By Rory Carroll
SAN DIEGO (Reuters) – Sebastian Cappelen and Keegan Bradley grabbed a share of the lead in the first round of golf’s Farmers Insurance Open on Thursday while Tiger Woods gave a solid display in his first start of the year as he guns for a record-breaking 83rd PGA Tour victory.
The 29-year-old Dane Cappelen mixed eight birdies with two bogeys while the American Bradley fired four birdies and an eagle in a bogey-free round to post matching six-under par 66s at scenic Torrey Pines.
The pair sit a stroke clear of nine players including world number two and tournament favourite Rory McIlroy.
But all the attention was on Woods, who was trailed by a large crowd as he made his way around the oceanside course on a sun-soaked day that saw parasailers floating by before cool, thick fog moved in during the afternoon.
Woods, playing alongside world number three Jon Rahm and promising newcomer Collin Morikawa, looked rusty at the outset and managed just an even par 36 through his first nine holes behind two birdies and two bogeys.
But he gained momentum and capped his day with a birdie for a round of three-under par 69, three off the pace.
“Overall I’m pleased to get something in the red,” said Woods, who admitted that controlling his nerves was a challenge when he first teed off on Thursday.
“I was definitely feeling the adrenaline,” he added. “I missed the competition and I was trying to keep everything as calm as I possibly could,” said Woods, who won the last PGA Tour event he competed in, the Zozo Championship, in Japan in October.
“I didn’t do a very good job of that starting out, made a quick bogey early but felt like I fought back.”
The 44-year-old American will move to the more challenging, recently renovated South Course on Friday as he tries to break Sam Snead’s record of 82 PGA Tour victories.
“There’s a lot of positives heading into the South Course,” he said.
Despite the attention on Woods, McIlroy could still prove to be the one to beat and he has added incentive to win this weekend.
The Northern Irishman can reclaim the world number one ranking for the first time since 2015 with a win at Torrey Pines this week.
Current world number one Brooks Koepka most recently competed at the Abu Dhabi Golf Championship earlier this month, where he finished tied for 34th.
(Reporting by Rory Carroll; Editing by Ken Ferris and Christopher Cushing)