As the PGA Tour ventures south to Torrey Pines, on the clifftops of La Jolla, just outside San Diego, it’s already taking on the appearance of an extremely important week for both Seamus Power and Shane Lowry, even though the 2024 season is only three weeks old.
Tied for 50th out of 59 at the Sentry and tied for 71st at the Sony Open was an underwhelming return from Power’s Hawaiian ventures over weeks one and two, but after several months on the sideline recuperating from the hip injury that severely disrupted the latter half of 2023, a little ring rust was always to be expected. And a missed cut at the American Express was far from the way Lowry had envisaged his 2024 debut, though there were plenty positives to take as he made 16 birdies and an eagle over his 54 holes.
The American Express Championship was never going to be an ideal tournament for Lowry, the Pro-Am format leading to a relatively simple course setup and the Offaly man has always thrived when the going gets tough. Jon Rahm famously turned the air blue when caught on a hot mic two years ago, blasting the course setup and calling it a “putting contest.”
Rounds one and two of the Farmers Insurance Open will alternate over the North and South Courses, with the weekend rounds held over the longer and tougher South. Heavy rain in the San Diego area in the lead-in means that the courses will not be as fiery as they otherwise might and as Lowry would doubtless prefer.
Taking the positives from Power’s most recent start, his ball striking and short game were extremely good at the Sony Open, but he struggled on the greens and he’ll be hoping that the switch from Bermuda to Poa Annua putting surfaces will yield better results.
Power is guaranteed a start in the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am ‘Signature Event’ next week, as he is at all of the PGA Tour’s marquee events, but Lowry remains on the outside looking in and though the possibility of a sponsors’ invitation remains, he’ll likely need a victory to guarantee his place.
Amateur Nick Dunlap, who became the first amateur to win a PGA Tour event since Phil Mickelson in 1991 and the first to win on a major tour since Lowry’s famous Irish Open win in 2009, has opted to withdraw as he contemplates his options, but as always, there’s a pretty strong field amassing at Torrey.
Max Homa is the defending champion, while the bookmakers make Xander Schauffele the favourite, with Collin Morikawa and Patrick Cantlay close behind.
Homa’s success in California has been well documented, while Morrikawa, who returned to the PGA Tour’s winners’ circle with an emotional win in his ancestral homeland of Japan late last year, has finished third and fourth in his last two visits to Torrey and opened up his season with a fifth-place finish at The Sentry.
Two-time event winner Jason Day is always a threat, finishing in the top-10 four times in the last 10 years in addition to recording his two wins.
Lowry and Power will see plenty of each other on both the range and the practice putting green, even if they won’t encounter each other on the course until the weekend at least. Both are scheduled to begin their opening rounds at exactly the same time, with Power joining Scott Stallings and Matt Wallace on the South Course’s first tee at 17:34 Irish time.
Lowry gets his tournament underway on the 10th hole of the North Course alongside Ryder Cup team mate and foursomes partner Sepp Straka and Harris English, also at 17:34.
Unusually, the tournament runs from Wednesday through Saturday as the PGA Tour looks to avoid going up against the NFL Divisional Playoff Finals which determine which two teams will contest the Superbowl in a fortnight’s time.