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Jan 23, 2024 6:44 pm

Early start as Max Homa defends Farmers Insurance Open title

Max Homa will seek to defend his title at the Farmers Insurance Open this week when play begins Wednesday at iconic Torrey Pines Golf Course in San Diego.

The tournament will utilize the rare Wednesday start in order to have a Saturday prime-time finish and avoid conflicting with the AFC and NFC championship games on Sunday.

Homa shot a final-round 66 last year to stave off Keegan Bradley and win by two shots. Four of the California native’s six tour victories have come in his home state.

“You start here and you’re going to get punched in the mouth immediately,” Homa said of the test at Torrey Pines. “When I’m setting up a schedule, I like to go to the golf courses that I feel like fit me the best. I don’t typically do well when the winning score’s in the 20 unders. I do better when it’s closer to 10 or 15 under.”

Golfers will play one round apiece at the North and South courses; both are par-72s, but the North Course is 500 yards shorter. After the 36-hole cut, the field spends Friday and Saturday at the 7,765-yard South Course.

The South Course was the site of the 2021 U.S. Open, where Spanish star Jon Rahm won his first of two career major titles. Rahm also won the 2017 Farmers Insurance Open at Torrey Pines, but he’s not in the field this week as he prepares to make his LIV Golf debut next month.

However, eight of the top 20 golfers in the Official World Golf Ranking are on the property, including Californians Xander Schauffele, Patrick Cantlay, Collin Morikawa and seventh-ranked Homa.

This week also represents a big opportunity for players like Michael Kim. The tour introduced a new pathway to qualify for signature events mid-season via the “Aon Swing 5,” which tracks FedEx Cup points accumulated by players not otherwise eligible for the next signature event.

Grayson Murray and South Africa’s Christiaan Bezuidenhout have qualified for next week’s AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am in this fashion. Justin Thomas is third in the standings but withdrew from the Farmers Insurance Open because his No. 23 world ranking got him into the Pebble Beach field. Kevin Yu of Taiwan, Carl Yuan of China, Kim and others will be battling for the remaining places.

If that’s confusing, the players on tour don’t know much more about it themselves.

“I understand that Carl is in front of me. I understand I need to be inside the top five,” Kim said. “I wasn’t thinking about it at all until a few days ago. I think I’m 20 or some odd points behind and I need to be inside the top-5. Like always, the answer is play better. If I have a good week this week, it will work out accordingly, I’m sure.”

Kim is another local — he attended Torrey Pines High School and grew up playing these courses.

“I’m always excited to come back to this event and it’s almost a dream come true,” Kim said. “Dream is to actually win the thing, so we’ll see.”

Southern California-based teaching professional Michael Block is in the field on a sponsor’s exemption after missing the cut last January. That was four months before he became a fan favorite with his inspiring T15 finish at the PGA Championship.

Last week’s event, The American Express, was won by reigning U.S. Amateur champ Nick Dunlap, the first amateur to win on tour since Phil Mickelson in 1991. The Alabama sophomore withdrew from the field this week as he ponders whether to turn pro.

–Field Level Media

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