Woods And McIlroy Wow Early Saturday Crowds In San Diego, Jon Rahm Takes Lead After 65 At Torrey Pines

Jon Rahm Is Your Leader By One Going Into The Final Round Of The Farmers Insurance Open At Torrey Pines - Image Courtesy jonrahm.com

By Alfie Lau

Jon Rahm shot a (-7) round of 65 to go to (-12) 204 to take the third-round lead at the 2020 Farmers Insurance Open. Rahm leads second-round leader Ryan Palmer by a stroke, with the gritty Palmer carding a (-1) round of 71 to get himself to (-11) for the tournament.

Rahm and Palmer are good friends, having played together as partners to win the 2019 Zurich Championship, the unique team format event played in New Orleans each spring. Rahm’s card was immaculate, as he opened birdie-eagle, including jarring his wedge from 113 yards out on the second. From then on, it was four more birdies and most impressively, not a five on the card until he parred the 18th hole.

“Three under through two holes, no putts,” said Rahm. “A pretty good start, pretty good way to get things going.”

Rahm considers San Diego a home away from home. He got engaged to his now-wife Kelley Cahill here and also plans to host a second wedding ceremony/party in San Diego later this year.

The couple married in traditional Catholic fashion in Spain in December before many of Rahm’s family and friends and this San Diego soiree will be a chance to celebrate with all their American friends, particularly from their time as college sweethearts in Tempe as Arizona State Sun Devils.

Rahm said he remembers Cahill driving him to San Diego in 2016 to try and Monday qualify for the Farmers Insurance – he did not have an American driver’s licence at the time – and he missed, so they had to drive back to Arizona. One year later, Rahm was sinking a long putt from the back of the 18th green to win the tournament and launch his now soaring professional career.

His confidence here now is sky high. “We come here so often that it almost feels like, with Phoenix and Spain, a home event. We spend a lot of time here. We stay at the same hotel every time we come and it’s just comfortable. That’s the best word, comfortable and familiar, and once you’re comfortable and you just keep on going in that routine, it’s easier to play good golf.” The rest of the field has been duly warned.

Also making a big move up the leaderboard was Northern Ireland’s Rory McIlroy, who is staying by the course, has been seen running in the area prior to his rounds, and is getting so used to the area that he was actually looking to get away on Friday night, only to discover that La Jolla traffic is terrible at the best of times. “Trying to look to go somewhere for dinner and it was a 35-minute drive to everywhere, so (we) ended up just eating in the hotel,” said McIlroy.

On the course, McIlroy had six birdies and just one bogey to move up to T-3, just three strokes behind Rahm. “I went out and set myself a number today of 66,” said McIlroy. “I didn’t quite get it, but I shot 67 and I’ll need to do something similar tomorrow.”

The most interesting golfer in the group at T-7 and (-8), four strokes behind Rahm, is the classic definition of journeyman. Imagine getting a text in the late afternoon that you have a morning tee time at Torrey Pines South with your Jacksonville Beach, FLA neighbor Chris Baker and another player, one who has won at Torrey Pines seven times in the winter, once in the summer and at least one other time in the summer as a junior.

Yes, Tiger Woods would be the third with PGA Tour Canada graduate Tyler McCumber, originally at 7:55 a.m. Saturday, but corrected to 9:55 a.m. after a two-hour fog delay. McCumber is slowly finding his way on the PGA Tour, with just $201,857 in career earnings after playing 11 tournaments and making 8 cuts. With no victories and no top-10 finishes, McCumber has to fight for everything just to stay on the PGA TOUR.

So what does he do? An unblemished card, complete with four birdies and a round of (-4) 68 nipped Woods by one stroke for the day and McCumber leads Woods by a stroke going into Sunday’s final round. McCumber admitted that he played the first few holes with a lot of nerves, even losing track of his pre-round routine and having to rush to the first tee box for his opening drive.

But he calmed himself down and was actually helped by Woods, who made both McCumber and Baker feel comfortable despite the hordes of crowds who scarcely knew or cared that Woods had two playing partners. “He’s a gentleman and it was an honour to play with him,” said McCumber. “I felt appropriately anxious on the first few holes, but once you make a few good swings and realize you’re still playing the same game, you start to feel comfortable again.”

Woods could not be more complimentary of McCumber. “Tyler’s a good dude,” said Woods. “It’s cool to see him go out there and play as well as he did. It was a different atmosphere for him, first time he’s been out in an atmosphere like that and he handled himself great.”

Baker would struggle to a (+2) 74 and T50 and will most assuredly not be getting a text to tee it up with Woods on Sunday. Woods is definitely lurking, and at (-7), is just five strokes behind Rahm, in a group at T-12.
“I still have to go out there and post a low one tomorrow,” said Woods. “Still have to make a bunch of birdies and move up that board.”

While Sunday at Torrey Pines looks to have all the ingredients of a fantastic finish, the one complication could come from Mother Nature, who has thrown fog at the course at different times. On Thursday, it was late in the afternoon and on Friday, it was intermittently during the afternoon. On Saturday, it was all morning, with the two-hour fog delay being more than just a minor inconvenience.

Here’s to Sunday at Torrey Pines being a Chamber of Commerce day with no fog delays.

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