As Luke List waited more than an hour and a half to find out if he would have a shot at his first PGA Tour victory during last January’s Farmers Insurance Open, the stress surely had him in mental and gastronomical knots.
The stomach must have been in full churn as big names like reigning U.S. Open champ Jon Rahm, two-time Farmers winner Jason Day and top-10 career earner Justin Rose lingered.
“It was nice to enjoy the beautiful scenery there at Torrey Pines,” List said this week during The American Express at PGA West, the lead-in to The Farmers. “At Torrey, pretty much every view is scenic. It was nice to kind of have a distraction and enjoy the time there.”
Enjoy the time? That close to a title? Something the 37-year-old been chasing since turning pro in 2007? With a $1.5-million-and-change check at stake?
Instead of feeling as if he had ridden a double-barrel-roll roller coaster after eating at a Brazilian steakhouse, List was doing a little leisurely sightseeing. Instead of pacing paths into the clubhouse carpet, he spent some time with his wife and kids before hitting shots on the North Course.
Then … he played tourist.
“I’d already hit a lot of balls,” List said. “When I was watching the (TV) coverage, they were commenting on me hitting too many balls. So, I enjoyed the scenery.”
Well, it worked. List dodged challenges from the top players, winning in a one-hole playoff against Will Zalatoris, another player hunting his first trophy. The pair played past one of those spectacular Torrey Pines sunsets with List holding the trophy in darkness.
Oh, what a (nearly) night.
“I don’t know if we could have gone another hole if we had to,” List said. “They probably would have called it, so I’m glad it ended as quickly as it did.”
They could not have played another hole. The last of the light had headed toward the locker room. A winner was going to be determined on the 73rd hole, a repeat run on No. 18, as everyone squinted to see.
“I knew I hit a good shot,” said List, with the fan reaction verifying his sense of the fairway approach shot in the enveloping darkness. “My caddy was confident that it was fairly close. Nice to have a tap in, for sure.”
The drama was not limited to the light conditions. In a bizarre turn of events during the playoff, both tee shots landed in the right-side fairway bunker … 4 inches apart.
“Can you believe this,” CBS announcer Jim Nantz said. Broadcast partner Nick Faldo doubled down on the zaniness: “I’ve never seen inches away off a tee shot. … It’s just weird to look down (when hitting) and see two golf balls.”
Those uncomfortably close neighbors would decide a championship.
“It was just so bizarre,” Zalatoris said this week. “You rarely ever see that.”
List hit first, into the fairway. Zalatoris followed, ending up in the same part of the fairway. They were shoulder to shoulder, stroke for stroke. Then List lifted a shrouded beauty to within a foot.
“We were having a tough time seeing,” Zalatoris recalled. “I didn’t really see how close Luke’s shot was. It was also my first being in a playoff. It’s not like I’m going to come back the next morning and wait to hit a (13)-footer and be thinking about it all night. I wanted to try and make that (ensuing putt) and come back the next day.
“Yes, it was dark, but I don’t regret anything. I wouldn’t change it either way. Maybe just make the eight-footer the first time (on 18 and avoid the playoff).”
The ebbing light. Bunker buddies after 300-yard tee shots. First Tour wins hanging in the balance.
Torrey doing Torrey things.
“For some reason, that event always gives you a thrilling ending,” said Rahm, the 2017 Farmers winner and 2021 U.S. Open champ at Torrey who finished in a tie for third. “I’ve had the luck of being part of a few of them on both sides. … For some reason, Torrey always brings the excitement.”
Zalatoris rebounded. Quite nicely, in fact. He won the FedEx St. Jude last August for his first victory. He finished second in the PGA Championship and U.S. Open, meaning he has finished as runner up in all but one major after a second at the Masters in 2021.
He’s now No. 7 in the world golf rankings, 83 spots ahead of List.
“I think the amount of seconds I had gave me validation I was doing the right thing,” Zalatoris said. “In reality, I was one or two bounces or a couple inches away from having a couple majors under my belt and a couple of Tour wins.
“You don’t make wholesale changes when you’re that close. You just keep doing what you’re doing and eventually the chips were going to go the right way.”
In the end, it was List’s day … and night.
“I’m excited to be defending anywhere,” he said. “This will be a special week.”
And Torrey will flash those special views. Just ask List.