Hunter Mahan was bracing for the worst of Pebble Beach Golf Links, his golf bag weighed down with rain gear and everything else to handle nasty weather.
Instead, he was reminded how much he loves the Monterey Peninsula on the central California coast.
It helps that Mahan drilled a 3-wood onto the 18th green for a two-putt birdie that gave him a 6-under-par 66 and a share of the lead to par with Russell Knox in the Pebble Beach National Pro-Am in Pebble Beach, Calif.
Better yet, the rain that was expected early in the afternoon never showed.
So when Mahan was asked about the most interesting part of the day, all he could think of was that it was boring — in a good way.
“I had a good time with my partner. The pace was great. The weather was good,” he said.
Mahan took advantage of a gorgeous day by attacking Pebble Beach, the place to be when conditions are calm. He missed only two greens — one was on the edge — and only had one birdie attempt longer than 20 feet.
It was a good start, but nothing more. With three very different courses in the rotation, weather that can change without notice and one course with a different par, no one has a good idea where they stand until after Saturday’s third round.
Knox, who grew up in northern Scotland and has family roots in California, made the most of his limited starts on the PGA Tour. He had a 6-under 64 on the Shores Course at Monterey Peninsula. Knox finished out of the top 125 on the money list last year as a rookie, so his opportunities will be limited this year.
“I came in here with a lot of confidence because I feel like I’ve been playing very well,” Knox said. “Just haven’t had the chance to play. It was nice to get off to a good start.”
The best round might have belonged to Seung-yul Noh, a South Korean who played at Spyglass Hill. It’s typically the toughest of the three courses.
Noh reached 7 under until making bogeys on the last two holes for a 5-under 67, which only slightly soured his day. He still had the best score at Spyglass.
Also at 5 under were Scott Langley (65 at Monterey Peninsula) and Matt Every, who had a bogey on his final hole at Pebble Beach for a 67.
Phil Mickelson, going after a record-tying fifth win in this tournament, couldn’t make as many putts at Monterey Peninsula as he did in his wire-to-wire win at Phoenix Open last week. He opened with a 69.
TIE ATOP JOBURG OPEN
Germany’s Maximilian Kiefer and South Africa’s Richard Sterne shot 8-under 63s to share the first-round lead at the European Tour’s Joburg Open in Johannesburg.
Kiefer, who finished second at last week’s Dubai Desert Classic, and Sterne had bogey-free rounds on the West Course at Royal Johannesburg and Kensington Golf Club.
South Africa’s Bryce Easton had a 7-under 65 on the East Course that included a hole-in-one on the par-3 12th.