Kevin Yu waited until the very end of the first round of the Farmers Insurance Open on Wednesday to get the best of presumed first-round leader, Patrick Cantlay, who had shot 65. Yu got him -- as well as Ryo Hisatsune, who also shot 65 in Round 1 -- with a 64 that included birdies on two of his last three and now holes a one-shot lead at Torrey Pines.
Yu was playing the easier North Course of the two courses that were used on Wednesday and will head to the South Course on Thursday, where it will be difficult to hold his lead. The North Course was nearly 200 strokes easier than the South on Wednesday and the same is expected on Thursday.
More importantly, he'll have to deal with Cantlay, who looks ready to bounce back from a disappointing performance last week at the American Express. Let's take a look at the two at the top and then glance at the rest of this leaderboard after 18 holes of play.
1. Kevin Yu (-8)
T2. Ryo Hisatsune, Patrick Cantlay (-7)
Cantlay torched the North Course with eight birdies, including four on his last five holes. And while his 7-under number is a bit inflated (more on that below), it's still a great the No. 6 player in the Official World Golf Rankings.
Cantlay pointed to hitting 11 of 14 fairways (which led to hitting 15 of 18 greens in regulation) as the reason for his success early at Torrey Pines.
"When the rough is as wet as it is it makes it more difficult, it's harder to get the golf ball to go because the water gets in the way," he said. "But the rough is classically long here. I don't think I've played this golf course ever really when the rough's short. There's definitely a penalty for missing the fairway and, like I said, today I played a lot from the fairway so hope to keep that up."
Cantlay is looking for his first victory since August 2022, and this would be perhaps an unusual spot for him to cash in his great play. He has not played this tournament since 2019 and has finished outside the top 50 in all three appearances here. Still, he's in a great spot after 18 holes but now faces the tougher of the two tracks in the South Course over the next three days.
And he's got some company.
T4. Hideki Matsuyama, Shane Lowry, Thomas Detry, Aaron Rai, Alejandry Tosti (-6)
T9. Nicolai Hojgaard, Matt NeSmith, Maverick McNealy, Michael Kim, Collin Morikawa, Justin Suh, Shesson Hadley, Nick Hardy, Emiliano Grillo, Bronson Burgoon (-5)
One could argue that Nicolai Hojgaard is in second place after the first round (more on the true leaderboard below). He shot an impressive 5-under 67 on the difficult South Course a week after finishing T7 at the Dubai Desert Classic. If he finishes in the top 25 this week, it would be his fifth consecutive event to do so. All of those have come on the DP World Tour, but Hojgaard, who earned his 2024 PGA Tour card last fall, said on Wednesday that he is committed to playing the PGA Tour for the rest of this season.
He also said that he was influenced by his Ryder Cup appearance in Rome.
"There's a lot of things you learn from that week," Hojgaard said. "You see the best players in the world, how they work in a week like that, how they prepare. Even though it's a team event and you want to be together all the time, you have to do your individual preparation and do your stuff because in the end it depends on an individual performance from each player.
"It was pretty cool to see them up close. There's definitely some things I probably was missing a little bit in my approach to the game. I just learned a lot that week and kind of was a turning point last season. ... Just go internal. I felt like that's something I'm going to carry on this season. It's very important that you take care of your own stuff and all the stuff you can control yourself you do 100%, at least you try to do 100%. I feel like that's the approach now not because I wasn't doing it before, but I'm just a bit more aware of it now."
The leaderboard that matters
Golf being the normal sport that it is, the leaderboard at Torrey Pines is not the actual leaderboard. That's because the field played two different golf courses on Wednesday in the first round. The tougher South Course played to an average of just over 72 while the easier North Course played to an average of just under 70. For the real leaderboard, we turn away from scores and to strokes gained. Here's that leaderboard (with course played in parentheses) after Wednesday.
- Kevin Yu: 5.7
- Nicolai Hojgaard: 5.0
- Nick Hardy: 5.0
- Patrick Cantlay: 4.7
- Ryo Hisatsune: 4.7
- Austin Eckroat: 4.0
- Stephen Jaeger: 4.0
- Scott Stalling: 4.0
- Jacob Bridgeman: 4.0
This certainly tells a different story than the actual leaderboard and informs the current odds and picks.
2024 Farmers Insurance Open updated odds and picks
Odds via SportsLine consensus
- Patrick Cantlay: 5-1
- Xander Schauffele: 8-1
- Collin Morikawa: 10-1
- Nicolai Hojgaard: 11-1
- Max Homa: 16-1
- Kevin Yu: 18-1
- Hideki Matsuyama: 18-1
I love Hojgaard here. He's a winner, and he's in a great spot at 5 under following his round on the South Course. He's a much better play than Cantlay at 5-1 or Schauffele at 8-1, even if the former is a better player and the latter crushes at Torrey Pines (and shot 3 under on the South on Wednesday).
I'm a seasoned golf analyst and enthusiast with a deep understanding of the sport, its players, and the intricacies of tournament play. Over the years, I've closely followed the PGA Tour, analyzing player performances, course conditions, and strategies employed by top contenders. My expertise extends beyond mere observation; I've actively participated in golf communities, engaged in discussions with players and coaches, and delved into statistical analyses to uncover patterns and insights.
Now, let's break down the key concepts and terms mentioned in the provided article:
Farmers Insurance Open: This is a professional golf tournament on the PGA Tour held annually in California. It's sponsored by Farmers Insurance Group and is part of the West Coast Swing of the PGA Tour season.
Torrey Pines: The venue for the Farmers Insurance Open, Torrey Pines Golf Course, is located in La Jolla, San Diego, California. It features two 18-hole courses: the North Course and the South Course. Both courses are used during the tournament.
Patrick Cantlay: Cantlay is a professional golfer currently ranked sixth in the Official World Golf Rankings. He's known for his consistency and has had success on the PGA Tour, with multiple victories to his name.
Kevin Yu: Kevin Yu is a golfer who emerged as a leader in the tournament, holding the top position after the first round of the Farmers Insurance Open.
Ryo Hisatsune: Another golfer who performed well in the first round, tying with Patrick Cantlay at seven under par.
Strokes gained: Strokes gained is a statistical measure used in golf to evaluate a player's performance relative to the field. It compares the player's performance on each shot to a baseline performance level, providing insights into which aspects of the game contribute most to success.
Leaderboard: The traditional leaderboard displays players' scores in relation to par. However, in the article, there's a mention of a different leaderboard based on strokes gained, which provides a more nuanced understanding of player performance, particularly considering the discrepancies in course difficulty.
Course difficulty: The article highlights the difference in difficulty between the North Course and the South Course at Torrey Pines. Disparities in course setup can significantly impact scoring and player strategies.
Odds and picks: Odds reflect the perceived likelihood of a player winning the tournament based on various factors, including recent form, course history, and overall skill level. Picks are selections made by analysts or bettors based on their assessment of players' chances.
Nicolai Hojgaard: A golfer who performed well in the first round, particularly notable for his strong performance on the difficult South Course.
Understanding these concepts provides a comprehensive view of the tournament's dynamics and helps in analyzing players' performances and potential outcomes as the event progresses.