SAN DIEGO – If you want to understand how achingly slow play was during the final round of the Farmers Insurance Open at Torrey Pines, consider this: everyone in the field could have made it home before the playoff finally ended, including one participant in that playoff.
It was 8:17 a.m. Monday morning local time before Jason Day defeated Alex Noren on the sixth extra hole after the Swede found the water hazard fronting the 18th green with his approach. The former World No. 1 hit a wedge to kick-in birdie range to secure his 11th PGA Tour victory and first since the 2016 Players Championship.
“It’s been a long time coming,” Day said, displaying an admirable gift for understatement. “Last year wasn’t the greatest season for me. I worked very hard to try to get back to this position.”
The not-so-sudden death playoff began 16 hours earlier as a three-man affair but Ryan Palmer was eliminated with par on the first extra hole. Day and Noren halved another four holes before darkness descended. Day birdied the 18th all four times in the playoff. It was his second victory in the Farmers Insurance Open (he won in 2015 too) and earned him $1,242,000.
The trio had tied in regulation at 10-under-par 278. Noren, a nine-time winner in Europe, was bidding to become the first 54-hole leader to go on to win at Torrey Pines since Tiger Woods a decade ago.
“I’m not regretting my decision,” Noren said of his rinsed approach on the last extra hole. “It’s just margins.” With his T-2, Palmer logged his 19th top-5 finish on Tour since his last win at the 2010 Sony Open.
Neither of the two players who received most screen time during the final round even made the playoff. The focus only turned to those with a chance to win on Sunday after the guy who finished tied for 23rd had departed for his compound in Jupiter, Fla. But Woods declared himself happy with his first PGA Tour start in a year after four scrappy rounds in which he couldn’t find a fairway.
J.B. Holmes, on the other hand, spent too much time in the fairway — specifically on the final hole of regulation, where he needed an eagle on the par 5 to make the playoff. The Kentucky native considered his options with a Socratic solemnity for four minutes and 10 seconds before finally laying up into the rough.
“After all that,” CBS announcer Dottie Pepper dryly remarked.
As each minute ticked by with no movement from Holmes, the smoke from the erupting social media conflagration obscured the glum fact that his threesome needed almost six hours to complete 18 holes — a pace seldom witnessed even among the choppers playing this public course the other 51 Sundays of the year.
In difficult, blustery conditions just 11 of the 77 players who made the cut broke par in the final round.
Defending champion Jon Rahm seemed a good bet to repeat after opening 68-66 but stumbled with a 75-77 weekend to finish T-29. A win would have moved him to the top of the world rankings. Phil Mickelson, a three-time winner at Torrey Pines, was also in contention on Saturday but played his final 27 holes 7 over and ended up T-45.
“It’s actually a good start to the year. I think that the game is closer than it looks,” Mickelson said. “I had a good first couple of days, but the weekend was tough.”