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Tiger Woods opens with a 69 at Torrey Pines

He can't take advantage of the par-fives and is five shots back of Sunghoon Kang of South Korea. Phil Mickelson and John Daly shoot 67s on the South Course.

January 27, 2011|By Diane Pucin

Reporting from La Jolla — Tiger Woods doesn't lead the Farmers Insurance Open after one round.

That honor belongs to 24-year-old rookie Sunghoon Kang of South Korea, who shot an eight-under-par 64 on the Torrey Pines North Course.

If you believe more in virtual leaders, because the South Course is considered the tougher of the two used during this tournament's first two rounds, then Phil Mickelson, John Daly and Fabian Gomez of Argentina are the leaders, each having shot five-under 67s, the best score posted on that layout.

So where does that leave Woods? He is five shots off the lead, tied with 12 others in 22nd place. Woods shot a three-under 69 on the North Course. He did it without a birdie on a par-five and with a couple of putts that covered every part of the hole before rimming out.

"I'm happy with the way I played, absolutely," Woods said. "It could have been a lot better if I took care of the par-fives a little bit more. So hopefully on the South course I can take care of the par-fives and put together a little better round."

Tied for second, one shot behind Kang, were 22-year-old Rickie Fowler, who grew up in Murrieta, and 26-year-old Alex Prugh of Spokane, Wash. They each shot 65s on the North Course, and Fowler was impossible to miss. He wore bright pink and could have starred in an Easter parade.

Kang finished with consecutive birdies, and he wasn't bad in the middle either, recording an eagle on the par-five 14th hole. He did what Woods didn't do by mastering the par-fives with two birdies along with the eagle.

"I really have done well on the par-fives today," Kang said. "That's why I played well."

The top four players on the leaderboard are all 26 or younger. Chris Kirk, 25, is alone in third after a 66 on the North Course.

But the gallery eyes were mostly focused on Woods, Mickelson and Daly. Daly wore psychedelic-patterned orange and yellow and brown pants and was pointedly praiseworthy of this tournament for offering him an exempt spot in the field and pointedly critical of the management of last week's Bob Hope Classic and next week's Phoenix Open, which didn't offer him tournament entry.

"I'll tell you this," Daly said. "I'll never go back to the Hope and I'll never go back to Phoenix no matter what happens. I helped get celebrities go to the Hope. I went to their parties and did everything for them. That's the kind of stuff we all want our young players to do.... I felt like I did my part. It hurt me for those two tournaments not to give me spots."

Mickelson's 67 on the South Course tied his best round on that layout, and it was impetus for him to say, "I'm excited."

He was also thankful to have his mother, Mary, and wife, Amy, looking on at Torrey Pines, following every hole. Both have been treated for breast cancer over the last two years. "It's fun to see them out," Mickelson said.

Most of the attention was on Woods, playing his first round of the year. Fans yelled, "Welcome back to Torrey," and, "Way to go, Tiger," after his good shots.

Woods made only two putts longer than three feet. One, about 10 feet, saved par for him on the eighth hole, and the other was a 25-yard birdie putt on the par-three sixth hole.

Overall, Woods said, he was happy. "I probably hit the ball well all day," he said. "I hit just a couple of loose shots that I know what I did wrong… easy fixes, move on from there."

He'll move on to the harder course Friday.

diane.pucin@latimes.com

twitter.com/mepucin

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