Reed and Noren share Farmers lead as Anirban Lahiri makes 68

Patrick Reed played unsullied golf on Thursday for a productive 64 for a share of the lead with Alex Noren. Anirban Lahiri is lying T21 after the opening round of the Farmers Insurance Open.

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Anirban Lahiri - Getty Images - PGA TOUR

29 January 2021: No surprises at the start of the Farmers Insurance Open at the Torrey Pines. Patrick Reed and Alex Noren made the most of their trek around the North Course, returning an eight under 64 for a one-stroke advantage over Scottie Scheffler, also on the same course. Anirban Lahiri will hope to make the most of a good start. The Indian shot four-under 68 with the prospect of a wet Friday on the relatively difficult South Course ahead of him.

Defending champion Marc Leishman got the South Course out of the way with a first round 71, three strokes worse than his start last year. The Aussie produced a thrilling 65 on Sunday to win the title in 2020. He is currently lying in T69, and hope for a better return from the easier course on Friday. The conditions though could dampen his prospects.

Alex Noren - Getty Images
Alex Noren – Getty Images

Noren had a brilliant outing, shooting seven birdies on a benign North Course. His lone blemish came on the 18th, but he preceded it with a nice eagle on the par-5 17th to get off to a great start.

Reed was bogey free on Thursday, shooting four birdies on either side for his 64. “I put myself in position today where I had to go out knowing that we’re going to get pretty good conditions, go out and try to make as many birdies as possible to be able to kind of weather the storm tomorrow,” Reed said. “I was able to kind of get off to a hot start and just kind of ride momentum going on through the rest of the round and continue attacking that golf course since that’s the one you’re able to attack.

“I was hitting the ball off the tee. You have to play from the fairway, shoot a low number and attack the course. Especially with what’s coming tomorrow.”

Patrick Reed - Getty Images
Patrick Reed – Getty Images

The only place where he flirted with a bogey was on the fourth hole, a par-4. “That was the closest to a bogey, having a chance for a three putt, but besides that, everything else was pretty easy,” he said. “Definitely it felt easy out there just kind of with how I was hitting the driver, getting the ball in the fairway. I was working it both ways, which was nice. It’s not like I had only one way to go. I was able to hit the draws, hit the fades.”

Lahiri is in T21 with ten other golfers, including Rory McIlroy and Lucas Glover who were the two golfers in that group to have played the more difficult course and still return a 68. A top ten this week will help emulate Arjun Atwal, who finished T4 in 2006 when Tiger Woods defended his title through a three way playoff.

The Indian made a promising start with birdies on his first two holes. At the par-5 tenth hole, even though he reached the green in three, Anirban took advantage of a good approach to secure his first birdie. He repeated the birdie on the next hole with another good putt. After five straight pars, he made his third birdie at the 17th but conceded a bogey on the 18th to go past the bend at 2-under.

Birdies at the first and fifth were neutralised through immediate bogeys on the following holes. Undeterred, Anirban finished the day on a high, securing birdies on the eighth and ninth for his 68. On a day when his driving let him down, the 33-year-old made up for it by making 78% of the greens in regulation. His driving accuracy though languished at 43% and with a bit of work after the round, he will hope to sail better when he takes on the formidable South Course on Friday.

Peter Malnati and Ryan Palmer showed the way on that course with a pleasant return of 66 to their names. McIlroy is among just four golfers inside the top 31 to have played out the South Course. “It’s sort of weird to say, but I almost have better performances with greens in reg when they’re smaller greens because you can just be very comfortable hitting to the middles of greens all the time and not feeling like you’re having to take on pins,” McIlroy explained. “It stops me from being my aggressive self a little bit, which is sometimes a good thing.”

McIlroy made 17 greens in regulation on Thursday, something that according to the PGA TOUR has been accomplished by 0.6% or a meagre 21 of 3,414 golfers to have the played the challenging municipal course facing the Pacific Ocean. The course hosted the 2008 US Open and do so again this June.