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Two on Top at Farmers Insurance Open
K.J. Choi and defending champion Brandt Snedeker both fired 7-under 65s to take the 18-hole lead in the Farmers Insurance Open. The $6.1 million PGA Tour event began Thursday at Torrey Pines near San Diego.
For the first two rounds both the North and South courses at the 36-hole municipal facility are used, with South serving as the site for the final two rounds on the weekend.
Starting on the 10th tee at the more difficult South, Choi of South Korea posted five birdies and a bogey on his opening nine before tacking on three more birdies on the back.
Snedeker, who in 2012 rallied from a seven-stroke deficit to tie 54-hole leader Kyle Stanley in regulation and then beat the Gig Harbor, Wash., native on the second sudden-death playoff hole, posted his 65 on North. Also starting on the 10th tee, the Nashville, Tenn., native had four birdies on his inward half and three more on the home side.
The two veterans are a stroke ahead of Josh Teater, Canada's Adam Hadwin, Luke List, England's Ross Fisher, Billy Horshel, Charles Howell III, Scott Stallings and Mike Weir. All but Teater carded their scores on North.
Tag Ridings, Bo Van Pelt, Jimmy Walker, Jerry Kelly, Justin Hicks, Brendan Steele, John Mallinger, England's David Lynn and Peter Tomasulo all shot 67s. Ridings - whose round was propelled by an ace on the 142-yard par-3 third hole - and Hicks posted their scores on South. They'll play North on Friday.
Despite a double-bogey on the par-4 fourth hole at South, Tiger Woods got off to a good start with a 4-under 68 to take a share of 20th in the early going. Woods, who also posted six birdies, an eagle on the par-5 sixth when he holed out from a bunker, and two bogeys, has won the tournament six times. He also earned his 14th and most recent major championship, the 2008 U.S. Open, at Torrey Pines.
"I'm happy with the round," Woods said later. "I made a few mistakes but to finish at 4-under on the South is a good thing."
Also posting a 68 is Japan's Ryo Ishikawa, who's playing exclusively this year on the PGA Tour. The 21-year-old, who racked up 10 wins on the Japan Golf Tour, is one of his country's top sports stars. He's a bit less recognized in the U.S. "The more easier I can walk in town and we can go shopping," he told PGATour.com. "Here, I can. It's difficult in Japan. So, it's more easier, yeah."
Other scores included a 72 at North by Phil Mickelson, a native of San Diego who now lives in nearby Rancho Santa Fe. The 42-year-old is a three-time winner of the tournament when it was called the Buick Invitational.
Stanley, who rebounded after blowing last year's Farmers Insurance Open by winning the following week in the Waste Management Phoenix Open, started with a 75 at South.
Jordan Spieth made his debut as a pro and shot a 72 at North. After leading Texas to the NCAA national golf title last year, the 19-year-old from Dallas turned pro midway through his sophomore year despite failing to advance past the second stage of the PGA Tour's Q-School. The winner of the U.S. Junior Championship in both 2009 and 2011 is playing this week on one of his seven sponsor's exemptions this year.
Before the start of the first round, reigning Masters' champion Bubba Watson - paired in one of the marquee groups with Mickelson and Snedeker - withdrew from the tournament and was replaced by Billy Mayfair.
Watson, who suffered from a stomach illness at the Tour's season-opening Hyundai Tournament of Champions in Hawaii, tweeted after withdrawing: "Pulling out of tourney this morning, don't have energy for golf. Feel the same as Maui."
The 46-year-old Mayfair, a five-time Tour winner, carded a three-bogey, one-birdie 74.
For all the scores, visit http://www.pgatour.com/leaderboard.html.