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Jamie Lovemark is almost a victim of fowl play

Jamie Lovemark is almost a victim of fowl play
Jamie Lovemark tees off on the second hole during the first round of the Farmers Insurance Open at Torrey Pines. (Sean M. Haffey / Getty Images)

Jamie Lovemark birdied his first hole at Torrey Pines and ducked his last.

Ducked?

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While going for the 18th green on the South Course in two shots Thursday, Lovemark's approach hit the bank and rolled back toward the pond that guards the green. Sleeping on the bank were two mallards, and the ball came to rest against one of them, much to the delight of spectators.

The duck didn't budge until Lovemark walked over with a tour official to ask about a ruling.

"He just waddled back to the water and paddled in, no big deal," said Dave McLendon, who was working the hole. "The gallery was going nuts. That was a good one. We see some wild stuff, but that's the first time I've seen anything like that in the seven years I've been here."

Official Steve Rintoul said if the ball had moved when the duck left, Lovemark would have been able to replace it without a penalty.

Rintoul said, "None of us [rules officials] had ever seen anything like that before."

Lovemark, a Torrey Pines High and USC alum, chipped onto the green and finished off his round with a par to card an even-par 72.

Patient Phil clicks

Phil Mickelson and his caddie were all smiles as they walked off the South Course to cries of "Phil, Phil."

The smiles were the real article, for two reasons.

One, Mickelson had recorded a three-under 69 on the tough South Course.

Two, the swing changes Mickelson made in the off-season have agreed with the 45-year-old, whose most recent win was the 2013 British Open.

Overcoming a double bogey on the second hole, Mickelson bagged six birdies, including three in a row starting on the 12th.

He has played five PGA Tour rounds since the off-season tinkering. In each round, including four at the birdie haven that is La Quinta, he scored under 70.

"I'm having a lot of fun playing because I feel like I've got control of the ball, I feel like the driver feels easy to hit, I'm looking forward to every drive and my irons are starting to click," he said. "They were a little bit off last week; they're starting to click a little bit this week."

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So grooved was Mickelson coming off the driving range Thursday morning, he reminded himself to be patient, lest he "try to force the issue" while his irons were hot.

The 392-yard second hole punished him for putting too much cut on his drive, which found sand. When his wedge caught the bunker's lip, he got an early-round taste of Torrey Pines' notorious rough.

Hello, double bogey.

"I've had so many of them over the years, you just kind of learn to live with it," he said. "Honestly, I was pretty calm. I just needed to be patient. I know I'll make some birdies out here. I didn't know if I'd make six, but I know I'll make some birdies out here, and I just need to be patient."

Mickelson closed the round at the par-five 18th by making birdie on a 27-foot putt that produced a roar from the grandstand.

A frightful experience

Rickie Fowler shot a one-over 73 on the easier North. On the bright side, it allowed him to sum up the performance in just one word.

"Terrible," he said.

Fowler, coming off a victory last week in Abu Dhabi, said he "couldn't make a putt" or build momentum off his good shots.

"It was like my ball was scared of the hole or something," he said.

He'll try to rally on the South, which he called one of his favorite courses. "I've been playing well," he said. "I know I can shoot a good score there."

Par or better

Billy Horschel wore candy-green pants, and lived up to that confidence with a 67.

The Floridian, a three-time tour winner at age 29, is one stroke behind co-leaders Scott Brown and Andrew Loupe. He navigated the North without exceeding par on any hole.

"My perfectionist self is going to say it should have been better because I didn't play the par-fives well," he said. "I only put one of my tee shots in the fairway on the par-fives, and that's the one I birdied. So it could have been better. But all in all it was a great day, I'm happy with how it turned out."

He deemed the North more difficult than in 2015.

"I think the greens are a little bit quicker; some of the pin locations are a little bit tougher this year," he said. "The rough's what it is, but the greens were fast."

In 2013 to '14, Horschel accumulated three wins and 13 top-10 finishes in the top-10. As for his 2015 season that yielded no victories and two top-10 finishes, he said he was a little tired near the end.

Good debut

Ryan Ruffels, the 17-year-old Australian who is making his pro debut this week, shot a two-under 70 on the North, making three birdies and one bogey.

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