SAN DIEGO – Ryan Ruffels didn’t sleep much last night, not with his much-anticipated pro debut arriving Thursday at the Farmers Insurance Open. The 17-year-old’s nerves didn’t settle much once he arrived at Torrey Pines either – he practiced his opening drive over and over again on the range.
A beautiful fade off the tee and a routine par on his first hole helped ease him into the round, and he added three more birdies on an ideal day for scoring that gave him a 2-under 70. He is only four shots off the early pace.
“That’s probably the worst score I could have shot,” he said afterward, “which is actually kind of motivating for me because if I keep doing that and sinking a few putts, it’s going to be quite good from here, I think.”
Ruffels, who drew the ire of Phil Mickelson after a friendly wager was made public, has been hailed as one of golf’s top prospects after top-25 finishes at the Australian Open in both 2013 and ’14. He signed an equipment and apparel deal with Nike and hopes to gain the maximum seven sponsor exemptions allowed to non-PGA Tour members.
Ruffels showed plenty of potential Thursday, hitting 15 greens en route to a stress-free debut. Now he heads to the South Course, where he won the 2014 Junior Worlds.
“I’m not intimidated by the South Course,” he said. “I’ve played good rounds out there, and obviously it’s a little tougher now; the rough is up and that sort of stuff. But I’m playing good, so there’s nothing that’s going to stop me. If I keep playing like that, nothing’s going to stop me from shooting low numbers tomorrow.”