PEBBLE BEACH, Calif. – Twenty months later, Dustin Johnson finally hit the drive that he wanted at Pebble Beach. Ten years later, Tiger Woods must have wondered what kept him away from the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am.
On a spectacular day of scenery and scoring, Johnson blasted a tee shot on the third hole at Pebble Beach and then pitched in for eagle from 41 yards in front of the green. He added another eagle on his way to a 9-under 63 and a three-way tie atop the leaderboard Thursday.
Woods was five shots out of the lead, a solid start to his PGA Tour season. He had six birdies in a 4-under 68 at Spyglass Hill, the fourth-best score on that course. Spyglass was hardest of the three courses, though not by much. The weather was so pure that all three courses played about one shot under par.
Charlie Wi was over at Monterey Peninsula and had a shot at 59 without ever knowing it. Wi was 8 under after a tap-in birdie on the 13th hole, and needed only three birdies in the last five holes. Trouble is, he had no idea the Shore Course was a 70. He made one more birdie and had a 9-under 61.
“I was looking at the scorecard like, ‘What’s the par here?’ I did not know it was a par 70,” Wi said. “That 59 never crossed my mind. Not once.”
Joining them was former U.S. Amateur champion Danny Lee, who holed a bunker shot for eagle at No. 2 and holed out from the 11th fairway with a wedge for another eagle to match Johnson at 9-under 63.
Johnson is turning into his generation’s “Prince of Pebble.” He won the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am in consecutive years, and then had a three-shot lead at Pebble in the U.S. Open two years ago until he shot 82 in the final round. On the third hole of that round, he hit driver left into the bushes for a lost ball and made double bogey.
On Thursday, he smashed a driver nearly 340 yards over the trees to just short of the green, setting up eagle. Even now, he still thinks about that tee shot in the U.S. Open. Walking off the tee, he said to caddie Bobby Brown, “I could have used that in the U.S. Open.”
“Walking off that hole, I told Bob, ‘This hole owes me a few more than just that one.’ “
Johnson overpowered the par 5s at Pebble Beach, the secret to playing that course well. He had a 6-iron for his second shot at the par-5 second for an easy birdie, holed a 65-foot eagle putt on the sixth hole, got up and down from the bunker just short of the 14th for birdie, then cringed when his 40-foot eagle attempt on the 18th just turned away.
“I thought it was going in,” Johnson said. “I was laughing. I made plenty of putts today.”
Woods made his share, too.
He opened with consecutive birdies, stuffing his approach on No. 10 and two-putting for birdie on the par-5 11th. He also holed a downhill, 8-foot birdie putt on the 17th that was good enough to elicit a small fist pump, and from behind the par-5 opening hole, hit a flop shot to 7 feet and made that.
One of his two bogeys was sloppy. It came on the short par-4 fourth, with a shallow green set among sand dunes and ice plant at a diagonal angle. Instead of going toward the middle of the green and letting the slope take the ball to the hole, Woods went at the flag. The ball bounced hard over the green and into a sandy patch of dunes, in a foot print.
He did well to blast a wedge some 30 feet past the hole and had a good two-putt from there for bogey. Woods picked up another birdie on the par-5 seventh for his 68. He played the par 5s in 3 under.
“I don’t know if it’s a good sign or a bad sign,” Woods said about his 68. “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. I’m not too far away from posting a good number out here.”
His partner, Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo, contributed pars on the holes where Woods made bogey, and Romo had a birdie on the par-5 14th when Woods missed the fairway and had to settle for par. As a team, they were tied for 25th.
Romo gets to play a forward tee, but with a scratch handicap gets no shots.
Woods will play Monterey Peninsula Country Club on Friday.
Check out how his round came together with our hole-by-hole Tiger Tracker:
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18th hole: No. 9, Par 4, 431 yards
Tiger has hit the final hole of his marathon round (now more than 5 hours, 30 minutes), but it has been a tidy one for Tiger.
Coming into the final hole, he has hit 11 of 13 fairways, 12 of 17 greens in regulation and has only 26 putts.
He finishes the day with a par to beat his personal average at Spyglass (a 71.0 before Thursday). He is T-15 at 4 under and will play the easier Monterey Peninsula on Friday.
Tiger for the day: 4 under (Round finished)
• • •
17th hole: No. 8, Par 4, 399 yards
Ranked as the toughest hole at Spyglass on Thursday, Tiger manages to walk away with a par and will walk to the par-4 9th looking to move within four shots of the lead. Tiger hit both the fairway and green in regulation, but missed the 25-foot birdie putt to the right.
Tiger on the day: 4 under (thru 17 holes)
Elsewhere on the course: Dustin Johnson birdies his final hole of the day to move into a tie for the lead with Charlie Wi and Danny Lee at 9 under.
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16th hole: No. 7, Par 5, 529 yards
Tiger nearly finds the water on his second shot, but it holds up inside the hazard line and he makes the most of his luck.
He gets up-and-down for birdie on the final par 5 of his round.
Tiger on the day: 4 under (thru 16 holes)
Elsewhere on the course: Danny Lee takes the clubhouse lead, parring No. 9 at Pebble Beach to finish at 9 under.
• • •
15th hole: No. 6, Par 4, 416 yards
Tiger finds another fairway, but comes up short with a wedge on his second shot and will need to scramble to make par.
He does manage to get up-and-down for par (from 12 feet nonetheless) to make sure he doesn’t fall further off the lead (currently held by Charlie Wi and Danny Lee at 9 under).
Tiger on the day: 3 under (thru 15 holes)
• • •
14th hole: No. 5, Par 3, 183 yards
Tiger hits the green with his tee ball, but some 30 feet from the hole.
His birdie putt veers offline and has a few feet left for par. He makes the short putt to stay at 3 under.
Tiger on the day: 3 under (thru 14 holes)
Elsewhere on the course: Charlie Wi has moved into the lead at 9 under, going bogey-free thus far at Monterey Peninsula. Moments later, Danny Lee joined him at 9 under with a birdie on No. 7 at Pebble Beach. Vijay Singh finishes his round with a birdie and is at 4 under.
• • •
13th hole: No. 4, Par 4, 370 yards
With an iron off the tee, Tiger hits a stinger right down the middle of the fairway.
Tiger torches his second shot over the green and into the waste area. He can’t get up-and-down from there and picks up his second bogey of the day.
Tiger on the day: 3 under (thru 13 holes)
Elsewhere on the course: Nick Watney had a rough finish, but managed to post a 6-under 66 at Spyglass Hill and is two shots back.
• • •
12th hole: No. 3, Par 3, 152 yards
Tiger lands his tee shot hole high, but it runs out and he’ll have about 25 feet for birdie.
Tiger drops the long putt and picks up another birdie. It is third birdie in the past five holes.
Tiger on the day: 4 under (thru 12 holes)
Elsewhere on the course: Danny Lee has tied Ken Duke at 8 under with a birdie on No. 5 at Pebble Beach, while Charlie Wi has also moved to 8 under at Monterey Peninsula.
• • •
11th hole: No. 2, Par 4, 349 yards
Tiger has hit 6 of 8 fairways through 10 holes, and he hits another one and then takes his approach past the hole and into the fringe, where he will have 12 feet for a birdie.
He pushes the birdie putt and leaves himself a tough five-footer for par. He makes it to save par.
Atwal moves into red numbers, picking up a birdie to go to 1 under.
Tiger on the day: 3 under (thru 11 holes)
Elsewhere on the course: Dustin Johnson moved to 7 under with his first birdie on his back nine at Pebble.
• • •
10th hole: No. 1, Par 5, 595 yards
Tiger hits the right side of the fairway on the dogleg left at the lengthy par 5.
Tiger goes after the green in two, but doesn’t get enough altitude on the ball and it runs through the green. He’ll have an eagle chip from an awkward position.
Playing a big flop, the ball runs about 10 feet past and will have that look for birdie.
Tiger makes the putt to birdie his second par 5.
Tiger on the day: 3 under (thru 10 holes)
Elsewhere on the course: Ken Duke finishes his round with a birdie and has the lead at 8 under, including a back-nine 28, a tournament record.
• • •
Ninth hole: No. 18, Par 4, 408 yards
Tiger seems to have found his swing off the tee, placing it in the middle of the fairway again.
From 129 yards, Tiger goes over the flag, off the green and will chip for birdie.
Tiger chips it nice and snug, and leaves himself about two feet for par. He makes it and makes the turn at 2 under.
Tiger on the day: 2 under (thru 9 holes)
• • •
Eighth hole: No. 17, Par 4, 325 yards
With an iron in hand, Tiger hammers into the middle of the fairway at the short par 4.
He knocks his approach shot to six feet and will have a good look at birdie. Tiger knocks in the birdie putt and pumps his fist as he goes to pick up the ball.
Tiger on the day: 2 under (thru eight holes)
Elsewhere on the course: Ken Duke has moved to 7 under, in a tie with Nick Watney for the lead.
• • •
Seventh hole: No. 16, Par 4, 462 yards
Tiger finds the fairway off the tee, using 3-wood and will have about 190 yards left to the hole.
Tiger takes his approach shot to the left of the flag (which is all the way back), settling hole high and will have about 20 feet for birdie.
Tiger runs by on the right edge, settling two feet away for par. He taps in for another par.
Tiger’s swing coach Sean Foley is walking the course, following Woods, Romo and Artwal.
Tiger on the day: 1 under (thru seven holes)
Elsewhere on the course: Dustin Johnson picks up his second eagle in four holes and has moved to 6 under (through only six holes) and tied with Nick Watney for the lead.
• • •
Sixth hole: No. 15, Par 3, 125 yards
Serving tacos to the players at the 15th tee box, Tiger chunks his tee shot a bit, it goes a bit right and is about 25 feet from the hole and will have plenty of movement on his birdie putt.
Tiger gives it a run, leaving it just right and taps in for a par. Tiger was a bit more animated on the birdie putt, urging it to go in.
Tiger on the day: 1 under (thru six holes)
• • •
Fifth hole: No. 14, Par 5, 560 yards
Playing another reachable par 5, Tiger takes driver and drew it left and into the rough. Tiger shows frustration for the first time on Thursday.
With a bad angle from the rough, Tiger decides to lay-up and will have about 120 yards for his third shot.
From a slight downhill lie, Tiger flies his approach over the flag and has 15 feet for birdie. He misses and settles for a par.
Tiger on the day: 1 under (thru five holes)
Elsewhere on the course: While Nick Watney continues to hold the lead at 7 under (he has birdied three straight holes at Nos. 9-11 at Spyglass), Dustin Johnson and Vijay Singh are both at 4 under.
• • •
Fourth hole: No. 13, Par 4, 441 yards
Tiger tries to cut driver to the left over the bunkers, but he finds one of them off the tee at the par 4.
Up against the face of the bunker, Tiger manages to get it out and land in a “bowl” in front of the elevated green.
Tiger lands his third shot a bit too far onto the green, with the ball hopping twice past the hole and settling 10 feet away, where he’ll have to hole it to save par.
The par putt lips out on the right edge and Tiger drops a shot with a bogey.
Tiger on the day: 1 under (thru four holes)
Elsewhere on the course: Playing at Spyglass Hill, Nick Watney is 6 under through 10 holes and has the lead by one shot.
• • •
Third hole: No. 12, Par 3, 178 yards
At the downhill par 3, Tiger lands it hole-high and it rolls left and will have 16 feet for birdie.
He reads the birdie putt to go right, but it stays left and he taps in for a two-putt par.
Tiger on the day: 2 under (thru three holes)
• • •
Second hole: No. 11, Par 5, 528 yards
Tiger hammers his drive at his first par 5 down the middle of the fairway and will be able to go after the green in two.
From 180 yards out, Tiger hits a draw with his approach shot, and it lands on the front edge of the green where it releases to about 14 feet for eagle.
He leaves the eagle putt short, but taps in for a second-straight birdie and is 2 under through two holes.
Tiger on the day: 2 under (thru two holes)
• • •
First hole: No. 10, Par 4, 407 yards
Tiger starts on the 10th tee at Spyglass Hill, receiving a smattering of applause from the gallery as he takes to his first tee ball.
From the right side of the tee box, Tiger takes a 3-wood off the first tee, finding the right edge of the fairway. He trickles just past Atwal and has a little hanging lie, from right to left.
Tiger nearly holes his approach shot, taking one hop toward the hole and has about three feet for birdie. He sinks it to start the day with a birdie.
Tiger on the day: 1 under (thru one hole)
Elsewhere on the course: William McGirt and Rod Pampling – both playing Monterey Peninsula – have set the early pace and both are at 3 under.
• • •
At around 12:45 p.m. EST, Tiger is on the putting green with a white hat, blue shirt, black vest, black pants and white shoes. He is set up doing the “two-tee drill” – meant to keep his putter face on plane and true through the ball.
Tony Romo joins him on the putting green about 10 minutes before their tee time.
• • •
Hangin’ with Tiger
Golfweek was granted exclusive access to Tiger Woods last week and had a chance to sit down and talk to him about his legacy, which taps into the new “Legacy Challenge” mode in the 2013 EA Sports PGA TOUR Tiger Woods game, slated for release in late March.
• Check out our exclusive video of Tiger, where he answers everything from what he remembers as a child to how he expects to keep on building his “legacy.” Check out the video here.
• Also, check out our story on our time with Tiger, as well as cool screen grabs from the new EA Sports game. Click here for the story.
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Tiger back at Pebble Beach
• Odds-on favorite: Our Alex Miceli says that Tiger Woods is the oddsmakers favorite this week. Check out our weekly PGA Tour odds column.
• Star attraction: The attention of the golf world is back on the Pebble Beach Pro-Am, mostly thanks to Tiger Woods returning to one of his favorite venues. Check out the commentary here.
• Fantasy Tip Sheet: Tiger is the pick of two of our fantasy panelists. One of his biggest foes is also getting some love. Check out our fantasy tips here.
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Follow LIVE on Twitter!
You a Twitter junkie? Love the latest golf updates? We’ve got you covered! Check out our new GolfweekLive feed, where we keep you up-to-date on the latest happenings on the course. This week, we’ll be all over the Pebble Beach Pro-Am. Click here to follow our updates.
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The start of a beautiful rivalry?
Our Alistair Tait opines that Rory McIlroy and Tiger Woods are previewing what a friendly rivalry could do for the game of golf. Some of today’s biggest names feel that McIlroy is the only player out there that has the talent to challenge Tiger’s former dominance. Meanwhile, Tiger seems to be finding his form that could help him extend some of those untouchable records. Regardless, there is “major” intrigue. Column.
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Tiger in Abu Dhabi
Our Jim McCabe’s feature story on where others feel that Tiger’s game is at and whether or not 2012 could be a return to old form. Check out that story here.
Our Alistair Tait also caught Tiger’s press conference on Tuesday, and left unimpressed, opining that Tiger needs to open up more about golf-centric questions. Read that story here.
Jim McCabe questions why people would criticize Tiger for playing in Abu Dhabi because he was paid an appearance fee. Check out his tongue-in-cheek column here.