Playing easier North Course, they shoot 64s to co-lead Farmers Insurance Open as forecast storms, tougher South Course await
They were playing the easier of the two courses in use for this week’s Farmers Insurance Open, and with inclement weather from a massive West Coast storm looming Friday for their date on the South Course, the time to make birdies was at hand.
Reed and Noren shot 8-under 64s to share the lead, one stroke ahead of Scottie Scheffler, who also played the North (scores).
Because of anticipated storms Friday, officials took an unusual approach for the first 36 holes. Preferred lies were used on both courses Thursday, and the rule will be in force for Friday, as well. Officials want players to face similar conditions, given the fact that the 7,765-yard South Course, which will be the site of the U.S. Open in June, is more than 400 yards longer and more difficult than the North Course.
Among the top 20 scores, only Pater Malnati and Ryan Palmer, who shot 6-under 66s, played the South Course. The South Course, which played to a 73.167 stroke average, was nearly four shots harder than the North, which averaged 69.449.
“I left myself with a lot of good opportunities, a lot of makable putts,” said Reed, who played a bogey-free round, “and when you're doing that around a golf course like the North, you have to go take advantage of it, especially with what's coming within the next 24 hours.”
Noren anticipates a tougher test on the 7,765-yard South Course, which is 500 yards longer than the North. “I'm hoping that we're going to not get too flooded during the night,” Noren said. “But I played the South Course two rounds this week and I know how long it is now, especially when they lengthened some tee boxes. It's a test. You definitely need some good ball‑striking there, especially in windy conditions. It's good to get some birdies on the North.”
Noren, 38, a Swede who played college golf at Oklahoma State, has won 10 times on the European Tour but is looking for his first victory on the PGA Tour. He lost to Jason Day on the sixth hole of a playoff in the 2018 Farmers Insurance Open.
Reed credited a three-day session in September, after a T-13 in the U.S. Open, with instructor David Leadbetter that is starting to feel comfortable.
“It felt easy out there just kind of with how I was hitting the driver, getting the ball in the fairway,” said Reed, who missed the cut last week at The American Express but has posted three consecutive top-25 results at Torrey Pines: T-6 last year, T-13 in 2019 and T-23 in 2018. “I was working it both ways, which was nice. It's not like I had only one way to go. I was able to hit the draws, hit the fades.”
Reed, 30, an eight-time winner on the PGA Tour, is seeking his first victory since he won the WGC Mexico in February.
Rory McIlroy, a four-time major champion who is seeking his first victory on any major professional tour in almost 15 months, shot 68 on the South Course. Brooks Koepka, a four-time major champion who was paired with McIlroy, shot 72. The third member of their power pairing, long-driving Matthew Wolff, withdrew after shooting a 78 marred by two triple bogeys. He cited an injury to his right hand.
Phil Mickelson, a five-time major champion and three-time winner at his hometown event, opened with a 71 on the North.
Willie Mack III, who landed a sponsor exemption when Kamaiu Johnson tested positive for COVID-19 early in the week, stood 1 under through 14 holes on the South Course, but he bogeyed three of his last four holes to shoot 74.
The winner will receive $1.35 million from the $7.5 million purse. The tournament is the second of five consecutive events on the West Coast Swing.
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