Sam Ryder played the tourist at Torrey Pines on Friday, the Farmers Insurance Open leader content to manage the course with casual confidence during the third round while a mad scramble ensued behind him.
Ryder’s even-par 72 left him with a two-stroke lead at 12-under in the Farmers, where he is bidding to be just the sixth wire-to-wire winner in the tournament’s 72-year history.
“I’m not having to hit the miracle shot every time, just trying to manage my way around,” Ryder said. “You don’t have to go out there and shoot 66 every day out here, which I like. You just stay patient and make a lot of pars.”
That’s how it is when you’re leading, anyway.
Had he glanced behind him, Ryder may been triggered by this reminder: “Objects in mirror may be closer than they appear.”
Coming up fast on the outside are Jon Rahm and Tony Finau, two guys who were a stroke away from missing the cut late in Thursday’s second round.
Now, they’re joining Ryder in the final group for the final round.
They have an 11:20 a.m. tee at Torrey Pines’ South Course, with Ryder seeking his first PGA Tour win.
Rahm seeks to make history with a victory in his third straight start, a feat that hasn’t been accomplished on the PGA Tour in five years. He also will return to No. 1 in the world with a win.
And Finau? He’s looking for his first Farmers victory after four top-10 finishes here the past five years.
A day after wind gusted to 30 mph, Friday it was calm on the course. The golfers took advantage of it. None moreso than Rahm and Finau.
Rahm is two shots behind Ryder after a 6-under 66. The highlight was an eagle 3 on the South’s par-5 ninth hole; Rahm made a 12-foot putt after a 274-yard second shot he called a “contender for best shot of the year.”
Finau was a contender for best round of the year after an 8-under 64 that was one off the South Course record shared by Nick Watney (2011) and Greg Chalmers (2002).
“I didn’t see a leaderboard or really peek at one until I pretty much made the turn and holed out,” said Finau, whose 60-foot chip found the cup for birdie on the par-5 18th (his ninth) hole. “I looked at the top of the leaderboard and of course Rahmbo’s name was up there. I saw we were both kind of making a run.
“It will be fun, looks like we might be able to battle it out tomorrow.”
Finau was even-par through two rounds when the day began, 12 strokes behind Ryder. He now is four strokes back.
Four players — two-time major winner Collin Morikawa, Max Homa, Sahith Theegala and Sungjae Im — are five shots off the pace at 7-under.
Rahm calls Torrey Pines his favorite course. And why not? It’s the site of his first tour victory (the 2017 Farmers) and only major win (the 2021 U.S. Open).
It was no surprise that the Spaniard had by far the largest gallery of the golfers.
Friendly fans, too.
They encouraged his approach shots — “get up, get up” — to the green.
“Why not you? Why not you? Have a day,” one man shouted above the voices of all others along the 17th fairway.
At which point the man’s wife turned to him and asked: “Who are you?”
One young girl offered Rahm some Kettle corn on the 17th green. He did not oblige.
“Yeah, they show up for me when I come out here,” Rahm said. “It’s very unique. Very few places where I feel like I’m in Spain, and this is one of them.
“I get a lot of support and it’s very nice to see. Obviously helps when I’m out there to get so many people pulling for me.”
The love affair was tested Thursday when Rahm opened with a 1-over 73 on the South that left him tied for 116th — with Finau.
He was still 1-over — with the cutline at even par — with five holes remaining in Thursday’s second round before reeling off three birdies and an eagle.
On Friday, Rahm picked up where he left off, carding four more birdies and another eagle while shooting 31 (he had a bogey on the fifth hole) on the front nine.
“I stayed really patient out there,” Rahm said, “and took advantage of the holes I could take advantage of and played what I would say was very smart throughout the round.”
A birdie at the par-4 15th hole got Rahm to 10-under. He could have gotten to 11-under, within a shot of the lead, but for a 9-foot birdie putt he left two inches short and left of the cup on the 18th hole.
Expect Rahm to have his foot on the gas pedal again Saturday.
“I’m a very aggressive player by nature, so nothing really changes,” he said. “I kind of stay true to who I am. ..
“I did the job I needed to do on the last basically 23 holes of the tournament, which has given me a chance,” Rahm said.
A victory would be the 10th on the PGA Tour for Rahm.
Finau, too, has become accustomed to holding the championship trophy, winning three of his four tour titles within the past year.
Then there’s Ryder, a 10-year tour veteran had never led a tournament through 36 holes before Thursday and never led one through 54 holes before Friday.
Asked how he controls the excitement that could come with leading — and winning — after 72 holes, Ryder said, “I’m not really trying to overcontrol it. I’m just trying to embrace it and enjoy it because this is ultimately what we want, right? That’s why we play.”