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    Wednesday, March 29, 2023

    Golf roundup

    Sam Ryder hits out of a bunker on the eighth hole of the South Course at Torrey Pines during the second round of the Farmers Insurance Open on Thursday in San Diego. (Gregory Bull/AP Photo)

    Ryder extends Farmers lead to 3, Rahm gets hot on windy day

    Sam Ryder extended his lead to three shots in the Farmers Insurance Open with a 4-under 68 in challenging wind in the second round Thursday on Torrey Pines' South Course while Jon Rahm had an eagle and three straight birdies late in his 5-under 67 on the easier North Course to get under the cut line.

    Ryder survived both the Santa Ana wind and the tougher South Course with just one bogey to reach 12-under 132 and take a three-stroke lead over Brendan Steele, who shot a 70 on the South Course. Tano Goya was two more shots back after a 67 on the North Course.

    The Santa Ana wind blowing out of the desert and down the mountains raked the course most of the day, with gusts up to 30 mph. It sent leaves, branches and even a tumbleweed onto greens, and cardboard trash cans tumbling down hillsides.

    “Yesterday was very easy, today was very hard,” said Rahm, who took his first tour win here in 2017 and then won the 2021 U.S. Open on the blufftop municipal course overlooking the Pacific Ocean. “It’s never easy out here on either one of the courses, especially the South, and when you get poa annua bumpy greens with this wind, it can be a bit of a nightmare, so glad I made a few.”

    Rahm, ranked No. 3 in the world and looking to win for the third time three starts this year, rebounded from an opening 73 on the South Course by getting hot on his back nine. He eagled the par-5 fifth and then had three straight birdies. He had another eagle chance on the par-4 seventh but his long putt caught the left edge and skidded about a foot away.

    After his frustrating opening round, “anything in the 60s would have been amazing,” Rahm said. “What I shot today, man, I’m going to be skipping out of the golf course today because it’s a great round of golf.”

    Rahm, who won The American Express last weekend, started on the back nine and opened with consecutive birdies but bogeyed his third and ninth holes. He was even going into the par-5 fifth, when he started his run with an eagle.

    “Holes five through nine, with or without wind is where you can take advantage of the course,” the Spanish star said. “Luckily, I’ve been hitting it really good. There’s no difference between those holes or any other five, four holes you can pick throughout the round, it's just kind of guessed with the wind right in all of them. I think maybe I was a little more aggressive after that second shot on 6 and got in the mentality of making birdies instead of being a little tentative, which is easy to do when it’s blowing as hard as it was blowing today.”

    Rahm, who went from tied for 116th on Wednesday to tie for 14th, said the cut line never came to mind.

    “I was playing with the mindset of catching up to the leaders as much as possible, that’s it.”

    Ryder, a 33-year-old who has never won on the PGA Tour, opened some distance after sharing the first-round lead with Aaron Rai and Brent Grant. Grant was in a group of six at 6 under.

    “Yeah, it feels great. The thing I’ve been kind of telling myself is to just try and embrace it,” Ryder said. "It’s not a position that I’ve been in a lot, you know, so just trying to enjoy it. It’s kind of why we play, so just trying to look around and enjoy the moment.

    “And I’m just doing everything pretty solid. It starts off the tee for me, I’m driving it well. My iron play is really good, so I feel like if I put it in the fairway, I can attack. And I don’t think I really missed many shots today. I missed a couple fairways, but the irons have been really good."

    Will Zalatoris, ranked No. 7 in the world, missed the cut after shooting 5-over 77 on the South Course.

    The final two rounds will be on the South Course.

    Reed fares better than McIlroy after delayed start in Dubai

    Patrick Reed fared better than Rory McIlroy after some pre-tournament friction as the Dubai Desert Classic got off to a wet start Thursday with only 11 players managing to finish their weather-affected first rounds.

    Play only began at the European tour event after a delay of six hours caused by heavy overnight rain that left the course unplayable at Emirates Golf Club.

    By the time the siren sounded to suspend play because of fading light, Reed was 4 under par after 16 holes and top-ranked McIlroy was 2 under having played 15 holes.

    Thomas Pieters was leading on 5 under, though he also had three holes to play. Three English players — Matthew Jordan, Daniel Gavins and Oliver Wilson — held the clubhouse lead after shooting rounds of 4-under 68.

    “It’s certainly strange around here,” Jordan said of the wet conditions, “to see water hazards and stuff in places that you don’t expect it to be.”

    Reed and McIlroy traded verbal blows Wednesday after an interaction — of sorts — at the practice range on Tuesday that saw McIlroy snub Reed, who had gone over to wish the Northern Irishman a happy new year. Reed walked away before tossing a tee — featuring a logo of his 4 Aces team in the LIV Golf league — in the direction of McIlroy, one of the most vocal critics of the Saudi-run breakaway series.

    Reed said it was “unfortunate” that McIlroy didn't shake his hand and was quoted as describing McIlroy as “an immature little child.”

    It has set the scene for a potential on-course head-to-head in Dubai between two of golf's most high-profile players. It didn't come Thursday, with McIlroy starting at No. 10 in his first event of 2023 and Reed opening at the first hole.

    McIlroy bogeyed two of his first six holes after leaving chips from the fringe short. He got up and down from a greenside bunker for birdie at No. 18, picked up more shots at No. 2 and 3, and was lining up a birdie putt from inside 4 feet on No. 7 when the siren went off.

    Reed birdied three of his first five holes and rebounded from a bogey at No. 10 by holing short birdie putts at Nos. 12 and 14.

    Tommy Fleetwood (15 holes) and Victor Perez (16 holes), who won the Abu Dhabi Championship last week, were also on 4 under when they had to leave the course.

    Half the field had yet to get on the course and will start their first rounds on Friday. Players were informed in the early hours of Thursday morning that Emirates Golf Club was “inaccessible” and told not to travel to the course due to several roads being flooded following heavy rain.

    Play finally got underway following a few hours of dry weather and a massive clean-up operation by ground staff.

    “It’s tough,” Jordan said. “I mean, it was nice to see that at 5.20 a.m. I could roll back over in bed and have a lie-in. So that was nice.”

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