The only thing missing on Saturday at Torrey Pines South during the Farmers Insurance Open was the USGA logo on all the banners. The narrowed fairways, long rough, and firm greens of a U.S. Open setup were all present and gave the guys fits. Average score on Saturday was a about 75. The number one player in the world, who owns this track, shot 79 and missed the third round cut for the first time in his career. This was an all-you-can-eat buffet of humble pie if I have ever seen one.
Apparently the shrill voices of the media powers did not go unheeded-they wanted to make sure that Sunday was not a demolition derby broadcast. As such the set up on Sunday was much more forgiving-a little water on the greens and fewer Clark Kent phone booth pin positions suddenly made for a sporting afternoon at Torrey Downs. By the time the last group reached the fifth tee 19 guys were within three shots of the lead.
It might take a racing form to keep track of all thoroughbreds with a chance in this race.
Charley Hoffman wasn’t happy with the 75 he shot on Saturday that included four bogies on the South Course. He went out after yesterday’s round for some secluded work on his game with his Trackman and said he found something and ought to be in contention on Sunday.
His opening nine was five-under including a hole-in-one on the postcard third and three other birdies getting him to seven-under and within one of the lead. Guess that technology did have something to share. A bogey on ten and Charley went into a par stall over the next seven looking like one of those hang gliders just hovering a couple out of the reach of the lead. His birdie on 18 was too little too late as he would finish at seven-under.
Trevor Immelman threw two birdies and an eagle on the board in his first eight to reach seven-under as well. But he bobbled badly on the ninth taking four shots from in front of the green to make a bogey and stall his momentum. Two more bogies on 10 and 12 pretty much put his hopes under the posies. But this is a major champion and three birdies over the next four holes percolated him back within one of the lead.
Even the old nags liked their chances. K.J. Choi starting the day at two-under bogied the first and then ran off seven birdies over the next 14 holes to grab a share of the lead at eight-under. He was the first to post eight-under so it was whittle and wait for another couple of hours for K.J.
The youngsters were to be heard, Spiething in tongues, as Jordan continued to talk to his ball trying to coax some birdies and make a run at his second PGA Tour win. But for every step there was a misstep and so it was just another Sunday schooling for him. Jason Day, the talented 26 year-old Australian, was knocking on the door the entire day. After an opening bogie, he made five birdies to grab a share of the lead at eight-under on the fourteenth. His bogie-birdie finish would mean that the best he would do was grab a whittling chair next to K.J.
The bombers always do well over the 7600 plus yards of Torrey Pines, the longest layout they play all year on the PGA Tour. Gary Woodland, Marc Leishman, and Scott Stallings hit it as far as anyone out there and all have first hand experience with the trophy presentations at tour events.
Woodland had towardness problems, only hitting 3 greens in his first thirteen holes but used a reconstructed short game and a stable full of one putts to stay on par. Leishman by contrast hit half the fairways but used his strength to find 75% of the greens and remain in the chase. Stallings made six birdies through fourteen holes and was the first one to reach nine-under and momentarily interrupt the whittling.
There were others-La Jolla native Pat Perez, Canadian Graham DeLaet, young Ryo Ishikawa, and Will MacKenzie-the leaderboard permutations seemed endless.
Plenty of jockeying remained to be done down the difficult home stretch at Torrey. Hitting the fairways and making key putts was going to decide this….it was only a question of how many noses were going to be in the photo finish image.
When the dust settled it was just one. Scott Stallings made a bogie on sixteen but redeemed himself on the par 5 eighteenth hitting the fairway and hoisting a long iron across the pond to safety by just a yard. Two confident putts for birdie and his nine-under total held off the five other show ponies at eight-under.
Quite a finish this proved to be one exhausting afternoon of spectating.