SAN DIEGO (AP) — Brandt Snedeker says the records set by Tiger Woods should have an asterisk because they're not easily matched by normal players.
That presumably would include his record at Torrey Pines. "I think he's won here more times than I've won on tour," Snedeker said. Nearly twice as much, to be exact. Snedeker has four wins on the PGA Tour, including the Farmers Insurance Open last year. Woods has seven wins at Torrey Pines, five of those in a four-year stretch that included the U.S. Open.
But the fast talker from Tennessee is slowly making inroads. Snedeker still owns a share of the North Course record with a 61 his rookie season. He won the tournament last year by coming from seven shots behind on the final day and beating Kyle Stanley in a playoff. And he resumed his love affair on Thursday with a flawless round of 7-under 65 on the North Course for a share of the first-round lead with K.J. Choi.
The early edge goes to Choi, who ran off five birdies in a six-hole stretch at the turn, and then finished with three birdies on the last four holes. That gave him a 65 on the South Course, which plays 614 yards longer, hosted the U.S. Open and was more than 1½ shots more difficult than the North in the opening round.
Woods has played like he owns this public course. Snedeker is still paying rent. "I never really panic around here," Snedeker said. "I always know I'm one round away from playing really well. So it kind of all blends into a being a great fit for me."
Woods, meanwhile, looked like he would join the leaders when he two-putted for birdie on the 13th hole on the South. That put him one shot out of the lead, and he had a good look for birdie on the 14th. He missed that, and then made two bogeys on the next three holes and had to scramble for par on the par-5 18th for his 68.
It could have been better. Then again, Woods probably would have taken it after a three-putt double bogey early in his round put him at 1 over. He answered by playing the next five holes in 5-under par, one of those for eagle when he holed out from a greenside bunker on the par-5 sixth.
The birdie after the double bogey was the biggest. "It was more important to get that birdie right out of the way, and get back to even par with the par 5 to play," Woods said. "I knew I had two par 5s on the front side, so I could get it down to par, and then maybe get two or three on the back. I thought that would be a good score. And lo and behold, I get it rolling — get to 6 (under) and a chance to go to 7, so it can change quickly. But we had the perfect conditions for it. We couldn't ask for better conditions to score than we had today."
That much was clear by the leaderboard. More than one-third of the field — 56 players — shot in the 60s. The eight players at 66 included Charles Howell, who tied for third in the Sony Open and lost in a playoff last week in the Humana Challenge, and Mike Weir of Canada, who took a big step toward showing his form is returning. Weir has not made a cut since 2011.
Tag Ridings made a hole-in-one on the third hole on the South Course and was in the group at 67 that also included Bo Van Pelt. The biggest mystery was Choi. He is not a regular at Torrey Pines, skipped last year and was planning to miss it again. That was until he heard from his host family in San Diego that the South Korean community wanted to see him play. Choi put on quite a show. He finally got some height and spin into shots while warming up on the range, and he converted that into the best round on the South.
He ran off five birdies in a six-hole stretch on the back nine — he started on No. 10 — and no shot was more pleasing than a wedge into a light crosswind on the 15th hole that settled inches from the cup.
"Best shot ever on the South Course — ever," he said, grinning. This tournament is murky in any weather until the weekend. Of those 56 players who broke 70, only 19 of them played the South Course. Of the PGA Tour events on multiple courses, few of them have a greater contrast, although the score differential has been much greater than 1½ strokes in recent years.
"The real one is tomorrow," Howell said after his 66 on the North. Howell lost in a playoff last week in the Humana Challenge, and he started his season with a tie for third at the Sony Open. Whatever disappointment he felt in the California desert, he was able to shake off quickly. And he wasn't alone.
Scott Stallings lost a five-shot lead in the Humana Challenge and bogeyed the par-5 closing hole to miss the playoff. He bounced back with a 66. Phil Mickelson had quite the taxing day. His 72 felt even higher considering he was playing with Snedeker, who was firing at flags and holing his putts. A three-time winner at Torrey Pines, Mickelson's week began with comments about the amount of taxes he is paying in California, followed by two rounds of apologies for not keeping his opinions to himself.
That wasn't a problem for him Thursday. "I've been playing better than this, and there's no excuses," Mickelson said. "I've got to get my head a little bit more focused on the shots, and I haven't been as focused starting out. Hopefully, I'll be able to turn that around tomorrow and start a little bit more effectively in the future."