While defending champion Jason Day, world number four Rickie Fowler
and local favorite Phil Mickelson all failed to advance at Torrey
Pines, Woodlands and Choi fired matching five-under-par 67s to
finish at nine-under 135.
Long-hitting Dustin Johnson was alone in third at eight under after
a 66, one stroke in front of fellow Americans Scott Brown (71) and
Billy Horschel (70), and Scotland's Martin Laird (68).
Veteran Choi, an eight-time winner on the PGA Tour who has not
triumphed on the circuit since the 2011 Players Championship,
birdied three of his last five holes on the easier North Course to
move joint top.
"My putting hasn't been too good inside 15-20 feet, but today I made
five or six outside 15 feet," Choi, 45, told Golf Channel.
"I heard the weekend will be very windy and rainy, so I'm hoping my
imagination, my driving and putting will be stable."
Power hitter Woodlands, winless on the PGA Tour since the 2013
Reno-Tahoe Open, piled up five birdies on his front nine to reach
the turn in a flawless five-under 31.
REBOUND ON FINAL HOLE
Though he stumbled late on with bogeys at the 16th and 17th, he
rebounded by getting up-and-down from a greenside bunker to birdie
the par-five 18th on the challenging South layout.
"The way I'm driving the ball right now, I'm very comfortable with
my golf swing," said Woodlands, who made an equipment change during
Australian world number two Day withdrew from the pro-am competition
on Wednesday because of a virus he picked up last Friday and was
unable to practise ahead of his title defense until his warm-up
session for Thursday's opening round.
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"That was the frustrating part, knowing that I wasn't able to
prepare the way I wanted to," said Day, who followed his first-round
72 with a two-over 74 to miss the cut by three strokes.
"I'm not trying to make any excuses. I'm just looking forward to
getting over this virus that has run through our family."
American Fowler, who won the European Tour's Abu Dhabi Championship
on Sunday, almost holed a greenside bunker shot on his final hole
but had to settle for a closing par and a 71 that left him one shot
outside the cutline.
Mickelson bogeyed four of his last six holes for a 76 and a one-over
total. On his ninth hole, a wild second shot ended up in a car park
but his ball bounced back underneath an iron fence marking
out-of-bounds, thereby saving him a penalty stroke.
To play his third shot there, the American left-hander walked to the
car park side of the fence to make a swing from where he banged his
club on the fence before finishing up with a double-bogey seven.
(Reporting by Tim Wharnsby in Toronto; Editing by Mark
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