With all the focus squarely on Tiger Woods' opening round of the Farmers Insurance Open on Torrey Pines' South Course, Tony Finau quietly went about his business on the North Course, cruising to a seven-under 65 to take the solo lead after 18 holes. Finau faces the South Course on Friday, where he'll begin with a one-stroke edge over Ted Potter, Jr. and Ryan Palmer.
Finau, 28, began his round with consecutive birdies, and followed up a dropped shot at the difficult par-4 fourth with back-to-back birdies once again. He made another at the eighth, and finished the front nine with a par to turn in four-under 32. Finau added four more on back for a field-leading nine birdies, none more impressive than his last at the par-4 18th that he rolled in from long range to finish with 65. Barring a disaster on Friday, the 2016 Puerto Rico Open winner can extend his PGA Tour made-cut streak to 18, with his last miss coming at the Players last May. He's already on pace for another strong season, having finished solo second at the Safeway Open and T-11 at the WGC-HSBC Champions.
One back are Palmer and Potter, Jr., who each carded their six-under 66s on the South Course, and made a combined zero bogeys in the process. It's an encouraging start for Palmer, who struggled for much of 2017, making just 10 cuts in 20 starts and only registering three top-10s. He made three birdies per side on Thursday, and displayed some nice touch around the greens, going three-for-three in sand saves.
Potter, Jr. was threatening to go very low early in his round, capitalizing on both of the front nine's par 5s and turning in five-under 31. But he made just one birdie on the back, coming on his final shot, when he chipped in from off the back of the green at the par-5 18th. While the 2012 Greenbrier Classic winner has made just two of his seven cuts this season, he's made them count, finishing T-28 at the Safeway Open and T-13 at the RSM Classic.
Some familiar names sit at four under, led by defending champion Jon Rahm, whose 68 came on the South Course. He was joined by Hunter Mahan, Peter Uihlein, Sangmoon Bae and Patrick Reed.
Phil Mickelson shot a two-under 70 on the North Course, putting him five shots off the lead.
As for the main event, Tiger Woods battled for most of his round, ultimately shooting an even-par 72 that almost featured the shot of the week, when he nearly aced the 188-yard par 3 16th on the South Course. The 14-time major champion shook off plenty of rust in his first official PGA Tour start since playing in this event a year ago, and was able to keep himself in solid position to make the cut as he heads to the North Course on Friday.