(Reuters) – Jon Rahm used his length off the tee to overpower the par-fives and take the first-round lead at the Farmers Insurance Open in San Diego on Thursday.
The Spaniard played the easier north course at Torrey Pines, and shot a 10-under-par 62, to hold a one-shot advantage over Britain’s Justin Rose and American Doug Ghim, who also played the north course.
Tiger Woods shot 70, while Rory McIlroy had a 71 in his first appearance at the event.
Woods and McIlroy both played the south course, where nobody managed better than 66, and where Rahm will play on Friday.
Rahm started his day with a 10-foot eagle at his first hole, the 10th, and he also eagled his next par-five in perfect weather, with hardly a breath of wind drifting off the Pacific Ocean in southern California.
He later had a chance to finish with five successive birdies, but missed a putt from inside 10 feet at his last hole.
“Taking superb advantage of the par-fives is where everything got together,” Rahm told Golf Channel. “A lot of momentum going on, especially starting the day with an eagle.
“The north course you can get some more birdie opportunities than the south.”
World number seven Rahm has finished no worse than eighth in his past four starts worldwide, including a win at the elite World Challenge in the Bahamas and indicated he felt confident that his form is not going to disappear any time soon with the year’s first major, the Masters, barely two months away.
“The one thing consistent in my game, especially in the last few tournaments, is my driving,” said the 24-year-old.
“I’m consistent off the tee, and my iron play has been a lot better (recently). When I’m giving myself chances, whether I putt good or bad I’m never going to shoot too high.”
World number one Rose also enjoyed a good day off the tee with his new driver.
“Drove it unbelievably well today, long and was able to take advantage of the par-fives,” said Rose, who switched equipment companies recently.
“It’s the kind of course you feel you want to make the most of on a day like this.”
Woods made a relatively quiet return for his first official event since he captured his 80th PGA Tour victory at the Tour Championship in September.
“Overall, shooting a couple under par on the south course is not so bad, but now I’m forced to have to shoot a low one tomorrow over there (on the north course),” Woods said after rolling in a 12-foot birdie at the last.
(Reporting by Andrew Both in Cary, North Carolina; Editing by Greg Stutchbury)