(CBSLA/CBS Local)- CBS Sports opens its 2020 golf season coverage this Saturday & Sunday with the third and fourth rounds of the Farmers Insurance Open held at Torrey Pines Golf Course. The event is the first big one of the new year with a star-studded field featuring 20 of the world’s Top 50 players according to the Official World Golf Rankings.
Among those set to be in the field are world #2 Rory McIlroy and #3 John Rahm, along with past winners Justin Rose (2019), Jason Day (2015 & 2018), John Rahm (2017), and Brandt Snedeker (2012 & 2016). And, of course, the event is the first glimpse that golf fans will get of Tiger Woods in 2020. Woods has won the event seven times, but it’s been awhile since he last hoisted the trophy at Torrey Pines way back in 2013. He enters this season currently tied with Sam Snead for most tournament wins all-time at 82. Playing at Torrey Pines this weekend offers a chance, one of several this season, for him to break the tie.
The possibility of Woods breaking the record isn’t lost on Farmers Insurance CEO Marty Gorsich who told the Los Angeles Times last week that things behind the scenes have been a little crazier than usual.
“As we talk about what we could anticipate that day, and some of the people who feel they need to be here and experience it at the last minute, it goes all the way to the top of the food chain,” Gorsich told the Times. The anticipation will only pick up if Woods is in the hunt following Thursday and Friday’s rounds.
But, in order to capture that win, Woods, or any other golfer looking to conquer the par-72, 7,698-yard long South Course will need the requisite length to put themselves in the right positions for easy birdie opportunities. Designed in 1957 by William F. Bell and then renovated in 2001 by Rees Jones, the South Course is the longest played course for a regular PGA Tour Event. The course features its most difficult stretch on the front nine with holes 4-7 testing players’ abilities to be accurate with their tee shots and approaches to the green.
Arguably the most difficult hole on the course is the par-4, 462-yard 7th that features a narrow fairway leading up to a green with a collection area left and deep bunkers to the right. Any missed approach is likely to end up in a difficult par save. If players are able to successfully navigate that bit of trickery, they’re hit just two holes later by the longest hole on the course, the 614-yard par-5 9th. The good news is, the 9th is fairly straightforward in terms of approach. But, the length needed to set up for anything better than a birdie is massive.
Meanwhile, the North Course isn’t as long at 7,258 yards, but it still presents plenty of challenge. The most difficult may in fact be the finishing hole which sees players taking on a 468-yard par-4 that ends with a two-tiered green. Once again, accuracy is key as the green is protected on the front left side by a pair of bunkers. The North Course also features two of the club’s arguably most picturesque holes in the par-4 14th and par 3 15th. Both holes offer a stunning view of the Pacific Ocean behind the green with the 15th playing downhill and offering a full view from the tee box.
Heading into Thursday’s tee times, the favorite for the event is McIlroy (13-2) with 2017 winner Rahm just behind him at 15-2. Tiger has the third best odds heading into the weekend at 10-1 with Justin Rose, Rickie Fowler and Hideki Matsuyama all settling in just behind him at 14-1. One of the more interesting players coming into the weekend outside of that group is 2019 U.S. Open winner Gary Woodland. Woodland finished 9th in last year’s event and is coming off of three straight Top 10 finishes in his last three tour starts.
Tiger tees off on the North course on Thursday alongside Rahm and Collin Morikawa. McIlroy will be in the group right in front of Woods along with Snedeker and Sony Open winner Cameron Smith.
Veteran announcer Jim Nantz will be joined by Sir Nick Faldo along with several other familiar faces and quite a few new ones when the network’s coverage begins. For Faldo’s part, he intimated last week on CBS Sports’ conference call that Tiger’s first win this year may not come until a bit later in the slate.
“I don’t know how he can create the emotion again of what it meant to win his 15th (major),” said Faldo. “If the weather is good – it needs to be warm for his back – he’s got a shot at Augusta… You never know what might happen at Augusta again.”
Woods will get his shot at breaking the record when the first and second rounds tee off on Thursday and Friday. CBS begins its coverage on Saturday afternoon at 3 p.m. ET. The coverage continues on Sunday afternoon with the final round from 3-6:30 p.m. ET. Coverage of the tournament can also be streamed live via CBS All-Access.