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Woods struggles at Torrey Pines tournament

SAN DIEGO, California -- Stewart Cink ran off three straight birdies late in his round on the easier North Course at Torrey Pines for an 8-under 64 which gave him a one-shot lead in the dual-course Farmers Insurance Open.

Cink led Gary Woodland, who also was on the North, which is more than 600 yards shorter than the South Course, where Pat Perez had a 67; the best score there by two shots. Perez played bogey-free despite the firmness of the greens combining with the length of the course to make it play an average of four strokes harder than the North.

Tiger Woods, making his 2014 debut and a seven-time champion in the event, failed to birdie any of the par 5s and had to settle for a 72.

“Even par is not too bad, but I didn't play the par 5s worth a darn today,” Woods said. “You've got to take care of the par 5s because there's not a lot of holes you can make birdie here. Subsequently, I didn't finish under par.”

Even at eight shots behind, he wasn't worried about a chance to win at Torrey for the ninth time — including a U.S. Open. The courses are so different than it's difficult to gauge where anyone stands until everyone has had a crack at both courses. The weekend rounds are on the South.

“I'm going to have to go out there and get it a little bit tomorrow to not be so far behind come Saturday or Sunday,” Woods said.

Cink routinely found the fairways, which was important on a course with challenging rough.

“You want to really take advantage of the North Course because it will yield to you a little bit, and the South Course will not,” Cink said. “I did a great job of going out there, just playing shot-by-shot, not really getting too caught up in, `I have to birdie these holes.' As a consequence, I actually made a few birdies and it felt great.”

Phil Mickelson, meanwhile, felt awful. He was coping with a back injury which got so bad that he considered withdrawing from his hometown event, but struggled on and finished with a 69.

“Never thought about not starting, but around the turn I thought about maybe taking this week off and seeing if I could get a little bit better,” he said. “I kind of fought through the back nine and gave myself a chance.”

He described it as a muscular problem and was hopeful treatment would help.

Perez was not a surprising candidate to record the day's most impressive round. He won a Junior World Championship at the course — beating Woods — and his father, Tony, continues to announce the players on the first tee at the South Course.

“Best day of my life,” Perez said of his junior win over Woods. “I've known him forever. He's always been great to me. He gives me advice here and there, but to beat him that year was fantastic. ... I've got to hold onto that, so that's about all that I got over him. But it hurts him. I'll you tell, it hurts him.”

It was only one round, but it was a great for Perez — and for Cink, who hasn't won since his British Open title at Turnberry in 2009. The test for Cink is Friday on the South, especially considering that only three players broke 70 on the South: Perez, Charley Hoffman (another San Diego native) and rookie Kevin Tway, whose father (former PGA champion Bob Tway) won this event in 1986.

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Tiger Woods examines his putt while waiting for his playing partners on the 18th green of the South Course at Torrey Pines during the first round of the Farmers Insurance Open golf tournament in San Diego, California on Thursday, Jan. 23. (AP)

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