Donald Leads Singh Mickelson Close Behind

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PEBBLE BEACH, Calif. -- Vijay Singh wasn't in the lead Friday at the Pebble Beach National Pro-Am, but it sure seemed that way.
 
For one thing, Singh got the most difficult course out of the way with a 4-under 68 at Spyglass Hill that left him only one stroke behind Luke Donald of England.
 
And no one knows what to make of the other guys atop the leaderboard.
 
Donald bogeyed the last hole at Pebble Beach but still shot a 65, putting him in contention for the first time since he won the Southern Farm Bureau Classic - the same week as the Tour Championship - at the end of the '02 season.
 
Among those one stroke behind were J.J. Henry (70) and Ken Duke, a 35-year-old who has played tours in Canada, South America and Asia and is competing for only the 10th time on the PGA Tour. Tom Pernice Jr. let a great round at Spyglass get away with bogeys on his last two holes for a 68, and was also in the group one shot behind.
 
The tournament has plenty of celebrities, but was lacking in star power.
 
Singh and Phil Mickelson emerged late in the afternoon, when sunshine gave way to cool, overcast skies on the Monterey Peninsula.
 
Singh, who hasn't finished out of the top 10 since the PGA Championship in August, was solid on the tough front nine at Spyglass to finish his round.
 
Mickelson, who won the Bob Hope Classic and has played in the final group in both his tournaments this year, played with Singh and also had a 68 that left him in the group two shots out of the lead.
 
Singh and Mickelson now head to Pebble Beach, where low scores are available.
 
'We're playing there tomorrow, so we'll get our chance,' Singh said. 'At Pebble with no wind, it will be an easier one to score.'
 
Donald proved that with an immaculate round that was only spoiled at the end. He was 12 feet away from a 63, but three putts later had to settle for a 65 and a one-shot lead as he heads to Poppy Hills.
 
'I obviously didn't finish the way I'd like to,' said Donald, who was at 10-under 134. 'I got a little bit ahead of myself, which you should never do.'
 
The bumpy greens weren't too much of a bother because he kept hitting it close, nearly making an ace on the par-3 seventh and coming within inches of a wedge on the par-5 14th. The only putt of any length was a 40-footer for birdie from just off the green at No. 17.
 
'The last two days have been perfect scoring conditions,' Donald said.
 
Not everyone took advantage.
 
Davis Love III was 3 under through his first three holes at Pebble Beach, but he was 3 over the rest of the way for a 72. Love was at 3 over par and in jeopardy of missing the cut. The last defending champion to miss the cut at the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am was Love in 2002.
 
No one suffered quite like Tommy Tolles, who opened with a 66. Tolles was 5 over after his first four holes at Poppy Hills, and shot 40 on his first nine despite making two birdies. He wound up with a 77.
 
Singh is making the best of the bumpy green, showing a lot of patience for those that bounce off line.
 
Pernice felt like he threw away a good chance at Spyglass, the toughest of the three courses.
 
He birdied five of his first six holes and was 7 under on his first 11 holes, but he ended his round on a sour note by missing the fairway on Nos. 8 and 9 and finishing with two bogeys.
 
Still, he got out of Spyglass with a 68 and was in great shape on the leaderboard heading to Pebble Beach.
 
'I had it by the teeth and let it get away, which is disheartening,' Pernice said. 'I had a chance to shoot a low score at Spyglass, which you usually don't. Bogeying the last hole in any round leaves you a little unhappy.'
 
Donald had good credentials as an amateur - two Walker Cup teams for Great Britain & Ireland, and the NCAA title at Northwestern - but has only one victory on the PGA Tour, at a tournament missing the best players.
 
He never seriously contended last year, and sought help from a psychologist.
 
'I was one of the best college players for four years, and coming out and getting beaten every week by a lot of good players can destroy your self-confidence,' Donald said. 'I just needed someone to tell me that I really am as good as I can be.'
 
He can prove that himself over the next two days, first at Poppy Hills and then the final round at Pebble Beach.
 
But he can expect plenty of pressure from Singh and Mickelson.
 
Singh always plays Pebble well. Right now, it really doesn't matter what course he's on. Singh has 11 consecutive top 10s, and is closing in on the record of 14 straight by Jack Nicklaus in 1977.
 
Mickelson was bogey-free at Spyglass, and has made only one bogey through the first 36 holes.
 
Divots:@ John Cook withdrew because of a back injury. Cook, who had a shoulder injury that kept him out much of last year, opened with a 75. ... Brad Faxon did not play a practice round at Pebble Beach, so Friday was the first time he had seen the par-5 18th without the two trees in the middle of the fairway. 'I used to hit just left of the tree, or right at it,' he said. 'You lose a little depth perception.' Faxon wound up losing his ball when he pulled his tee shot into the ocean. ... Players are allowed to lift, clean and place their balls at Poppy Hills and Spyglass Hill, which are the soggier of the three courses. They play it down at Pebble Beach.
 
Related Links:
  • Leaderboard - AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am
  • Full Coverage - AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am
     
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