By Diane Pucin, Los Angeles Times –
PEBBLE BEACH, Calif. — Tiger Woods is tied for 15th place.
That’s not bad, but it can be made to sound better.
Woods shot a first-round 68 Thursday at the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am. That was four under par on the Spyglass Hill course that Woods played, but numbers crunchers and Woods fans can take note that Spyglass played the hardest of the three-course rotation and Woods’ 68 was tied for the fourth-best score on Spyglass.
“I drove it great today,” Woods said, “I drove it on a string for most of the day. But I left a few shots out there.”
And by the sounds of the crowds, lined 10-deep around every green that Woods was soon to approach, it was clear that this first day was not so much about who was winning but where Woods was.
While the trio of Danny Lee of South Korea and New Zealand, Charlie Wi, originally from South Korea and now from North Hills, and Dustin Johnson, a two-time AT&T winner, was tied for the lead at nine under after the first round, it was Woods’ score that caused more buzz.
Woods had six birdies in his round, engaged in a couple of fist pumps and pronounced himself satisfied after his first round in this event in 10 years.
“The low score here (on Spyglass) was 66 today, so 68’s not so bad,” Woods said.
Johnson, who won here in 2009 and 2010, had the most spectacular shot among the leaders. He pitched in for an eagle on the third hole at Pebble Beach that contributed to his 63. Lee also had a 63 on Pebble and Wi had a 61 at Monterey Peninsula.
That Johnson eagle, though, did not erase his memory of the 2010 U.S. Open played here, when Johnson held a three-shot lead until he scored an 82 in the last round. Of his eagle he said, “I could have used that at the U.S. Open.”
Wi, who has never won on the PGA Tour, parred his last three holes and said he had been unaware that par was 70 on Monterey Peninsula and that the loud cheers he had been hearing were partly in hopes he might shoot a 59.
“You know, 59 is a special number,” Wi said. “I didn’t know par was 70 though. I was looking at the scorecard like, ‘What’s the par here?’ I thought it was par 72, so 59 never crossed my mind.”
Scoring came easy to many on a day filled with sunshine and little wind. Phil Mickelson wasn’t one of them, however. He shot a two-under 70 on Spyglass that left him tied for 41st.
“It was a beautiful day,” Mickelson said. “I don’t know if I’ve ever seen such a more perfect day. It was spectacular to play this. So, yeah, there were a lot of chances I let go.”
Ken Duke, a 43-year-old journeyman, didn’t miss many chances on his back nine at Pebble Beach. After going out in par 36, he broke the course record with a 28, making six birdies and an eagle to trail the leaders by one.
Woods, making his PGA Tour debut, started with birdies on his first two holes at Spyglass Hill, the par-four 10th and the par-five 11th, where his eagle putt came up just short.
His first mistake of the day came at the par-four 13th. He pulled his tee shot into a fairway bunker and was forced into an awkward stance. From that came his first bogey of the day, one of two he made.
Of his 68 Woods said, “I don’t know if it’s a good sign or a bad sign. With the scores the way they are, I thought I could have it lower than I did. The guys are just tearing this place apart with no wind. But I’m not too far away from posting a good number out there.”