Sunday’s finish of the Farmers Insurance Open gave us everything we wanted. Well, almost everything. We had a challenging golf course, big names in contention and we even had Tiger Woods helping to bring attention to the tournament. What we didn’t get at the end of the day, was a winner. 72 holes were not enough to crown a champion. Jason Day, Alex Noren and Ryan Palmer all stood tied at 10-under par, giving us a three-man sudden death playoff.
All three of these men had different things they were trying to prove and play for, but none of them had more to gain than Ryan Palmer did. Palmer, a man who has made $1,000,000 or more 11-of-14 years on tour, started this year not being fully exempt for the 2017-2018 season. After playing only 20 events last year, Palmer was in a spot where he needed to make up the required missing points in just six events. Last season, Palmer spent most of his time taking care of his wife, who was undergoing chemotherapy for stage-two breast cancer. Palmer also spent time himself, recovering from shoulder surgery. Thankfully for Palmer, it took him only two events to gain the number of points needed, after coming T20 in last weekend’s CareerBuilder. Palmer entered this week being fully exempt for the 2017-2018 season but wanted to secure a win to guarantee himself a card for next year also. Palmer was quoted this weekend saying, “I got here healthy. A lot of the distractions are behind me; I’m at a lot of ease and a lot of peace within myself. I know Jen (Palmer’s Wife) is feeling great and she’s at home taking care of our kids.”
Unfortunately, Palmer bowed out on the first playoff hole. He missed his spot on his third shot and was left with a lengthy birdie putt on the par-five 18th hole that he couldn’t connect on. Day and Noren made birdie, and we were down to two men. Both players went back to the par-five 18th and once again birdied the hole. Holes 16 and 17 saw Day and Noren have chances to win the tournament, but neither ended up being able to convert on their opportunity. With the Sun dropping and darkness coming, both players realized that their third time back at the par-five 18th would probably be their last chance of the day. After each shot, Day and Noren ran up to their balls to make sure they wouldn’t be hitting in complete darkness. Day drove into the bunker off the tee, and Noren decided to hit a three-wood, which landed a little left of the fairway. Day was forced to lay up, but Noren chose to go three-wood again, going for the green in two shots. He landed it over the water and dead center of the green, leaving himself with about 40-feet for eagle and was now in a prime position to win the tournament. Day needing something wondrous, hit a phenomenal approach shot, sticking it to about five feet. Noren shakily hit his first putt, to win, but missed, leaving himself with a five-footer for birdie. Day, who needed one more clutch moment, nailed his five-footer for birdie and gave a big fist pump. It was all up to Noren to match. Standing over a putt that he later said, “he could barely see the hole” Noren, drained it into the center of the cup to match Day’s birdie. Both players walked up to one another and agreed to call it a night.
Overnight betting lines placed Jason Day roughly (-135) and Alex Noren (+115) to win the tournament. It was an interesting spot for both men. Day, who pulled out of the Wednesday Pro-Am because of back pain, had spent all of Thursday grimacing in discomfort. After playing 23 holes of golf on Sunday, it made for a unique spot of how Day’s body might respond having to come back and play even more on Monday. Alex Noren, a multiple time winner on the European Tour but a 0-time winner on the PGA Tour, had to sleep overnight thinking about another day of golf against one of the world’s best players. Nerves, which are not uncommon for Noren, had gotten the best of him in certain U.S. tournaments in the past. With both men facing question marks, it felt like the day wasn’t going to last long.
Monday was an unusual scene. No fans were allowed because of security issues. The tournament was not prepared for a Monday finish, leaving it to be mano-a-mano, with no outside mitigating factors. Back to the par-five 18th we went. Day once more sloppily hit his drive off the tee, landing in thick rough. Noren, also in regular fashion, took out his three-wood instead of his driver and landed his ball in the first cut of rough. With the advantage in hand, Noren decided to go for the green and possibly put the final nail into Jason Day. “SPLASH.” Unlike previous attempts from Noren, this time he came up short, landing it in the water. With a huge advantage now in hand for Day, he laid up his second shot to give himself a short wedge into the green. Day’s chip was perfect and left himself with basically a tap-in putt for the win. Noren, having to chip in to tie, missed and Day tapped in his putt to win The 2018 Farmers Insurance Open.
All three of the men who made the playoff should be proud of their performance this tournament. Ryan Palmer thankfully looks fully integrated back onto the tour. Both he and his wife are healthy, and his game seems to be clicking. Alex Noren had his United States coming out party. A win inside of the states will eventually come, and it should come sooner than later. As far as Jason Day is concerned, he showed flashes of what got him to No.1 in the world, in 2015 and 2016. He also re-stamped his name back onto the first page of guys we talk about. Day’s 2017 train-wreck of a year, is hopefully a thing of the past. The talent in golf has never been more exceptional or this copious. Golf’s first big tournament of the year did not disappoint. If this is any indication of things to come, 2018 should be a wild ride.
***Stay Tuned for my Betting Recap of the tournament coming later today.
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