Olympic gold medalist Justin Rose shot a 7-under-par 65 Thursday in the first round of the $6.5 million Farmers Insurance Open at Torrey Pines Golf Course, while Tiger Woods struggled on the back nine in his return to the PGA Tour after a 17-month absence.
Rose scorched the renovated North Course with a pair of eagles and finished one stroke better than Adam Hadwin, who played the South links.
Woods — playing the South Course as part of a threesome that include Australian Jason Day, the world’s top-ranked player, and American Dustin Johnson, who ranks third — ended the first round with a 4-over-par 76, tied for 133rd.
The 41-year-old Woods had been sidelined because of a back injury since tying for 10th in the 2015 Wyndham Championship. He played in the Hero World Challenge in December, finishing 15th in the 17-man field in the non-PGA Tour event in the Bahamas.
Woods has won the tournament seven times, most recently in 2013. His most recent major championship also came at Torrey Pines, the 2008 U.S. Open.
Woods last played in the tournament in 2015, withdrawing in the first round because of a back injury.
His round began relatively well. After starting with a bogey, he saved par on his next eight holes. Two birdies later, he was at 1-under while stepping up to the 12th tee.
That’s when Woods’ troubles began. He bogeyed five of his next six holes — including a double-bogey on the 15th hole.
He finished the round with a birdie on 18.
Defending champion Brandt Snedeker shot a 4-under, while fan favorite Phil Mickelson was at 1-under. Woods’ playing partner Johnson finished at even par and Day fired a 1-over after three bogeys on his back nine.
A nine-month, $12.6 million renovation to the North Course was recently completed, providing uncertainty over whether it would still play significantly easier than it’s southern counterpart. The notable upgrades and changes included:
— green speeds and firmness are now comparable to the South Course;
— five sets of tees were created, adding nearly 200 yards from the professional tees;
— all 18 greens were completely reconstructed to U.S. Golf Association standards with existing poa annua grass being replaced with 100 percent bent grass;
— greens sizes were increased by an average of 42 percent, allowing for more hole locations; and
— the number of bunkers were reduced from 59 to 41.
As it turned out, Rose was one of eight golfers who played Torrey Pines North who finished in the top 10 on the leaderboard.
The second round at the course in La Jolla begins Friday at 9 a.m. Play continues through Sunday, and the winner will pocket $1.206 million.
— City News Service