SAN DIEGO — “There’s not many lists on the PGA Tour where your name is as close to Tiger Woods, is ever a bad thing,” said Scott Stallings not long after his name was etched onto the Farmers Insurance Open trophy.
Stallings won the tournament held at Torrey Pines on Sunday.
Sure Tiger wasn’t around on Sunday, and local favorite Phil Mickelson had to withdraw due to a bad back, but Stallings said the tournament was the best field he’s played in so far.
And even with Tiger and Phil out early, Peter Ripa, the Farmers Insurance Open tournament director, said attendance still wasn’t really affected by their absences.
Some of that, Ripa said, was because of the great weather throughout the event, and how the tournament has grown over the years.
“There was a time probably when our event and other events would hang their hat on a player or a team to build attendance, but there’s so much for the fan to enjoy beyond the players in the field,” he said.
Despite a string of wins by Tiger Woods from 2005 to 2008, back when it was called the Buick Invitational, there’s been a different winner since 2009. That’s OK by Ripa.
“Obviously having the world’s best players come to San Diego and play Torrey Pines, which, as residents, we can all play, is pretty awesome,” Ripa said.
But he said the players on the leaderboard all had established careers globally or were like a Stallings, who had won two times previously on tour, is currently No. 4 among 20 year olds with most wins as a PGA Tour member, Ripa said.
“It adds some excitement and drama to the fact that, especially (Sunday) you had 17 players, I think the count was, within one shot of the lead, and the tournament wasn’t really determined until the 17th hole,” Ripa said.
Stallings, the 29-year-old Massachusetts native won with a score of 9-under-par.
Stallings admitted that he never played well at Torrey Pines, in fact, he said, he’d never made the cut.
When beginning to assemble the tournament field, it starts with looking at the top 50 players in the world, Ripa said.
“This year we had 21 of those top 50, and saw probably eight to 10 players from Europe,” he said.
The field also featured a number of players that have been climbing through the ranks of the Web.com Tour, including local golfer Michael Kim, a graduate of Torrey Pines High School.
Ripa said he keeps his eye out for the younger players, watching as they play through the high school and college ranks, and also through the smaller amateur and professional fields.
The tournament this year issued an exemption to golfer Justin Thomas.
Ripa said Thomas has been working his way up the tour, trying to secure his PGA Tour card. He finished the tournament shooting a 6-under par and tied in the top-10, which earned him an opportunity to play in this week’s Waste Management Phoenix Open in Arizona.
“It’s a big stage,” Ripa said of the Farmers Insurance Open. “You think about just a year ago Jordan Spieth got his first exemption and (made) his professional debut here in Torrey Pines, and played 36-holes better than Tiger Woods, being paired with him Thursday, Friday.”
To be able to feel like Spieth belongs and play on a course like Torrey Pines on a big stage, it can help build a young player’s career, he added.
Famers Insurance has extended their sponsorship of the tournament through 2019.