After 36 holes at the Farmers Insurance Open at Torrey Pines, the top of the leaderboard is quite diverse.
Stephan Jaeger of Germany, thanks to his birdie-eagle finish on the North Course, has the solo lead at 12-under. Jaeger holds a one-shot advantage over Denmark’s Nicolai Højgaard after firing an 8-under 64 on Friday.
Højgaard, meanwhile, carded a 6-under 66 on the North Course, which is playing 2.6 shots easier than the South Course, the site of the U.S. Open in 2008 and 2021.
“It’s definitely a little bit easier,” Højgaard, who played for the European Ryder Cup team, said of the North Course.
“But you can also shoot a good score on the South Course if you’re in the fairway. There are stronger par 5s [on the South]. [They are] longer, so you don’t reach them [as often] as you do on the North.”
According to some players, the thick, gnarly, and wet rough that lines Torrey Pines South has given the course “U.S. Open-like” conditions.
And yet, Højgaard and Jaeger seem to have had little trouble on the South.
The young Danish star carded the lowest round of the day on the South Course during Wednesday’s first round, a 5-under 67. He drove the ball beautifully, gaining more strokes off the tee than anyone else on Wednesday.
Finding the fairway is the recipe for success at Torrey Pines, which, like Højgaard, Jaeger has had plenty of thus far.
“I’ve been driving a fair bit of fairways,” the 36-year-old German said.
“When I do miss it, I feel like I’ve done a good job with missing in the right spots, being able to kind of chase something up and having maybe an easier up-and-down than you would out of the rough or something.”
Mitigating mistakes is also a part of the winning formula at the South Course, where all 79 players who made the cut this weekend will play.
That includes Mathieu Pavon of France and Thomas Detry of Belgium, who sit in a tie for third place at 10-under heading into the third round.
Pavon, who, like Højgaard, earned his PGA Tour card this year by way of the DP World Tour, blitzed the South Course Thursday, shooting a 7-under 65. The Frenchman made eight birdies, as he currently has the low round of the week on the former U.S. Open layout.
“A pretty good round overall, very solid off the tee. Didn’t catch much rough over the last two days, that was key,” Pavon said.
“It’s nice to come over to America and show America that we can play some golf.”
Detry, meanwhile, has been Stateside for years. He played collegiately at the University of Illinois and won the 2016 Big Ten Championship.
Last year, during his first full season on the PGA Tour, Detry qualified for the FedEx Cup Playoffs but finished in a tie for 61st at the FedEx St. Jude Championship. Had he finished higher, he likely would have qualified for the BMW Championship, thus gaining entry into each Signature Event in 2024.
But now the Belgian has a great chance to lock up a spot in all Signature Events should he go on to win this week at Torrey Pines. It would undoubtedly change his career for the better.
Then, behind Pavon and Detry, sit two popular American players: Tony Finau and Michael Kim.
“This is a place I enjoy coming to. The whole vibe of it, I mean, you’ve got the beach in the background,” Finau said with a smile.
“I try to look at the beach as often as I can. I try not to hit it in it, but some of those holes out there take me to a good place.
Finau signed for a 6-under 66 on the North Course while Kim shot an impressive 4-under 68 on the South.
Aaron Rai of England, Emiliano Grillo of Argentina, and American Joseph Bramlett are all at 8-under, meaning a bevy of players are within striking distance of the lead.
Third-round coverage of the Farmers Insurance Open begins Friday at 3 p.m. ET on Golf Channel. CBS will then pick up the broadcast at 5 p.m. ET, as legendary announcer Jim Nantz will call the action remotely from Baltimore—the site of Sunday’s AFC Championship game.