By Doug Ferguson ,AP
PEBBLE BEACH, California — Hunter Mahan took advantage of perfect conditions to shoot a 6-under 66 and take a share of the lead to par with Russell Knox at the Pebble Beach National Pro-Am on Thursday.
Scotland’s Knox, trying to make the most out of limited starts on the PGA Tour this year, had a 6-under 64 at Monterey Peninsula in the three-course event.
The best round might have belonged to Seung-yul Noh. He played at Spyglass Hill, typically the toughest of the three courses when conditions are benign.
The South Korean was 7 under through 16 holes until finishing with two bogeys. Even so, his 5-under 67 was the best score at Spyglass.
Mahan’s round was helped by a 3-wood onto the 18th green for a two-putt birdie.
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. “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 missed only two greens — one of those on the edge — and only had one birdie attempt longer than 20 feet.
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.”
Noh reached 7 under until making bogeys on the last two holes which only slightly soured his day.
“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 U.S. 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 a 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.
Phil Mickelson, going after a record-tying fifth win in this tournament, couldn’t make as many putts at Monterey Peninsula as he did in his wire-to-wire win at Phoenix Open last week. He opened with a 69 at Monterey Peninsula.
“One of the things I’ve learned over the years here is you need to be patient,” Mickelson said. “There’s plenty of birdie holes throughout the three courses. Hopefully, I’ll get a good run tomorrow and try to shoot myself up into contention.”
Lee Westwood made his debut in this tournament by playing with his father, and while he had a 68, he’s not sure the score had any bearing on having a good time. Westwood was at Pebble Beach, and while it was a good start for him, he made up ground in the wrong places.
The scoring at Pebble comes on the opening seven holes. He played those in 1 under, missed three putts inside about 12 feet. Then, he picked up four birdies over his final 10 holes.