Pebble's biggest names card red numbers in Round 1 – except Jordan Spieth

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Pebble's biggest names card red numbers in Round 1 – except Jordan Spieth

PGA Tour

Pebble's biggest names card red numbers in Round 1 – except Jordan Spieth

PEBBLE BEACH, Calif. – It was a good day for the big names Thursday at the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am. Well, for the most part.

Dustin Johnson, Rory McIlroy, Phil Mickelson, Jason Day and Jon Rahm were among those who shot at least 3 under in the opening round, all of them aside from Rahm (Monterey Peninsula Country Club) playing on Spyglass Hill, the middle course in terms of scoring average on Thursday at 71.23 but generally considered the toughest of the three.

Then there was Jordan Spieth, a week removed from missing the cut at the Phoenix Open, who opened in even-par 72 on Spyglass as his putting struggles continued.

Spieth, who said Wednesday that he was in a “minor slump” on the greens, needed 32 putts to get through his first round. He did miss just three fairways and four greens while only carding one bogey, but he also holed just one birdie putt. He is tied for 98th going into Friday’s second round at Monterey Peninsula.

Spieth’s playing competitor, Johnson, playing on Tour for the first time since his dominating performance at Kapalua, shot 5-under 67. Johnson, playing alongside his father-in-law, Wayne Gretzky, was a tad rusty; he left a bunker shot in the rough on the par-3 fifth hole and made bogey, and then nearly drove it out of bounds at the par-4 18th. But otherwise, he was his usual self, birdieing all four par 5s.

“Definitely need to drive it a little bit better,” Johnson said. “I hit a few bad drives, but got away with them. But, yeah, I’ve been driving it well for awhile now, so for my game, if I drive it well I’m going to play well most of the time.”

Wayne Gretzky and Dustin Johnson were all smiles Thursday at Spyglass Hill. (Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)

Speaking of driving it well, Mickelson experienced a breakthrough off the tee in Phoenix last week, and it carried over to Thursday. He did get off to a slow start with a couple of wayward drives and bogeys on three of his first seven holes, including two par 5s.

But Mickelson rallied on the back nine with five birdies, including birdies on each of his last two holes, to shoot 3-under 69. Mickelson hit eight of 14 fairways on the day, which is solid compared to some of his rounds earlier in the season.

“It was a nice way to finish after not getting off to a great start,” Mickelson said. “It can be a difficult golf course, but it’s also a course if you play well, you’ll make some birdies. Unfortunately, I saw both ends of it today. But the back nine I was able to get back in it.

“I just kind of settled in. I don’t really know what the difference was.”

Mickelson’s playing competitor, McIlroy, shot 4-under 68 in his first Tour start of the season. McIlroy is coming off top-3 finishes in both of his Middle East starts this year.

He did miss eight greens Thursday, but the putter made up for it. McIlroy struck just 25 putts, six of them for birdies.

“Everything’s pretty good,” McIlroy said. “I’m scrambling well when I need to. I feel like I’ve made good strides with my putting over the offseason. Driving the ball good. From when I spoke to you guys last until now, everything, I feel, has gotten better, which is a good thing. … I feel really comfortable with it all.”

It certainly was a comfortable day for the big names – Day shot 69 and Rahm fired a 67 – and all of them but Rahm will get a crack at Monterey Peninsula on Friday.

“That’s one of those courses where you can kind of get after it,” Day said.

Good news for the stars; they can go even lower. And for Spieth, the defending champion, it means he has a good chance to get back on track.

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