On a calm and mostly cloudy day with delectable conditions, nineteen players shot five-under or better, with K.J. Choi and defending champion Brandt Snedeker firing a pair of seven-under 65s to take a share of the first round lead at the Farmers Insurance Open.
Not a knock to Brandt at all, but K.J.’s was probably more impressive since he played the South Course, the harder of the two tracks.
Snedeker, who is a career 28-under on the North Course dating back to 2007, played flawlessly. In addition to his win last year, he has three top-tens at Torrey Pines, including T9 in 2011, T2 in 2010 and a third-place finish in 2007 when he tied the course record (61) on the North Course.
“First of all, it’s great to be here,” said Snedeker. “I love being here, which is great, puts you in the right mindset for the rest of the week when you’re excited about being in a place. The golf course for some reason just fits my eye really well.
“The greens, I have no problems adjusting to these greens whatsoever. I come in hitting the ball right speed, reading the right lines, and when you do that, and you have that kind of confidence, it kind of bleeds into the rest of your game. So I never really panic around here. I always know I’m one round away from playing really well. So it kind of all blends into being a great fit for me.”
For sure. (Picked him for my Fantasy Golf team this week, just saying. Woot!)
Choi, who is making his first start here since 2010 when he placed T15, said he found “something” on the range while warming up Thursday morning. He started hitting the ball more solid at impact and spinning it more. In practice the previous days the greens were extremely firm and he had trouble holding them. The overnight rain helped, though.
“Today starting on No. 10, 11, 12, my ball very quickly stopped and I was hitting it higher,” said Choi, whose game doesn’t necessarily “fit” the beastly Torrey Pines (especially the South). “My goal today was to shoot a couple under par, but I shot five strokes lower and my mindset was very calm. Hitting, driving and starting on the back nine was very nice, and then all day, short irons, long iron, mid-irons all were inside 20 feet. Four or five holes I hit it almost in the hole or three-four feet and made the putts.
“It’s more difficult to read the greens on the South Course with the grain on the ocean side, but I read them good today, and I make a lot.”
He only needed 24 putts.
Choi was thinking five- or six-under would be a good score today, so he was more than happy with a 65.
“I’m so happy I’m in a good position, and three more days of good weather like today, hopefully — I pray a lot,” he said, laughing.
Many people don’t know this, but K.J. has a wonderful sense of humor and is quite funny (in English, too!).
Choi said he wasn’t planning on playing the event, but his fans were disappointed and he was convinced to come.
“In the past, the course is pretty long, the greens are pretty hard, so I felt like the course didn’t really fit me well before,” he said. “But now, as I mentioned before, I found something on the range this morning. Surprisingly, today all of my iron shots were kind of stopping into the green.”
Like I said, the conditions were perfect — the fairways were rolling well (they literally rolled them) and the greens were more receptive because of the overnight rain.
“These fairways are zipping,” said Tiger Woods, who shot a four-under 68 on the South Course, despite a double-bogey early and two late-round bogeys. “At least the greens are receptive than in the practice round.”
Woods opened the 2013 PGA Tour season by draining a 25-footer on the first hole. He was missing his driver left early, but making up for it with great iron play. After he double-bogeyed No. 4, he got fired up and rebounded by playing the next five holes five-under, including a hole-out from the bunker for eagle on No. 6.
“It was more important to get that birdie right out of the way, and get back to even par with the par-5 to play,” said Woods, referring to his bounce-back. ”I knew I had two par-5s on the front side so I could get it down to par, and then maybe get two or three on the back. I thought that would be a good score. And lo’ and behold, I get it rolling. Get to 6 and a chance to go to 7, so it can change quickly.
“But, we had the perfect conditions for it. We couldn’t ask for better conditions to score than we had today.”
Thanks to those who asked questions via Twitter and watched the livestream of my first Google+ Hangout. Appreciate you guys bearing with me as I was a little nervous and awkward since it was new, but I really enjoyed it as a way to interact with people. I think I might try it again tomorrow. After all, it’s all about reps! Feedback is welcome.
You can watch today’s casual Hangout below…
(AP Photo/Lenny Ignelzi)