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Luke List beats Will Zalatoris in playoff to claim dramatic Farmers Insurance Open win in La Jolla

Luke List holds the Farmers Insurance Open trophy in near darkness after winning a sudden-death playoff Jan. 29.
(K.C. Alfred / The San Diego Union-Tribune)

It is List’s first PGA Tour victory. Jon Rahm and Jason Day miss the playoff by a stroke.

The sun had set about 10 minutes earlier, and Luke List was in the fairway on the 18th hole of the South Course at La Jolla’s Torrey Pines Golf Course, squinting at the green over the pond in the fading light. He could barely make out the yellow flag.

List’s caddie gave him the distance: 135 yards. But he grew up in California and knows that when the sun goes down, the temperature does, too. Cooler air means less distance on the shot. List grabbed a pitching wedge and decided to hit a 148-yard shot.

He couldn’t see it land, couldn’t see it spin left, couldn’t see it trickling down the slope toward the hole. Couldn’t see it stop 11 inches away.

But he could hear. The roar washing down the 18th fairway and echoing off the Torrey pine trees told him what he couldn’t see.

“I couldn’t tell,” List said. “I thought it was a little behind the hole. Then I got closer, I was like, ‘Oh, that’s good.’”

List then tapped in a birdie putt, and that’s how he dramatically won the Farmers Insurance Open, which had its first scheduled Saturday finish. His twilight-tinged triumph on the first playoff hole against Will Zalatoris was the 37-year-old List’s first PGA Tour victory in 207 career starts.

Luke List hits from the fairway on the 18th hole during a playoff in the Farmers Insurance Open at Torrey Pines.
Luke List hits from the fairway on the 18th hole during a playoff in the Farmers Insurance Open at Torrey Pines Golf Course on Jan. 29.
(K.C. Alfred / The San Diego Union-Tribune)

List began the tournament’s fourth and final round five shots off the lead, then shot a 6-under-par 66 on the South Course.

He earned $1.51 million for the win and got a trophy for his 3-year-old daughter, Ryann.

“She’s been telling me for a long time, ‘Daddy, I want a trophy,’” List said. “I finally got her a trophy.”

Ryann charged onto the green with a white bow in her curly hair and hugged Daddy moments after Zalatoris missed a 16-foot putt that would have extended the playoff. Twenty minutes earlier, Zalatoris, who began the final round tied for the lead with Jason Day, had a shorter putt on 18 to win outright, but missed left.

Will Zalatoris hits from the sand on the 18th hole during the Jan. 29 playoff in the Farmers Insurance Open.
(K.C. Alfred / The San Diego Union-Tribune)

Day, a two-time Farmers winner, and Jon Rahm, who has won the Farmers and U.S. Open at Torrey Pines, missed the playoff by a stroke.

Fans returned to the Farmers Insurance Open on Jan. 26-29 after a one-year, pandemic-induced absence, and they were treated to a dramatic finish as Luke List edged Will Zalatoris in a final-round playoff at La Jolla’s Torrey Pines Golf Course.

Change to Farmers schedule likely to stay

When the National Football League expanded its regular-season schedule to 17 games this season, the Farmers Insurance Open lost its spot in an open week before the Super Bowl and faced the prospect of competing for TV viewers on its final day with the NFL’s conference championship games Sunday, Jan. 30.

“It was presented as a choice at first,” Farmers Insurance Chief Executive Jeff Dailey told The San Diego Union-Tribune. “Do you go with Wednesday through Saturday? Or do you go to NBC [from CBS] and keep the Thursday to Sunday format?

“My initial ‘upset’ reaction was, ‘Let’s go to NBC.’ Then cooler heads prevailed.”

The Golf Channel televised the first two rounds Wednesday and Thursday, Jan. 26-27, and CBS carried the last two rounds Friday and Saturday, Jan. 28-29.

Crowds are down as expected at La Jolla’s Torrey Pines Golf Course in COVID comeback combined with the PGA Tour event’s first Wednesday start.

Moving up the tournament by a day made a casualty of the usual pro-am, a “net $1 million hit,” according to tournament director and Chief Executive Marty Gorsich. It scrambled TV coverage, travel and lodging dates and attendance rhythms.

But there were benefits as well. Without a Sunday round, the television coverage was shifted later to create near-primetime finishes on the East Coast on Friday and Saturday — a first for a regular PGA Tour event. Golfers got an extra open day on the weekend to see family and travel more easily.

A crowd builds around the South Course's 18th green as evening approaches Jan. 29 during the Farmers Insurance Open.
A crowd builds around the South Course’s 18th green as evening approaches Jan. 29 during the Farmers Insurance Open at Torrey Pines Golf Course.
(Kirk Kenney / The San Diego Union-Tribune)

“The pro-am is an initial hit, but we can create things like a tee-off gala or other unique experiences to replace that financial impact,” Gorsich said. “All the other elements are fine. I don’t see anything in our old format that says we’ve got to get back to that.

“People watching our event on national TV on Friday, it might take a year for people to realize that. That’s how tradition gets built. It doesn’t start in the first year. It’s consistency over time for people to learn it and embrace it.”

Asked if there’s any scenario in which the tournament would shift back to its traditional Sunday finish given the NFL’s new schedule, Dailey said: “I don’t think so. It’s important to us that the ratings are strong, but we still get a tremendous amount of business benefit because we use this as motivation for our top agents around the country. That business benefit for us is probably stronger than a few incremental ratings points.

“If you take the ratings out of it, I like the Saturday finish better.”

— City News Service and La Jolla Light staff contributed to this report.