The Torrey Pines Turnabout

After Thursday’s first round in the Farmers Insurance Open at Torrey Pines in La Jolla, California, there are a bunch of low scores. But the problem for most of those players is that they shot those scores on the North Course, the baby sister of the more difficult and famous South Course.

The South Course is the host course, the North is only used for the first two days so that they can get the very large, 156-man field to the cut line. Once the cut is made Friday night, everybody’s mind is on the South.

Charles Howell III shot 6-under 66 on the North on Friday and noted, “The real one is tomorrow.” 

The leader on the South was Brandt Snedeker who’s on a bit of a hot streak right now with a bogey-free round of 7-under 65. Plus he has the fact that he’s the Defending Champion going for him, having beaten Kyle Stanley. Stanley famously dunked his ball for a triple bogey on 18 and lost in a two-hole playoff…but vindicated himself by winning the Waste Management Open in Phoenix the following week.

Snedeker seems to be very comfortable at Torrey Pines and doesn’t seem to panic:

All golfers have panic in them at some point.  It’s just a matter of when you’re comfortable on the golf course, and something doesn’t go your way or you get off to a slow start, you never get out of your routine and you never lose patience.  If you’re on a golf course you’re not necessarily comfortable on or something’s making you uncomfortable, when you panic, you kind of get out of your routine, you lose patience and bad things can happen.

Out here I seem to never do that.  I always feel like my next good break is right around the corner, or my next good swing is around the corner, and it just bleeds into my game.

All the good ones seem to do that, “Expect the best and take what you get.”

Tiger certainly did that today. He briefly got it to 7-under too before finishing at 4-under. But he did it on the South. He had a couple of loose drives, but for the most part his play was sharp and precise and his face was expressionless. All day long the announce crew was saying that you can always tell when a player is “on” because he has the distance right on the approach shots. If they’re short all day long, it’s because they’re not hitting the ball flush. All day long, Tiger was “there or there abouts.”

Last week’s conditions [in Abu Dhabi] were a lot more difficult and the fairways were narrow and the wind was howling. I felt like I was doing a lot of good things right last week — unfortunately, only for a few days. But I was doing a lot of good things right. And I came out here today and basically did the same thing.

What’s interesting is just how skewed the scores are in favor of the North. There were 35 players at 4-under or better on both courses, but only 9 of them were on the South. So everyone will be thinking that those guys are the leaders in the clubhouse. Everyone on the North knows they are banking their scores for what might happen to them on the South on Friday. As the old saying goes, “Turnabout is fair play.”

So here are the guys who did the best on the South, the leaders, if you will:

7-under — K.J. Choi

6-under — Josh Teater

5-under — Tag Ridings, Justin Hicks

4-under — Tiger Woods, Steve Marino, Harris English, Michael Letzig, Luke Guthrie

But wariness of changing courses also works in the reverse. Tiger is sitting pretty after his stint on the South, primarily because the weatherman missed the forecast. Instead of heavy wind and rain, they got just enough rain to soften the greens without interfering with the “zipping” fairways and no wind to speak of.

But with no winds the guys are going to shoot some good scores over there.  Most of the scores are 5‑under and below are all on the North Course.  So, hopefully, tomorrow the weatherman will get it wrong again, and we can go out there and have some [benign] conditions like this.

Another very nice note on the leaderboard is that Mike Weir seems to be successfully battling his way back to his former competencies before he had injuries and swing changes that dragged him down. He shot 6-under on the North and has a chance to make his first cut since 2011, where he had a T77 in this same tournament and then a T70 in July in the AT&T National.

Keep in mind that this guy has won eight tournaments including the 2003 Masters, the 2001 Tour Championship, the 2000 WGC-American Express Championship at Valdarama in Spain, the Bob Hope and the LA Open twice. So no piker here. But recently, it’s been a brutal time for him.

Very difficult mentally to deal with that when you’re struggling and you know you’re not a hundred percent.  To play and compete with these guys, especially for a player like myself [5′ 9″, 155 lbs], who, I can’t — I don’t get gimme birdies on par‑5s.  So I need all I have at my size.  So it’s been a trying few years to say the least.

But at the same time, I’ve tried not to change.  I’ve tried to have a positive outlook as bad as I’ve played and as much as I’ve struggled, I’ve tried to figure out ways to get it right, and it’s just taken me a long time.

I like the team I have together now, and I’m feeling more comfortable all the time.

But through all of this time, what kept him coming back?

Yeah, I guess the competition and the challenge day‑to‑day.  For myself, I’m trying to have fun.  I am trying to have fun and enjoy that challenge, but it is — [whether] you’re shooting 6‑under or 6‑over, it’s kind of the same mental grind in a different sort of way.  But it’s just as hard to shoot 6‑under.  It’s never easy.

Very rarely in my career do you go through a round that just feels easy.  So the 6, 7, 8‑unders are as mentally challenging as the tough days too.  So trying to embrace those and enjoy myself a little bit more out there.

He’s easy to root for. Hopefully he’ll take a look at why he never has an easy day on the golf course. Is it really that hard all of the time or is he just working too hard at it rather than allowing it to happen? We’ll see.

And so is Adam Hadwin easy to root for. He shot 6-under on the North and is T3. That was after shooting 64 in the Monday qualifier to be co-medalist. He just missed getting his card for this year after finishing just outside the top 25 on the Web.com. If he can somehow finish top 10 this week, he’s in Phoenix.

That’s important because this year the four Monday qualifying spots are being reduced to just two at some tournaments. That’s because the 2013 season ends in September to make way for the 2013-2014 season in October and the Tour wants to give all of the Q-School grads and top 25 Web.com players chances to get into enough tournaments to keep their cards.

Yeah, obviously, my manager’s working as hard as he can to get me into events [on sponsor invitations].  It’s very difficult now with taking away a few spots to give to some of the Q‑School guys to make sure they get in fields and that sort of thing.

But I’m going to work hard and do some Mondays on the west coast here…Phoenix and Northern Trust [LA], and then our [Web.com Tour] schedule [which is] kicking off down in South America.  So just using the Mondays as a bit of a warm‑up for the year, and we’ll get going on the Web.com Tour.

As I said, easy to root for this guy too. Fingers crossed.

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