Dustin Johnson took revenge on the hole that cost him so badly two years earlier by firing an eagle at the third on Thursday, setting up a round of nine-under 63 that gave a share of the lead in the Pebble Beach National Pro-Am.
Johnson shared the lead with Charlie Wi, who flirted with a round of 59 before finishing with a nine-under 61 at Monterey Peninsula in the three-course event, and former US amateur champion Danny Lee, who matched Johnson’s 63 at Pebble Beach.
Tiger Woods was five shots off the lead after a four-under 68 at Spyglass Hill; the fourth-best score on that course.
Johnson is a two-time winner of this event and in 2010 he held a three-shot lead in the US Open on the same course until he carded an 82 in the final round. On the third hole of that fateful round, he drove into the bushes for a lost ball and a double-bogey.
On Thursday, he smashed a driver nearly 340 yards over the trees to just short of the green, then pitched in from 41 yards for an eagle.
Even now, he still thinks about that tee shot in the US Open. Walking off the tee, he said to caddie Bobby Brown: “I could have used that in the US Open.”
“Walking off that hole, I told Bob: ‘This hole owes me a few more than just that one.’”
Meanwhile, Wi had a strong chance of carding a 59 without ever knowing it. He was eight--under after a tap-in birdie on the 13th hole, and needed only three birdies in the last five holes to go below 60. Trouble is, he had no idea the Shore Course was a par 70. He made one more birdie and had a nine-under 61.
“I was looking at the scorecard like: ‘What’s the par here?’ I did not know it was a par 70,” Wi said. “That 59 never crossed my mind. Not once.”
Lee holed a bunker shot for eagle at No. 2 and holed out from the 11th fairway with a wedge for another eagle to take a share of the lead.
Johnson overpowered the par-fives at Pebble Beach, the secret to playing that course well. He hit a six-iron for his second shot at the par-five second for an easy birdie, holed a 65-foot eagle putt on the sixth hole, got up and down from a bunker on the 14th for birdie, then cringed when his 40-foot eagle attempt on the 18th just turned away.
“I thought it was going in,” Johnson said. “I was laughing. I made plenty of putts today.”
Woods made his share, too.
He opened with consecutive birdies, stuffing his approach on No. 10 and two-putting for birdie on the par-five 11th. He also holed a downhill, seven-foot-birdie putt on the 17th that was good enough to elicit a small fist pump, and from behind the par-five opening hole, hit a flop shot to seven feet and made that.
He made two bogeys and played the par-fives in three-under.
“I don’t know if it’s a good sign or a bad sign,” Woods said about his 68. “With the scores the way they are, I thought I could have it lower than I did. The guys are just tearing this place apart with no wind. I’m not too far away from posting a good number out here.”
His partner, Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo, contributed pars on the holes where Woods made bogey, and Romo had a birdie on the par-five 14th, when Woods missed the fairway and had to settle for par. As a team, they were tied for 25th.
Romo gets to play a forward tee, but he does not get any shots with a scratch handicap.
Phil Mickelson (two-under 70) always entertains at No. 4 at Spyglass, a tee shot that gives him so much stress each year. He is determined to hit driver, and did again on Thursday, this time relieved to at least be able to find it. And while he missed a seven foot birdie putt after a splendid flop out of deep rough that ran 100 feet across the green, Mickelson was glad the hole was behind him.