Recap of the day
Monterrey Peninsula (MP): Both co-leaders, the early finishing Brian Gay and late arrival Scott Langley, played this track first (shooting 7-under 64s) and so did four of the six players tied for third (who carded 65s). Four of those tied ninth also played here.
Spyglass Hill (SH): Cody Gribble’s 66 give him top billing and a tie for third, Scott Stallings, Fabian Gomez and Johnson Wagner are T9 after 67s. Gomez had looked bound for a share of the lead until making double bogey at his final hole.
Scoring Average by Course:
MP --> 68.90 (-2.10 RTP)
PB --> 71.60 (-0.60 RTP)
SH --> 72.00 (0.00 RTP)
Revised outright betting: 4/1 D. Johnson, 5/1 Day, 10/1 Spieth, 12/1 Mickelson, 14/1 Grace, 25/1 Kisner, 25/1 Kim, 28/1 Finau
Friday weather forecast
Oh dear. A 100% chance of rain and every possibility that it will be accompanied by thunderstorms and blustery wind (20 mph). Temperatures may just climb above 50 with humidity in the mid-70s.
Leaders after at 18 holes
Brian Gay (64, MP) – An expert tee-to-green display as he missed just one green in regulation. The sole stray approach cost him a bogey, but he landed eight birdies, five of them in a row on the front nine.
Scott Langley (64, MP) – Found all but one fairway and looked to have spurned a share of the lead when making bogey at his 17th hole, but bounced back with a birdie-2.
Phil Mickelson (65, MP) - The biggest news of the day, surely? He landed every fairway, the first time he has done so in 21 years on the PGA Tour (since Torrey Pines in 1998).
Matt Every (65, MP) – He didn’t land every fairway, and he also made three bogeys in four holes on his second nine, but he’d played his first in 7-under 30.
Si Woo Kim (66, PB) – The leader at Pebble Beach made one eagle, five birdies and one bogey, gaining 3.943 strokes on the greens.
Kevin Kisner (65, MP) – Missed two fairways and two greens in regulation in his first sub-70 first round at the tournament in seven tries.
Cody Gribble (66, SH) – A bogey-free lap despite hitting only 8 of 14 fairways and just 12 of 18 greens in regulation. The leader at Spyglass Hill.
Jason Day (65, MP) – Missed just two fairways and two greens in regulation, the latter mattering this week with small greens. His tenth start in the event (five top tens) and lowest R1 score (by two).
Fate of the favorites
Dustin Johnson (66, MP) – Missed three greens in regulation and also missed out on two of the par-5s (making only par). Has gone sub-70 in R1 of this event six times and always gone on to finish top five.
Jason Day – see above
Tony Finau (69, PB) – Made five birdies but bookended the round with bogeys at 1 and 18. Landing only 12 of 18 greens hurt.
Jordan Spieth (66, MP) – Missed only two fairways, just three greens in regulation and finished like a train (front nine level-par, back nine 5-under).
Road to victory at Pebble Beach
2018 – Ted Potter Jr. R1: 24th, R2: 35th, R3: 1st
2017 – Jordan Spieth R1: 1st, R2: 1st, R3: 1st
2016 – Vaughn Taylor R1: 48th, R2: 18th, R3: 8th
2015 – Brandt Snedeker R1: 1st, R2: 1st, R3: 2nd
2014 – Jimmy Walker R1: 6th, R2: 2nd, R3: 1st
Notes: It’s common and understandable (three courses, variable weather) that some winners were miles back after 18 holes. In addition to the examples above, Phil Mickelson in 2012 was 59th, and Davis Love III’s two 21st century wins were both like that – 58th in 2001 and 49th in 2003.
Fate of the halfway leaders at Pebble Beach – where did they finish?
2016 – Chez Reavie 26th
2014 – Andrew Loupe 27th
Notes: In the 21st century 36 players have held (or more often shared) the 18-hole lead. Seven ended the week as winner and whilst 7-for-20 is not bad, the cavalry charge nature of the event means plenty fall back. No less than 14 didn’t finish top 20.
Focus on – Phil Mickelson at Pebble Beach
It’s easy to believe that the 48-year-old has always been a spectacularly good fit for this tournament. After all, he not only boasts four victories, but another four top threes. Something definitely clicked 21 years ago however. Because on debut in 1995 he shot 74-74-72 to miss the cut, in 1996 he went 72-66 when the tournament was cancelled, and in 1997 he was T33. What turned things around? Well, that win 1998 was peculiar to say the least. Only two rounds could initially be completed and not wanting a repeat of the wash-out two years earlier the tournament was re-scheduled for the Monday after the next event (then as now the L.A. Open). But that was weather interrupted as well so in the end just 43 of the 168 players in the original field returned to the tournament site (no longer having any event staging equipment whatsoever) on August 17 and Mickelson got the job done and he’s never looked back.
Focus on – U.S. Open Watch
Is it worth keeping an eye on what happens this week and noting it for June? Jordan Spieth was asked the question early in the week and said: “The fairways are what you notice immediately. The rough’s actually lower than it has been in past years for this tournament, but the fairways lines are in. Our yardage books look different this year to last year. They have definitely started to take them in. (However) it will play wider because it is softer. The ball’s not rolling and I assume in June it will be pretty firm and fast.” But beyond thoughts, what of numbers? In 2000 Tiger Woods won this event by two and the U.S. Open by 15 (emulating Jack Nicklaus who did the double in 1972) and in 2010 Dustin Johnson took the honors in February by one and led in June by three after 54 holes.
Focus on – Ted Potter Jr.’s Return
What a strange sport this is. Twelve months ago Potter arrived at Pebble Beach fresh off five missed cuts and a T73 in his previous seven starts. His last round ahead of arriving at the tournament? An 82 in the final lap at Torrey Pines. He promptly shot 68-71-62, found himself tied with Dustin Johnson, and out-dueled the higher ranked player on the final day. This year he’d made five cuts in six starts, three of them were top 30s, and in his penultimate start at the Sony Open he was T5 heading into the last lap. So what happened next? An 82 that was the weirdest echo of this time last year imaginable; he heads into the second round bottom of the scoring.