By Helen Ross, PGATOUR.COM
LA JOLLA, Calif. -- Spencer Levin has heard players talk about being in "the zone."
He's just not sure he's ever been in one, although the way he played in shooting 29 on the back nine of the North Course on Thursday probably came awfully close. Levin finished with a 62 that set a career low in relation to par and put him in a tie for the lead with Kyle Stanley after the first round of the Farmers Insurance Open.
"I never even know what that means, and I guess when guys do it, they don't even know they're doing it," Levin said. "Maybe that's why I shot that because I just kept trying to hit every shot as good as I could, and I just had a good rhythm going.
“My mind was pretty clear, and it just worked out good. I played really well on that back nine."
Indeed. Levin made a 15-footer at the 10th hole and almost holed a 5-iron at No. 11 to set up his second of the seven birdies on the homeward stretch. His next five birdie putts were all inside 10 feet -- and he actually had two unsuccessful eagle attempts from inside 12 feet that might have created a 59 watch.
"I had good looks and was putting well so it kind of added up," Levin said.
Levin and Stanley are one stroke ahead of Bill Haas, who shot a 63 on the North Course that included a double bogey on the par-3 sixth, his 15th of the day. The group at 8 under included Rod Pampling, Josh Teater, Vijay Singh and rookie John Huh.
Stanley's 62 was also a career-low and it included an eagle on the 18th hole. Stanley estimated his drive on that hole covered 380 yards and he coaxed an 8-iron from 173 yards to 3 feet for the tie with Levin.
"The course is in good shape, the fairways are nice, the greens are soft, but you can just be pretty aggressive with your irons," Stanley said. "You've got to hit solid putts. If you don't hit solid putts, it will bump up on you."
The top 12 players on the leaderboard all played the North Course, which is generally regarded as the easier of the two. In fact, Mark Turnesa, who shot 66, and Marco Dawson and Brandt Snedeker, who shot 67s, were the only players in the top 25 who played the South.
The field will switch courses on Friday and everyone who survives the cut will play the final two rounds on the South. The scoring average on the South was 72.846 while the North’s was 69.244.
Phil Mickelson, the hometown favorite and three-time champ at Torrey Pines, was one of the South’s casualties. He shot a 77 that was his second-highest score ever on the course that hosted the 2008 U.S. Open and left him in a tie for 147th
"The North Course, if you start on it, you've got to get off to a good start," said Rickie Fowler, who shot 68 on that layout. "You play it Friday and you feel like you can make up ground. So it is a place where you can make birdies. But the South, obviously, we play three rounds. so you have to hang in there."