Brown makes his birdies on tougher South for share of lead
Scott Brown tees off on the 9th hole during the Farmers Insurance Open golf tournament, Thursday, Jan. 28, 2016 in San Diego. (Nelvin C. Cepeda/ San Diego Union-Tribune via AP) NO SALES, MANDATORY CREDIT
SAN DIEGO (AP) The scorecard for Scott Brown was not unusual for the Farmers Insurance Open. After a rugged start, he took advantage of the par 5s and ran off eight birdies over his last 11 holes to grab a share of the lead at Torrey Pines.
Only he did this on the South Course.
A birdie run like that typically happens on the easier North Course, and then players try to hang on the following day on a South Course that is 600 yards longer, hosted the U.S. Open in 2008 and will have another U.S. Open in five years.
So while he was tied for the lead Thursday at 6-under 66 with Andrew Loupe, it felt much better. Loupe shot 66 on the North, which was 2 1/2 shots easier.
K.J. Choi and Chesson Hadley had the next-best scores on the South at 68. Of the 33 players who broke 70 in the opening round, only 12 of them were on the South. That group included Phil Mickelson, Jimmy Walker and Smylie Kaufman.
Advantage Brown? Maybe.
''You still have to drive it good to score over there,'' Brown said of the North.
The Farmers Insurance Open still needs one more round, giving players a crack at each course, to get some clarity:
THE LEADERS: Brown was 2 over through six holes, and then his birdie streak began with a 6-foot putt on the 17th hole. He played the rest of the par 5s with birdies (laying up on each of them), had one big par save on the fourth hole and knocked in a 45-foot birdie putt on the seventh as a bonus.
''If you're out of position, you just have to play for par or bogey and you can't make any big numbers out there because as soon as you get behind the 8-ball, you can't press and try to make birdies,'' he said.
He wasn't pressing. He just made a bunch of birdies.
The biggest difference with the North Course, which now has tight fairways and ample rough, is the par 5s. The shortest par 5 on the South Course is 560 yards, and two of them (Nos. 9 and 13) were over 600 yards. The longest par 5 on the North Course is 547 yards.
Loupe started and finished his round with eagles, and four birdies and two bogeys along the way and wound up with a 66.
''I got the North Course under my best. I got the South Course tomorrow,'' he said. ''That's a bear.''
MICKELSON'S START: Fresh off his tie for third in the desert last week, Phil Mickelson was looking forward to how his game would stack up at Torrey Pines. On his second hole – the second-easiest par 4 on the South Course – he drove into a bunker, caught the lip coming out, went long, chipped weak and made double bogey.
And he barely blinked.
''I've just had so many over the years, you learn to live with it,'' Mickelson said.
He stayed calm and waited for the birdies to come, and they did. He got up-and-down from a bunker on the par-5 sixth, stuffed his tee shot to 3 feet on the par-3 eighth and then ran off three straight birdies starting on the 614-yard 13th, where he reached the green in two.
Mickelson wound up with a 69 after a birdie on the 18th, where he tried to reach the green in two and had to make a 30-foot putt for a 4.
DEBUTS: Two players made their debut on the PGA Tour and held up nicely.
Paul Dunne of Ireland – you might remember him from St. Andrews as the first amateur since Bobby Jones in 1927 to have at least a share of the 54-hole lead at the British Open – shot a 69 on the South Course.
The other debut belonged to Ryan Ruffels, the 17-year-old from Australia. He opened with a 70 on the North Course, and now heads to the South Course where Ruffels already has two victories – one at the 2014 Junior World Championship, the other last month against Mickelson.
JASON AND RICKIE: Jason Day missed the pro-am because of the flu and wasn't even sure he could tee it up Thursday. But as the defending champion, he wanted to give it a shot. Day opened with a 72 on the North Course.
Rickie Fowler couldn't wait to get going, especially after his victory Sunday in Abu Dhabi. But after three holes on the North Course, he was already 3-over par. Fowler battled back, faded at the end and shot a 73. He then said what is seldom heard at Torrey Pines: He can't wait to get to the South.