Sometimes the story isn’t where the action is.
While the crowd gathered at Spyglass Hill where the likes of Phil Mickelson, Dustin Johnson, hockey legend Wayne Gretzky and five NFL quarterbacks teed up, Canadian Nick Taylor tamed the Monterey Peninsula Country Club course to claim the lead by two strokes after the opening round of the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am.
Taylor kicked off the morning with an eagle and wrapped up with a pair of birdies to finish 8-under at 63.
“I think I almost hit every fairway today, so I really had good numbers coming into a lot of greens,” he said afterward.
On a calm and sunny day, the three courses involved in the opening rounds of the tournament rewarded accuracy and steady play. Patrick Cantlay fired a 6-under 66 at Spyglass and Chase Speiffert matched him on the Pebble Beach Golf Links to finish locked in a tie for second.
Cantlay birdied half of the holes at Spyglass under near perfect conditions. He credited the weather, as well as an early tee time for his 66 on possibly the toughest course on of the three.
“We went out first, so the greens on our front nine were absolutely perfect,” he told reporters. “[The] course was probably the best shape I’ve ever seen it.”
With a crowded field of 156 pros and 156 amateurs, Taylor opened on no. 10 at the country club. He nailed a 4-iron that stopped inside of five feet of the pin, then sank the putt for an eagle to start. He closed with two strong shots, including a 3-iron drive that set up the final birdie.
“The weather helps out,” Taylor said. “If it’s raining, it’s windy, five and a half hours is a long round. But we were very relaxed today.”
Still, it was an opening round. So 22 players were within 4 strokes at the end of the day, including Jason Day and Phil Mickelson.
The defending champion and five time Pro-Am winner, Mickelson hit the ball well off the tee and expected more of a result than a tie for 12th at 4-under. He struggled after a good start, but then finished well.
“I let a lot of shots slide throughout the middle of the round,” Mickelson observed. “I was very tentative with my pace because the greens were pretty quick and I just wasn’t quite aggressive enough on the greens.”
Play continues on Friday at Spyglass Hill, Monterey Peninsula Country Club and the famed Pebble Beach Golf Links at 8am.