PEBBLE BEACH, Calif. – Phil Mickelson has been coming to the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am since 1995 and has won it four times, so there isn’t much he hasn’t accomplished along the Monterey Peninsula. Thursday delivered something new.
Mickelson didn’t miss a single fairway.
“History was made today,” Mickelson said after his 6-under 65 at Monterey Peninsula, leaving him one shot behind Brian Gay and Scott Langley. “To the best of my knowledge, it’s taken me 27 years and a few months to hit all fairways in a single round in competition. I may have done it before, but I don’t ever recall doing it.”
His accuracy was better than his memory.
According to the PGA Tour, Mickelson has done it seven times, most recently 21 years ago at Torrey Pines. Perhaps even more remarkable about that round in 1998 was that even playing from the short grass on every shot, he still had a 73.
That wasn’t the case on an ideal day – perhaps the last beautiful day of the week – for scoring. Over three rain-softened tracks – the Shore Course at Monterey Peninsula, Spyglass Hill and Pebble Beach – 59 players in the 156-man field shot in the 60s.
And there was no shortage of entertainment, as usual.
Brandt Snedeker probably wasn’t thinking birdie when his tee shot on the par-5 18th at Pebble Beach missed left and bounced down to the sandy shore. He played it off the beach back to the fairway, hit 7-iron to 10 feet and made the putt for a 69.
“I didn’t hit myself, I didn’t fall down getting out of the rocks down there – it was a little slippery,” Snedeker said. “So it all worked out great. I’m feeling like a genius right now, but at the time I didn’t know.”
Keith Mitchell hit a left-handed shot from a wooden bridge at Monterey Peninsula through the rough and onto the green that led to par and duly impressed his amateur partner, PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan.
Bill Murray kept everyone laughing even after his round, when a volunteer asked him to sign his cap. Murray noticed Pat Perez had already signed it, looked at the scribbling on the bill of the cap and said, “He misspelled his name.”
And there was plenty of good golf along the way.
Gay finished his front nine at Monterey Peninsula with five straight birdies. Langley, who shared low amateur honors in 2010 at Pebble Beach in the U.S. Open, made seven birdies in a 10-hole stretch in the middle of his round at Monterey Peninsula. He finished with a birdie that allowed him to tie Gay for the first-round lead.
Cody Gribble had a 6-under 66 at Spyglass Hill and Si Woo Kim had a 6-under 66 at Pebble Beach. The four scores at 6 under were at Monterey Peninsula, including Jason Day.
Dustin Johnson, not so fresh after his victory Sunday halfway around the world at the Saudi International, didn’t look worse for the wear. He had a 5-under 66 at Monterey Peninsula, despite a few wobbly moments late when he bladed a bunker shot on the 15th hole for his only bogey and drove into bushes and had to take a penalty drop on the par-5 16th, where he managed to save par.
He played in his usual group with hockey great Wayne Gretzky, Jordan Spieth and country singer Jake Owen. Spieth chipped in for birdie and made plenty others to join Johnson at 66.
It wasn’t easy for everyone. Defending champion Ted Potter Jr. made two birdies on his opening nine holes at Spyglass and still shot 42. The next nine were not much better and his 82 matched his high score on the PGA Tour.
Ho Sung Choi, the South Korean who has become a video sensation with the gyrations he makes after his swing, played alongside Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers, who greeted him with “hello” in Korean.
“I was really surprised he could say that,” said Choi, who needed a translator to share that. He opened with four bogeys in 10 holes and rallied for a 72 at Monterey Peninsula.
And now the real work begins.
A few clouds began to arrive from the Pacific, with more on the way. The forecast is for rain and wind at various points over the next two days, perhaps into Sunday. The starting times were moved up an hour on Friday.
And everyone knew it.
“If you don’t score well out here, you put yourself behind a bit and it’s tough to make up when we got weather coming in because you’re trying to force it,” Spieth said. “I don’t feel like I need to force anything tomorrow.”
Johnson doesn’t get worked up over much, weather included.
Walking along the 15th fairway, looking left at the sun over the ocean, he said, “I’d like to have this weather the rest of the week.” Told there was little chance, Johnson shrugged.
“I don’t mind it,” he said. “I like playing in bad weather.”
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