Sam Ryder battled gusting winds on the South Course at Torrey Pines to shoot a 4-under-par 68 on Thursday and holds a three-shot lead at the midway point of the Farmers Insurance Open in San Diego.
After posting an 8-under round of 64 on the more scoreable North Course on Wednesday, Ryder carded five birdies against a lone bogey to record the lowest score of the day among the 78 players who tackled the challenging South Course. He is 12 under through 36 holes.
It may be a good harbinger of things to come on the weekend for 283rd-ranked Ryder, who is seeking his first career PGA Tour victory. The final two rounds of the tournament will be contested on the South Course as well.
“Everything was kind of clicking pretty well the last couple days and I’m just going to try and keep doing a lot of the same,” said Ryder, who had missed his past three cuts entering the week. “I’m just doing everything pretty solid.”
Among the second-lowest rounds of the day on the South Course belonged to Ryder’s playing partner Brendan Steele, who carded a 2-under 70, as did Max Homa. Steele is at 9 under and will be paired again with Ryder on Friday.
“We’re just super comfortable together,” Steele said. “We were making jokes and we kind of play off each other very well.
“Our sense of humor is very childish and immature. And that made it nice and made it seem like it wasn’t as difficult out there as far as like the waiting and sitting around.”
The lowest rounds of the day overall belonged to Argentina’s Tano Goya and Spain’s Jon Rahm, who each posted 5-under 67s on the North Course. Goya is in solo third at 7 under, one shot ahead of a deep group that includes Homa and rising rookie Taylor Montgomery.
Rahm, who began the day on the back nine, was in danger of missing the cut when he arrived at his 14th hole of the day at 1 over par for the tournament. He promptly eagled the par-5 fifth hole and reeled off three consecutive birdies to get into the clubhouse at 4 under.
Rahm, who is seeking to become the first player since Dustin Johnson in 2017 to win three consecutive events on tour, battled his way back into contention and is eight shots off the lead. The South Course is a place Rahm knows he can go low, having won the Famers in 2017 and the 2021 U.S. Open at Torrey Pines.
“The goal is to win,” Rahm said when asked if the cut line came into his mind during the round. “It would have come into mind maybe in the last few holes had I been even par. I knew going into 5 through 9 to take care of the par-5s, take care of the short par-4 7, everything would be all right.
“I was playing with the mindset of catching up to the leaders as much as possible, that’s it.”
Rahm is one shot behind a group at 5 under that includes Collin Morikawa and former Farmers champion Jason Day of Australia. Two shots behind Rahm in a group at 2 under is a group that includes Justin Thomas and South Koreans Sungjae Im and Si Woo Kim. San Diego native Xander Schauffele another shot off the pace at 1 under.
Tony Finau and Rickie Fowler, a Farmers ambassador, birdied their final holes of the day at the North Course to make the cut on the number at even par.
Not so fortunate was Will Zalatoris, the third-highest ranked player in the field at No. 7. After losing in a playoff last year, Zalatoris failed to make the final 36 holes this year when he bogeyed No. 17 and then parred the par-5 18th to finish at 1 over.
All eyes will be on Ryder entering Friday. While he won a Korn Ferry Tour event in 2017, his best career finish thus far on the PGA Tour has been a tied for second at the 2018 John Deere Classic.
When Ryder has put himself in contention over the past year, he has too often gone the wrong direction on “moving day.”
Ryder opened with excellent rounds of 64 and 65 at the World Wide Technology Championship at Mayakoba in November, but shot himself out of contention with a 73 on Saturday and settled for a T8.
A third-round 70 at the Shriners the previous month also took the air out of an opening-round 65 as he went on to a T28. Last July at the Rocket Mortgage Classic, Ryder opened 67-69 only to shoot 72 in the third round and finish T24.
“The thing I’ve been kind of telling myself is to just try and embrace it,” he 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.”