It’s only Day 1 of the 2019 AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am, but we already have a pretty fascinating leaderboard that includes Phil Mickelson, Jason Day, Dustin Johnson and Jordan Spieth. We’ll get to all of those guys in a second, but first we need to talk about our leaders, Brian Gay and Scott Langley.
First place — Brian Gay, Scott Langley (-7): Gay shot a 7-under 64 by playing the last five holes of his round at Monterey Peninsula in 14 strokes. He closed with five birdies and shot a 29 (!) on the front nine (his back nine) at Monterey for the 64 and lead. Meanwhile, Langley birdied exactly half his holes at Monterey including one at the very end on the par-3 ninth hole to match Gay late in the day. If not for a slip on the par-4 eighth hole, he would have had a 30 on that side and the solo lead.
Gay finished in the top 10 here last year, too, so he has a little bit of recent history, but he doesn’t have a top-20 on the PGA Tour since the Wyndham Championship last August. Langley has never finished in the top 25 here.
Last place — Ted Potter Jr. (+10): Last year’s champion was at least playing the toughest of the three courses, but it was not a pretty day for the Wizard as he dropped a 10-over 82 which included four doubles and a triple. I don’t believe a repeat is in Potter’s future since he trails by 17 after 18 holes, but at least he’ll get to play through Saturday afternoon.
Other contenders — Phil Mickelson (-6), Jason Day (-6), Dustin Johnson (-5), Jordan Spieth (-5): All four of these players unsurprisingly started on the easiest course, Monterey Peninsula. Why is this unsurprising? Well first of all, I can tell by their scores. The course average at Monterey was a tasty 68.8 compared to the other two tracks (71.4 at Pebble, 72.0 at Spyglass). And also because this foursome will play Saturday on network television at magnificent Pebble.
This foursome doubles as the top four in strokes gained over the last decade at this track and has combined for seven career wins in this event (with four of them coming from Mickelson). I’m optimistic about their chances (these four against the field would be a fascinating bet), but I want to see what happens at Spyglass on Friday before making any declarations.
Who had a great day? Stock up on canned goods, Phil Mickelson didn’t miss a fairway on Thursday. He threw out a random number of years it had been since this happened, but the actual number is 21 years. Lefty went more than two decades between rounds without a missed fairway, and now he’s suddenly got me wondering if he can contend at Augusta in a few months.
Also of note: Cody Gribble shot the best round of the day compared to the field average on his course. He dropped a 6-under 66 on Spyglass, which was six strokes better than the field average there, which means he’s probably the real leader if it doesn’t show on the leaderboard.
Who had a lousy day? Other than Potter? My pick to win, Tommy Fleetwood, had a rough one. He shot a 2-over 73 at Monterey, which was nearly five higher than the scoring average on that track. Thankfully he won’t have to play that course when he dukes it out with Jordan Spieth for the 2019 U.S. Open.
Stat of the day: It was a day of numbers for Mickelson, apparently. I still don’t trust him after last week’s 68-75 missed cut (I think we could see the same thing this week), but for one day he really shined at Monterey.
Shot of the day: How good was this from Tony Finau? A sawed off wedge on the iconic seventh hole that scoots all the way back to the pin. Finau shot a delectable 69 in Round 1 at a course that wasn’t Monterey, and this certainly helped. It’s always jarring to watch ams and pros in the same event because it makes you realize just how good the pros are when they hit shots like this one.
Ho Sung update: The people’s champ got an early fist bump from Aaron Rodgers, but his 1-over 72 at easy Monterey did not play well. He did make three birdies on the day, but they were offset by four bogeys. Thankfully we’ll get to see his theatrics on Saturday at Pebble, but we might not get to see them on Sunday.
Hole of the day: After nearly dumping his tee shot in the Pacific Ocean, Brandt Snedeker (who has won two of the last six of these tournaments) somehow made birdie from this preposterous position. He also shot 69 at Pebble, and don’t say I didn’tbefore the tournament started! (Ignore that Fleetwood pick, by the way).
What to watch on Day 2: Which of the four superstars at or near the top hangs on at Spyglass? Weather is supposed to get nastier over the next few days, and Spyglass is sure to be playing over par. If Day, Spieth, Johnson or Mickelson can somehow get in the house under par on Friday, that player will likely become the favorite to take home the trophy on Sunday.