AT&T Pebble Beach round one: Mickelson needs soome putting practice
Memo to self: Steve Elkington simply doesn’t do the AT&T Pebble Beach, okay? Instead of looking at his racy start to the season and the fine set of stats it has produced, I should have been looking back over his last six Pebble Beach efforts: MC-69-MC-MC-69-46. That’s more like it. There’s one thing you can say for his scorecard Thursday - it’s very colourful, with the two blue birdies, the four orange bogeys and the two red double bogeys. As the weekly golf column says: A Lesson Learned.
It was the most glaring of the strange crop of results from round one. Not a few in-form and high profile players seem to have come a cropper, Jonathan Byrd and Mike Weir being the most prominent apart from Elkington. What’s going on? It’s not as if the weather is bad. Everyone seemed to be whistling a happy tune and there was not a lot of troublesome wind until perhaps late in the day when exposed parts succumbed to the sea breezes. The courses played just about normal (Pebble Beach 72.3 stroke average, Poppy Hills 72.8 and Spyglass Hill 73.2).
I thought I would be writing a lament for lost golfing souls, including Phil Mickelson as he raced to four over. But then Lefty, at least, turned it around in dramatic fashion with some more superlative golf down the back nine. So at least he has something to look forward to. He is five shots off the pace, but there’s three rounds to go and the top of the leaderboard looks vulnerable. He needs to look at his irons, which have let him down at vital moments, and his putting needs some heavy homework. He’s barely inside the top 100 with his flat stick.
Interesting that the best performing heavyweight on day one was Vijay Singh. But I wouldn’t hold your breath. His iron work has put him top of the heap for finding greens, but he’s not even top 100 with his putter and that’s going to keep on costing him.
The strangest thing about round one is the exception that maybe proves the rule. History tells us greens in regulation is the key ingredient - apart from putting of course - and, by and large, round one bears that out. But then there’s Roland Thatcher in joint second place who is 146th for GIR - he only managed to find half of them. A hot putter certainly saved his day.
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