On a rainy Friday that had the San Diego-area Chamber of Commerce spin doctors working overtime to preserve their “sunny Southern California” image when play commenced in the Farmers Insurance Open, the Northern California pros in the field had mixed results, while Tiger Woods reminded the golf world just how strong his track record on the Torrey Pines course complex is.
The Farmers Insurance Open is played on both courses of the Torrey Pines complex on Thursday and Friday, moving to the longer, more difficult South Course for the weekend rounds. The South Course was the site of the 2008 United States Open, which an injury-plagued Tiger Woods won in a marathon playoff over Rocco Mediate. Woods has won the regular PGA Tour stop at Torrey Pines six times in the past.
Among players with Northern California and Bay Area ties, Sacramento native Nick Watney – the 2009 champion of the event – played steady golf for the second day in a row, carding scores of 69 and 68 to take a 7-under total into the weekend. San Bruno’s James Hahn, playing in only his third tournament as a full-fledged PGA Tour member, came down to the wire but made the cut on the number at 1-under, with rounds of 71 and 72.
Hahn opened the tournament Thursday on the South Course, playing his second round on the North Course. Starting on the back nine today, Hahn went down two strokes early in the round with bogeys on 11 and 12. The 2003 Cal graduate came down the final stretch at even for the tournament after a birdie on the par-4 second hole, with the cut line hovering at around 1 or 2 under par. After six straight pars, a timely birdie on the par-5 ninth hole moved him back under par, not long after the cut line moved from 2-under to 1-under. Playing off a late starting time, Hahn was the last player to move over the line and into the field for the weekend.
Fresno’s Derek Ernst, another PGA Tour rookie, and Stockton native Ricky Barnes, a pro since 2003 and a 3-year veteran of the PGA Tour, each carded rounds of 2-under 70 on Thursday on the longer, more challenging South Course at Torrey Pines, then went 2-over for 74s in cooler, rainy conditions on the North Course today – missing the cut by one stroke.
Much attention has been focused on Tiger Woods these first two days of the tournament. Coming off of a missed cut last week in Abu Dhabi, where poor shotmaking and an untimely rules infraction kept him out of weekend play, Woods was a question mark coming into this week’s PGA Tour stop. His exemplary record at this event – six victories between 1999 and 2008, including a four-year streak from 2005 to 2008 – and the fact that it marks his first PGA Tour appearance of the 2013 season, put the spotlight on his performance over the last two days.
Woods opened the tournament with an up-and-down day on the South Course, where he had six birdies, an eagle, two bogeys and one double-bogey, finishing the roller-coaster round at 4-under, three back of first round co-leaders Brandt Snedeker and K.J. Choi at 7-under.
Though reportedly unhappy with the condition of the greens on the course, Woods played a steadier round Friday on the North Course, showing a more consistent command of his game. Balancing six birdies and an eagle – which came on the eighteenth hole – against a lone bogey, the 6-time champion of the event muscled his way up the leaderboard through a crowd of players moving in both directions in the tournament rankings, emerging at the top of the heap, by two strokes, at the end of the day.
Both of the 18-hole co-leaders slipped down the leaderboard after poor performances in the second round. The 2012 champion, Brandt Snedeker, stumbled to a three-over 75 on the North Course today, ten strokes worse than his opening-day 65, while K.J. Choi put up a 73 playing the North Course.
Players moving in a positive direction in dramatic fashion today included Southern California native Rickie Fowler, who improved by twelve strokes and 101 places from Thursday to Friday after matching playing companion Tiger Woods’ second-round 65, making the cut by one, 77-65–142. Zimbabwe’s Brendon DeJonge moved up 82 places and into the weekend field after improving seven strokes, 74-66–140.
San Diego-area native Phil Mickelson – the 1993, 2000, and 2001 champion of the event who grew up playing the two courses – struggled to an on-the-number finish today. Mickelson put up one more birdie than he did bogeys on the South Course today, five vs four, just making the 1-under score he needed to make the cut after posting an even-par 72 on the North Course Thursday.