SAN DIEGO — Spencer Levin and Kyle Stanley knew they had to post low scores on the easier North Course at Torrey Pines to get off to a good start Thursday in the Farmers Insurance Open. It went even better than they expected.
Stanley, a former Clemson standout, made eagle on his final hole for 10-under 62, his best score in two years on the PGA Tour. Levin shot 29 on the back nine and had 62, matching his career best on tour.
“I played the pro-am on the North Course yesterday. There were just a lot of birdie opportunities out there, so I knew there was a good score – maybe not 10 (under), but I’ll take it,” Stanley said.
They were a shot ahead of FedEx Cup champion Bill Haas, who had a double bogey on his 15th hole and still managed 63. The top 12 on the leaderboard played the North, which played slightly more than 3½ strokes easier than the South Course, which played host to the U.S. Open four years ago.
The best score from the South was Marc Turnesa at 66.
Phil Mickelson, meanwhile, went south on the South. The three-time champion and San Diego favorite thought his game was rounding into form when he came home from the Humana Challenge. Instead, he hit into 11 bunkers, missed a 3-foot birdie putt on the final hole and signed for 77. It was his highest score at Torrey Pines since 78 in the third round of 2005.
“Obviously, I made some bad swings just in the wrong spot and so forth,” Mickelson said. “I felt like my game was ready heading in, and I don’t know what to say about the score because it was pathetic.”
Vijay Singh, Rod Pampling, Josh Teater and PGA Tour rookie John Huh were at 64, with Huh making three eagles. Camilo Villegas and Justin Leonard were among those at 65.
EUROPEAN TOUR: In Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, no momentous shots for Tiger Woods. No bogeys, either.
The 14-time major winner opened his 2012 season with a solid first round at the Abu Dhabi Golf Championship, shooting 2-under 70 that left him three strokes behind co-leader Rory McIlroy, his playing partner.
“Hit the ball well all day today. It was a good ball-striking round,” Woods said. “I had a hard time reading the greens out there. The greens were pretty grainy and I just had a hard time getting a feel for it. Toward the end I hit some pretty good putts but overall I got fooled a lot on my reads.”
McIlroy shot 67, as did Robert Karlsson. But the best shots of the day came from Sergio Garcia (71) and Jose Manuel Lara (70) – each had a hole-in-one on the par-3 12th hole.
Gareth Maybin, Richard Finch and Jean-Baptiste Gonnet were one shot behind the two leaders. Top-ranked Luke Donald, who played alongside Woods and McIlroy, shot 71. Second-ranked Lee Westwood (72) and fourth-ranked Martin Kaymer (77) had poor starts and never challenged.
McIlroy had three birdies on his first four holes but erratic driving led to two bogeys on the next four. He steadied himself with three birdies on his back nine, including a chip-in on No. 8 from just off the green.