Big thanks to DJ for taking the reins on last week’s briefing while Soly and I wandered the desert searching for content, fossil fuels, and decent bandwidth (can safely say that the UAE is not a point of presence for undersea cables). Let’s get you primed for the first girthy event of the year on the US Tour, along with the erstwhile Dubai event on the Euro side.
Farmers Insurance Open
I might be the wrong guy to get you hyped for this one, as it doesn’t quite ring in my loins for reasons mostly having to do with the Torrey Pines. The dual course setup for rounds 1 and 2 is always cool, in that it allows for a larger field and offers more variety. Despite the improvements made to the North Course in recent years and the historic relevance of the South Course, I’m always left with a sense of longing and disappointment while watching the Farmers, like the course could be so much more. The overhead below speaks volumes: back and forth long par-fours insulating you from the cliffs just enough to dampen the scene. Simply put, the South Course boasts one of the most spectacular sites for a golf course in the entire country, yet somehow manages to feel like a boring, penal slog that espouses the worst elements of “championship” golf (“Firestone on the Pacific”).
Conversely, I’m genuinely excited to see increased coverage of the North Course (thanks to feline-centric coverage on Friday) and will watch the weekend in its entirety, as the results are somehow always interesting. DJ adds the following intel from his years of covering the event for the #Csuite: Hosting the occasional U.S. Open, especially a historic one, typically ensures a solid crowd on the grounds. The fans that turn up for the Farmers are typically informed and laid back as hell. It’s second only to Pebble as far as the most incredible scenery on Tour, so it’s pretty hard for anyone to be too stressed out. Roaming around the North Course is where it’s at.
Let’s keep it short and sweet and let you discern from the hundreds of Tiger hype pieces floating around this week to formulate your take. Talk is cheap – need/want to see him in action. There’s nothing to say until we’ve got something to go off of (though I struggle to hide my disappointment that there weren’t any “worst-ball 66’s” this time around).
Beyond Cat, the tournament field possesses strong top-end talent in Matsuyama (curious to see if he can win), Mickelson, Rickie, Rahm, Cantlay, Leishman, Hoffman and Rose (JDay not top-end in my book). However the depth of this event always sates the palate more than the big names, as this is the first event for newcomers to go out and really make a name for themselves. The reach-around season is just that, and the Sony and CareerBuilder struggle to stick out amongst the cluttered sports landscape of NFL Playoffs, NBA/NHL and College Bball. In recent years Swafford, Kizzire, Strebber, Finau and Stanley thrived here. This week will be an excellent litmus test for Justin Rose – after three wins during the silly season, plus some additional top-five finishes he seems to be flying in under the radar. While he scuffled a bit on Thu/Fri last week in Abu Dhabi, he’s undoubtedly still in a groove and this place sets up perfectly for him.
Here are the last two leaderboards for this event (Snedeker’s 2016 final round was a Ken Duke level performance – resplendent play amidst gnarly conditions):
Leaning upon our entire NLU suite of takesmiths, here are everyone’s lasting memories of the event:
Neil: Tiger winning his 6th or 7th or 19th time (I conflate the multitude of 90’s/00’s Buick-sponsored events) and wondering what he would do with another weird looking Buick LaCrosse or Enclave, and then going down the wormhole of Tiger’s impossibly-bizarre relationship with Buick (only thing that would’ve made it better: if it had been a Buick instead of an Escalade that fateful night).
Randy: Paragliders, man. Beyond that, not much. That’s not true, I guess, as this was the scene of Tiger’s infamous glute malfunctioning. Thereafter I always remember Torrey tangentially. “Activated glutes” is a timeless gift from Cat that I am eternally thankful for. But yeah, paragliders. Thanks CBS.
Soly: My lasting memory of the Farmers is undoubtedly the 2012 debacle. The original man crush, Kyle F’n Stanley once led by as many as seven shots on Sunday. Well on his way to his first win as a 23 year-old second year pro, he started leaking oil down the stretch with it finally culminating in him spinning his third shot into the water on the 72nd hole. Needing just a 7 to collect his first title, he three putted for an 8 and eventually lost in a playoff to Brandt Snedeker. Of course, he rebounded and won the next week in Phoenix, but considering I had already taken a victory lap with Randy and Tron, it was an especially tough one to take.
DJ: My lasting memory of the Farmers is following Spencer Levin on a Sunday morning a few years ago. He started the day just a few off the lead and very much in the hunt. After a bogey at the 4th hole, however, he was already mentally derailed. He walked off the green dragging his putter lifelessly behind him looking like sad Charlie Brown. Completely dejected. A fan, of which there were very few, yelled out, “You got it Spencer!” and, without looking up, he waved the fan off with a dismissive wave of his hand. He got to the next tee box and swung at it with what looked like about 70 percent, letting go of the driver on the recoil and kicking it sadly down the tee box. Jimmy Walker hits it long anyway, but he got him by about 80 yards. I don’t know why this sticks with me, but it’s the best example I can think of as far as why it’s so much more fun to get away from the stars and just watch guys up close and in their element.
Tron: John Daly’s victory in 2004 always stuck with me. He was way outside the top 200 in the world, seemingly hadn’t done anything in years, switched to Dunlop equipment that week and outdueled Ryder Cuppers Chris Riley and Luke Donald in a playoff to snare the title. Cat then won the next four iterations and the years start blending together.
Dubai Desert Classic
For the second week in a row US fans are treated to a strong field for breakfast coverage, this time with the striking backdrop of Dubai’s skyline accenting the golf. Most of the players who played in Abu Dhabi last week stuck around for this week’s proceedings with the addition of Sergio, who joins the mix to defend his title fresh off a victory in Singapore last week. Startling to see Pat Perez in the field in Dubai considering his deep ties at Torrey. The field strength for this year’s DDC is decidedly stronger than in 2017, likely owing to it’s spot one week earlier on the schedule in lieu of Qatar. Keenly interested to see how Rory fares – this is a pseudo home game for him and anything less than a win this week will feel like a disappointment coming on the heels of his encouraging debut last week and his built-in comfort level standing in the hall of fame. Of course Tommy Fleetwood is red-hot and showing no signs of slowing down, ride til you get bucked off!
Random Takes and Reads
– Strong stuff here from Jonathan Wall on Cat’s #testing.
– I’d be remiss if I didn’t welcome CBS back to the fold for this week’s event. Promised some of the suits I’d keep an open mind, which I’ve done. But if there aren’t marked improvements year over year then go ahead and clear my schedule next week.
– The Web Tour finishes up today in the Bahamas before shifting gears for the Latin American Swing: Panama, Colombia and Mexico. The talent out there is so deep, and the schedule’s improved immensely versus last year thanks to a few subtle tweaks.
– LPGA season debuts this week in the Bahamas before heading off to Australia, Thailand and Singapore through mid-March. The ladies game is an area of increased emphasis for NLU in 2018. Beyond the quality of the golf there is a lot to learn from the ladies game, especially considering the fan-friendly elements inherent in each event and a schedule that truly constitutes a world tour. The weather forecast for this week calls for 20-25 mph winds – sign me up!!! Also enjoyed this article on the trajectory of the LPGA Tour. My one request is a “Korea vs. the World” Ryder Cup-style competition. /would attend
– Shoutout to Peter Ripa and the tournament team at the Farmers for a strong group of sponsor exemptions this year – they truly delivered with a foursome of delectable young talents: Mav, Xiong, Cam Davis and Sam Burns. Now that we’ve got a few events under our belts I’ll start adding them to a master doc for tracking purposes. #accountability
— Peter Ripa (@Peterripa) November 18, 2017
– Jason Day withdrew from Wednesday’s pro-am due to a lumbar ouchie – how is this even allowed? The whole schtick is getting tired. You’re either in, or you’re out. Idea for Farmers/Zurich: a JDay-themed commercial where he faces an endless litany of injuries/woes and what insurance coverage/liability umbrella they fall under. Could do a new one for every tournament he plays in.
– This week marks the two year anniversary of this gem from Soly:
Morning Drive tried to kill #TourSauce last week, but they were kind enough to admit their mistake and invite me on to give a crash course lesson. The segment was cut a bit short due to the Abu Dhabi Championship running long, so most of what I wanted to say about what #TourSauce has become and what it is now was not able to be said. Not shown in the attached video, Paige Mackenzie went seemingly out of her way to miss the point, and mentioned that she couldn’t relate to it because she “actually played on tour.” Other than that, I think the message was well received, and we won’t be seeing anymore cringe worthy segments with bottles of “Tour Sauce” on the program.