The Farmers Insurance Open: Three vital angles in this week’s PGA Tour event at Torrey Pines

It’s the circuit’s annual visit to the rugged layout on the San Diego coastline and Jon Rahm is among those who loves the challenge.

If you don't know Torrey Pines, you probably don't know the PGA Tour.

A municipal golf club on the cliff tops outside of San Diego, with views across the Pacific Ocean, it's a location that the PGA Tour visits at the start of every calendar year - and also twice in the 21st century during the summer for the US Open.

Last year was an example of the double visit, with Patrick Reed taking the regular wins and Jon Rahm closing out his first Major Championship triumph in June.

There is a distinction between the two tournament the venue hosts however. The US Open plays 72 holes on the tougher South Course, in the Farmers Insurance Open the field plays one of the pre-weekend rounds on the North Course.

There are other factors at play this week which makes this a not quite unique, but definitely very specific, challenge.

Let's take a look at the others through case studies of three leading contenders.

The course specialist

Winners at Torrey Pines tend to have exceptional records at the course ahead of their wins. That, at least, has been the pattern over the last 10 years and one of the exceptions - Scott Stallings in 2014 - finished second on defence of his title.

The other outlier was Jon Rahm who won on debut in 2017 and has continued to thrive there more or less ever since.

On his defence he was second at halfway before having a horrible weekend to finish T29th. But since then he has finished fifth, second and seventh in this event - and, of course, he won the US Open at the course later in the year.

It's a sensational record and it goes beyond merely being a good fit for the test.

Last week he was rather less than at home at The American Express, but he's now heading to a spot he truly loves and for all sort of feel-good reasons.

"The coastline reminds me of home quite a bit," the Spaniard said. "Weather is similar to what I grew up in and it is a ball striker's golf course.

"It's long. You have to hit it in the fairway. You have small greens. You're not necessarily having short irons in, so tee to green, it's a premium there which luckily is one of my strengths.

"It's also like a home week. All the moments and memories my family has there (he got engaged on the cliffs and held a second wedding ceremony there). It feels like the crowd supports me and wants me to win. As my wife and I always say, it's our favourite city in the world.

"So those are the reasons why I have so much confidence at Torrey Pines."

The field beware.

Schauffele's local knowledge riddle

Has the 28-year-old Xander Schauffele finally got the hang of his home city course?

Ahead of last year it was really quite bizarre. The San Diego native had played this event five times and only once made the weekend. Even then, in 2019, he had made little impression on the tournament, finishing a quiet T25th.

With the US Open heading to the course last June, Schauffele finally came good last January, making a slowish start before accelerating over the weekend into second.

He then backed that up with tied seventh at the Major five months later.

"It's really cool," he said in June. "To sum it up, I was walking down the first fairway today with my dad and we were joking about how six or seven years ago, when they announced this site here on TV, my dad and I were sitting on the couch, and we were like, hey, we need to do whatever we can to get into this tournament. Here we are sitting here trying to win the thing."

One reason for his past problems at Torrey is the Poa Annua grass on the greens. "They're tricky to putt on," he admitted last year. Those words hint that he's not, at heart, a big fan.

Might it be that he starts to reap reward for his prep for last year's US Open after the tournament itself, however. He said last June: "I've paid more attention and tried to focus more, and tried to come out here more when I can. When they close the course down to the public, I've tried to make an extra effort to come out here and practice just to get familiar with the property for an event like this, so I've definitely been trying my best."

He got close in June, he was closer last January, might the local hero come good when the pressure has eased a little?

Max at Homa on the greens

When the West Coast Swing actually visits the Californian coast, rather than venturing inland to desert layouts, there is no getting away from the importance of familiarity with, and acceptance of, that Poa Annua on the greens.

It's not grainy like Bermuda, it's kind of scruffy and, as the day wears on, it tends to knock balls off line.

Brandt Snedeker famously loves putting on it, taking a sort of half-laid-back and half-lunatic approach to the vagaries of it. Down the years he's landed four wins at Torrey Pines and Pebble Beach, but the returns have been poor from him in recent times.

A man apparently in his Californian coastal Poa Annua sweet spot, however, is Max Homa.

Born in Burbank, Los Angeles he played all his golf growing up in this neck of the woods and, while it wasn't entirely revealed in his early results, it has started to become a real factor.

In his last 11 starts on Poa in California he has missed just one cut, has eight top 20s, six of them top 10s, and both of the last two efforts were wins: last February's Genesis Invitational at Riviera Country Club and September's Fortinet Championship at the Silverado Resort.

The missed cut was here at Torrey Pines in the US Open, but he has also finished tied ninth and T19th at the course in this event through that run.

A year ago Homa looked at the stats which suggested his putting needed work and argued: "I think I'm a great putter." He added: "I'm from California, I'm used to putting on Poa Annua. Whenever I come here, it's as easy as it gets."

Not everyone feels that way. Take the hint. Homa is a threat in these conditions.

READ MORE: Six defining moments in the history of the DP World Tour's Dubai Desert Classic

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