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Farmers Insurance Open Begins Thursday Without Fans At Torrey Pines

View of the Torrey Pines South Golf Course.

Photo by KPBS Staff

Above: View of the Torrey Pines South Golf Course.

The $7.5 million Farmers Insurance Open begins Thursday at Torrey Pines Golf Course, with rain threatening to interrupt Friday's second round and spectators barred from attending because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Heavy rain is forecast for Friday morning and showers and thunderstorms in the afternoon, according to PGA Tour meteorologist Stewart Williams. Under PGA Tour rules, play would only be stopped if conditions are unplayable, such as water puddling on the greens or if there is lightning in the immediate vicinity.

"The tournament seems to bring out the worst of San Diego weather," said 27-year-old Scripps Ranch High School graduate Xander Schauffele, who is scheduled to compete.

Rain is not expected to begin until Thursday night and won't affect the first round.

The field of 156 includes 24 of the top 50 players in the Official World Golf Ranking, topped by second-ranked Jon Rahm of Spain, who won the tournament in 2017, and Schauffele, who is ranked sixth.

There are 14 players in the field who have combined to win 26 major championships, including San Diego native Phil Mickelson, who has won five, and Brooks Koepka and Rory McIlroy who have won four each.

Australian Marc Leishman is the defending champion and will seek to become the first back-to-back winner of the event since Tiger Woods won four straight from 2005-08.

Leishman is 31st on the Official World Golf Ranking. He tied for fourth in his most recent tournament, the Sony Open in Hawaii, which concluded Jan. 17.

American Dustin Johnson, the No. 1-ranked player, is not playing this week to prepare for the European Tour's Saudi International which begins Feb. 4.

Woods will miss the tournament. He recently underwent a microdiscetomy procedure to remove a pressurized disc fragment that was pinching a nerve after experiencing discomfort following the PNC Championship in December.

Since the PGA Tour resumed play in June after a three-month interruption, only two tournaments have allowed fans to attend, the Vivint Houston Open and Bermuda Championship.

Next week's Waste Management Phoenix Open in Scottsdale, Arizona will be limited to fewer than 5,000 fans each day, which "will feel like there's no one out there," Schauffele said.

The Scottsdale tournament is the world's best-attended golf tournament, including the single-day record of 216,818 and tournament record of 719,179, both set in 2018.

Schauffele has missed the cut four of the five times he has played in the Farmers Insurance Open and tied for 25th in 2019.

The San Diego State alumnus said it was sad and "a bummer" he won't have the in-person support of his fans but will try to make their absence "a positive" and "take advantage of the fact that it will just be really quiet and it's just myself on the golf course and my caddie ... instead of seeing everyone that I know and familiar faces."

"I haven't had much success here and I'm looking forward to changing that, and if it's my first time without fans, then so be it,"

said Schauffele, who will play the first two rounds with Mickelson and Jordan Spieth, the world's top-ranked player for 26 weeks in 2015 and 2016.

Schauffele said his poor performances in the Farmers Insurance Open have been because he's "consistently been sick" during the tournament.

"Even though I'm coming off my offseason, I should be the freshest I should be or can be," he said. "I feel much better now, getting back to full strength and definitely looking forward to the challenge here at Torrey."

Schauffele hasn't missed a cut since last year's Farmers Insurance Open, with 14 Top 20 finishes in his 20 tournaments, including finishing fifth in the U.S. Open, tying for second in the Tour Championhip, second in The CJ Cup and tying for third in the Charles Schwab Challenge.

Schauffele tied for fifth in his most recent tournament, the Sentry Tournament of Champions, which lifted him to a career-best fourth in the Official World Golf Ranking. He dropped to sixth after not playing in the last two PGA Tour events.

This is the 69th consecutive year the PGA Tour has held an event in San Diego County, with 54 of them being played at Torrey Pines. The first two rounds will be played on both the North and South courses. The field will be reduced to top 70 players and ties following conclusion of the second round. The winner will receive $1.35 million.

Play is scheduled to begin at 9 a.m. Golf Channel will provide coverage from noon-4 p.m. Thursday and Friday and 10 a.m.-noon Saturday and Sunday. Its coverage will be streamed on NBCSports.com and the NBC Sports app.

CBS will broadcast Saturday's third round from noon-3 p.m. and Sunday's final round from noon-3:30 p.m. CBS' coverage will be streamed on the CBS All Access subscription service.

Additional coverage will be available on CBSSports.com, the CBS Sports app, and CBS Sports HQ, the 24/7 streaming sports news service.

The tournament will be the first carried by CBS in 2021 and mark the debut of several new elements, including a constant mini-leaderboard, a dedicated PGA Tour rules official and live drone coverage.

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