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Woods has much work to do in Farmers Insurance Open

SAN DIEGO -- If Tiger Woods is going to get a PGA Tour-record ninth win at Torrey Pines this weekend, he's going to have to do it with his best comeback to date -- perhaps over a longtime rival.

Woods struggled driving the ball, especially on his trademark par 5s, during the first round of the Farmers Insurance Open on Thursday, salvaging an even-par 72 on Torrey's tough South Course, but was far behind the leaders after 18 holes.

"Even par's not too bad, but I didn't play the par 5s worth a darn today," Woods said. "You've got to take care of those because there's not a lot of holes you can make birdies here. I didn't do that, so subsequently I didn't finish under par."

In Woods' eight wins at Torrey as a professional, he has always begun the tournament with an under-par performance. But only a dozen of the 78 golfers who played the South broke par Thursday, with Torrey Pines native Pat Perez posting the lone bogey-free round.

Woods wasn't surprised when he heard of Perez's 5-under 67.

"Why?" Woods said. "He grew up here. This was his home course. He's played it more times than anybody -- well, any tour pro for sure."

Perez, one of the bigger personalities on tour, worked all kinds of odd jobs on the course while growing up nearby, cleaning carts and shuttling pros from place to place.

But he has never won here as a pro, his last victory coming at age 17 in the 1993 Junior World Golf Championships over one Eldrick Woods.

Before this year's tournament, Woods laughingly remembered Perez's upset, saying his friend will never let him forget.

"Best day of my life," Perez said, wisecracking. "I've got to hold onto that. That's about all that I got on him."

The two still talk often, even exchanging texts Thursday morning about an adjustment to Perez's swing.

Entering play Friday, Stewart Cink leads after an 8-under 64 on the North Course. Gary Woodland is in second with a 7-under 65 and four are tied for third at 6-under 66, all on the North.

Woods played alongside FedEx Cup leader Jimmy Walker (2-over 74) and reigning tour rookie of the year Jordan Spieth.

"Tiger and Jimmy both didn't drive the ball well today," said Spieth, 20, who shot a 1-under 71. "If they did, they may have shot better than me. They both putted the ball better than I did."

NOTES

Thursday's opening round was delayed 30 minutes by fog. ...

In all, the South Course played almost four shots harder than the shorter North, a more pronounced gap than usual. ...

Mission Viejo native Cameron Tringale shot a 1-under 71 on the South Course, where Michael Block of Arroyo Trabuco Golf Club logged a 2-over 74. Orange native Hunter Mahan shot even-par 72 on the North. ...

Phil Mickelson said he was unsure of his ability to play Friday after his back tightened up during his 3-under 69 round.

(c)2014 The Orange County Register (Santa Ana, Calif.)

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