Farmers Insurance Open begins: Brandt Snedeker, KJ Choi take first-round lead

Winner to receive approximately $1M

LA JOLLA, Calif. - Defending champ Brandt Snedeker and K.J. Choi shot a seven-under-par 65 Thursday to take the lead in the $6.1 million Farmers Insurance Open after the first round at Torrey Pines Golf Club.

IMAGES: Farmers Insurance Open Past Winners

Six-time champion Tiger Woods, returning after a year's absence, shot a 68 under cloudy skies and occasional drizzle.

Woods bypassed the tournament last year in favor of the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship. There was no conflict this year, because that tournament was held last week, with Woods missing the cut by one shot, in part because of a two-shot penalty.

Tournament director Peter Ripa told U-T San Diego he expects a 30 percent increase in ticket sales over the tournament's four days and a doubling of television ratings because of Woods' presence.

Woods placed himself in a strong position since his opening round came on Torrey Pines South, considered the toughest of the two courses.

By contrast, San Diego-native Phil Mickelson, ensnared in a controversy over public remarks on California's tax burden, shot an even-par 72 on the North course. He will have to make up ground on the more difficult links on Friday.

The co-leaders also played different courses -- Snedeker on Torrey Pines North and Choi on the South.

Bubba Watson, the defending Masters champion and former winner at Torrey Pines, announced on his Twitter account that he backed out at the last minute because of the flu.

The winner will get $1.098 million.

The National Weather Service predicts rain Friday with more rain expected this weekend.

Wearing jackets and carrying umbrellas in hand, some golf fans stood in the rain to watch their favorite golfers in action Thursday morning.

Spectator Jason Petrie said, "We always get this little rain and fog coming. We know how to deal with it, and have umbrellas out today."

While some hid underneath cover to stay dry, many had no problems with the sprinkles that fell.

"It might calm down a little bit. It should clear up, hopefully," said spectator Ryan Owens.

Brooke Seay, who hit the ceremonial first tee shot, said it wasn't the rain that bothered her.

"I was more nervous about the shot," Seay said.

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