Hunter Mahan was bracing for the worst of Pebble Beach, his golf bag weighed down with rain gear and everything else to handle nasty weather.
Instead, he was reminded how much he loves this place.
It helps that Mahan drilled a 3-wood onto the 18th green for a two-putt birdie that gave him a 6-under 66 and a share of the lead to par with Russell Knox in the Pebble Beach National Pro-Am.
Better yet, the rain everyone was expecting early in the afternoon never showed up.
So when Mahan was asked about the most interesting part of the day, all he could think of was that it was boring – in a good way.
“I had a good time with my partner. The pace was great. The weather was good,” he said. “I think the most interesting thing was we had perfect weather when it was supposed to rain at noon. We were all expecting rain. The bag probably weighs 100 pounds right now.”
Mahan took advantage of a gorgeous day by attacking Pebble Beach, the place to be when the conditions are calm. He missed only two greens – one of those on the edge – and only had one birdie attempt longer than 20 feet.
It was a good start, but nothing more. With three very different courses in the rotation, weather than can change without notice and one course with a different par, no one has a good idea where they stand until after three rounds on Saturday.
Knox, who grew up in northern Scotland and has family roots in California, made the most of his limited starts on the PGA Tour. He had a 6-under 64 on the Shore Course at Monterey Peninsula. Knox finished out of the top 125 on the money list last year as a rookie, so his opportunities will be limited this year.
“I came in here with a lot of confidence because I feel like I’ve been playing very well,” Knox said. “Just haven’t had the chance to play. It was nice to get off to a good start.”
The best round might have belonged to Seung-yul Noh of South Korea, who played at Spyglass Hill. It’s typically the toughest of the three courses when conditions are benign, and such was the case on Thursday.
Pebble and Monterey Peninsula played nearly a half-shot under par, while Spyglass was almost a half-shot over par.
Noh reached 7 under until making bogeys on the last two holes for a 5-under 67, which only slightly soured his day. He still had the best score at Spyglass.
“Still a good score. I’m really happy with that,” Noh said.
Even more impressive is that he felt half-asleep. Noh played in Dubai last week and is still coping with jet lag. Also at 5 under were Scott Langley (65 at Monterey Peninsula) and Matt Every, who had a bogey on his final hole at Pebble Beach for a 67.
The day was not without a few adventures. Former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, among the newest members at Augusta National, beaned a spectator on the sixth hole. Dustin Johnson, a two-time winner at the Pebble Beach National Pro-Am, had a four-putt on his way to a 3-over 73 at Monterey Peninsula. John Daly had a three-putt from 3 feet on the seventh hole and took four to get down from about 18 feet just off the ninth green. He had a 77.
Vijay Singh had a 72 at Pebble Beach, evidence that the PGA Tour still has not decided whether he will be suspended for using deer-antler spray, according to Sports Illustrated and later confirmed by Singh’s statement last week in Phoenix. The spray is said to contain an insulin-like growth hormone on the tour’s list of banned substances. A decision is not expected this week.
Kiefer, Sterne share Joburg Open lead
JOHANNESBURG — Germany’s Maximilian Kiefer and South Africa’s Richard Sterne shot 8-under 63s Thursday to share the lead after the first round of the European Tour’s Joburg Open.
Kiefer, who finished second at the Dubai Desert Classic, and Sterne had bogey-free rounds on the West Course at Royal Johannesburg and Kensington Golf Club. South Africa’s Bryce Easton had a 7-under 65 on the East Course. American Peter Uihlein was one of eight players tied for fourth at 6 under.
Kiefer had eight birdies while Sterne made six birdies and an eagle on No. 9. Easton made a hole-in-one on the par-3 12th.
Mickelson will skip Match Play for trip
PEBBLE BEACH, Calif. — Phil Mickelson plans to miss the Match Play Championship for the third time in the past four years.
Mickelson, coming off a wire-to-wire win in the Phoenix Open, said Thursday his three kids are out of school the week of the Match Play Championship and he will be going on a family trip. He also missed in 2010 and 2012.
The tournament is Feb. 20-24 just north of Tucson, Ariz.
Mickelson has made it to the quarterfinals of the Match Play only once in 11 appearances, in 2004 at La Costa. He said he loves the tournament and Tucson, where he won his first PGA Tour event while he was at Arizona State.
That means the 65th player in the world ranking after this week will be eligible to play.