PEBBLE BEACH, California - Canadian Graham DeLaet is just three shots off the lead after the opening round of the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am on Thursday.
The Weyburn, Sask., golfer birdied three of his first four holes playing the Pebble Beach course en route to a 6-under 66 which left him in a four way tie for sixth behind a trio of co-leaders Dustin Johnson, Charlie Wi and Danny Lee.
DeLaet's 66 is his second best round of the year since an opening round 63 at the Sony Open. It's his best career round of golf at Pebble Beach
Johnson pitched in for eagle on the third hole at Pebble Beach en route to a 9-under 63 while Wi flirted with a 59 before finishing with a 9-under 61 at Monterey Peninsula, the easiest of the three layouts in the three-course event. Lee, the former U.S. Amateur champion, grabbed a share of the lead with a 63 at Pebble Beach.
Mike Weir of Brights Grove, Ont., making his first PGA Tour start since pulling out five holes into the second round of the RBC Canadian Open last year, made a strong start with back-to-back birdies while playing at Monterey Peninsula. Sitting at 2-under through 15 holes, Weir finished with two bogeys over his final three holes for an even par round of 72.
Matt McQuillan of Kingston, Ont., making his first PGA start of the year, opened with a 1-over 73.
Tiger Woods made a solid start to his PGA Tour season at Spyglass Hill, considered the most difficult of the three courses. He made six birdies in a round of 4-under 68, the fourth-best score on that course. Woods, who is playing this tournament for the first time in 10 years, is tied for 15th.
With coach Sean Foley walking the course with him, the 14-times major champion was a little frustrated by his approach play.
“I just wasn’t very good with my irons so I’ll have to go and work on that. I left a few shots out there for sure,” Woods told Golf Channel after hitting 11 of 14 fairways and 15 of 18 greens in regulation.
“It seems like the rest of the guys are going pretty low around this place. They are just tearing the place apart.
“This is the hardest of the three (venues) so hopefully the next two days I can get it going,” added Woods, who won the 2000 Pebble Beach National Pro-Am before winning the U.S. Open later that year at Pebble Beach Golf Links.
Johnson is turning into his generation’s “Prince of Pebble.” He won the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am in consecutive years, and then had a three-shot lead at Pebble in the U.S. Open two years ago until he shot 82 in the final round. On the third hole of that round, he hit driver left into the bushes for a lost ball and made double bogey.
On Thursday, he smashed a driver nearly 340 yards over the trees to just short of the green, setting up eagle. Walking off the tee, he said to caddie Bobby Brown, “I could have used that in the U.S. Open.”
“Walking off that hole, I told Bob, `This hole owes me a few more than just that one.”’
Wi was 8 under after a tap-in birdie on the 13th hole, and needed only three birdies in the last five holes. Trouble is, he had no idea the Shore Course was a 70. He made one more birdie and had a 9-under 61.
“I was looking at the scorecard like, `What’s the par here?’ I did not know it was a par 70,” Wi said. “That 59 never crossed my mind. Not once.”
Ken Duke covered the back nine in a record eight-under 28 at Pebble Beach to complete a 64, finishing alongside PGA Tour rookie Brian Harman who also started out at Pebble Beach. Duke, a 43-year-old who has yet to win on the PGA Tour, holed out from the fairway to eagle the par-four 16th before finishing one stroke off the pace at eight under.
Three-times winner Phil Mickelson opened with a 70 at Spyglass Hill to finish level at two under with triple major champion Padraig Harrington of Ireland, who carded a 68 at Monterey Peninsula.
The conditions were so good Thursday that more than half the field broke par no matter where they were playing.
(Files from the Associated Press and Reuters were used in this report)