The Upshot: AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am, Round 1
February 07, 2014
By Helen Ross, PGATOUR.COM
PEBBLE BEACH, Calif. -- Andrew Loupe introduced himself to the PGA TOUR on Thursday.
The PGA TOUR rookie, who had only broken 70 once in 11 previous rounds on TOUR, fired a bogey-free 63 at Monterey Peninsula Country Club to grab the lead when play was suspended by darkness at the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am.
Loupe's round of 8 under left him two strokes ahead of Jimmy Walker, who leads the FedExCup, Stuart Appleby, Jim Renner, Richard Lee and Scott Gardiner. Walker shot 66 at Pebble Beach while others played the par-71 Monterey Peninsula layout.
A total of 40 players must return on Friday morning at 7:45 a.m. PT (10:45 ET) to complete their first rounds after a three-hour weather delay where standing water collected on several greens. Among those players is three-time champion Phil Mickelson, who was 5 under through 15 holes at Monterey Peninsula.
Jordan Spieth, last year's PGA TOUR Rookie of the Year, heads a group of four players finished at 5 under. Also in that group is European Ryder Cup captain Paul McGinley, making a rare appearance on the PGA TOUR.
The second round will then begin at noon ET (9 a.m. PT), an hour later than originally scheduled.
Loupe was quick to point out -- several times, in fact -- that "it's just one round." But a memorable one, to be sure.
"I had a blast out there," the former LSU standout acknowledged.
Loupe, who has yet to make a cut in five starts on TOUR, had never played golf on the Monterey Peninsula before this week. He joked that his course knowledge came from his caddy, Kevin Ensor, a video game connisseur who is adept at EA Sports' Tiger Woods 2013 game.
He knows Pebble Beach, though.
"I've seen the footage, Watson on 17, Nicklaus's 1-iron, Graeme winning here, Tiger shot out of the rough on 6 up over the cliff," Loupe said. "I mean those are things that I really appreciate, the history of this golf course, the beauty of it, can't wait to play it tomorrow. Just spectacular place. There's not even words that can really live up to what it is."
When asked about his slow start to the season, Loupe noted that the courses on TOUR are a little more complex than the ones he played last year on the Web.com Tour. The real key, though, has been finding a comfort zone.
"I think it's settling in," he explained. "You're not putting next to the guys you've been putting next to. You're not hitting balls to the guys you've been hitting balls next to. I'm looking at guys I've been watching on TV, you know, and it's just realizing that I'm supposed to be here. I'm here for a reason and I think I was a little nervy the last couple weeks and I thought I did a lot better job of that today."
WEATHER UPDATE: Although Friday is expected to be basically dry, the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am isn't out of the woods, weather-wise. The forecast calls for a 60 percent chance of rain on Saturday and a 40 percent chance on Sunday.
This is the fifth PGA TOUR event to be impacted by the weather this season.
WHAT A DIFFERENCE A YEAR MAKES: Dustin Johnson surprisingly missed the cut at last year's AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am -- a tournament he'd won twice in the previous four years. But he's back among the contenders this week after firing a 68 at Spyglass on Thursday.
"I just played horrible last year," Johnson recalled. "I played bad, putted bad, did everything bad last year. But right now my game's pretty good and ... I got a lot of confidence in it and so I'm feeling a little better this year than I did last year."
And why not? Johnson made three straight birdies to close out the front nine, adding a fourth at No. 11, and dropping no shots to par. His birdie at No. 9 was particularly satisfying after an 8-iron approach flew into the hole, bounced off the flagstick and spun back off the green.
"I had a pretty hard chip but I chipped it in the hole," said Johnson, who trails by four. "I said it was karma, because I got kind of screwed on the shot coming in, but then I was able chip one in. So it was nice."
THE GREAT ONE: Two of the last three winners at the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am have also been part of the winning team. Dustin Johnson and his partner, Wayne Gretzky, would like nothing better than to continue that trend.
The two are off to a good start, too -- shooting 10 under at Spyglass to land two strokes behind Stuart Appleby and Charles Schwab (yes, that Charles Schwab) and Brian Harman and Greg Ontiveros.
Gretzky, who shot 96 at Spyglass a year ago, did much better on Thursday -- "He cut me six shots," Johnson said of his future father-in-law. The NHL Hall of Famer said it didn't really matter to him as long as Johnson played well.
"That's more important than us," Gretzky said. "I'm here for fun, he's here to work."
Gretzky, who is playing to an 11 handicap this week, says Johnson has been a big help with his game.
"I've had a chance to practice a lot with Dustin and play with him," Gretzky said. "And he's so attentive to everybody that he plays with. He's a special young man. ... I'm a better player than I was before I met him."
So has Gretzky gotten Johnson out on the ice?
"We almost did and then I talked him out of it," he said. "I didn't want him to get hurt. Last year we were in my fantasy camp and he was getting ready to go play in Doral and I said, hey, you better not. So one of these days we'll get him out there."
PGA TOUR RADIO CALL OF THE DAY: Mark Carnevale from PGA TOUR Radio on SirusXM and PGATOUR.COM calls Jimmy Walker's chip-in birdie at No. 10 at Pebble Beach Golf Links.
PGA TOUR Live play-by-play coverage of the second round streams from 12-6 p.m. ET on PGATOUR.COM