PEBBLE BEACH, Calif. – Given the talent on Tour, Paul Goydos is not the least bit surprised that six players were tied for the lead Friday at the Pebble Beach National Pro-Am.
Being part of that group? Under the circumstances, Goydos found that highly unusual.
Goydos arrived at Spyglass Hill and headed to the putting green, only to realize he wasn’t wearing golf shoes. He had left those back in his car in the main parking lot at Pebble Beach. Then, he had to tackle a course where he had never broken 70.
More than five hours and seven birdies later, he had a 7-under 65 and was part of an eclectic mix of atop the leaderboard on a day when the threat of showers gave way to sunshine along the Monterey Peninsula.
Defending champion Dustin Johnson was the biggest presence, even after a 2-under 68 at Monterey Peninsula in which he kept hitting it close for birdie and tapping in for par.
Also at 10-under 132 were Alex Cejka (67 at Spyglass), Bryce Molder (65 at Monterey), J.B. Holmes (67 at Monterey) and Matt Jones, who had a 67 at Pebble Beach and was the only player among the leaders who has not played the Shore Course at Monterey Peninsula, the newcomer to the rotation and the only course playing as a par 70 this week.
All three courses had one thing in common.
“There is no defense on any of these golf courses,” Goydos said, noting that while the rain has stayed away, so has the wind that can make some of these seaside venues so tough.
Equally surprising, to most everyone but him, is that David Duval was one shot out of the lead. The former No. 1 player in the world was at No. 882 last summer when he tied for second in the U.S. Open, although he hasn’t done much since.
After a 67 at Spyglass, Duval shot a 68 at Pebble Beach to stay in the hunt.
“I’m hitting the ball pretty good. Had to shake a few putts in on these greens,” he said. “Kind of the recipe you need to have out here.”
Ryder Cup captain Corey Pavin last week appointed Goydos one of his four assistant captains. He’s not sure why Pavin selected him, except to make observations, but Goydos overlooked one big thing Friday morning.
He was wearing the wrong shoes.
“They’re both black,” he said. “I was putting and I’m like, ‘They look shinier that they normally do.”’ He caught a shuttle back to the parking lot, returned to hit a few balls then put together the kind of round he had never experienced at the toughest of the three courses.
He hit a hybrid to 5 feet for his first birdie ever on the sixth hole. Then came a 3-wood to the par-5 11th green, the first time he had ever reached that green in two. And he made birdie on the 325-yard 17th hole, though it was as strange as his round. He hit a terrible lob wedge that spun off the green, then chipped in for birdie.
“It’s not a good sign when you hit the same two clubs in a row,” he said. “Unless it’s the putter.”
Over at Monterey Peninsula, Johnson and Holmes told similar tales. They hit the ball right where they were aiming until they had the putter in their hands.
“Hit ‘em all good and had three or four lip out,” Johnson said.
He had no complaints about the weather, however. Johnson got his first look at the Shore Course on Tuesday during a practice round, the worst day of weather all week. Next up for Johnson and Holmes, two of the biggest hitters on tour, is Spyglass Hill.
Spyglass again played the toughest of three courses at 71.635, followed by Pebble (70.92) and Monterey Peninsula (68.75).
Jones, Duval and Padraig Harrington, who had a 67 at Pebble Beach and was at 8-under 136, all head to what has proven to be the easiest of three courses on Saturday.
The celebrities head for Pebble Beach, and that includes Goydos.
Phil Mickelson was on his way up the leaderboard until take a double bogey on the par-5 first hole, although he still managed a 67 at Spyglass Hill and was at 7-under 135, only three shots off the lead.
Duval is playing mostly on sponsor exemptions this year – although he’s the only guy who failed Q-school and still has a spot waiting for him at the Masters and U.S. Open – but still feels as though he has to prove he’s worth exemptions.
“I have the opportunity right now to convince them on the golf course,” Duval said.