- Brandt Snedeker is the first player since 2010 to win after making the cut on the number. (Donald Miralle/Getty Images)
Snedeker watches his victory unfold
SAN DIEGO – It was quiet enough that you could hear the “woosh” of K.J. Choi’s practice swing from 40 yards away.
There were only about a dozen people present as Choi prepared to hit his tee shot at Torrey Pines’ 12th hole in the final round of the Farmers Insurance Open. The lack of gallery meant that even the slightest sound was audible.
The Farmers Insurance Open’s Monday finish was unique, as the final group played eight holes in virtual solitude. The damage caused by the previous day’s wind meant the course wasn’t safe for spectators and volunteers, so only media and security were on hand to watch the event’s conclusion.
Not only were there no fans to see the tournament’s end, but the champion didn’t hit a shot on the final day. Brandt Snedeker had finished his final-round 69 on Sunday.
This begs the question, if you win a PGA TOUR event and no one is around to see it, did you really win?
The answer, of course, is yes. Snedeker can take home the trophy, the FedExCup points and the cash. His victory continued an impressive stretch that has seen him finish in the top three in all three of his starts in 2016.
“It’s really an eerie feeling. You don’t feel like you’re at a TOUR event,” Snedeker said about Monday’s lack of fans. “Part of the TOUR event is you get crowds and the people are going crazy.”
I’ve covered a fair amount of college and amateur golf during my career, and one of the joys of that beat is that you can watch elite players compete on classic tracks with only a few fans around. Monday at Torrey Pines reminded me of that experience.
There were about a dozen people there when the final group of Choi, Jimmy Walker and Scott Brown arrived at the 11th tee to resume their final round at 10 a.m. Most of them were involved with the television broadcast, carrying cameras and driving around in carts. A few fans watched from behind the fence lining the course, lifting their phones in the air to capture a photograph.
When Choi two-putted for par at the 12th hole, he received applause from the six fans watching from the Torrey Pines Gliderport. Monday’s high winds, which blew into the players on many of the closing holes, and the course’s thick rough made the finish almost impossible. No one in the final group made a birdie over the final eight holes, and they played those eight holes in 14 over par. The players had hybrids and fairway woods remaining for several of their approach shots.
The opportunity to watch TOUR players without many people around is always a treat. But Snedeker had the best seat in the house Monday because he was indoors.
“That's pretty fantastic to sit there and watch it happen,” Snedeker said about his win.
Because even though the circumstances were unique, the win still counts the same.
Top five Microsoft insights
1. Brandt Snedeker is the first player since Carl Pettersson at the 2010 RBC Canadian Open to win after making the cut on the number.
2. Four of Snedeker’s eight PGA TOUR victories have come in California. He’s won two times apiece at the Farmers Insurance Open and AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am. Snedeker, who’s No. 17 in strokes gained: putting this season, thrives on the poa annua putting surfaces on the California coast.
3. Snedeker has overcome final-round deficits of at least five strokes in four of his eight victories. He’s further proof that it pays to keep persevering.
4. Snedeker’s final-round 69 was 8.9 strokes better than the field average. It was the best round of his PGA TOUR career (in a non-major) in relation to the field average. His previous best was a second-round 61 at last year’s Wyndham Championship that was 8.4 strokes better than the field.
5. Torrey Pines’ 77.9 scoring average in the final round (+5.9 over par) was the highest fourth-round scoring average in a non-major since 1983.
Check out this putt from Colt Knost. My wife said it reminded her of the scene in Space Jam where Bugs Bunny uses underground magnets to pull Michael Jordan’s ball into the hole.