Stanley overcame a double bogey early in his round by running off four birdies on the front nine for a 4-under 68, giving him a one-shot lead over Brandt Snedeker going into the weekend.
A tournament already missing Tiger Woods will have to do without hometown star Phil Mickelson on the weekend. He shot himself out of the tournament with a 77 on the South in the opening round, and didn’t make nearly enough birdies on the North to make the cut. Mickelson had to settle for a 68, missing the cut for the first time in 10 years at Torrey Pines.
“We’re going to have perfect weather out here at Torrey, and I’d love to be playing,” Mickelson said.
Snedeker, who first gained notoriety as a rookie at Torrey Pines when he shot 61 on the North Course, had a 64 on the North to make a swift climb up the leaderboard. He is coming off hip surgery at the end of last year and made his season debut at the Humana Challenge last week by getting into the hunt. He tied for eighth, and here he is again.
“I’m certainly surprised that I played this well this fast,” Snedeker said. “Normally, it takes me a while to get the rust off. But my practice at home went really, really well. I was actually chomping at the bit to get out here because I knew I was playing well.
“Hopefully, that can happen through the weekend.”
Stanley, long off the tee and as polished as any of the PGA Tour rookies who won last year, was at 14-under 130.
Sang-Moon Bae, a PGA Tour rookie who is No. 34 in the world, had a 67 to match the best score on the South for the second round. That put him two shots behind at 12-under 132, along with Martin Flores, who also had a 67 on the South.
The cut came at 2-under 142, and there will be another cut Saturday because more than 78 players are still around. That group includes Geoff Ogilvy, who birdied his last hole on the North for a 70, and Ernie Els, who was at 3-under 141.
Stanley goes about his work quietly. He prefers boring golf of fairways and greens, though there was a little too much excitement when his 7-iron from the rough jumped on his and went over the green, down the slope and into the hazard. He chipped to 5 feet and missed the putt, taking double bogey, effectively wiping out the two birdies he had made.
He followed that with a bogey from the bunker on the par-3 16th.
“I got off to a good start, and it was tough to take,” Stanley said. “But you’ve just got to be patient out here.”
That he was. He had birdie putts on the last 11 holes he played and birdied all the par 5s. As a testament to his length, he hit his tee shot 346 yards on the par-5 ninth, and hit 2-iron from 270 yards.
“Not a very good one,” he said, though it left him an up-and-down from the bunker for one last birdie.
The South played three shots more difficult in the warm sunshine along the Pacific, but at least everyone knows where they stand going into the last two rounds.
Stanley likes his chances, for no other reason than the South is long, and he is hitting his drives where he’s aiming at the moment.
A native of the Seattle area who went to school at Clemson, Stanley was on the verge of joining the cast of rookie winners last year when he had a one-shot lead playing the last hole at the John Deere Classic. He made bogey from the bunker, and in the final group behind him, Steve Stricker made an improbable birdie for a one-shot win.
“I wasn’t very discouraged,” Stanley said. “I think I made more money that week than I had thus far, so it was good. It was nice to really get in contention with a few holes left. That’s kind of the goal for this year, to just keep working hard and keep trying to get myself back there.”
Snedeker knows the feeling. He played in the final group as a rookie at Torrey Pines, but couldn’t keep Woods from another win on this public course along the Pacific. Even so, third place was enough to send Snedeker to keeping his card, the immediate goal of most rookies.
Now, he’s looking for yet another win.
“I’m driving the ball as good as I’ve ever driven it in my career, which isn’t saying a lot, but it’s saying enough for me right now,” Snedeker said. “I’m still putting the ball really, really well. So I’m excited with where I am after the first two days. I feel like as good as I’ve played, I’ve left a few out there, which is a good feeling to know my game is where it needs to be.”
DIVOTS: Ryo Ishikawa ran off three birdies over his last five holes for a 69 on the North to finish at 6 under. The Japanese star was coming off a missed cut at the Sony Open … Chris Riley, playing on a sponsor’s exemption, was at 7 under. … Hunter Mahan heads to Qatar next week. His wife, Kandi, will be joining him, then will go to Uganda for mission work geared toward helping children in a tiny village with nutrition and education. … Vijay Singh holed out with a wedge for eagle on the par-5 18th on the South Course. A San Diego newspaper reporter wanted an interview on the shot, and Singh turned and said, “It was a wedge and it went in. What more do you need?”