Billy Casper and Mickey Wright were homegrown greats. Phil Mickelson is clearly San Diego’s most accomplished and beloved golfer of the modern era, and Tiger Woods has racked up a slew of memorable wins at Torrey Pines in his home state.
Jon Rahm is a Spaniard who lives in Arizona, yet he also occupies a prominent place in San Diego’s golf landscape – and he’s hoping to make it even bigger this week.
The world’s top-ranked player leads a packed field to the edge of the California coast for the first round of the PGA Tour’s Farmers Insurance Open on Wednesday (Thursday AEDT).
Two of Rahm’s six career victories on the tour occurred at Torrey Pines on these two gorgeous municipal courses – and both were landmark moments in his life.
He got the first win of his PGA Tour career at the Farmers tournament in 2017, and he seized his first major victory here in the US Open last year. Rahm even got engaged in the area in 2018 while on a coastal hike with his now-wife, Kelley.
“It is a golf course that I love, (and) it’s a city that I love,” Rahm said. “I have great memories all throughout my career here, my latest win being here as well. It’s one of those weeks that I look forward to every year.”
The Spaniard frequently travels to San Diego.
“A lot of times when I feel like I need a weekend without distractions, or I just come and practice, I will come and do that,” Rahm said. “We’re probably here once every two months. That would be at the very least.”
The tournament is starting on Wednesday and finishing on Saturday to avoid television conflict with the NFL’s two conference championship playoff games on Sunday.
This marks the first week in which the players will be under the cameras of the reality-show producers whose Formula One documentary series on Netflix has contributed to a worldwide boom in the sport’s popularity.
While several players – including Rahm and Bryson DeChambeau – declined to participate, Justin Thomas and several others will be under a slightly hotter spotlight with behind-the-scenes coverage of their lives and games.
Thomas sounds cautiously optimistic about the attention, saying he’ll pull out of the show if it becomes a distraction.
“I want it to be an opportunity,” Thomas said. “Just the fun, different things that people wouldn’t necessarily see. … There’s a lot of different aspects that I think will be great for not only myself, but guys that give people a little better understanding of who we are and grow our brand a little bit.”
Patrick Reed is back to defend his title after scorching the field for a five-stroke victory last year. Reed created plenty of drama during his ninth career win when he picked up his ball after a third-round drive, believing it was embedded.
Although replays showed the ball had bounced, officials didn’t penalise Reed, ultimately agreeing with his interpretation of events.
“It should be remembered as a victory,” Reed said. “At the end of the day, the rules officials said we did nothing wrong.”