SAN DIEGO (AP) — D.A. Points saved his best golf for the tougher course Friday at Torrey Pines and wound up in a share of the lead with Ryuji Imada in the Farmers Insurance Open.
Points avoided a shaky start with a series of good par saves, then finished strong with an eagle and a birdie over the final four holes on the South Course for a 7-under 65. Imada also played the South, which hosted the U.S. Open in 2008, and shot a 68.
Imada, who was runner-up to Tiger Woods by eight shots in 2008 at the PGA Tour event, has yet to make a bogey.
They were at 11-under 133, giving them a head start going into the weekend when it’s far easier to keep track of who’s doing well.
Torrey Pines has two of the most distinct courses on the PGA Tour, with the South playing 2 1/2 shots easier than the North. Points apparently didn’t get the memo.
“Funny enough, I’ve played this course a lot more than I’ve played the other one, and I feel pretty comfortable out here,” he said.
They were two strokes ahead of Matt Every, who had a 70 on the South, and Michael Sim of Australia, who had a tournament-best 62 on the North Course and finished with an eagle.
Robert Allenby, who opened with a 67 on what he called the “real course” – the South – didn’t fare quite as well on the North as he struggled on the bumpy greens. He still had a 69 and was three shots back going into the weekend.
Phil Mickelson didn’t go as low as he wanted, but he also finished with a flourish for a 67 that left him only four shots behind in his first tournament of the year. Mickelson spent most of his time after the round answering questions about the old Ping wedge in his bag with square grooves, and Scott McCarron accusing him of “cheating” for using it.
“I think he’s saying the rule is a terrible rule,” Mickelson said.
More important to Mickelson is having a chance on a hometown course that has befuddled him since the South Course was revamped to accommodate a U.S. Open. Mickelson is a three-time winner at Torrey Pines, but not since 2001. A victory this week would be his third in four starts, something he has never done in his career.
The final two rounds are held on the South Course, and some believe the tournament doesn’t really start until Saturday.
Points, with a 36-hole lead for only the third time, relishes two more days on the South.
He not only played the U.S. Open, but the Junior World Championship at Torrey Pines twice. That brought back some sour memories, although it had nothing to do with his scores. Points said he tied for seventh at the Junior World his last year, which qualified him to compete in a junior event in Japan.
“Like a stupid kid, I didn’t go to Japan,” he said. “I went and played in the Maxfli Junior PGA because it was on ESPN, and I thought it would be cool to be on TV rather than to have the experience of going to Japan. I kind of regret that part.”
He should get plenty of TV time on Saturday, the first network broadcast of the year.
Points and Imada also should have plenty of company.
Twenty players were separated by five shots going into the weekend on a course that can be punishing for short hitters who aren’t in the fairway, and everyone who can’t judge the distance to reach the proper spots on the greens.
Points appeared to have figured that out.
“The main thing for this course is obviously just making putts and driving in the fairway,” he said. “My iron game isn’t quite as sharp as I would love it to be, but certainly making putts is always a good way to make up for a little bit of a sloppy iron game.”
Mickelson struggled on the greens, missing three birdie opportunities in a span of four holes. The other was the 323-yard second hole, where he pounded a driver that barely cleared a bunker and hopped onto the green for a two-putt birdie.
“I didn’t have many birdie putts, but I was able to make all the tough par putts and kind of salvage the round,” Mickelson said.
Allenby referred to the North Course as “Mickey Mouse-ish,” and while his score didn’t indicate that – a 69 – he had few complaints with his position. Allenby has two victories and a runner-up finish on three tours in his last three starts, and is playing as well as anyone.
The struggle was not so much the greens, but his emotions.
He wore a pink shirt with a purpose for the second round.
“One year ago today at 9 a.m., my mother drew her last breath,” he said somberly.
Allenby’s mother died of cancer on Jan. 29, and he spent Friday thinking about his shots, and thinking about his mother.
“I was up and down like a yo-yo,” he said. “That was one of the worst times of my life. What I’m trying to do now is make this one of the best weeks of my life.”