Jimmy Walker continued his bogey-free cruise through the first 36 holes of the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am to get to 9-under par. Perhaps “cruise” is too comfortable a word to have used because he had to make his share of challenging par saves at Spyglass Hill to keep the streak alive. Oh, and it was raining and blowing, it wasn’t a sunny California cakewalk:
I had three birdies today. And I didn’t make any bogeys, which was nice. It just played pretty tough. We got out early, and played the back first, and I got a birdie — I made just a bunch of really good par saves up until about No. 16. I hit a really good 3‑wood and hit 7‑iron to the middle of the green and made like a 30‑footer or something up the hill. And that kind of got me, kind of felt like it kind of righted the ship, because I was making a bunch of just scrambling pars.
And then made a couple of pars around to number 3, the downhill par‑3 and hit a nice pitch in there. I think it was an 8‑iron down the hill. Wind was really starting to blow at that point out there on the [ocean] point. I made about a, I don’t know, 15, 18‑footer or something there for birdie.
He made another birdie at the par-5 7th that involved a 390-yard cart path drive, a nothing 8-iron left to the green and an unremarkable up-and-down.
And then hit two really good shots into 8 and 9 but didn’t get the putts to go.
So much of playing well is enjoying where you’re playing:
I do like playing golf out here. I think that playing Pebble Beach is pretty amazing. We, every time we come out here and we play, and we’re playing a practice round the other day and it was beautiful out and we’re like, wow, we’re really out here kind of doing this. And it’s pretty cool.
Saturday he moves on to the easiest of the three courses, Monterey Peninsula, the par 71 and only one whose scores averaged under par (70.163).
Jordan Spieth was playing that easier course and it was a good day for it:
Today was very difficult. We started out and the rain and wind and we finished in rainier and windier.
It was funny, we were on 9 green there and you can look over and kind of barely see Cyprus Point and just wondering — just happy we were on that hole rather than 16 at Cyprus in those conditions.
Yeah, you can turn it one way and say — and get all upset about it and I definitely do that sometimes. And if I didn’t play the hole very well, I may have not handled it the right way, but to be able to think positively about the scenarios, everyone is playing in it and fortunately we’re on Monterey versus Spyglass, I think, or even Pebble. So, it was just good to get the round in early.
And that mindset allowed him to make “the best birdie of my life,” on the 9th. Visualize this set of circumstances as he describes them; it would have been the best birdie of anyone’s life:
It was 195 yards, par‑3, and [the wind] was into — must have been a 30, 40 mile an hour wind, with the rain. Kevin Chappell hit before me. It’s typically like a 6‑iron distance, he hit 3‑iron and it landed and came backwards all the way down the slope.
So, I said well I don’t have a 3‑iron so I went to a hybrid. And I just kind of hit a little stinger cut about 20 feet away [from the hole].
And then it was normally a straight putt and Michael and I, my caddie, are looking at each other saying well, we got to play this about a foot out to the right with the wind. And so I hit it a foot out and with about three feet to go, the wind just blew it right — just broke perfectly right into the hole. [A foot of break on a 20-foot putt just from the wind.]
While I’m sure that Spieth enjoys the ambiance of the Monterey Peninsula as much as Jimmy Walker does, believe it or not, he actually enjoys the pro-am experience too, especially as its structured for this tournament:
I just really enjoy the experience of playing. This year I have a great pairing. I’m with Jake [Owen] and we’re paired with Joe Don [Rooney] and [Tour pro] Kevin [Chappell]. And we’re just having a lot of fun.
Yeah, you play a little slower on the rounds and we’re not catching the best weather, so far this week anyway, but I mean everything’s laughs, just a good time. And it’s cool to have a team event. We don’t have that very often and I love any opportunity you can to have a teammate playing golf.
So, to be able to just kind of talk and pick these guys brains, they’re entertainers, they’re [country] rock stars, and I’m a fan of both of them and their music. So it’s kind of just like an eye opening experience just talking and hanging with them, let alone being in playing a serious PGA event at the same time.
So we’re just having a great time. It just feels a little more relaxed. And when things are going wrong you got another couple people there to pick you up. So it’s nice.
Just keep in mind that he came out of the “rainy and rainier,” experience with this sort of rave review. But it was probably the mindset going in that created the opening for that rave experience.
Spieth moves on to Pebble Beach and the forecast is for a lot more rain Saturday and Sunday than they had today. Some think playing the host course back-to-back on the weekend is an advantage.
Hunter Mahan moved into 3rd place by himself and one stroke back with a nifty 68 at Spyglass. It’s hard to do that on a warm, sunny day, let alone this one:
I played solid. Hit a lot of good quality shots. It’s playing pretty tough out there. To play Spyglass, it had gusty winds and the rain coming in and out, it’s difficult. Difficult to kind of predict what’s going to happen out there.
Yeah, coming up these last few holes [on the front nine, his back nine] are tough. They’re going uphill, they got the wind, it’s getting cold, raining, you just don’t want to throw away shots and maybe mental errors or something like that.
So it’s important to stay focused, very much in the moment, and not waste anything out here. Because this can be a long week and it could be mentally more grinding than anything and you got to stay on top of your game out here.
And in 4th by himself is Thursday’s hero, Andrew Loupe, who managed to hang on with a respectable 1-over 73 and 7-under for the tournament. Not bad for a rookie who hasn’t made a cut in five starts this year. Especially in the conditions on Pebble when he played:
It really started humming on 3. 4 was brutal. 6 is a beast right now. I hit 7‑iron on 7 and it’s a hundred yards. So, it was playing tough.
You kind of know this about Tour players anyway, but for him to be savvy and confident enough to play a 7-iron to a downhill, dinky, par-3 surrounded by the Pacific Ocean was pretty good.
At the same time he reveals the key to his day…and his plan for Saturday:
Patience. Nothing changes.
Let’s hope they get it in and that it was at least good enough that there weren’t any rain delays.