Thomas Levet & Brandt Jobe lead with 65's
Frenchman Thomas Levet and American Brandt Jobe fired seven-under-par 65s to set the pace in the Buick Invitational first round on Thursday as defending champion Tiger Woods made a poor start.
Ryder Cup player Levet and Jobe each reeled off seven birdies in blemish-free displays on the North Course at Torrey Pines, the easier of the two par-72 layouts hosting the tournament.
Australia's Stuart Appleby, winner of the season-opening Mercedes Championships, was among a group of nine players tied for third on 66 after spectacularly holing out with a wedge for an eagle two late in his round.
Arguably the best round of the day, though, came from Sweden's Jesper Parnevik who shot a seven-birdie 67 at the 7,568-yard South Course.
"Any time you shoot under par on the South Course, you're very happy," said Parnevik, one of just six players in the top 40 who started on the South Course. "They made that course into a monster, especially with the rough they have."
It was a not a day to remember, though, for world number one Woods in his first event of the year.
A three-times winner at Torrey Pines, he struggled with his new Nike driver for most of the round before completing a 71 on the North Course.
After teeing off at the 10th on a calm and cool morning, Woods got to three under with eight holes to play but lost ground with three consecutive bogeys from the fourth.
He did well to scramble a par at the 436-yard eighth, after hooking his drive behind a tree and finding the left rough short of the green with his second shot, before recovering with a birdie at his final hole, the par-five ninth.
"I really struggled today," Woods said. "I kept hitting my driver short and right for some reason.
"The only two good drives I hit today I buried under the lip on two and then in the first cut (of rough) on nine. I knew what I was doing, I just couldn't stop it."
Levet, fully exempt on the U.S. PGA Tour after playing for the triumphant European Ryder Cup team in 2004, was particularly pleased with his putting.
"From inside eight feet, I was pretty good," said the 37-year-old from Paris. "That was the key.
"Although I didn't drive the ball that well, I played solid and didn't miss too many shots."
For much of the day, Appleby held a share of the lead after adding five birdies and a bogey to his eagle at the par-four eighth, his penultimate hole.
"I played pretty well and got the most I could out of my round," the 34-year-old Australian said with a smile. "I probably gained two shots through some good breaks.
"The eagle on eight was really the crux of sweetening up the day. I had about 135 yards to go and the ball landed about 20 feet short, released up to the hole and just trickled in."
Among the bigger names playing in the third full-field event of the PGA Tour season, 2004 champion John Daly shot a 69 on the difficult South Course to finish level with world number six Sergio Garcia.
U.S. PGA champion Phil Mickelson, like Woods a three-times winner at Torrey Pines, opened with a 71 after mixing five birdies and four bogeys on the South Course.