Every year at Torrey Pines, players talk about how imperative it is to shoot a low number on the North course, which is far easier than the South, where they play 54 of the 72 holes at the Farmers Insurance Open. This is especially true for those who start their week on the North, as they need to start strong from the start before facing a gruelling three days on the South on the weekend.
Mission accomplished for Jon Rahm, who carded a 10-under 62 on Thursday on the North, matching his career-low round. He wasted no time doing it, making his first of two eagles on his opening hole, the par-5 10th. He went out in seven-under 29, and backed that up with a three-under 33 on the way in that included four consecutive birdies beginning at the par-5 fifth.
For the day, Rahm was five-under on the four par 5s, always a key statistic at Torrey. Rahm would know, as he played them in 11-under for the week when he won here in 2017.
“It’s definitely a golf course that suits my strengths,” said the 24-year-old Spaniard. “You have to strike it well off the tee and really well with the irons, and that’s what I did all day. And taking superb advantage of the par 5s is where everything got together. Didn’t make many mistakes, and the ones I made I was able to fix rather quickly.”
Rahm’s first career 62 came a season ago in the first round of the Desert Classic, which he went on to win in a playoff over Andrew Landry. He’s not won since, though he did win the Hero World Challenge in December, which is an unofficial event.
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Just one shot behind is Justin Rose, who also benefitted from starting his week on the North course. He too began his round with an eagle at the par-5 10th, and added seven more birdies and no bogeys for a clean nine-under 63. It looks like he’s adjusting nicely to his new clubs, the new flatstick especially.
“The putter is something I’ve been leaning towards for awhile,” Rose said. “Obviously couldn’t contractually do it until this year. The new Honma sticks are working beautifully, put the driver in as well, drove it unbelievably well today. I was able to take advantage of the par 5s, and putted it good enough to shoot nine-under.”
Also at nine under is Doug Ghim, the runner-up at the 2017 US Amateur. Ghim’s 63 came on the North, where he ripped off five straight birdies after bogeying his third hole of the day. On the back nine he made four birdies, one bogey and closed with an eagle at the par-5 ninth.
While it wasn’t the lowest, the most important round of the day may have come from Jordan Spieth, who was coming off consecutive missed cuts, yielding more questions than answers about the state of his game. But Spieth bounced back with a first-round seven-under 65 on the North, putting him just three off of Rahm’s lead.
As for Tiger Woods, he was able to post a two-under 70, keeping him within shouting distance of Rahm. He also gets the North course on Friday, where he’ll look to go low and position himself to make a move on Saturday.
Danny Lee, the lone Kiwi in the field, carded an opening one-over 73 on the tougher South course.