The Famers Insurance Open is coming. Just don’t listen for its arrival as the pandemic forces its spirited fans to sit this one out.
The annual house party that North County hosts along its ocean cliffs, with the whales headed south and hang gliders overhead, is making an adjustment.
The world’s best players will grace the Torrey Pines Golf Course on Jan. 28-31, but among them won’t be some of the Tour’s most lively spectators.
Locals, though, will be traipsing the track, which is the site of this summer’s U.S. Open. If the Farmers entry fee included a neighborly discount, many would qualify.
Xander Schauffele is among those familiar with the North and South layouts. Others with North County ties include Pat Perez (Torrey Pines High), Charley Hoffman (Poway), Jamie Lovemark (Torrey Pines) and Phil Mickelson.
We’re not sure if the nomadic Mickelson still has a Rancho Santa Fe home, but the San Diego native gets mentioned, too.
Schauffele, ranked No. 4 in the world, is a Carmel Valley resident and a former San Diego State star.
He’s on cloud nine just to be able to compete after his go-round with COVID-19. Schauffele, a four-time Tour winner, tested positive in mid-December after his girlfriend was exposed to the virus.
Schauffele learned of her fate while at a Callaway Golf advertising shoot with fellow pros Joh Rahm and Mickelson. Suddenly golf was secondary to 10 days of quarantining, and Schauffele completed it while experiencing mild symptoms.
But like any duffer standing over a birdie putt, he did so while letting his mind wander.
“It’s a bit scary just because there’s so many unknown facts about the whole COVID process,” Schauffele told reporters at the recent Sentry Tournament of Champions.
Schauffele finished second at the TOC. He’s primed to soon parade around Torrey Pines, although no boosters will be tooting his horn or hugging the ropes.
For Schauffele, he’s positive that’s a negative.
“It’s just good for our sport and our game,” said Schauffele, whose best finish at the Famers is tied for 25th in 2019. “It’s better for competition, really.”
The X Man on the Tour said it’s difficult to ignore the void when the stakes are high.
“It sort of is the ‘X’ factor that tournaments really don’t have right now,” he said. “It’s sort of an inside competition amongst us. But when there are fans there everyone seems to — it’s just like everything (now) kind of feels like practice.”
Schauffele, 27, feels relieved that he’s back outdoors chasing a golf ball and a tournament win, something that alluded him last year. Being cooped up and idle isn’t par for Schauffele’s course.
“I have two dogs, so they were going stir crazy,” he said. “The first four days were very much on the couch and in bed. I live in a 2,000-square-foot condo, so it’s not like we have a whole lot of space to sort of stretch out and run around.”
When Schauffele roams Torrey, it’ll come minus the roars that ricochet off its canyons to signal a round-shifting shot. The real change is that there will be no customers this year.