2022 Farmers Insurance Open: 10 Takeaways From Luke List’s First PGA TOUR Victory at Torrey Pines
Sam Greenwood/Getty Images. Pictured: Luke List.
Saturday finish. Great leaderboard. Brilliant views.
Torrey Pines always delivers and this week was no different. Let’s dive into 10 takeaways from the Farmers Insurance Open and Luke List’s first career PGA TOUR victory.
1. Put Luke on the List
While I liked List this week and wound up with a small pre-tourney outright share, I didn’t list him in my Farmers preview and won’t take any credit. However, I did list Luke in my 2022 preview column called “The Leap,” where I wrote that he would win his first title this year.
Now that he has, one of the game’s longer hitters and better tee-to-green strategists should continue climbing leaderboards and rising in the rankings. The best comp I can offer is Jason Kokrak, who in his mid-30s finally realized his potential, posting three victories in just over a year. List just turned 37 years old, so it’s not fair to suggest that he’s some sort of up-and-coming talent who will be winning for the next decade, but I do believe that – like Kokrak – he’s the rare pro who wins later in his career, then starts playing his best golf.
Hey, some guys figure it out in their early-20s; others take a while. List looked poised in the moment, so it’s hardly unreasonable to suggest he’ll be able to replicate this feat again at some point this year.
2. Where there’s a Will…
Let’s not cry too many tears for Will Zalatoris. One of the game’s best young ball-strikers, his added distance off the tee is going to keep him threatening for that first trophy every time he tees it up. Of course, there’s just one small problem. Allow me to be just the 782,938th person to point out that Willy Z’s putting stroke is, uh, not exactly optimal.
If he’d been born 10-15 years earlier, I’m guessing he would’ve claimed a few victories by anchoring his putter before that style was banned. Now, though, all he can do is work at it – and I’m told he’s not averse to putting in the hours.
There’s no doubt it looks ugly at times. You know he wishes he could have either the final putt of regulation or the (similar) birdie attempt in the playoff over again. I’m not as pessimistic about it as some observers, though. Perhaps on smoother surfaces that aren’t poa annua – you know, like Augusta National – we’ll see him roll in more of those putts.
3. Not a putting contest
Last week at The American Express, in a fan’s video that went viral, Jon Rahm lamented the course setup, calling it a “putting contest.” He wasn’t wrong, although it was a bit mystifying that a veteran of the early-year pro-am in the desert would expect it to be anything other than that.
It became ironic, though, when the Farmers (perhaps just as predictably) turned out to be the opposite of a putting contest, as ball-strikers thrived and TV viewers were treated to more balky strokes on the greens than at the local muni on a Sunday morning.
I say it all the time, but it’s especially true in this case: One of the great things about being a fan of professional golf is that if you don’t like the details of an event, another one is just a few days away. Variety is necessity and the dichotomy between the past two weeks is the epitome of why golf is so entertaining on a weekly basis.
4. Sat. around and watched
Saturday afternoon’s Tom Brady news/no-news notwithstanding, it was a brilliant decision by PGA TOUR/CBS/Farmers executives to start this tourney on Wednesday and end it Saturday, rather than trying to compete against the NFL’s conference championship games on Sunday. Not only should ratings prove it was a success, but the move was universally applauded, to the point where many suggested this should be the standard during football season.
Well, that’s obviously easier said than done. There were Saturday night playoff games each of the previous two weeks, so in the true spirit of this idea, that would essentially mean moving The AmEx and the Sony Open to Tuesday starts with Friday finishes. Essentially, there are a lot of dominoes that need to fall in order to make this happen.
Potentially losing pro-am revenue for charities and prep time for players are just a few of the potential pratfalls. As I often warn fans: Some ideas might sound great to you, but you’ve gotta remember that you’re not the highest priority here. From TV rights holders to sponsors to the players themselves, new ideas have to work for everyone involved. I’m not shooting down the idea of all September through January events being played on off-peak days to avoid NFL games; I’m just saying that it’s not as easy as doing what works best for the fans.
5. Rahmania running wild
I’m starting to think Jon Rahm kind of likes Torrey Pines. He won here in 2017, won the U.S. Open last year and he’s been in the mix in all but one appearance at this venue.
My biggest takeaway on Rahm this week is more about the fact that he looked like he had something closer to his C-game than his best stuff and still kept himself in serious contention for the title. Some might contend that this is just a testament to his fortitude on this specific venue, but I think Rahm’s performance should scare the hell out of some of his fellow elite-level players.
Lots of guys can win with their A-game, but it really speaks volumes when there’s someone who can (almost) win with something less than that. The world’s No. 1-ranked player has proven he’s capable of hanging in there, even when he doesn’t quite have it firing on all cylinders.
6. It wasn’t Jason’s Day
Sorry to steal a Nantz-ian line there, but those who only started watching golf in the last 3-4 years probably think the Jordan Spieth roller-coaster is the biggest stomach-upheaval in golf. It’s been a while, but Saturday’s final round was a reminder that Jason Day can fluctuate at a moment’s notice like the stock market.
His 14th-hole eagle hole-out was electrifying, but his back-to-back bogeys on 16 and 17 were equally frustrating. That said, the game is better when Day is playing his best golf and there are now signs that he’s at least on the right track. I’d expect some more good things from him coming soon. Speaking of which …
7. Sifting through the Pebble
I’m writing this on Saturday evening and won’t have my preview for the upcoming AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am posted until mid-day on Monday, but here’s a little preview of the preview: You’re going to read, hear and watch an awful lot about a few specific players this coming week.
Even while struggling in recent years, Day hasn’t finished outside of the top 11 at Pebble in his last seven tries. Maverick McNealy is coming off back-to-back top-fives. Defending champion Daniel Berger has three straight top 10s. Jordan Spieth has five top 10s in nine starts. Will Zalatoris is doing Will Zalatoris things. And then there’s Patrick Cantlay, who tends to show up with his best stuff on a weekly basis.
If Torrey is a place for certain course horses each year, then the Monterey Peninsula rota are similarly courses for horses. I won’t spoil the surprise – and it’s subject to change based on the initial odds board – but my favorite outright this week isn’t anyone I’ve listed above. They certainly give us some solid options, though.
8. Under the covers
Diehard golf fans (and bettors) were likely familiar with Aaron Rai before this weekend, but more casual observers likely got a kick out of the guy with two gloves and iron covers contending at Torrey. I tweeted this on Friday evening, from an interview that Michael Collins and I did with Rai on our SiriusXM PGA TOUR Radio show “Hitting the Green” last year, when he told us the story of why he uses those iron covers.
For those watching Aaron Rai for the first time and wondering how/why a guy with iron covers is contending at Torrey, this is the story. And it’s awesome. https://t.co/POsHTtisJ8
— Jason Sobel (@JasonSobelTAN) January 29, 2022
It’s a brilliant tale of remembering where you came from – and I think those who listen will be Rai fans for a long time to come after hearing about it. Speaking of the man who finished T-6, if the short-but-straight hitter can contend on a 7,700-yard track, just wait ‘til he gets to a Harbour Town or Colonial or TPC River Highlands. Those places should be right up his alley.
9. Next on the List?
I often struggle with those “Best Player to Have Never Won” types of lists – whether they’re in reference to PGA TOUR events or majors – because it forces us to rank players at completely different stages of their careers. Scottie Scheffler is probably the best without a PGA TOUR title to his name; Zalatoris is right up there, too. After them? I guess I’d have to say Tommy Fleetwood and there are probably some other young players who don’t need to be labeled with such a thing before their careers have really taken off.
If there’s one guy who really fits the nature of this debate, though, it’s Cameron Tringale, who’s been very good for a very long time, without breaking through for a win. That was a sneaky share of third place that he posted this week, though, and while he can undoubtedly point to a few missed putts as the difference between winning and finishing third – like everyone else on the leaderboard – maybe he’ll take some optimism from List erasing his name from this list. Tringale now owns five top-three finishes in the past 18 months. It wouldn’t surprise anyone if he becomes the next first-timer to grab a trophy.
10. A Bones to pick
It didn’t take long for Justin Thomas to fade from the leaderboard and subsequently fade from the TV coverage on Saturday. Closing rounds of 73-74 will leave him steaming. For a player of his caliber, there aren’t many silver linings to a T-20 result.
Over the past few months, I’ve been very careful to avoid suggesting that Thomas’ decision to team up with Jim “Bones” Mackay will result in guaranteed success. After all, it’s not like Thomas was carrying his own bag before this; for the first portion of his career, he worked with the immensely capable Jimmy Johnson and it’s not exactly like they struggled.
There’s now enough data, though, to offer a little insight into how JT and Bones might fare together. They’ve teamed for eight events – three prior to their current partnership and five since – and while Saturday’s finish wasn’t what they’d envisioned, they do have a win and three other top-fives together, while that final-round 74 only raised their final-round scoring average to 67.38 in those starts.
I’m still not sure it’s going to be a massive year for JT, but I think it’ll be better than last year – and I wouldn’t use the last two days at Torrey as a barometer of what’s to come.