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Brandt Snedeker shares lead at Torrey Pines

Defending champion shoots a 65 to tie K.J. Choi after one round. Tiger Woods finishes poorly in a 68 on the South Course.

Chris Dufresne

8:05 PM PST, January 24, 2013

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LA JOLLA — As one millionaire golfer considers leaving San Diego in order to make financial ends meet, Brandt Snedeker might consider the opposite and seek full-time residency in the Lodge at Torrey Pines.

On a day when local-citizen-for-now Phil Mickelson shot an even-par 72 (a whopping 10 over his estimated income tax burden percentage of 62), Snedeker continued his dominance here Thursday by shooting a sea-breezy, seven-under 65.

A bogey-free day allowed Snedeker to share the first-round Farmers Insurance Open lead with veteran K.J. Choi.

Snedeker is from Nashville but probably can't fathom what anyone wouldn't like about California's money-making opportunities.

Torrey Pines is becoming Music City to his ears.

Snedeker picked up seamlessly from a year ago, when he won in a playoff over Kyle Stanley. Snedeker's round Thursday now puts him, for his career, at 52 under par at Torrey Pines.

Snedeker shot his 65 on the easier North Course, which makes sense given his 61 in 2007 tied the course record.

He doesn't know why he plays well here, but he's also not complaining.

"It's funny, you look at all the golf courses I should play well on, this should not be one of them," Snedeker said after Thursday's round. "This is a long, difficult golf course with lots of rough and hitting a lot of iron shots, and my strength is driving and putting, so it doesn't really add up well around here."

The first-day leaderboard is as congested as the Genesee exit ramp off Interstate 5.

Eight players are tied for third after shooting 66 Josh Teater, Adam Hadwin, Luke List, Ross Fisher, Billy Horschel, Charles Howell III, Mike Weir and Scott Stallings. Nine players are at 67, including Tag Ridings, who had a hole in one.

Tiger Woods, a six-time winner of this event, was in the six-under thick of it through 13 holes before South Course bogeys on the 15th and 17th left him in a giant salad bowl of players at 68.

It would have been worse had Woods not salvaged par with a nice up-and-down from the sand at the par-five 18th hole.

Woods' scorecard looked like a children's coloring book. He had only eight pars on the day. He shot a front-nine 32 with a combination of three pars, four birdies, one double bogey and an eagle.

"We couldn't ask for better conditions to score than we had today," Woods said.

Bubba Watson wasn't in good condition. The Masters champion withdrew before the round because of illness.

Opening assessments of this tournament need context because the first two days are played on two completely different courses. The North Course is only 7,052 yards and ranked as the third-easiest, relative to par, on the PGA Tour last year. The South Course is a more beastly 7,698 yards.

That means Choi's first-round 65, shot on the South, is more significant than Snedeker's 65 on the North.

Choi's fast start may, or may not, last. His top finish here was a tie for 15th in 2010. He doesn't usually play well at Torrey but said, "I found something on the range this morning. Surprisingly, today all my iron shots were kind of stopping into the green."

Choi seeks his ninth PGA Tour win and first since the 2011 Players Championship.

On Friday, all the players flip sides.

Howell was excited about his 66 on the North but explained the transition to the South is like going from junior high to high school.

"The real one is tomorrow," Howell said.

It also leaves open the prospect Woods could go really low on the North and be a significant weekend contender.

That didn't mean you couldn't appreciate some of the North Course story lines.

Long lost Weir, the 2003 Masters champion who has been mired in a horrific slump, would welcome a 66 on a local pitch-and-putt.

Weir, an eight-time PGA Tour winner who has been battling back from a ligament injury to his right elbow, didn't make a cut in the 14 tournaments he entered last year. He is using his top-25 career earnings exemption to play this season.

What has kept Weir going?

"I love the game," he said. "I just love the game. Even as poor as I was playing, I knew it was in there. So if I didn't have the desire to wake up every morning and keep working hard, I wouldn't have done it."

Weir failed to make the cut at last week's Humana Challenge, in part because he made triple bogey on his 36th hole.

"I'm almost there," he said.

chris.dufresne@latimes.com