Thursday's golf: Rahm shares lead with Thomas, Schenk at Torrey Pines

Associated Press

San Diego — Top-ranked Jon Rahm and Justin Thomas made the birdies they needed to keep pace on the easier North Course at Torrey Pines on Thursday and shared the lead with hard-charging Adam Schenk after two rounds of the Farmers Insurance Open.

Schenk made eight straight birdies to shoot a career-low, 10-under 62, also on the North Course, and joined Rahm (65) and Thomas (63) at 13-under 131.

Jon Rahm of Spain hits his tee shot on the eighth hole of the North Course during the second round of the Farmers Insurance Open.

The 30-year-old Schenk, who grew up on an Indiana sod farm, started his impressive run of birdies on the fourth hole and ended it on No. 11. He also birdied Nos. 16 and 17 in his bogey-free round.

All three leaders opened Wednesday on the South Course, where Rahm won the U.S. Open last year for his first major. Rahm also got his first PGA Tour victory in 2017 at Torrey Pines, a municipal facility on the bluffs overlooking the Pacific Ocean.

The final two rounds will be played on the South Course.

Schenk recorded the longest consecutive birdies streak at this tournament since 2003.

Schenk struggled to hit fairways, but his approaches were good enough to give himself reasonable birdie chances.

The Farmers Insurance Open is being played Wednesday through Saturday to avoid a television conflict with the NFL’s two conference championship games on Sunday.

Rahm closed his opening round Wednesday with an eagle for the best score of the day on the South Course. The Spaniard birdied five of his first eight holes on the North on Thursday before making his only bogey.

Thomas, playing the Farmers Insurance Open for the first time since 2015, had nine birdies in his bogey-free round.

Justin Thomas hits his tee shot on the 11th hole on the North Course during the second round of the Farmers Insurance Open .

Cameron Tringale shot a 65 on the North and was one shot behind the leaders. Peter Malnati was two back after a 66 on the North.

Billy Horschel, who opened with a 63 on the North, struggled through a 1-over 73 on the South and dropped five shots off the lead. He made a double-bogey 6 on No. 14.

The featured afternoon threesome of Jordan Spieth (78), Rickie Fowler (76) and Bryson DeChambeau (72) all missed the cut, with the big-hitting DeChambeau grabbing at his lower back in apparent pain on several occasions.

LPGA

Lydia Ko continued take steps toward the top of women's golf again on Thursday with birdies on half of her holes for a 9-under 63 and a two-shot lead over Danielle Kang in the Gainbridge LPGA at Boca Rio.

Ko has been winning on the LPGA Tour for so long — she won her first title as a 15-year-old — that it’s easy to forget she is only 24.

Ko, a 16-time winner on tour, has seen it all, from winning two majors and becoming No. 1 in the world, to watching her ball-striking, her results and her confidence plummet.

Lydia Ko, of New Zealand, hits from the eighth fairway during the final round of the Tournament of Champions LPGA golf tournament.

She ended a nearly three-year drought by winning in Hawaii last year. She is back to No. 3 in the world.

Kang, coming off a season-opening victory last week at Lake Nona, had eight birdies (one of them after hitting the flagstick with her tee shot on the par-3 17th) for a 65.

Aditi Ashok (66) was alone in third, followed by a group of players at 5-under 67 that included U.S. Women’s Open champion Yuka Saso. A short birdie lip-out at the par-5 eighth hole, her second-to-last hole of the day, kept top-ranked Nelly Korda from joining that group. She got up-and-down for par on her final hole to finish at 68.

Just over half the 120-player field broke par on a warm day with not much wind, ideal conditions for scoring.

A missed putt from inside 5 feet on her last hole kept Ko from tying the tournament scoring record established in 2020 by Madelene Sagstrom, who won the event.

Ko, who tied for 10th in her season debut last week at the Hilton Grand Vacations Tournament of Champions, didn't stay upset for long about that short miss. There were far too many positives in her round to dwell on a single stroke.

Ko, who teed off in the afternoon after Kang had posted 65, was solid all day, never getting into much trouble from tee to green, by her count making only one bad swing. She felt very rusty entering last week’s event at Lake Nona, her home course. But the overall state of her game has been a pleasant surprise.

She ran off two three-birdie bursts to distance herself from long hitters Korda and Lexi Thompson (70), who were playing alongside.

Kang finished third at Boca Rio when it hosted the Gainbridge two years ago. Her memories of the week?

Kang won for the first time since the summer of 2020 last week at the Tournament of Champions, performing nicely on the weekend (69-68) in cooler temperatures that once might have thrown her off her game.

Playing in the cold is something Kang worked on in the offseason, playing and practicing in chilly, windy conditions at home in Las Vegas. It is expected to cool into the 50s in Boca this weekend; last week, on a more demanding golf course, Kang was the lone golfer in the 29-player LPGA field to break 70 both weekend days.

She had another tidy round Thursday, and even her one tough break turned out in her favor. Kang began the new year with an ace in a casual round. Her 9-iron on the 17th never left the flag, clanged of the bottom of the pin and bounded 15 feet away. No matter. She holed the birdie putt.

Europe

The No. 110-ranked J.B. Hansen shot a bogey-free 7-under 65 and held a two-stroke clubhouse lead in the first round of the Dubai Desert Classic on Thursday.

Three months ago, Hansen won the Dubai Championship for the second title of his career and followed that up a week later with a ninth place at the season-ending DP World Tour Championship — also staged in Dubai.

They are his only top-10 finishes since June.

Hansen was upstaging a stacked field at the second straight Rolex Series event on the European tour, with the low scoring reflecting the benign conditions at Emirates Golf Club.

Justin Harding was a stroke back on 6 under when the horn sounded while he was on the 18th fairway, signaling an end to the day's play because of darkness. The South African will be one of six players finishing their first rounds early Friday.

Collin Morikawa pressed the reset button on his game after tying for 62nd at the Abu Dhabi Championship last week and saying he didn’t know where the ball was going at times. It certainly worked for the world No. 2 on Thursday, up until the final four holes anyway.

Out among the morning starters, the 24-year-old Californian birdied seven of his first 11 holes — including a chip-in at No. 16 — after starting at No. 10 and was leading on 7 under after 14 holes.

Morikawa bogeyed three of his last four holes, though, and was in a group on 4-under 68 that also contained No. 5-ranked Viktor Hovland.

Morikawa was a stroke behind five players who shot 5-under 67, including 2017 winner Sergio Garcia and Tommy Fleetwood. Fabrizio Zanotti was also on 5 under with the 18th hole left to play.

Defending champion Paul Casey bogeyed the last for a 70 and Rory McIlroy shot 71, having been 3 under after his first five holes.