Tiger Woods began his new season with no bogeys, no birdies on the par 5s and no drama.
Looking for a new start after a disastrous year on and off the golf course, Woods felt little stress Thursday in the Farmers Insurance Open in San Diego with a 3-under 69 on the Torrey Pines North Course that left him five shots behind South Korean rookie Sunghoon Kang.
If the setting was familiar for Woods, so was his middle-of-the-pack position. In four of his six wins at this tournaments, he has been at least five shots behind after the opening round.
“I’m happy with the way I played, absolutely,” Woods said. “I could have been a lot better if I took care of the par 5s a little bit more, but obviously, I didn’t do that.”
Kang, a 24-year-old rookie, finished with back-to-back birdies on the North Course for an 8-under 64, giving him a one-shot lead over former University of Washington golfer Alex Prugh and Rickie Fowler. Another rookie, Chris Kirk, was another shot back at 66.
Phil Mickelson shot 32 on the back nine for a 5-under 67 to match the best score on the tougher South Course, which hosted the 2008 U.S. Open that Woods won in a playoff. Also at 67 on the South was John Daly, whose last win came in 2004 at this tournament. He was the last player to win at Torrey Pines when Woods was in the field.
“This place means a lot to me,” Daly said. “The top golfers play here every year. That says something.”
Johan Edfors of Sweden shot an 8-under 64 in the first round of the Volvo Golf Champions, giving him a two-stroke lead in the European Tour’s debut in Bahrain.
Daly criticized the Bob Hope Classic and Phoenix Open for not giving him sponsor exemptions, saying he’ll never play them again and will “go to Europe on those weeks.” Daly, a two-time major champion, has not won in seven years and has not had full PGA Tour status since 2006. He has been relying on sponsor exemptions or his status as a past champion. CBS has extended its contract to broadcast the PGA Championship for another eight years, through 2019.
Tracking Andres Gonzales on PGA Tour
This week: Farmers Insurance Open, through Sunday at Torrey Pines North and Torrey Pines South courses, San Diego.
First-round score: 5-over-par 77 on South Course.
Position: Gonzales is tied for 145th, trailing Korea’s Sunghoon Kang, who shot an 8-under 64 on the North Course.
Recap: In his first career round as a full-fledged member of the PGA Tour, the Olympia golfer had one birdie (at the 10th hole), but he also had a disastrous triple bogey when he drove out of bounds left of the par-5 sixth hole, then finished with a 3-putt from 45 feet.
Tee time today: Gonzales will tee off at 9:20 a.m. on the 10th tee of the more forgiving North Course. He will probably need to be no worse than even for two rounds to make the cut in his debut event.
Todd Milles, Staff writer