Pristine start at Pebble for Garrigus Johnson

By Associated PressFebruary 13, 2009, 5:00 pm
2007 AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-AmPEBBLE BEACH, Calif. ' Dustin Johnson walked off Pebble Beach and was about ready to crawl into bed.
 
Dressed in a black rain suit that helped only with the temperatures Thursday, he had just spent 5 hours and 40 minutes playing one round of golf, much of that time spent waiting on the group ahead.
 
He was tired, but it was a good kind of tired.
 
And he was happy.
 
You shoot 65 at Pebble Beach, I dont care how long it takes, Johnson said. Its beautiful out there. You cant have a bad time on that golf course. This golf course, with good weather, is one of the prettiest courses in the world.
 
It was like that all over the Monterey Peninsula for the first round of the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am'a few raindrops early, brilliant sunshine most of the day, only a gentle breeze and the kind of scores that typically accompany such pristine conditions.
 
Johnson and Robert Garrigus were atop the leaderboard after arriving at 7-under 65 on different courses and in different ways.
 
Johnson had 151 yards for his second shot of the day, a 9-iron that looked good all the way and even better when it disappeared into the cup to start his tournament with an eagle. Despite his length, he made only one birdie on the par 5s, and even that was peculiar. Johnson drove into the hazard, took a penalty shot, hit his third shot from 240 yards to 4 feet and knocked it in.
 
That was another pretty good one, he said.
 
Over at Spyglass Hill, considered the toughest of the three courses in the rotation, Garrigus zipped through his first nine holes in 2 1/2 hours. And then the celebrity side of Pebble slowed everything down, and he spent nearly four hours on the back nine.
 
Perhaps getting lulled to sleep woke him up.
 
Garrigus was at 3 under for his round when he hammered a 5-iron up the hill from 210 yards through the cool air, then knocked in an eagle putt from 50 feet. He closed out the round with an 8-iron to 6 feet and another 8-iron to 15 feet, making them both for birdie.
 
Hopefully, we keep going, Garrigus said after he finally stopped.
 
One trait they share is the ability to hit the ball a long way, which never hurts at this tournament. The fairways tend to be soft because of inevitable rain and the cold air keeps the ball from traveling as far as it normally would.
 
Garrigus always figured he would be a baseball player, especially when he was throwing 85 mph at age 13. But he threw out his arm, broke his leg, and his grandfather put a golf club in his hand with a simple instruction.
 
(He) told me to swing as hard as I can until Im 18, and dont worry about anything else, Garrigus said. I listened to him. Sure enough, I was hitting it over 300 yards when I was 15 years old.
 
Length and soft conditions led to one bizarre scene on the first fairway at Spyglass, after Phil Mickelson pounded his opening tee shot high and far. The ball landed a few inches away from his pitch mark. Preferred lies'lift, clean and place'are used at Pebble in case it rains over three days, so Lefty was able to place his ball in the fairway.
 
He took great care in placing his ball, so meticulous that it looked as though he were lining up an important putt. His plan was clear when he stepped away. Mickelson was trying to reach the green from 290 yards away, and he wanted to use the edge of the pitch mark to tee his ball up. Alas, he pulled it slightly, but still hit a decent chip and a good putt for birdie.
 
That was a rare highlight. He had to settle for a 72.
 
Vijay Singh, in his first tournament since minor knee surgery after Kapalua, had a 72 at Poppy Hills, while Jim Furyk made his 2009 debut at Spyglass with a 71. Double major winner Padraig Harrington opened with a 74 at Poppy Hills, leading one to suspect the weather was simply too good for the Irishmans tastes.
 
Another score worth noting belonged to Davis Love III, who started strong and settled for a 69. By his amateur partners admission, the pro-am part of this tournament sounded a bit like Hit the ball, drag Tim.
 
That would be PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem, playing in this tournament for the first time. Finchem wasnt really that bad, helping his team with three shots (they shot 66).
 
Finchem conceded to being nervous, and if you watched any of my shots, you could tell.
 
It was great fun, he said. As many times as Ive been on the fairway with guys talking to them, when you get to observe that close, it does reacquaint you with how good they are. And you get the feeling of being totally inadequate.
 
Rich Beem and Vaughn Taylor had a 66 at Pebble Beach, while Charley Hoffman joined them with a 66 at Spyglass Hill.
 
Beem hasnt been to the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am in nine years, but he didnt have much of a choice. He lost his card last year and cant be so picky about where he plays.
 
And if he had his card?
 
Just because I shoot 66 today doesnt make me want to come back every single year, he said. But it certainly has been fun today.
 
That was the case no matter how long it took.
 

Related Links:
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    Fairway wood: TaylorMade M3 (19 degrees), with Aldila Tour Green 75 TX shaft

    Irons: TaylorMade P790 (3), P750 (4-PW), with Project X 6.5 shafts

    Wedges: TaylorMade Milled Grind (52, 56 degrees), Milled Grind Hi-Toe (60 degrees), with Project X 6.5 shafts

    Putter: TaylorMade Spider Tour Red

    Ball: TaylorMade TP5x

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