PEBBLE BEACH, Calif. – With Mother Nature causing havoc in the first round of the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro Am, Andrew Loupe emerged atop the leaderboard as darkness suspended the first round Thursday.
Loupe, 25, a Tour rookie out of LSU, bested the field with a stunning 8-under 63 and leads by two shots over some veterans and a couple of young guys.
Sitting at 6 under and two shots back are Jimmy Walker, Stuart Appleby, Jim Renner, Scott Gardner and Richard H. Lee. Here are 5 Things to know from Pebble Beach:
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1. THROWN FOR A LOUPE: Andrew Loupe has played in six PGA Tour events and never made a cut. But after Thursday’s bogey-free 63, the Web.com Tour graduate should be around for Sunday’s final round.
Playing on the Shore course at Monterey Peninsula Country Club, Loupe made eight birdies and was four shots better than his best score on Tour, a first-round 67 at the Humana Challenge earlier this year.
Playing in lift-clean-and-place conditions because of earlier rain, Loupe took advantage of playing out of the short grass. He hit 12 of 13 fairways and 17 of 18 greens, which produced numerous scoring opportunities.
“You get some scoring clubs out there at Monterey, if you’re driving it well, and I think I just took advantage of those scoring clubs,” Loupe said. “I think I gave myself a lot of looks, and I also thought my speed was pretty good today, for the most part, on the greens.”
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2. WHERE ARE THE CANDLES?: It was 5:35 p.m. and K.J. Choi and Paul McGinley stood on the 18th tee at Pebble Beach, barely able to see the players in front of them. With a group on the green and another in the fairway, it seemed unlikely that group would finish. But then one of the amateurs ran up to the front tees and teed off, preserving the ability for the group to finish.
The horn for a suspension of play sounded two minutes later. Eventually Choi and McGinley would tee off, with Choi losing the ball in the sky.
By the time the players got to their tee shots, you couldn’t read the scores 80 yards away on the large scoreboard behind the 18th green.
“It was just like college,” said Ireland’s McGinley, recalling sunset finishes as an undergraduate in San Diego. “I was just playing purely by numbers, 83 yards; I didn’t see the shot.”
McGinley made a 6-footer for birdie and again didn’t see the break – just guessed it was a couple of balls outside the left.
The 5-under 67 that McGinley posted put him in the mix, three shots off the lead and tied for seventh.
“I played well in the two tournaments in the Middle East,” McGinley, 47, captain of Europe’s Ryder Cup team, said of his T-19 in Abu Dhabi and T-63 in Qatar earlier this year. “I’m really motivated about my golf. I’m working on some good things on my swing. Today was a good day. I holed some putts, which you have to do.”
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3. MIDDLE MAN: It was if Dustin Johnson had ordered his round like a good steak: hot in the middle. The two-time champion of this tournament posted a 4-under 68 at Spyglass Hill that featured six straight pars at the beginning, seven straight pars at the end and four birdies amid a five-hole stretch in the middle.
Of those who finished 18 holes at Spyglass, only Jordan Spieth (67) bested Johnson’s effort. So all in all, it was a good start for the two-time Pebble Beach champion. Paired with his future father-in-law, Wayne Gretzky, they went for 10 under as a team.
Considering that Johnson had started early and played two holes in pelting rain, it was a good break that he and the others were pulled from the course and given a three-hour reprieve. Johnson had something to eat, dried off and returned to post a round that at the very least will have him very much in the tournament.
Johnson has taken four weeks off since playing in the Hyundai Tournament of Champions, and he’s looking to get his Pebble Beach game back on track. Having won this tournament in 2009 and ’10, he played poorly in 2011 (T-55th) and missed the cut a year ago alongside Gretzky, so his performance at Spyglass is a much-needed boost.
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4. SET, HIKE: With four NFL quarterbacks in the field, there’s quite a competition to see who fares best.
Tom Brady is the only one who actually finished. He and Ricky Barnes teamed for a 4-under 68 at Spyglass Hill. Considering that Barnes shot 75, it means the Patriots quarterback helped his team seven strokes.
But Brady isn’t likely to be the low QB once play is completed Friday morning. That’s because Alex Smith (with Brendon Todd) is 5 under through just 13 holes at Spyglass and Aaron Rodgers (with Jerry Kelly) is 6 under through 16 holes, also at Spyglass.
Peyton Manning? He and Scott Langley are just 2 under through 15 holes at Monterey Peninsula.
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5. SHORT SHOTS: Former U.S. Amateur champion Steven Fox made his PGA Tour professional debut this week on Pebble Beach. After playing the first two holes (starting on the back nine) in 3 over, Fox recovered to post an even-par 72. In nine professional events last year as an amateur, the former Tennessee-Chattanooga player failed to make a cut. He is in this week’s field on a sponsor exemption. . . . Because of the weather delay in the morning, 40 players didn’t finish and will have to return Friday at 7:45 a.m. PST to complete the first round. The second round is scheduled to start at 9. . . . 114 players were at par or better when the first round was called because of darkness at 5:33 p.m. . . . Since 2000, the first-round leader has held on just five times to win the title: Phil Mickelson and Dustin Johnson twice, as well as D.A. Points.