Sat, Feb 14, 2009 - Page 18 News List

Big hitters lead at Pebble Beach

AP , PEBBLE BEACH, CALIFORNIA

Sunshine and tranquil conditions turned the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am into paradise on Thursday, and it was particularly ideal for big hitters Robert Garrigus and Dustin Johnson.

Garrigus reached the uphill, 529-yard seventh hole at Spyglass Hill with a 5-iron and holed a 50-foot eagle putt, then closed out his first round with consecutive birdies for a 7-under 65.

Johnson, another natural athlete with height and power, holed out a 9-iron from 151 yards for eagle on the first hole at Pebble Beach and played bogey-free for a 65.

Such scores are rare at Spyglass and Pebble except when the wind and rain go on hiatus, which was the case on a gorgeous afternoon on the Monterey Peninsula. And there’s a big advantage with length on soft courses in chilly weather.

“I look forward to golf courses playing long. That’s my game,” said Garrigus, who was making his 90th start on the US PGA Tour and found his name atop the leaderboard for the first time after any round.

At 66 were Rich Beem, Vaughn Taylor (Pebble Beach) and Charley Hoffman (Spyglass Hill).

Mark Calcavecchia was among those at 67, while Retief Goosen was in the large group at 68.

Garrigus is among the longest hitters in golf, and it’s no accident.

His dream of playing baseball ended at age 13 when he threw out his arm and broke his leg on a dirt bike. His grandfather handed him a driver and told him to swing as hard as he could until he turned 18.

“Sure enough, I was hitting it over 300 yards when I was 15 years old,” he said.

The rest of the game has been slow to catch up. Garrigus shot 93 the first time he played and was down to 69 a year later, but against stronger competition, he had to learn to keep the ball in the short grass and make some putts. Changing to a 28-inch putter helped the latter, and he was getting more comfortable on tour.

“It’s kind of an ego thing, but I really don’t want to be known as the guy who hit it farther,” he said. “I want to be known as the guy who makes everything, because that’s where the money is.”

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