Tiger starts strong at Farmers Insurance Open

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LA JOLLA, Calif. — Defending champ Brandt Snedeker and K.J. Choi shot a seven-under-par 65 Thursday to take the lead in the $6.1 million Farmers Insurance Open after the first round at Torrey Pines Golf Club.

professional golfSix-time champion Tiger Woods, returning after a year’s absence, shot a 68 under cloudy skies and occasional drizzle.

Woods bypassed the tournament last year in favor of the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship. There was no conflict this year, because that tournament was held last week, with Woods missing the cut by one shot, in part because of a two- shot penalty.

Tournament director Peter Ripa told U-T San Diego he expects a 30 percent increase in ticket sales over the tournament’s four days and a doubling of television ratings because of Woods’ presence.

Woods placed himself in a strong position since his opening round came on Torrey Pines South, considered the toughest of the two courses.

By contrast, San Diego-native Phil Mickelson, ensnared in a controversy over public remarks on California’s tax burden, shot an even-par 72 on the North course. He will have to make up ground on the more difficult links on Friday.

The co-leaders also played different courses — Snedeker on Torrey Pines North and Choi on the South.

Bubba Watson, the defending Masters champion and former winner at Torrey Pines, announced on his Twitter account that he backed out at the last minute because of the flu.

The winner will get $1.098 million.

The National Weather Service predicts rain Friday with more rain expected this weekend.

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