling with the South Course, there were plenty of fireworks.
Jason Gore had an albatross when he holed out with a 3-wood on the par-5 18th hole. Ben Crane was stuck behind a tree and punched it out on the 15th, only to watch it bound onto the green and into the cup for an eagle. A short time later, Freddie Jacobson holed out for eagle on the 15th.
Based on the forecast, the final round might be more about surviving with pars.
''If it's as bad as everybody says it's going to be, it is going to be a grind,'' Walker said. ''Is it going to be a ton of fun? Probably not. Just going to be out there getting slammed and attendance is probably going to be down. There's not going to be a lot of people out there, because it sounds like the apocalypse is coming.''
Round 2 - Stars miss the halfway cut
January 30, 2016
Phil Mickelson had to leave the golf course to play one of his shots at Torrey Pines, an early sign of the mass exodus Friday in the Farmers Insurance Open.
By closing with three straight bogeys on the easier North Course, Mickelson missed the cut.
At least he was in good company.
Jason Day, the defending champion and No. 2 player in the world, missed the cut for the first time in nearly eight months. Also leaving early was Rickie Fowler, the No. 4 player in the world who was riding high from his victory five days ago in Abu Dhabi,
Throw in Justin Rose (No. 7 in the world), and another gorgeous day along the Pacific bluffs felt like Black Friday.
Not losing sleep over the surprising departures were Gary Woodland and K.J. Choi, who shared the lead going into the weekend; and Dustin Johnson, who made a risky escape on the one wild tee shot he hit and wound up one shot behind.
Woodland powered his way to a 5-under 67 on the South Course, which he prefers because of his length and the left-to-right shape of his tee shots. Woodland reached two par 5s in two and was just off the green on two other par 5s. He made birdie on all of them to help atone for a few mistakes on the back nine. He had to make a 15-foot putt on the par-5 18th to be the first player to post at 9-under 135.
Choi was a mild surprise, having not won on the PGA Tour in nearly five years. The 45-year-old South Korean shot his 67 on the North Course.
Their games are different, though they shared one thought - power always helps, but accuracy is paramount on the Torrey Pines courses with thick rough.
''When I drive the ball in the fairway out here I'm having some short irons into par 4s, I'm having mid-irons into some of these par 5s,'' Woodland said. ''So when I drive the ball like I did today, good things are happening right now.''
Johnson was pounding driver on the North Course and making enough short putts to move up the leaderboard. Then came a shout of ''Fore right!'' and the crackle of a ball through a Torrey pine on the seventh hole. He had a tree right in front of him, no path to the green except through a V-gap in the tree about a foot wide. Johnson managed, nearly made birdie and finished up his 66. He was at 8-under 136.
Scott Brown had a 71 on the South to join Billy Horschel (70 on the South) and Martin Laird (68 on the North) at 7-under 137.
The cut was at 1-under 143.
Mickelson never thought that would be an issue. He opened with a 69 on the South and was prepared to take advantage of the short par 5s on the North. Instead, he sliced his second shot so badly on the par-5 18th (his ninth hole) that officials had to measure to make sure it was not out-of-bounds. It was in play, by little more than the dimple of a golf ball, but it was under an iron fence.
Mickelson had to walk to the other side of the fence and punch at it with a hybrid into a bunker. He blasted out and three-putted for double bogey. Mickelson grew up in San Diego and has played Torrey Pines more than anyone. Asked if that was the first time he played from the parking lot, Mickelson replied, ''Probably not.''
''After that good round yesterday on the South Course, I thought, 'I'm going to go to the North Course and really light it up.' I think I tried to force the issue a little bit,'' Mickelson said. ''When I wasn't under par early, I kind of started to press a little bit. But that stuff happens.''
He didn't seem bothered, and neither did Day.
The PGA champion got sick last Friday after a week in the desert working on his game and didn't touch a club again until the opening round Thursday. He said his energy was gone, his swing felt off and it showed. Day shot 74 on the South and missed the cut for the first time since the Memorial.
''You can't live and die by one week,'' Day said. ''It's not going to be the last cut I'm going to miss. Hopefully, it is the last cut I'm going to miss this year, but once again it's a process. I got to keep working hard and hopefully that delayed gratification is a lot more sweeter at the end of the year than it is right now.''
The 13 players separated by three shots at the midway point featured a collection of long and medium hitters, which didn't surprise Johnson in the least.
''If you look at the winners here, they're all over the board, as far as length,'' Johnson said. ''But you've got to drive it straight. And right now I feel like I'm driving my driver very straight, so that's definitely a key.''
Round 1 - Scott Brown & Andrew Loupe lead with 66s
January 29, 2016
Scott Brown and Phil Mickelson both had reason to believe it could be a long day on the South Course at Torrey Pines. It turned out just fine Thursday in the Farmers Insurance Open, especially for Brown.
Brown hit into a hazard and made bogey on the first par 5 he faced and was 2 over through six holes. He finished with eight birdies over his last 11 holes for a 6-under 66, giving him a share of the lead with Andrew Loupe.
Only it felt much better for Brown because it was on the South, which played 2 1/2 shots harder than the North Course where Loupe shot his 66.
''Extremely hard,'' Brown said of the South, which already hosted one U.S. Open and has another coming in five years. ''But it's fair. It's just tough. If you're out of position, you just have to play for par or bogey and you can't make any big numbers out there because as soon as you get behind the 8-ball, you can't press and try to make birdies.''
He did, anyway, including a 30 on the front nine.
Brown and Loupe had a one-shot lead over five players, including Billy Horschel, who all played the North Course.
Defending champion Jason Day, who missed the pro-am because of the flu, made his tee time but not a lot of birdies. He shot 72 on the North Course. That was one shot better than Rickie Fowler, who won Sunday in Abu Dhabi and couldn't buy a putt on the North Course in his round of 73.
''Couldn't get anything going,'' Fowler said. ''Couldn't make a putt. So looking forward to getting on the South greens, that's for sure.''
Mickelson, whose last win at Torrey Pines was 15 years ago, didn't have the ideal start, either. On the second-easiest par 4 on the South Course, he hit into a fairway bunker, caught the lip trying to get out, hit his third shot just over the green and failed to get up-and-down, making double bogey.
''I thought anything in the 60s would have been a good score,'' Mickelson said. ''It's a very difficult golf course. But after doubling the second, I was able to kind of just keep things calm until I made a few birdies, and it was a good back nine.''
As significant as his birdies was a par on No. 11, where his tee shot found a bunker and he escaped with a 20-foot par putt. Mickelson hit enough good drives to set up three straight birdies. He reached the 614-yard 13th hole in two, hit wedge to 5 feet for birdie on the 14th and an 8-iron to 4 feet on the next hole.
He ended with a 30-foot birdie putt on the 18th.
Of the 33 players who shots in the 60s, only 12 of the scores came on the South Course. K.J. Choi and Chesson Hadley each had a 68.
Paul Dunne of Ireland made his PGA Tour debut with a 69 on the South, while 17-year-old Ryan Ruffels of Australia opened with a 70 on the North Course in his first professional event in America. Ruffels, the son of tennis parents Ray Ruffels and Anna-Maria Fernandez, won a Junior World Championship at Torrey Pines, and he beat Mickelson in a practice round last December.
Mickelson figured the South Course would be a good test for his driver, and he had mixed results.
''It was not what I expected, but better than I'm used to,'' he said.
Jimmy Walker was expecting much better. He was excited about the way he was driving the ball until a piece of epoxy on his driver came loose during the pro-am. He missed it left of the gallery on No. 7, and so far right on the par-5 ninth on the South that it landed beyond a blue mesh fence of a concession area. At that point, he still was 4 under. Walker kept it together for a 69 and then headed for the range.
''It's tough when you've got a two-way miss going,'' he said. ''But I hit some good irons, good wedges and some good putts.''
This tournament typically isn't sorted out until the weekend because of the disparity of the courses, though the North is no longer a pushover. It has tighter fairways with thick rough. The scoring difference comes largely from the par 5s, which all are reachable with good tee shots.
That's where Brown is headed on Friday with the same plan - keep it in the fairway, keep big numbers off his card.