Eric Risberg / Associated Press

Eric Risberg Associated Press Hunter Mahan follows the flight of his second shot on No. 18 at Pebble Beach on Thursday. A two-putt birdie on his final hole lifted Mahan into a tie for the lead.

It rains, all right – birdies

Published: Friday, Feb. 8, 2013 - 12:00 am | Page 1C
Last Modified: Sunday, Feb. 10, 2013 - 2:08 pm

PEBBLE BEACH – Hunter Mahan braced for the worst of Pebble Beach, his golf bag weighed down with rain gear.

Instead, he was reminded how much he loves the place.

It helps that Mahan drilled a long iron onto the 18th green that resulted in a two-putt birdie that gave him a 6-under-par 66 and a share of the lead in relation to par with Russell Knox in the Pebble Beach National Pro-Am.

The rain everyone expected early in the afternoon didn't materialize. So when Mahan was asked about the most interesting part of the day, all he could think of was that it was boring – in a good way.

"I had a good time with my partner. The pace was great. The weather was good," he said. "I think the most interesting thing was we had perfect weather when it was supposed to rain at noon. We were all expecting rain. The bag probably weighs 100 pounds."

Mahan took advantage of a gorgeous day by attacking Pebble Beach, the place to be when the conditions are calm. He missed only two greens in regulation – one of those on the edge – and only had one birdie attempt longer than 20 feet.

It was a good start, but nothing more. With three courses in the rotation, weather that can change without notice and one course with a different par, no one has a great idea where they stand until late Saturday, after three rounds are completed.

Knox, who grew up in northern Scotland and has family roots in California, had a 6-under 64 at Monterey Peninsula.

Knox finished out of the top 125 on the money list last year as a rookie, so his opportunities on the PGA Tour will be limited this year.

"I came in here with a lot of confidence because I feel like I've been playing very well," Knox said. "Just haven't had the chance to play. It was nice to get off to a good start."

The day's best round might have belonged to Seung-yul Noh of South Korea, who played at Spyglass Hill. It's typically the toughest of the three courses when conditions are benign.

The scores at Pebble and Monterey Peninsula averaged nearly a half-shot under par, while those at Spyglass were almost a half-shot over par.

Noh reached 7 under until making bogeys on the last two holes for a 5-under 67, which only slightly soured his day. He still had the best score at Spyglass.

"Still a good score. I'm really happy with that," Noh said.

Even more impressive is that he felt half-asleep. Noh played in Dubai last week and is still coping with jet lag.

Also at 5 under were Scott Langley (65 at Monterey Peninsula) and Matt Every, who had a bogey on his final hole at Pebble Beach for a 67.

Phil Mickelson, going for a record-tying fifth win in the tournament, didn't make as many long putts at Monterey Peninsula as he did in his wire-to-wire win at Phoenix Open last week. He opened with a 69.

"One of the things I've learned over the years here is you need to be patient," Mickelson said. "There's plenty of birdie holes throughout the three courses. Hopefully, I'll get a good run tomorrow and try to shoot myself up into contention."

Lee Westwood made his debut in the tournament by playing alongside his father, and while he had a 68, he's not sure the score had any bearing on having a good time. Westwood was at Pebble Beach, and while it was a good start for him, he made up ground in unexpected places.

The scoring at Pebble comes on the opening seven holes. He played those in 1 under, missing three putts of fewer than 12 feet. Then, he picked up four birdies over his final 10 holes.

"It was nice doing it all with Dad and being able to walk the fairways," Westwood said. "You sort of tick off bucket-list courses, and Pebble Beach would definitely be one of them. To actually play in a competition in the AT&T with your dad and tick that one off is something really special."

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Read more articles by Doug Ferguson



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