Changes in weather and fortunes can happen without notice in the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am, which seems to suit Hank Lebioda just fine these days.
Playing his sixth different course in his last six rounds on the PGA Tour, Lebioda ran off six birdies in an eight-hole stretch for an eight-under 63 on the Shore course at Monterey Peninsula and a one-shot lead after the opening round Thursday.
His big advantage was finishing before a pleasant day of mostly sunny, relatively calm conditions gave way to wind strong enough to bend flagsticks and force players to remove caps before they putted so they wouldn’t blow off.
Lebioda was among six players from the leading 12 scores who have yet to win on the PGA Tour. He doesn’t have a good recipe for success in tournaments with multiple courses except to be prepared for anything.
“This would be eight courses in three weeks for us,” said Lebioda, who missed the cut in the Farmers Insurance Open at Torrey Pines and The American Express. “Three courses in Palm Springs, two last week in San Diego and three this week. So the best thing you can do is take care of yourself, relax and make sure you’re good to go.”
Three of the top four scores to par were at Monterey Peninsula. Kurt Kitayama made four straight birdies around the turn and had a bogey-free 64, while Harry Hall made five straight birdies and was tied for the lead until a late bogey on No. 8. He also had 64.
“The birdie streak on the front was pretty cool because I think I went bogey and then had a par on the second hole and then had five in a row. So it was really good,” Hall said. “Coming down the last two holes it started to blow 45 miles an hour. It was crazy. Happy to get in at 7 under today.”
Chad Ramey had a seven-under 65 at Pebble Beach. He was tied for the lead until going into the front bunker on the par-three 17th and taking bogey.
The best score at Spyglass Hill belonged to Keith Mitchell at five-under 67. It was the only course where the average score was over par. Mitchell was alongside a pair of NFL quarterbacks. His amateur partner is Josh Allen of the Buffalo Bills, whose caddy for the week is Kyle Allen of the Houston Texans.
The change in weather was not terribly severe – it’s not like it snowed. Even so, it caused havoc among those trying to finish at Pebble Beach, the most exposed of the courses.
Will Gordon was tied for the lead to par at eight under with three holes to play. From the middle of the 16th fairway into a strengthening wind, he came up 35 yards short of the back pin and made bogey. Dead into the wind on the par-three 17th to a right pin – the easiest location for three days to account for amateurs – he was some 30 yards short and dropped another shot.
He finished with a triple bogey, driving into the ocean rocks left of the fairway and having to reload. His approach into a strong wind coming off the ocean left him behind a tree, and he hit that over the green into a bunker.
In three holes, he went from tied for the lead to a tie for 24th.
Nick Taylor was the leading Canadian with a 68, also tied for 24th. Taylor Pendrith had a 71, Michael Gligic shot even par and Ben Silverman went one-over par.
The celebrity rotation was at Spyglass Hill, regarded as the toughest of the three in calm conditions. U.S Open champion Matt Fitzpatrick and three-time major champion Jordan Spieth each managed a 71, while Viktor Hovland had a 70.
Hovland is playing the tournament for the first time, though he won the U.S. Amateur at Pebble Beach and was low amateur at Pebble in the 2019 U.S. Open.
Spieth, who won this event in 2017, was mixture of birdies and bogeys, and then had to hang on for dear life over the final hour when temperatures plunged and the wind began whipping.
“It was really bizarre the last four holes or so with the wind,” Spieth said. “It went from nothing to flipping and then blowing about 25 out of nowhere the other direction than the forecast. That throws us through a big loop when you’re prepping for something and you got to make the adjustment.
“But I had a good last three holes and that always kind of puts a smile on your face.”
He played them in one under, with a tough par save from a flyer lie in the rough, having no idea what the wind was going to do when his ball got in the air.