Reporting from La Jolla — Scott Piercy, who once played golf at nearby San Diego State, couldn't help but be subdued despite becoming the first-round leader of the Farmers Insurance Open golf tournament. His eight-under-par 64 Thursday was conducted on the Torrey Pines North Course, which always plays much easier than the longer and taxing South Course.
Only one of the day's top 15 scorers played the South Course (Robert Allenby, who is five under). So maybe Piercy, 31, is right to not be enthused. Golfing judgments won't really be made until the field rotates in today's second round.
Phil Mickelson, for example, said he was satisfied with his two-under 70 shot on the more grueling South. "I'll take a couple under on that course," he said.
Mickelson, the second-ranked golfer in the world, is making his 2010 debut and acknowledged he was playing things safe.
"I was a little more cautious," he said. "I didn't want to make too many big mistakes."
Meanwhile, John Daly, who wore black-and-white zebra-striped pants that even a fashion-challenged clown would reject, shot a 79, seven over par on the South Course. But his enthusiastic gallery loved how he looked: "You wear it well, John," one 20-something yelled out. But it appears Daly will need only one more pair of pants. He's tied for 152nd in a field of 156. Making that cut isn't looking good.
Piercy, who won $2 million in 2007 at something called the Ultimate Game, a golf event in Las Vegas, has a one-shot lead over Ben Crane, Ryuji Imada, Chris Tidland and Matt Every. Piercy, who finished 90th on the PGA Tour money list last year with $1,032,716, had seven birdies on the front nine.
There were murmurs from the crowd that maybe Piercy was on his way to a 59, but he bogeyed the 11th hole and eventually settled for the lead instead of bigger fame.
"It enters your mind," Piercy said of shooting a 59. "But you've got to still, that old cliche, hit one shot at a time. It would have been nice to not make a bogey, make a couple more birdies early on the back nine and then you could have really thought about it."
Mickelson, even while trying to be, as he said, "cautious," had one drive go so far left on the 614-yard ninth hole that it landed in a temporary parking lot outside a hospital.
According to the rules, the makeshift car park is considered an immovable obstruction (go ahead, try to pick it up), so Mickelson was given a free drop. He ended up making a 12-foot birdie putt on the hole.
The scoring average on the South Course on Thursday was 72.769 as compared with 70.192 on the North Course.
It is those numbers that make Mickelson optimistic about his next round. "The North is where you can make up some ground," he said. "The par fives are reachable and there's some shorter par fours where you can take advantage."
On Thursday Mickelson hit the green in two shots on three of the four par-five holes. "That's helpful," he said.
Allenby, the 38-year-old Australian who finished second in Hawaii two weeks ago, didn't make a bogey during his 67 on the tougher course.
"I gauge myself off this golf course," he said. "I don't want to say the other course is Mickey Mouse, because that would be rude. But it's Mickey Mouse-ish."
Hey, there's another guy who wouldn't wear Daly's pants. Mickey Mouse.
Ryan Palmer, who was the winner in Hawaii over Allenby, had the other sparkling South Course score, a four-under 68.
"I was looking at the scores [on the leaderboard] and there's definitely a lot of North scores up there. I was very fortunate to play well on this course. To shoot a four under on the South Course is a big bonus."
Palmer played with Mickelson and will again today and Palmer said he expected to see Mickelson among the leaders by Saturday.
"He's pretty solid," Palmer said of Mickelson. "He putted the ball great, so he's going to be in there toward the weekend."