Trio shares lead after first round of Farmers Insurance Open in La Jolla
Sam Ryder, Aaron Rai and Brent Grant all shoot 64 on Torrey Pines’ North Course to sit atop the leaderboard as Jon Rahm shoots 73 on the South Course.
Taking the tee for the opening round of the Farmers Insurance Open in La Jolla is like arriving for baseball spring training — all the players are brimming with optimism and the belief that they have a chance to win.
Sam Ryder, Aaron Rai and Brent Grant don’t have a PGA Tour title among them. Grant is a tour rookie. But they share the first-round lead after each shot an 8-under-par 64 on Jan. 25 on Torrey Pines Golf Course’s North Course.
“I’m thankful to be out here and thankful for this good round,” Grant said. “But so far it’s been one hell of a grind and it’s not going to stop; it never does. So to think that I’ve made it or that I’ve done something special doesn’t aid me in any way.”
It can be a grind, even for the best of them.
Jon Rahm, ranked No. 3 in the world and aiming to win his third consecutive start following last week’s The American Express and season-opening Sentry Tournament of Champions, had a frustrating day on the South Course, carding a 1-over 73.
During the round, Rahm gave a ball to one young fan holding a sign that read, “I skipped school to see you win, Jon Rahm.”
But Rahm — who won the 2021 U.S. Open at Torrey Pines and captured his first PGA Tour victory in the 2017 Farmers Insurance Open — now must pass the 115 golfers ahead of him over the next three days if he is to make it three tournament wins in a row.
“The main thing on the round today, with the tee shots I hit on 6, 7, 12 and 13, I was 3 over par,” Rahm said. “In any other given round that I’ve played here in the past, I’m actually playing that at least even par to under par, so it’s easily a three- to five-shot swing, and that’s the difference.”
The first-day leaderboard included more players trying to make a name for themselves than those with established resumés.
Brendan Steele, Ryder’s playing partner, was just a stroke behind the leaders at 65.
Seven players were at 66, including Sam Stevens and Andrew Novak, who posted the best scores on the South.
Defending champion Luke List opened with a 67 on the North Course, the same score posted by Collin Morikawa.
Two-time Farmers champion Jason Day shot 68 on the North Course. That tied him with Justin Thomas, who played the South Course.
San Diego native Xander Schauffele worked for an even-par 72 on the North Course.
Ryder, a Florida native, opened with an eagle 3 on the par-5 10th hole (his first) and looked like he might threaten Brandt Snedeker’s course record (61 in 2007) when he carded a 5-under 31 at the turn.
It wasn’t to be, but completing his round at 8 under was just fine with Ryder.
“This is a place where I had a little bit of success,” said Ryder, who had a top-10 finish at Torrey Pines two years ago. “I’m pretty comfortable on the course. It’s just a matter of playing well. ... You know, don’t want to complain or act like I should have made more birdies or putts.”
Rai also had some positive memories at Torrey Pines to draw on after a tie for sixth in last year’s Farmers.
The Englishman opened with a birdie, and a couple of birdies down the stretch made for a strong finish.
“Drove it very well. Hit a lot of real good iron shots and made a few putts around the turn there, so all in all a very good round, very good start,” Rai said.
In the second round on Thursday, Jan. 26, the leaders will tackle the more challenging South Course. The forecast includes wind gusts of 30 mph.
But Grant remained cautiously optimistic.
“I grew up in the wind,” said Grant, who was born in Jacksonville, Fla. “Being right off the ocean, it’s going to be full force ... and I wouldn’t be surprised if the South Course didn’t bare its teeth all the way.” ◆
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