Farmers Insurance Open: Long Ball Will Be Key at Torrey Pines
Though often plagued with thick rough, Torrey Pines can be a bomber’s paradise. The long, narrow fairways at both the North and South courses put a premium on length. The South course, which measured 7,698 yards during last year’s event, had only one par 4 that played less than 400 yards.
A look at the roster of winners the Farmers Insurance Open has produced further exemplifies this point. Dating back to Tiger Woods’ victory in 2005—the first of four in a row at this event—only two victors have finished outside the top 12 in driving distance (Ben Crane in 2010 and Brant Snedeker in 2012). Aside from Tiger’s five victories in that span—during which he never finished worse than 11th in driving distance—Scott Stallings (winner in 2014), Bubba Watson (2011) and Nick Watney (2009) have excelled off the tee en route to victory.
While length alone won’t win golf tournaments, muscle off the tee is more important at Torrey Pines than almost anywhere else. Torrey South played as the longest course on the PGA Tour in 2013-14 and likely will hold that title again this season.
Here’s a look at who we favor this week, based on driving distance numbers, recent finished and past success along the cliffs at Torrey.
Last week’s winner at TPC Scottsdale, and the tour’s longest hitter so far this season, can’t be left out of a conversation centered around the long ball. Koepka is averaging 315 yards off the tee in 2014-15, a full 5.5 yards more than the next guy (Tony Finau). The 24-year-old is clearly hot (he’s 12-under for his last 36 holes with zero bogies) and he hit every green on the back nine Saturday and Sunday last week. If Koepka can channel any of the momentum left from his first PGA Tour victory, he’ll be near the top come Sunday in San Diego.
Koepka’s driver of choice is a 9.5° Titleist 915D2 with a 72-gram Mitsubishi Diamana White extra-stiff shaft.
DeLaet finished T7 last week after a Sunday 67 in which he birdied holes 13-16. The Canadian is 15th in driving distance so far this year (303.9 yards) and finished ninth in total driving last year, a stat that combines distance and accuracy. DeLaet also plays well at Torrey, having finished T2 there last year and T9 the year prior.
DeLaet is currently gaming a 7.5° Titleist 915D3 with a UST VTS 6 extra-stiff shaft.
Thomas has two top-10s this year (Sony Open and Humana Challenge) and went super low in the second round of both events shooting 61 in Hawaii—tying the season’s lowest round—and 63 at Humana. He’s currently 16th in driving distance at 303.1 yards and finished T10 at Torrey Pines last year in his first time playing the Farmers Insurance. Thomas is also first on tour in total driving efficiency, a stat that measures the ratio of a player’s ball speed to distance.
Like DeLaet, Thomas is playing a Titleist 915D3 driver. He was one of the first Titleist staffers to put the club in play, swapping before his victory last year at the Web.com Tour’s Nationwide Children’s Hospitals Championship. His version has 8.5° of loft and a 73-gram Mitsubishi Diamana White stiff shaft. (See above.)
Woodland has three top-5 finishes already this season, including a T3 at the Sony Open and a T2 at the CIMB Classic in November. His driving distance statistics are solid as usual; he’s currently 14th at 304.8 yards. Woodland shot 65 in the first round at Torrey last year, eventually finishing T10 after failing to break 70 the rest of the way. What else does Woodland have going for him? He’s 13th in GIR percentage and 2nd on tour in holes per eagle, which will come in handy on Torrey South’s gettable par 5s.
Woodland is playing a Callaway Big Bertha Alpha 815 Double Black Diamond with 8.5° of loft.
Matsuyama possesses one of the best golf swings in the game and he’s put it to the test so far this season, racking up four top-10s including a T2 last week in Scottsdale. It was there he shot 63-67 on the weekend, including a nine-under stretch from the 13th hole Saturday to the fifth hole Sunday. Matsuyama knows how to win on big, tough courses, as he proved last year at the Memorial where he defeated Kevin Na in a playoff for his first PGA Tour victory. Matsuyama also won the Dunlop Phoenix in November, a Japan Golf tour event that counts Woods, Luke Donald, Padraig Harrington and Lee Westwood among its champions.
Matsuyama is playing a Srixon Z745 prototype with a Graphite Design DI-8 Tour extra-stiff shaft.
Check back Monday to see how our picks finished, and which clubs played the biggest role en route to victory.