SAN DIEGO — Brandt Snedeker ended another round at Torrey Pines atop the leaderboard. Only this time he had company, and still a long way to go.
Snedeker had a flawless start to his title defense in the Farmers Insurance Open by playing bogey-free on the North Course for a 7-under 65 and a share of the lead with K.J. Choi on Thursday. The advantage after one day goes to Choi, who birdied three of his last four holes on the tough South Course for his 65.
Tiger Woods, a seven-time champion at Torrey Pines as a pro, looked as if he might join them. Woods was one shot off the lead with five holes to play on the South until he stumbled in the final hour of a cloudy day with two bogeys and had to scramble to save par on the par-5 18th for a 68.
“I made a few mistakes out there, but I made some nice plays as well,” Woods said.
He three-putted for double bogey on the fourth hole, then responded with a 12-footer for birdie, an eagle by holing a bunker shot on the par-5 sixth, and birdie putts on the eighth and ninth holes to get back into the game.
Phil Mickelson had quite the taxing day with a 72 on the North, which played about 1½ strokes easier than the course that hosted a U.S. Open in 2008.
Snedeker already is developing quite the love affair with this municipal course along the Pacific Bluffs.
As a rookie, he was 10-under through 10 holes and had to settle for a 61 on the North Course. He finished third that year. Then, he rallied from seven shots behind in the final round, got into a playoff when Kyle Stanley made triple bogey on the 18th and won on the second playoff hole.
One year later, he was right back at it.
“It’s funny; you look at all the golf courses I should play well on, this should not be one of them,” Snedeker said. “This is a long, difficult golf course with lots of rough and hitting a lot of iron shots. My strength is driving and putting, so it doesn’t really add up well around year. But for some reason, it’s been good to me.”
It was even more of a mystery for Choi.
He is not a regular at Torrey Pines and decided not to come last year until he heard from his host family in San Diego that the South Korean community wanted to see him play. Choi put on quite a show. He finally got some height and spin into shots while warming up on the range, and he converted that into the best round on the South.
He ran off five birdies in a six-hole stretch on the back nine — he started on No. 10 — and no shot was more pleasing than a wedge into a light crosswind on the 15th hole that settled inches from the cup.
Of the eight players at 66, only Josh Teater posted his on the South Course. Of the PGA Tour events that use multiple courses, few of them are as different as the South and North at Torrey Pines, although the difference in scoring average has been greater in recent years.
Charles Howell III summed it up best after his 66 on the North.
“The real one is tomorrow,” Howell said.
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