Tiger Woods finds rhythm quickly at Torrey Pines

SAN DIEGO – Any time Tiger Woods returns to competitive golf after a long break, he makes sure to temper his zeal before putting a peg in the ground, and then he looks to discover a proper rhythm to the round as quickly as possible.

Sometimes, he has needed a few holes to find the right tempo, sometimes he has found it from the get-go. A few times, it has taken him so long to find a good pace that he can’t recover from too many mistakes made early in the round.

On Thursday in his latest return after a break of five weeks, Tiger Woods needed just two holes to get in tune at Torrey Pines in his 2020 debut. On the sun-splashed, seaside resort where he’s won eight times – including the 2008 U.S. Open on a broken leg – Woods eased his way into the new year with a satisfying 3-under 69 on the North Course for the first round of the Farmers Insurance Open.

A rookie set the pace, and that was Sebastian Cappelen of Denmark, the 341st-ranked player in the world. After finishing in a tie for sixth in last week’s American Express, he continued his good play with a 6-under 66 on the tougher South Course.

Tiger Woods finds rhythm quickly at Torrey Pines

Keegan Bradley also had 66, though he played the North.

Defending champion Justin Rose shot 75 on the South.

“I definitely was feeling it,” Woods said. “I missed the competition. I felt like I fought back and there’s a lot of positives heading to the South Course.”

After a pushed approach on the par-5 10th – his first hole of the round – and a chunked flop shot on the 11th from just in front of the green that led to a bogey, Tiger Woods didn’t miss too many shots going forward. That is, except for a chip on the 18th that had too much zip and rolled 45 feet from the hole and led to a bogey.

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Other than that, he was calm, cool and collected on a serene day. Looking lean and fit and with nary a hint of rust, the world No. 6 made good use of his new TaylorMade SIM driver – he spent more than 90 minutes on the back of the range Tuesday getting the club dialed in.

“I felt like the start lines were a little bit tighter, which was nice,” Woods said. “Felt like I shaped the ball well off the tees. I didn’t quite get as many fairways as I needed to today, but overall all my misses were in good spots.”

In his quest for a record 83rd PGA Tour title – he won the Zozo Championship in Japan in his last PGA Tour start of 2019 to tie Sam Snead at 82 Tour titles – Woods played with world No. 3 Jon Rahm and just behind world No. 2 Rory McIlroy and made five birdies to offset two bogeys. He also made some solid pars, including at the eighth hole where he canned a five-footer.

As was his first round of the new decade.

“Overall, I was pleased to shoot something in the 60s,” Woods said. “I felt it was a positive start. The golf course is definitely gettable today, for sure. We all know the South is going to be the more difficult of the two courses. I could probably, maybe could have gotten maybe one or two more out of my round today, but overall I felt like it was a good start, especially going into the South Course.”

Rahm, who won the Farmers in 2017, shot 68. McIlroy, who finished in a tie for fifth last year in his first Farmers Insurance Open and can overtake Brooks Koepka as the No. 1 player in the world with a victory this week, birdied his last for a 67.

It was McIlroy’s first competitive round in nine weeks.

“I drove the ball well for the most part, hit a lot of good iron shots, made some good up-and-downs,” McIlroy said. “But I was a little rusty around the greens. My speed on the greens was a little off, but the more I play, that will get better. And to shoot 5 under you have to make a few putts.”

Among those joining McIlroy at 67 were Bubba Watson (South Course) and Ben An, Joel Dahmen, Xinjun Zhang, and Kevin Tway, who all played the North.

2019-20 PGA Tour, Farmers Insurance Open, Rory McIlroy, Tiger Woods, Torrey Pines, PGA Tour