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Patrick Reed putts on the ninth hole of the North Course during the first round of the Farmers Insurance Open in San Diego. Gregory Bull/Associated Press

SAN DIEGO — Patrick Reed birdied his first three holes and finished with a bogey-free 8-under 64 on Thursday for a share of the lead with Alex Noren after the first round of the Farmers Insurance Open.

Reed, Noren and Scottie Scheffler – who was one stroke back – all played Torrey Pines’ easier North Course and will play the South Course on what could be a wet Friday. Heavy rain was forecast for overnight and into the second round at the municipal course overlooking the Pacific Ocean.

Peter Malnati and Ryan Palmer each shot 66 for the lowest scores on the South Course and were in a group of 12 at 6 under. Malnati capped his round with an eagle on the par-5 18th. After a 321-yard tee shot, he hit his approach to 16 feet and made the putt.

Reed took advantage of nice weather and accurate tee shots to get off to the hot start. Starting on No. 10, he birdied the first three holes before making his first par. He closed with a flourish as well, with birdies on his 15th, 16th and 17th holes.

Noren also started on No. 10. He eagled the par-7 17th and followed it with his only bogey. He birdied every other hole on his back nine.

Sheffler, who also played bogey-free, eagled the par-4 16th.

HONDA CLASSIC: Two days after COVID-19 kept Kamaiu Johnson from his dream of playing on the PGA Tour, the Honda Classic stepped forward to make sure the inspiring Black golfer gets his shot.

Johnson was the top player on the Advocates Pro Golf Association last year, and the Farmers Insurance Open awarded him a sponsor exemption to play in this week’s tournament alongside some of the best in the world at Torrey Pines.

And then he tested positive for the coronavirus on Tuesday and had to withdraw.

The Honda Classic, to be held March 18-21 in his home state of Florida, offered Johnson an exemption.

“As I said when I first learned that I would be forced to withdraw, a fork in the road often has an interesting way of leading to new opportunities,” Johnson said. “It was beyond disappointing not to be able to play at the Farmers Insurance Open after all of the support that Farmers has shown me and the APGA Tour.

“Now, to find out that I will still have a chance to fulfill my dream of playing on the PGA Tour is almost overwhelming.”

Johnson grew up in the tiny Florida town of Madison and played on a youth travel baseball team with former Chicago Cubs All-Star Addison Russell. But he dropped out of the eighth grade because he was put in a class for slow learners and felt torn down.

Living with his grandmother in a crowded two-bedroom apartment near a golf course, he was spotted swinging a stick by the city golf superintendent, Jan Auger. She made him a deal. If he helped around the club, he could play for $1 a round. For the next five years, Johnson practically lived at Hilaman Park, honing his game.

“Golf saved me,” Johnson told Golf Digest last year. “It gave me a reason to live, gave me a purpose.”

The APGA Tour was established 10 years ago to prepare Black and other minority golfers to compete and gain better access across the golf industry. Johnson finished in the top 10 in the last five APGA events last year, winning its Tour Championship. He was overjoyed when the Farmers Insurance Open called to offer him an exemption in October.

And then it ended with a positive coronavirus test.

A day after Johnson had to withdraw, he learned his mother was hospitalized with breathing difficulties from COVID-19.

“This is turning into a nightmare from hell,” Johnson tweeted on Wednesday.

He said Thursday she was improving, and his spirits were pretty high, too.

Ken Kennerly, the executive director of the Honda Classic, said he and tournament director Andrew George were familiar with Johnson from when he tried to go through Monday qualifying last year at the Honda.

“When we heard what happened to him at Farmers this week, we felt strongly that we wanted to give him a chance to play at The Honda Classic. We feel it is important to support the advancement of golfers from our home state, Kennerly said. ”We have always been about growing the game of golf for young players and Kamaiu is such an inspiration for so many of them.”

DUBAI DESERT CLASSIC: Richard Sterne took a one-stroke lead at the Dubai Desert Classic with an 8-under 64 on Thursday in the first round.

The South African rolled in his ninth birdie of the day – on his ninth and final hole – to move ahead of American rival Kurt Kitayama (65) at the Emirates Golf Club. Sergio Garcia and Justin Harding (66) were tied for third.

The 39-year-old Sterne, who has battled an array of injuries in his career, last won on the European Tour nearly eight years ago. His only blemish on Thursday was a bogey on the sixth.

Robert MacIntyre, Paul Casey, Adrian Otaegui and Thomas Detry (67) were all tied for fifth.

RBC HERITAGE: The RBC Heritage in mid-April will have a limited number of fans and sponsor tents due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The PGA tournament announced Thursday that face coverings will be mandatory for attendance, while sky boxes and private hospitality venues that usually surround Harbour Town Golf Links will be replaced with open-air villages and concession areas. The event will take place from April 15-18.

Last year, the RBC Heritage was canceled before the PGA Tour chose to play it in June in one of the first tournaments after restarting the schedule. In 2019, the event attracted 135,000 spectators to Hilton Head Island. Event organizers said they’ve worked with officials from Hilton Head, the state of South Carolina, and the PGA Tour on health and safety protocols for the tournament.


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