For Openers, Torrey Pines is Spectacular

Spectacular shots at Thursday's opening round of the Farmers Insurance Open were rivaled by the spectacular weather and surroundings at the Torrey Pines Golf Course.

Mark Twain once referred to golf as “a good walk spoiled.”

Tell that to the thousands of fans who thoroughly enjoyed themselves Thursday walking the grounds of the North and South courses at Torrey Pines for the first round of the Farmers Insurance Open.

Spectacular was more like it. The weather was magnificent, the scenery was stunning and the golf was great.

The spectators saw South Korea’s Sunghoon Kang shoot an 8-under-par 64 to take a one-shot lead. They watched three other players come within two strokes of Kang and 10 others — including hometown favorite Phil Mickelson and John Daly playing the South — three strokes back after shooting 67s. They witnessed six-time champion Tigers Woods open with a 69 on the North.

Kang’s round was highlighted by an eagle on the North’s 14th hole, a 526-yard par-5. Kang actually hit over the green with his second shot but chipped it into the hole coming back for the eagle three. Interestingly, he is one of four rookies — along with Chris Kirk, Keegan Bradley and Fabian Gomez — among the top five players following the first round. It would be pretty remarkable for one of them to pull off a victory here. The event hasn’t had a first-time winner in 20 years.

The rookies are similar to spectators walking the course in that many of them are excited simply for the opportunity to get a glimpse of veterans like Woods and Mickelson up close.

“I know they are so much better than me right now, so I’m really trying to learn from them,” said Kang. “I really want to learn how they play and how they do around the greens and how they work the ball and how they practice and how their pre-shot routines are. I really want to learn. . . . I don’t want to put any pressure on me, so I’m really just trying to have fun.”

Mickelson, who has won this event three times, position himself to make a run at a fourth title. It wouldn’t be surprising. Mickelson is something of a fast starter, winning in his first PGA Tour event of the season five times during his career.

“I’m excited,” said Mickelson. “I’m excited to get back playing golf. I’m excited about playing on the West Coast, because these are the tournaments that I grew up playing and dreaming of playing. I’ve always enjoyed playing here. It’s similar grass to what I’ve grown up on. So the fact that I’ve been practicing hard, I’ve been working hard and my excitement level is very high.”

The emotion was similar for Woods in his season debut. He seemed to enjoy the atmosphere as much as everyone around him did.

“The crowds were great today,” said Woods. “They were into it. . . . I think everyone came out and enjoyed themselves. Perfect weather. Get to work on your farmer tan, so it’s good.”

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Kirk

About Kirk

About: Kirk Kenney

I first gripped a baseball at the age of six. The game has had its grip on me ever since. I enjoy watching and writing about Little League, high school and college as much or more as the major leagues. I would be consumed by golf if it wasn’t for this voice in my head whispering “pay the mortgage, pay the mortgage, pay the mortgage.” I enjoying reading a good book, but I’m more likely to watch a good movie. I was born and raised in San Diego. If not, I’m sure I would have moved here.

What would you do on your ideal San Diego Day?

I’d join three of my buddies at sunrise in the first group off the tee at Torrey Pines, then head up the coast a few miles to enjoy Mexican food for lunch at Las Olas in Cardiff. We’d drop down to Del Mar after that, grab our Boogie boards (waiting an hour after eating, of course, before going in the water) and catch a few waves, then wash off the sand and head downtown to Petco Park to catch a Padres game.

What is your favorite San Diego outdoor activity?

There’s no way to pick just one. It doesn’t get much better here than playing a round of golf — especially a twilight round where the last putt falls just as the sun sets — because you can do it year-round. My wife and I also enjoy kayaking on Mission Bay or riding bikes along Crown Point Shores.

Do you prefer burgers and beer or linguine and red wine?

Burger and a beer. Make that a root beer. Nothing beats Mug Old Fashioned poured over two scoops of vanilla ice cream.

Latest music purchases for my iPod player are...

Crazy Heart: The Weary Kind (movie soundtrack)

Lady Antebellum: Need You Now

Eagles: Long Road Out of Eden

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