SAN DIEGO • American journeyman Scott Brown stole the limelight from some of golf's biggest names as he recovered from a shaky start to charge into a share of the lead at the Farmers Insurance Open on Thursday.
While defending champion Jason Day struggled after the turn to card a level-par 72 in the opening round at Torrey Pines and world No. 4 Rickie Fowler shot a 73, Brown reeled off eight birdies in his last 11 holes to fire a 66.
Despite playing on the more difficult South Course, Brown caught fire over his closing stretch after making two bogeys in the first six holes. He ended the day level with fellow American Andrew Loupe, who set out on the easier North lay-out.
"I knew I was hitting it good," Brown, 32, told the Golf Channel about his mindset after his stumbling start. "I was hitting good shots, I just made a couple of stupid bogeys.
"I hit a ball in the hazard and made bogey on a par-five but I really hit some close iron shots and fortunately made some putts."
Americans Billy Horschel, Patton Kizzire, Tom Hoge, Rob Oppenheim and Harold Varner III all opened with 67s on the North Course, while three-time champion Phil Mickelson rebounded from a double bogey on his second hole to card a 69 on the South.
"I really didn't feel the stress," Mickelson, who tied for third at last week's CareerBuilder Challenge in his first event of the season, said of his stumbling start on Thursday.
"I knew that I had been playing so well. I tried to be patient... and the round just slowly progressed."
American Fowler, who won the European Tour's Abu Dhabi Championship last Sunday, said of his 73: "Terrible. I think that sums it up pretty easily. It was just bad golf. I couldn't get anything going."
His round included a double bogey and three bogeys on the North Course.
Australian world No. 2 Day, who withdrew from the pro-am competition on Wednesday because of flu-like symptoms, looked fatigued throughout his opening round and declined to speak to reporters afterwards as he returned to his hotel room to rest.