They call them Zonies in San Diego, the denizens of Arizona who seem to take over every beach in the city each summer when the desert’s thermometer climbs into triple digits.
Jon Rahm is an honorary Zonie.
The Spaniard’s fiancée, Kelley Cahill, whom he met at Arizona State, grew up coming to San Diego regularly on vacation. Rahm got his first taste of the Torrey Pines golf courses when he was in college and immediately fell in love with them.
In 2017, Rahm seized his first PGA Tour title in the Farmers Insurance Open at Torrey Pines, providing an exclamation mark by draining a 60-foot putt on the final hole.
So warm were the feelings about the area that when he decided to ask Kelley to marry him, he did so on a hike that skirts the Torrey Pines North Course.
“There’s a lot of reasons for me to be happy every time I come here, no matter how I play,” Rahm said.
The good vibes kept humming for Rahm in the first round of the Farmers Open on Thursday.
With the greens providing soft targets after last week’s considerable rain, Rahm went into attack mode and scorched the North Course for two eagles and seven birdies in firing a 10-under-par 62 that matched his career-low round.
That deep red number was two strokes better than the previous low on the North since it was renovated by Tom Weiskopf before the 2017 tournament. Jason Day shot 64 last year en route his second Farmers victory.
For this first round, Rahm was in a threesome of Torrey lovers.
He played with Day, who scored “only” 67 this time, and the group was completed by two-time Farmers winner Brandt Snedeker (68), who in 2007 tied Mark Brooks for the old North’s course record of 61.
Telling of a summer-like day with nearly perfect conditions, 26 players shot 67 or better, with all but five of them coming from the North.
Not among those was seven-time Farmers champion Tiger Woods, who began his 2019 campaign on the South Course with a mostly uneventful two-under 70 that put him in a tie for 53rd.
World No. 1 Justin Rose notched his best first-round score in eight years on the tour with a 63 on the North. Matching him was Doug Ghim, a 22-year-old who was the runner-up in the 2017 U.S. Amateur.
Also on the North, third-year tour player C.T. Pan, who tied for second in the 2017 Farmers, carded a 64, and three-time major winner Jordan Spieth, off to a rough start this season, used four birdies in his last six holes to shoot 65.
There were three impressive 66s on the South, delivered by Westlake Village’s Brandon Hagy, Charles Howell III and Chris Stroud.
This is how much Rahm was feeling at home in the first round: In the gallery was his 83-year-old grandmother, Miren, who was seeing him play golf in person in the United States for the first time.
“Couldn’t be happier that she’s here. She keeps calling it the trip of her life,” Rahm said.
Breaking into a smile, he added, “I really highly doubt she has any idea or clue what I did today. My grandpa was the one who knew what golf was. He knew what a birdie or bogey was.”
Grandma will have to be schooled about eagles. On his way to shooting a seven-under 29 in his first nine — he started on the North’s 10th tee — Rahm made 3s on the side’s two par-fives — the 10th and 17th.
Rahm couldn’t remember ever opening a pro tournament with an eagle. He bagged it by drawing a five-wood from 247 yards to six feet and converted the putt. At the 520-yard 17th, Rahm had 208 yards to clear the bunker fronting the green, and he “swung as hard as I could” with a four-iron and chased it onto the putting surface.
Rahm also chipped in for birdie at the 14th, and when his second nine seemed stuck in neutral, he revved it up again with four straight birdies from the fifth through eighth.
“I don’t think you ever tee it up on any course at Torrey Pines and expect to shoot 10 under par,” Rahm said. “That just doesn’t happen.”
With its fairways narrowed, rough thickened and new greens playing concrete-hard, scores on the North the last two years weren’t that much lower than the South. The difference between the two over the first two rounds last year was seven-tenths of a stroke. On Thursday, the North, playing at a 69.3 average, was 2.3 strokes easier. That’s huge.
It provides hope to those who seemed to fall far behind after starting on the South. Among them is Woods, who, in playing his first official tournament since winning the Tour Championship last September, used birdies on all four par-fives to shoot 70.
It was Woods’ first sub-par opening round in the Farmers since he shot 68 in his last win here in 2013.
“I felt like I probably could have shot 68 or 67 pretty easily today,” Woods said. “I hit a lot of good putts that were right around the hole that just didn’t quite fall in.”
Woods admitted that he had to get up to “competitive speed” again.
“I know we play for sometimes interesting denominations at home,” he said with a grin, “but it’s not like this. It’s a different deal.”