SAN DIEGO – So, who is leading after 18 holes of the Farmers Insurance Open? Stewart Cink, because his 8-under 64 was the lowest of the day at Torrey Pines? Or Pat Perez, whose 5-under 67 on the more demanding South Course in many ways trumps what Cink did on the North?
Truth is, it really doesn’t matter, and a proper assessment can’t be made until Friday’s second round ends and the field has had one turn on each layout.
One thing we do know, however, is that Tiger Woods is far from the lead, closer to the cutline than the penthouse. His two-birdie, two-bogey, even-par 72 on the South Course leaves him in a share of 63rd. But he has won this tournament seven times, so he knows the drill. It’s about surviving the first round at the South Course and making birdies on the North Course, just to get into position for the weekend.
Cink’s burst from the gates and Woods’ slow stroll were just two of the many storylines on a day that began with fog and ended with a cool chill. In between, here are 5 Things you need to know about the first round:
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1. NO MYSTERY HERE: It doesn’t take a deep study to understand why Tiger Woods settled for a 72.
“Didn’t play the par 5s worth a darn today,” he said. If there was disgust in his voice, you can understand it.
On one hand, Woods’ 72 was bettered by only 12 players on the South Course, which played to a field average of 74.449.
On the other hand, had he birdied even half of the four par 5s, he’d have felt much better about things, because no matter the logistics of this tournament, no one wants to fall behind too far. Not even the world’s best player.
“I’m going to have to out there and get it a little bit tomorrow, to not be so far behind come Saturday and Sunday,” Woods said.
Woods wasn’t exactly at his best, but neither was he struggling from start to finish. He hit seven of 14 fairways and 11 greens, numbers that could have translated into a 71 or 70 had he taken advantage of the par 5s.
“I felt that I hit a lot of good shots. I hit probably three loose ones out there, which is the way it goes,” he said.
Paired with two of the hottest players on the PGA Tour, Woods could not match Jordan Spieth’s 71, though he bettered Jimmy Walker’s 74.
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2. LEADING MEN: Pat Perez’s 67 could hardly be colored a surprise, given that he learned to play golf at Torrey Pines and figures he has played the South Course “a thousand times.”
But Stewart Cink’s 64? Nifty stuff, but a bit of a head-turner, given that Cink has pretty much disappeared from view since winning the 2009 Open Championship. In fact, it is just the third time Cink has held even a share of the lead after a round since that unforgettable triumph over Tom Watson at Turnberry.
The credit goes to discipline, he said. “I did a great job of going out there, just playing shot by shot, not really getting too caught up into, ‘I have to birdie these holes,’ “ said Cink, who shot 63 in Round 2 of last week’s Humana and broke 70 in all four rounds at the Sony two weeks ago.
Not that he’ll turn down the 64, but Cink didn’t even pound the softer par 5s that are on the North Course. He made just one birdie on those four holes. Instead, he birdied two par 3s and five par 4s, while recording one of 12 bogey-free rounds.
Perez had another of the bogey-free efforts, the only one to do so on the South Course. Only two others – Charley Hoffman and Kevin Tway, both with 69 – broke 70 on the South Course, so clearly Perez was pleased. Sure, he’s familiar with the track, “but it’s hard when tournament time comes around,” he said.
Perez birdied his first hole, the par-4 10th, added another at the par-3 16th, then methodically went on to record six straight pars. Then he caught fire – birdies at the fifth, sixth and seventh – and the native son could only shake his head.
“Can’t remember the last bogey-free round I had on that course, especially since the tournament was here,” Perez said.
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3. ANOTHER LOCAL BOY SHINES: Pat Perez grew up in San Diego. So did Charley Hoffman. And Phil Mickelson, of course, is another. That makes three good reasons for local fans to be happy Thursday.
No, wait. There was a fourth local in red numbers. Tyrone Van Aswegen.
Don’t laugh. The media guide says he’s from Johannesburg, and he is. And it says he went to Oklahoma City University, which he did. So how did he come to call San Diego home for six years?
“No reason,” said the 32-year-old South African. “My wife is from Portland (Oregon) and we figured we’d go to San Diego because it’s nice.”
Van Aswegen, who has traveled around the mini-tours and the Web.com Tour world since graduating in 2004, said he lived 10 minutes from Torrey Pines, in Carmel Valley, though he hasn’t played Torrey Pines more than a “handful of times.”
He’s a rookie this season, but things have started decently. He has made the cut in all but one of his six starts, and last week he posted his best finish, a tie for 25th at the Humana Challenge. On the North Course, Van Aswegen continued the solid play; he made three birdies on each side, recorded a bogey-free effort, and with a 66 got himself into a share of third.
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4. SHOCKING DAY FOR SNEDS: One of the Tour’s most intelligent and cooperative voices, Brandt Snedeker had nothing to say. He signed his card, exited stage right, and minutes later was seen at the putting green.
He putted. And putted. And putted. And putted.
If there was a question to ask, it would have to wait. Having shot 77 to match the highest score on the North Course, Snedeker was disgusted. Chances are he might have been in shock like the rest of us, given his record here. All he’s done the last four years is go 47 under for 16 rounds at Torrey Pines, finishing first, second twice and T-9.
In all, Snedeker is playing here for the eighth time – he shot 61 on the North Course in his first-ever competitive round at Torrey Pines, in 2007 – and has been over par just six times in 26 rounds, but never higher than 75.
But Snedeker bogeyed the par-5 18th to turn in 1 over, erased it with a birdie at the par-5 first, then threw away five shots down the stretch – a bogey at the fourth, a triple at the par-3 sixth and a bogey at the eighth.
The fact that he required 34 putts is why he landed where he did – at the putting green.
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5. SHORT SHOTS: The field average on the South Course was 74.449, nearly four strokes higher than the North Course (70.526). . . . In his 13 previous starts in this tournament, Woods had opened with a sub-par effort, his worst first-round score being 71. His average score for Round 1 in his seven wins: 68.43. . . . There were just four eagles on the South Course, the only one at the par-5 18th delivered by Will Wilcox, the lone highlight in his round of 78. . . . On the North Course, 10 eagles were recorded, including a hole-out by Troy Merritt at the par-4 second. . . . Keegan Bradley played his first nine holes in 1 over on the North Course, then ran off four straight birdies. He signed for a 3-under 69. . . . Native San Diegan Chris Riley, 40, “on a whim” decided to try the Monday qualifier. He made it through and thus teed it up, even though he has decided to walk away from competitive golf and be at home with his wife and two daughters. Riley shot 2-over 74 on the South Course and pronounced “that’s good – for me.”