Justin Thomas counts Tiger Woods among his close friends, but there is one thing he hasn’t always had in common with the 15-time major champion.
An affinity for Torrey Pines.
Woods has won an incredible seven times on the PGA Tour at the iconic San Diego venue, including four straight from 2005-08. He also recorded one of the most dramatic major victories in history at Torrey Pines when he was the 2008 U.S. Open.
Thomas? He removed the Farmers Insurance Open from his schedule after missing the cut in 2015, the first time he had played the event since joining the PGA Tour.
“I kind of struggled on the North Course, it wasn’t really appealing to me,” Thomas admitted Tuesday. “It’s a good golf course. When I first played I struggled with the North Course, it just didn’t fit my eye.”
For several years, Thomas focused on the two-event Hawaii swing and Palm Springs to begin his year, skipping San Diego to provide a break in his schedule.
“I feel like I’m at a point now where I feel like if I didn’t feel like I could win the golf tournament because of maybe the course or just given the situation in the schedule, there’s just no reason to waste my time to go and that’s just kind of how I felt,” he said.
Thomas’ view of Torrey Pines began to change when he arrived for the 2021 U.S. Open, which was played in June. He compares the South Course – which Thomas unabashedly prefers – to Pebble Beach, while he sees the North Course and its treacherously-narrow fairways to the Olympic Course outside San Francisco.
He went on to tie for 19th in the U.S. Open, eight shots behind Jon Rahm, who is building a Tiger-like resume at Torrey Pines. Still, Thomas came away from the tournament with a new-found respect for the venue.
“I quickly realized and remembered how much I like Torrey South and how great of a golf course it is and I felt like it was one that I needed to get to again,” he said.
Thomas added the Farmers Insurance Open to his schedule last year. He tied for 20th and was in contention until going 73-74 over the weekend on the North Course.
“There’s definitely a number of holes that are still difficult and maybe not totally comfortable to my eye, but I feel like with the changes, it’s not a place that you need to go shoot 67 on, 66 to keep pace,” he said. “It’s a very challenging sneaky course and the fairways are very narrow.
“You may have a fairway that goes left and the fairway slopes right and if it’s firm the fairways are damn near unhittable. There’s really a good amount of pitch to them and it puts a big-time premium on driving.”
Playing in Torrey Pines’ favor is the tweaks many players are making to their schedules to focus on the elevated events along with the majors. Thomas returned home to Florida following the Tournament of Champions earlier this month, and has played in only three stroke play events since the Tour Championship last August.
It also doesn’t hurt that the Farmers Insurance Open is the only PGA Tour stop that features a Saturday finish, which means Thomas can watch the NFL’s conference championship games on Sunday even if he makes the cut.
“It was incredible, I got to watch football on Sunday,” Thomas said of last year’s Saturday finish. “I was ecstatic about it. Even so much so that I pushed the Tour that we do it during the entire (NFL) playoffs because I love football and I love watching football.”