Golf

Choi's 65 on South day's best round

K.J. Choi
K.J. Choi shoots 7-under 65 on Torrey Pines' tougher South Course.
GolfWeek Sean Martin
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SAN DIEGO

The first round of the Farmers Insurance Open is in the books. Here are Five Things you need to know from the opening day of play at Torrey Pines:

1. On the defensive

Brandt Snedeker’s title defense couldn’t have started much better. He shot a bogey-free, 7-under-par 65 at Torrey Pines' North Course to share the lead with K.J. Choi.

BARK ... AND BITE

A first-round 68 featured plenty of Tiger Woods attitude, not as much consistency.

Snedeker’s 2012 victory wasn’t his only high finish at Torrey Pines. He finished third here as a PGA Tour rookie in 2007 after shooting a first-round 61 on the North Course. That was the only first-round lead he’d ever held on the PGA Tour until Thursday. Snedeker also finished second here in 2010 and ninth in 2011.

“I love being here, which is great,” he said. “It puts you in the right mindset for the rest of the week when you’re excited about being in a place.”

2. Good decision

Nothing against Snedeker, but Choi’s 65 was the day’s best round. He shot that score on the South Course, which played more than a stroke harder than the North (71.7 to 70.1 strokes). Only two of the top 10 players on the leaderboard — Choi and Josh Teater (66) — played the South Course on Thursday.

Choi has made 10 previous starts at the Farmers Insurance Open and never finished better than 15th. Here’s good news, though. He has held the first-round lead six previous times on the PGA Tour and has won three of those events.

Choi skipped this tournament last year, but he said the man who hosts him in San Diego convinced him to return.

“I told them the weather’s bad, the course is tough, but he insisted,” Choi said.

3. Bounce back

Scott Stallings and Charles Howell III both let last week’s Humana Challenge slip through their fingers, but they didn’t let last week impact their play Thursday. Both shot 66 on the North Course and are one stroke back.

Howell missed a 4-foot birdie putt on the Humana’s final hole and then lost on the second hole of a sudden-death playoff after making bogey from a greenside bunker. Stallings held a five-shot lead after 54 holes but finished one shot outside the playoff after making bogey on the final hole, a short par-5.

Howell said playing with his kids Sunday evening allowed him to quickly forget the loss. For Stallings, it was dinner with good friend Webb Simpson. Stallings said he was so focused on hitting the green with his second shot on No. 18 that he overlooked how the lie would impact his ball’s flight.

“It’s obviously something I’ll never do again,” Stallings said, “but I was really happy with the way I played.”

4. Oh, Canada

Two Canadians — one a Masters champion and the other a Monday qualifier — are one shot off the lead. Mike Weir and Adam Hadwin both shot 66 Thursday on the North Course.

Weir is trying to make his first cut since July 2011. He haso made the cut in only two of his past 31 starts and hasn’t finished better than 70th. He hasn’t made the cut in his past 18 starts. He credited Thursday’s round to a hot putter. Weir had a chance to make the cut at last week’s Humana Challenge but made triple-bogey on his final hole. He was 9 under for his first 13 holes in that round at PGA West’s Palmer Private Course.

LEADERBOARD

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“I love to compete, and even as poor as I was playing, I knew it was in there,” he said. “If I didn’t have the desire to wake up every morning and keep working hard, I wouldn’t have done it, because it’s very difficult.”

Three strokes in two tournaments kept Hadwin from earning a PGA Tour card for 2013. The promising Canadian is at the Farmers Insurance Open after Monday qualifying, and he’s making the most of the opportunity. Hadwin shot 66 at Torrey Pines North and is one shot off the lead.

“Just to have the opportunity to play here, it’s really exciting,” said Hadwin, 25. “I couldn’t ask for anything more.”

The Canadian would have earned his PGA Tour card at the 2012 Web.com Tour Championship if James Hahn had not birdied the par-5 18th at TPC Craig Ranch. Hahn pitched to 2 feet from about 30 yards right of the green to make his 4. Hadwin also missed his Tour card by two shots at Q-School.

Hadwin is fully exempt on the Web.com Tour this season. He posted two top 10s in five PGA Tour events in 2011.

5. Short shots

• Phil Mickelson shot 72 on the North Course.

TIGER IN FRONT

Woods make it look easy, shooting a 7-under 65 to lead at Torrey Pines.

• Jordan Spieth shot even-par 72 on the North Course. It was the 19-year-old’s first PGA Tour round as a professional.

• Steven Fox, the US Amateur champion, shot 2-under 70 on the North Course. This is the first of several PGA Tour starts for Fox. He’s exempt into the year’s first three majors, as well as the Arnold Palmer Invitational, RBC Heritage, Memorial and AT&T National.

• Hadwin wasn’t the only Monday qualifier to break par Thursday. Michael McCabe shot 70 on the North Course.

• Rickie Fowler shot 77 on the South Course, his worst PGA Tour round since a second-round 80 at the PGA Championship.

• Charlie Beljan’s first-round 76 included a quadruple-bogey 7 on the par-3 third hole at the South Course.

• Harris English’s 68 on the South Course included an eagle-2 on the par-4 fifth hole after he holed out from a fairway bunker.

Tagged: K.J. Choi, Charles Howell III, Mike Weir, Adam Hadwin, Scott Stallings, Brandt Snedeker

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