North Beats South In First Round At Torrey Pines For 2019 Farmers Insurance Open

Abbotsford, BC's Nick Taylor Carded A Respectable 1-under 71 On The More Difficult South Course At Torrey Pines In Round One Of The Farmers Insurance Open - File Photo

By Alfie Lau

Is this the 2019 Farmers Insurance Open or the 5th round of the 60th Anniversary Desert Classic?

Torrey Pines North and South would presumably be tougher courses than the three courses in Palm Springs used for last week’s PGA Tour stop, but take a look at the first-round scores, particularly from the North Course, and you would be hard pressed to notice the difference.

While Phil Mickelson shot a 60 in his opening round last week, this week in San Diego, Jon Rahm shot 62, Justin Rose and Doug Ghim both shot 63, C.T. Pan shot 64 and Jordan Spieth shot 65, all on the North Course.

Torrey Pines North, traditionally three or four strokes easier than the brutish South Course, played to that on a Thursday where there was no wind, the greens and fairways were softened by torrential rains last week, and new rules allowing players to tap down spike marks and other damage provided the most optimal scoring conditions.

With the five best scores all being recorded on the North, the best scores from the South Course were at (-6) 66, with Brandon Hagy, Chris Stroud and Charles Howell III all giving themselves a chance to move up the leaderboard Friday if the North Course they play continues to yield so many birdies and eagles. 11 of the low 14 scores Thursday came on the North Course.

Meanwhile, most of the attention at Torrey Pines was on the South Course, where Tiger Woods opened his 2019 campaign alongside Xander Schauffele and Tony Finau.

That group, for more than 5 hours, had the biggest galleries and the most raucous fans, but at the end of the day, add their three scores together and they weren’t even within shouting distance of Rahm’s (-10) score.

Finau, at (-3) was one stroke better than each of his playing partners, but they will have to go low on the North Course Friday to close the gap that Rahm, Rose Ghim et al have established.

Look at all the golfers on the South Course who were scuffling along, with respectable scores, right around par, and you get a sense of the difference between the two courses.

The marquee group of Adam Scott (-2), Rory McIlroy (-1) and Rickie Fowler (+1), along with Abbotsford’s Nick Taylor (-1), didn’t play poorly, but they’ll be chasing the rest of the week. Ontario’s Ben Silverman acquitted himself very well on the South, with a (-4) round that has him T27.

The three Canadians who played on the North Course Thursday, Surrey’s Adam Svensson, Merritt’s Roger Sloan and Ontario’s Mackenzie Hughes, each finished the day at (-2) 70.

Rahm, who is becoming one of the more entertaining interviews in the sport, got to talk about some different things in his post-round comments.

Rahm had his 83-year-old grandmother Miren out to watch him golf in the United States for the first time ever and he also revealed why Torrey Pines is so special for him and fiancé Kelley Cahill.

“Kelley always loved the city of San Diego,” said Rahm. “Before we met, her and her parents came here almost monthly to the Hilton, right here at Torrey Pines. My first and only Monday qualifier, we drove from ASU to here, missed it by one, drove back. The next year, I end up winning the tournament. We also got engaged here at Torrey Pines, not on the golf course, on the hikes just past it. So there’s a lot of good reasons for me to be happy every time I come here, no matter how I play. We come here quite a bit, just as a day off, so definitely a special place for me and Kelley.”

Woods, who admitted after his round that he probably could have shot 68 or better if a couple of putts had fallen, now knows that he has to go low on the North Course Friday if he wants to play on the weekend and add PGA Tour title No. 81 to his Hall of Fame career.