SAN DIEGO – Phil Mickelson had to leave the golf course to play one of his shots at Torrey Pines, an early sign of the mass exodus Friday in the Farmers Insurance Open.
By closing with three straight bogeys on the easier North Course, Mickelson missed the cut.
At least he was in good company.
Jason Day, the defending champion and No. 2 player in the world, missed the cut for the first time in nearly eight months. Also leaving early was Rickie Fowler, the No. 4 player in the world who was riding high from his victory five days ago in Abu Dhabi,
Throw in Justin Rose (No. 7 in the world), and another gorgeous day along the Pacific bluffs felt like Black Friday.
Not losing sleep over the surprising departures were Gary Woodland and K.J. Choi, who shared the lead going into the weekend; and Dustin Johnson, who made a risky escape on the one wild tee shot he hit and wound up one shot behind.
Woodland powered his way to a 5-under 67 on the South Course, which he prefers because of his length and the left-to-right shape of his tee shots. Woodland reached two par 5s in two and was just off the green on two other par 5s. He made birdie on all of them to help atone for a few mistakes on the back nine.
Woodland had to make a 15-foot putt on the par-5 18th to be the first player to post at 9-under 135.
Choi was a mild surprise, having not won on the PGA Tour in nearly five years. The 45-year-old South Korean shot his 67 on the North Course.
Their games are different, though they shared one thought — power always helps, but accuracy is paramount on the Torrey Pines courses with thick rough.
“When I drive the ball in the fairway out here I’m having some short irons into par 4s, I’m having mid-irons into some of these par 5s,” Woodland said. “So when I drive the ball like I did today, good things are happening right now.”
Johnson was pounding driver on the North Course and making enough short putts to move up the leaderboard. Then came a shout of “Fore right!” and the crackle of a ball through a Torrey pine on the seventh hole. He had a tree right in front of him, no path to the green except through a V-gap in the tree about a foot wide. Johnson managed, nearly made birdie and finished up his 66. He was at 8-under 136.
Scott Brown had a 71 on the South to join Billy Horschel (70 on the South) and Martin Laird (68 on the North) at 7-under 137.
The cut was at 1-under 143.
Mickelson never thought that would be an issue. He opened with a 69 on the South and was prepared to take advantage of the short par 5s on the North. Instead, he sliced his second shot so badly on the par-5 18th (his ninth hole) that officials had to measure to make sure it was not out-of-bounds. It was in play, by little more than the dimple of a golf ball, but it was under an iron fence.
Mickelson had to walk to the other side of the fence and punch at it with a hybrid into a bunker. He blasted out and three-putted for double bogey. Mickelson grew up in San Diego and has played Torrey Pines more than anyone. Asked if that was the first time he played from the parking lot, Mickelson replied, “Probably not.”
“After that good round yesterday on the South Course, I thought, ‘I’m going to go to the North Course and really light it up.’ I think I tried to force the issue a little bit,” Mickelson said. “When I wasn’t under par early, I kind of started to press a little bit. But that stuff happens.”
He didn’t seem bothered, and neither did Day.
The PGA champion got sick last Friday after a week in the desert working on his game and didn’t touch a club again until the opening round Thursday. He said his energy was gone, his swing felt off and it showed. Day shot 74 on the South and missed the cut for the first time since the Memorial.
“You can’t live and die by one week,” Day said. “It’s not going to be the last cut I’m going to miss. Hopefully, it is the last cut I’m going to miss this year, but once again it’s a process. I got to keep working hard and hopefully that delayed gratification is a lot more sweeter at the end of the year than it is right now.”
The 13 players separated by three shots at the midway point featured a collection of long and medium hitters, which didn’t surprise Johnson in the least.
“If you look at the winners here, they’re all over the board, as far as length,” Johnson said. “But you’ve got to drive it straight. And right now I feel like I’m driving my driver very straight, so that’s definitely a key.”
In Paradise Island, Bahamas, Megan Khang shot a 5-under 68 in strong wind Friday for a share of the lead in the season-opening Pure Silk-Bahamas LPGA Classic, her first event as an LPGA Tour member.
The 18-year-old Khang eagled the par-5 fourth hole and had four birdies and a bogey in wind gusting to 45 kph at the Ocean Club to match England’s Charley Hull and Haru Nomura at 8-under 138.
“It was such a grind,” Khang said. “To come out with 68 is incredible. Can’t wait for the weekend.” Hull and Nomura each shot 70.
Khang tied for sixth at Q-school in December to earn a tour card.
“I think my game’s at a good place right now and I definitely think I can hold my own,” Khang said. “I was confident in my game. I just didn’t know how I was going to play right now being a rookie and under the circumstances. But I’m just having so much fun out here. I just love it out here.”
The 155-cm Khang hits her drives in the 260-yard range.
“Sandra (Gal) was like, ‘You hit it pretty far for a little one,'” Khang said. “I was like, ‘You’re not the first one to say that.’ . . . I took it as a compliment.”
The 19-year-old Hull closed with a birdie on the par-5 18th. “I’ve never played the golf course with that wind before,” Hull said.
Nomura bogeyed Nos. 14 and 16 after getting to 10 under with a birdie on the 13th.
“Wind is very heavy,” Nomura said. “Some holes yesterday downwind, today into the wind.”
Defending champion Kim Sei- young was a stroke back along with Anna Nordqvist, 46-year-old Catriona Matthew and Kwak Min-seo. Kim shot 68, Nordqvist 69, Kwak 70, and Matthew 71.