Conditions were ideal on the cliffs of La Jolla on Wednesday at the 2023 Farmers Insurance Open. Without a breath of wind to contend with, players were able to attack pins on both the difficult South Course and the accessible North Course. While Sam Ryder, Aaron Rai, and Brent Grant took the lead courtesy of a first-round 8-under 64 on the North Course, it was Justin Thomas who dominated the tournament.
Shooting a 4-under 68, the two-time PGA Champion signed for the second-lowest round of the day on the South Course. Amid the lull from the summer months, Thomas entered his second start of the year without a top 10 finish in a full-field Canadian Open event.
With the number of irons decreasing slightly, the pristine approach drama we have experienced from Thomas was on display in Round 1. Thomas took second place in the green streaks and fourth place in terms of streak achieved among those on the South Course, Thomas. He will try to close the gap between himself and the leaders in the second round which is expected to be windy.
T1. Sam Ryder, Aaron Rai, Brent Grant (-8)
This is a pretty eclectic group that includes a long time PGA Tour player, a rookie and a DP World Tour winner. Rai was in contention in this tournament a year ago and plays well in terrible conditions — as evidenced by his Scottish Open 2020 win — so he should be at home tomorrow and perhaps the most powerful more him.
“I think the temperature and also the effect of the wind on the ball is a bit closer to what I grew up with in the UK. The ball doesn’t travel as far here compared to other places in America. The wind feels a little bit heavier too,” Rai said of his comfort at Torrey Pines. “So I think I see the shots a little bit clearer when it’s hot in the States sometimes and when there’s a 5, 10 mile an hour wind, the ball can fly right through, but I think you can . use the wind as a little buffer, which probably suits my eye a little better, so it probably helps me lock it in.”
4. Brendan Steele (-7)
T5. Sahith Theegala, Hayden Buckley, Sam Stevens, Andre Novak, Garrick Higgo, Gary Woodland (-6)
T11. Luke List, Collin Morikawa, SH Kim, Ben Griffin, Vincent Norrman, Taylor Montgomery, Lanto Griffin, Harry Higgs (-5)
He keeps doing it. Continuing an outstanding rookie campaign that included nine straight cuts and eight of the top 15 finishes, Montgomery came to Torrey Pines fresh off a title run in Palm Springs. When he hit his tee shot on the 71st into the water and dashed his hopes of winning the American Express, he felt a let-down was almost inevitable for the best putter on the PGA Tour. Instead, Montgomery is back on the front page of the leaderboard with eyes on more than a top-15 finish.
What happened to Jon Rahm?
The world No. 3 at home early in his first round when he made two birdies on his first five holes. On the par-5 6th from two, Rahm would three-putt for par at the start of a 20-minute stretch that ended the day. When he hit his approach shot into the next hole into the penalty area, a double bogey came, wiping out all his previous work.
With two bogeys and a birdie to round out his day, Rahm ultimately signed for 1-over 73 and sits nine strokes off the lead. Marking his first over-par round in 150 days, Rahm will look to bounce back on the North Course on Thursday and play himself back into contention.
A tale of two courses
The South Course played just 2.5 strokes harder than the North on Wednesday, and will play even tougher on Thursday. With winds expected to reach 30 mph and gusts of up to 40 mph, players will have to hang on for dear life. Whether this also raises the scoring average on the North Course will be the question going into Round 2, as it could very well widen the margin between the two.
Scoring averages compared to par from Round 1
- North Course: -2.27
- South Course: +0.23
Farmers Insurance 2023 Open margins and updated options
Pick courtesy of Caesars Sportsbook
- Taylor Montgomery: 21/4
- Justin Thomas: 17/2
- Sungjae IM: 10-1
- Collin Morikawa: 10-1
- Will Zalatoris: 35/2
- Max Homa: 35/2
- John Rahm: 20-1
- Sahith Theegala: 20-1
- Aaron Ray: 22-1
- Jason Day: 22-1
- Si Woo Kim: 23-1
- Ben Griffin: 25-1
I just want to take a moment to appreciate Rahm at 20-1 and he has a better chance than the man he trails by nine strokes. Yes, this tournament has a ways to go, but I no longer believe Rahm will get his third straight title. Instead, I look at Homa at 35/2. His round was a bit down, but I like his game in difficult conditions. A couple of guys in front of him on the odds table, Im and Morikawa, tend to struggle with the wind, so there is room to move up from the 4 under number he is in despite the big names.